For Ministers of Jesus
It is important for minsters of Christ to set a good example of the patience of Jesus Christ. This seems to have a few applications.
One, this means turning away from a life of wonton sin and love of this world. Yet, it also means being an example of patiently enduring the fight against sin with honesty and humility. Being open about failings and sinful struggles, with wise discretion, will benefit many but it will not appeal to everyone.
This will not appeal to those who want to claim holiness prematurely. This occurs on two spectrums. There are those who are of the traditional “holiness” mindset that claim premature perfection. They do not overtly corrupt the judgement of God or His standards, though they often fill their sins in with legalistic practices or other forms of justification that are not according to a Spiritual application of the scripture. On the other side, there are those who have so twisted holiness that good is made evil and evil is made good. For some, sin is holiness. Many deny honest striving against sin, because sin is not properly defined, but praised and something to be honored.
In both instances, the striving sinner is mocked by many. However, your honesty is comforting to those whose sin weakens their faith. Demonstrating the same, patient fight against sin can be a welcome rest from the hardness and holier-than-thou attitude exhibited by many on both extremes ranging from Sardis to Thyatira, respectively.
However, the longer the journey in the faith, the greater the progress. Expect progress, and be an example of this too in humility, as an old wine skin, knowing that there is yet more to gain. Do not quench or grieve the Spirit of God. We are never so good, wise, or perfect as He who is from everlasting to everlasting. To claim perfection in this present life neglects the patience of a saint of God—the patience that we must wait for the redemption of our bodies to achieve the fullness of our birth in Christ. As we wait, we trust in the words of our Savior. He says that His work is done, and it is done and will be done. “He that began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.”
Secondly, this means enduring others with patience. Just as we want Jesus to continue dealing patiently with us, so do we strive to show patience with others. This means rebuking sin truthfully, but also with as much humility as possible so as not to encourage people to feel as if they are better than other people. It is by grace that we stand. “If not for the grace of God, there go I.”
Thirdly, we patiently wait on the coming of Jesus and encourage others to do the same. This means encouraging the faith of those who are shaken by His seemingly delayed coming. “One day with God is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He will return and He will fulfill His promises. This also means encouraging others to wait on the judgment of God as given to the Son, Jesus. He will avenge. We cannot give into spirits of accusation, slander, vengeance and murder, but rather, wait on He who will come to avenge the blood of all who are slain for His sake. “He that leads into captivity must go into captivity. He that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
This also means enduring suffering and persecution with patience, not repaying evil for evil, but striving to overcome evil with good. Consider the letter to the church of Smyrna for more on the suffering of the faithful Christian—a suffering that no false “rapture” notion will prevent. There is no rapture, but there is the resurrection, and we can be kept from temptation by calling out to Jesus with faith and patience, trusting Him to deliver our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies from the ultimate evil: Death.
All the above applies to patiently enduring the ridicule from those who claim to be of the faith but are not. All things are going according to the preordained will of God, and all things are working for His glory and for our benefit. Those who mock, slander, persecute, or murder the humble sinner who strives in the narrow way will be made to bow before Jesus and those who faithfully follow Him. Those who faithfully serve the household of the faith might receive little recognition in this world, but in the Kingdom to come, there is a great and everlasting reward.
For Christian Brethren Generally
Good instruction is very beneficial, but there is a lot of misguided and even dangerous instruction in the world. There are many who claim to be ministers of God, but they are either immature or they are imposters. The best way to find faithful ministers of the gospel is to seek Jesus. Ask Him to show you where to go, or ask that He teach you Himself by the Holy Spirit. He can give a gift of understanding to anyone as He chooses. Search the scriptures as you are able, and above all, ask to receive the Holy Spirit that makes all things known to us according to God’s perfect timing and methods.
In all things, strive to keep the patience of Jesus Christ as described throughout this chapter. What applies to the ministers of God applies to all, because as we grow in the faith, each of us should reach a point in which we have some capacity to teach the things of God to others. Once we come to others in His name, we are ministering in some capacity. This is not exclusive to pastors, preachers, bible teachers, and the like.
We all should strive to become a minister of the things of Jesus Christ and to reach a point in our walk in which the Spirit guides us first. Then, we receive the teachings of others as a comfort and welcome fellowship, but not as one who is unable to stand on his or her own two feet in the Lord. It is a great failing within the faith today to make people feel as if they must depend on leaders within “church.” We who are of the Spirit of God are the church, and we are being made into sons of God. Therefore, we need to mature. True leaders in the faith should encourage their fellow servants to become sufficient in the Lord by the Spirit within them. Not that fellowship becomes less needful. What becomes less needful is having a few exalted above measure while keeping their congregants in a perpetual state of infancy.
Yet, let us always consider our state as babes in Christ. We remain humble before Him, seek Him, trust in Him, and look to have more of the Christ-like nature manifest in the way that we live out our lives.
Never let anyone discourage you from seeking a life of holiness, and this includes remaining honest and sorry for sin as we patiently wait for Christ to be formed in us. Jesus is holy. Jesus is true. Jesus has the key of David. Turn to Him and place Him ahead of all else, and with patience attain all that He has in store for you.
On a final note, do not be discouraged when what Jesus has in store for you means suffering in this world. Jesus said that we should expect the world to hate us, and we should expect our enemy, Satan, to roam around and do whatever he can to devour the children of God. Resist him in faith and patiently continue despite your battle wounds, because you already have the victory in Christ. Do not let anyone accuse your faith because of your suffering or your troubles with sin for which you are sorrowful and honest before God. Many have suffered and died for the faith, and this was not a sign of God’s wrath or of failure on the part of the believer. Rather, suffering makes us more like Christ, and the more we patiently suffer for righteousness’ sake, the greater the reward in heaven.
The Church of Philadelphia is one of the two who received no rebuke from the Spirit of the Lord. The other is the Church of Smyrna.
Despite having little strength, Philadelphia has not denied Jesus and all that His name represents. Perhaps they need this acknowledgement.
When we are surrounded by enemies of the faith, especially those who claim to be of the faith but are not fully committed or not committed at all, we might begin to question ourselves. When many claim that it is we who have denied the faith, we might wonder if this is true at times. Especially if we have little strength. Perhaps they are also hard on themselves, always feeling as if they are falling short and have become a disappointment to God.
Jesus provides affirmation, letting this church know that they are more faithful to Him than they might feel at times, and because of their faithfulness despite weakness, He has set before them an open door.
What is this open door?
Jesus identifies Himself as He who has the Key of David. He opens and no man shuts and shuts and no man opens. What door does He open using the Key of David?
It was foretold that David would have an heir who would reign forever. This heir is Jesus, and His Kingdom is His to give as He wills.
Perhaps Jesus is blessing this church in the things of the Kingdom in gracious measure. Perhaps He is reminding them that He is the One who gets to decide who will reside with Him in His kingdom to come, not those who oppose this church or ostracize this church for not following suit with the ways of the unfaithful. Perhaps it is both.
Jesus acknowledges that He is aware of the unfaithful churches, which He refers to as the “Synagogue of Satan.” He then declares that He will cause the Synagogue of Satan to worship before the feet of Philadelphia. They will be made to know that Jesus loves this church. There are a few things to consider here.
For one, there is a kind of vindication promised. It’s likely that the Synagogue of Satan—which likely includes the other 5 churches who did not repent—are not going to be welcoming of Philadelphia. They might directly oppose them. Despite this opposition, Philadelphia has “kept the word of His patience,” which we will consider in a moment.
Next, we might notice that Jesus does not seem to destroy the Synagogue of Satan. Does He allow them to inherit eternal life? Or is their submission more like what the scriptures say, “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess the Lord, Jesus?”
Lastly, we might wonder why Jesus would have any worshipped besides Himself. If We continue reading the letters to the churches, we will learn that Jesus promises that those who overcome will sit with Him in His throne. This church is not being worshipped in a manner that exalts them above measure. Instead, it might be that as all are made to bow and confess Jesus, they vicariously bow to those who are with Jesus. This could also paint a picture of authority that is given to this church in the Kingdom to come when Jesus reigns on the earth.
Next, Jesus states, “because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation that will come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the earth.”
What is the word of His patience?
Despite being an outsider among many, and despite being aware of the Synagogue of Satan, Philadelphia does not condemn their fellow servants. Instead, this church holds to the teachings of Jesus, such as the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. They understand that many might seem to be false Christians, but they are merely immature Christians. They understand that judgment will come at a time when the Lord deems, so they refrain from judging others before their time.
They might also recall what Jesus said about those who are found “drunken and smiting their fellow servants” at His return. He stated that these are counted among the unbelievers.
They might also consider the story of David and Saul. David remained faithful to Saul, even when Saul despised him and wanted him killed. David did not retaliate. In-fact, he even tried to make peace with Saul because David knew that Saul was God’s servant, and David loved Saul.
Perhaps Philadelphia is the same. They love their brethren, even if they are not as faithful as they should be. They also know that the blood of Jesus covers the sins of those who are called by His name, so to condemn any who claim to be Christian would not be wise or righteous. Instead, they try to make peace with all brethren, even those who hate them for their faithfulness to Jesus in sincerity.
Another scripture they might hold close is, “he that leads into captivity will go into captivity. He that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.”
In addition to remaining patient with their fellow servants among Christianity, Philadelphia shows patience with the world at large. They do not fight as man fights or for the same goals. Man fights with weapons of this world to gain the kingdoms of this world. Philadelphia fights with the weapons of the Spirit to gain the Kingdom of Heaven.
How does keeping the patience of the Lord keep Philadelphia from the “hour of temptation?” What is the hour of temptation?
Jesus states that the hour of temptation will try all who dwell on the earth. It seems likely that this hour of temptation coincides with the coming of the false prophet and false god. When he comes, we will also see the Great Whore of Mystery Babylon at her full—who includes all the false churches. These churches will actively persecute the true saints of God and all who fail to “worship the beast and his image or receive the mark of his name.”
There are a few ways this church might be kept, and both are probably true. The first way that they are kept is in spirit. They are kept from the deception of a false, blood-thirsty god and his drunken whore-bride.
The second way that they are kept is in death with the promise of resurrection. The ultimate hour of temptation comes when those who are faithful to Jesus are overcome and killed by the beast and his armies. The world will think that they have won and that their god has overcome all descent, leading to great celebration and whole-hearted allegiance to the false god.
Another thing we might consider is a promise that Jesus made elsewhere in the scripture. Concerning the last days, Jesus said, “except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would be saved, but for the sake of the ones He has chosen, He has shortened the days.”
“Behold, I come quickly: hold thou fast what thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
Philadelphia is encouraged to “let no man take thy crown.” In other scripture, Jesus says that those who overcome will be given a “crown of life.” Philadelphia has gained the crown of life, and they are encouraged to let no one take it from them. They should not let the Synagogue of Satan discourage them or falsely accuse their faith. They also should not let the warring of man cause them to deny the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus will come speedily, and He will avenge.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
Living as a faithful Christian in a time of faithlessness and hedonism is sure to be a lonesome and difficult time in which to live. All who are faithful to Jesus experience times of feeling cast out, and Jesus said it would be so. We are not of the world, so the world does not love us. We might not ever find a real home or place in this earth, but we do have a place. We will be part of the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
New Jerusalem is described in Revelation 19 and 22. All who are faithful to Jesus are part of this Holy City, and they will inherit with Jesus. They are also given the new name of Jesus, signifying that they are one with Him and claimed by Him. Philadelphia might have had a name of shame before, meaning they were of no reputation and honor among man or among their brethren, but in Christ they have honor in Him because they glorify Him and not this world.
Additional Scriptures when Considering the Letter to the Church of Philadelphia
- For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (2 Peter 2:20-25).
- And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God (Romans 2:3-11).
- Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (2 Peter 3:20).
- Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved (Romans 9:21-25).
- Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).
- Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:7-11).
- And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:11-15).
- And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled (Revelation 6:9-11).
- And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:7-10).
- And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them (Revelation 14:11-13).
The above is the last sections of the chapter, To the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia. This is a portion of a book in progress entitled, “These Things Saith He.” Next, I plan to publish the whole chapter, edited as needed, and with all scripture noted at the end. Feel free to leave a comment about what the letter to the church in Philadelphia means to you.