Christ’s Letter to the Church in Philadelphia

Sermon for Midweek Lenten Service based on Revelation 3:7-13

Dear people with an open door: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Patient endurance. Jesus commends the church in Philadelphia for their patient endurance. They had but little power, yet they kept the Word of Christ and did not deny His name. They were persecuted, but they held fast to what they had.

Patient endurance is waiting for God while holding fast to His promises. It is bearing up under suffering without complaining, trusting that all things are in God’s hands and that He knows what He’s doing. It is quietly waiting for the salvation of the Lord (cf. Lam. 3:26). This is easier said than done.

We see how wicked the world is. It is filled with senseless violence and murder, corruption and dishonesty. We see our authorities implementing policies that are anti-Christian and harmful for our nation. We see our courts perverting the course of justice and criminals receiving all the rights instead of their victims. We see children being brainwashed in schools and led astray but their celebrity idols. Christ’s name is blasphemed in the world and even in places that call themselves the church.

We are tempted to say that God is slow to fulfil His promise to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). We are tempted to say Christ is taking too long to return. Such temptations lead us away from patient endurance.

It is the scoffers who say such things. As we heard from Second Peter, scoffers will come in the last days and say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (II Peter 3:3-4) Such scoffers think that this world will never end because they deliberately overlook the fact that God created the world with the power of His Word and the only reason it still exists and is preserved is because God has so commanded and ordered it.

Many such scoffers have misplaced their trust by putting it in government, as if the government can save us. Scripture says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Ps. 146:3-4)

With a godless government like ours in Canada, we are often made to wonder how they can be so foolish and stupid. Yet, we have our answer in Job, where we heard, “[God] makes nations great, and He destroys them; He enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and He makes them stagger like a drunken man.” (Job 12:23-25)

For those leaders of men who reject God and His Word, God takes even their understanding of natural things away. Then, in their stupidity, they don’t even know what a man is or what a woman is. They don’t know what a family is. They don’t understand justice or truth or beauty in anything, and they punish the righteous and reward the wicked.

This is related to what Romans chapter one tells about those who did not honour God or give thanks to Him. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. It says God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves. God gave them up to dishonourable passions and to a debased mind.

They rebelled against God, seeking to be free of Him, so God gave them up to the slavery of sin which they pursued. Giving them over to sin is their punishment in this life. Sin degrades and brings shame and disgrace and leads to its inevitable goal, eternal death in hell, their eternal punishment.

Scoffers are going to scoff. Corrupt leaders will do corrupt things. This is no reason for us to lose hope. In fact, this should increase our hope because God told us that these things would happen. They should be no surprise to us.

Christ will return and the world and everything in it will be destroyed by fire, as it was destroyed by water during the Flood. God is not slow to fulfil His promise, but He is being patient so that people are given time to repent.

When Christ returns, it will be too late to repent. Every day that goes by without Christ returning is another day of mercy and grace given to mankind to repent before the world is destroyed. God does not want anyone to perish eternally, but that they would come in through the open door of heaven.

Christ is after all the one who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. To His Church, Christ says, “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

The door of heaven is open for you, and no one can shut it. The nations can rage, and the people plot in vain, the kings of the earth can set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed, but He laughs at them (Ps. 2). They cannot close heaven for God’s people. They cannot close what Christ has opened.

Violence and murder, corruption and dishonesty will not stop in this world until Christ returns and burns it all up. Wicked rulers will continue implementing policies that are anti-Christian and harmful for our nation. Godless courts will continue perverting the course of justice and giving criminals all the rights instead of their victims.

However, we will patiently endure. We will wait for God and hold fast to His promises. We will bear up under suffering, trusting that all things are in God’s hands and that He knows what He’s doing.

We will patiently endure because our sins are forgiven and the door of heaven is open to us. We can patiently endure because our hope is not in earthly government or judges or lawmakers or anything on the earth. We will patiently endure because our hope is in heaven, and no one can shut the door that Jesus has opened for us.

Jesus promises that the door of heaven is open for us. We trust Him because He gave His life for us. He died to save us from our sins and has a place prepared in heaven for us. He has done everything for us, and has the door of heaven wide open, waiting to receive us when we die or when He returns, whichever happens first.

Christ Jesus is the one who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. To you, Christ says, “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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