Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Revelation Chapter Three, Part 4 of 7

3:8 and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
A servant’s position begets a servant’s mentality. The Philadelphian church’s utter reliance on the Lord enabled them with the grace necessary to hold fast the name of Jesus Christ, even in the face of violent opposition and persecution. Like the Apostle Paul, when one lives in this manner—as a servant to Christ and to others—one counts the loss of their life as a little thing. Paul called it gain in fact, Philippians 1:21.

What is Christ’s word? The Bible as a whole and the Gospel in particular, is the word of Jesus Christ. One must believe the gospel to be saved. There is no other criteria set out in Scripture, no matter the unbiblical, man-made, humanly inspired arguments to the contrary; faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (synonymous with faith in Jesus Himself) is the only stipulation God lays down for apprehension of eternal life, reconciliation with God and forgiveness of sin, Romans 3:24, 26, 28, 30. The Greek word for “kept” is “tereo” and can mean “to keep, guard, obey or observe.” The church of Philadelphia kept Christ’s word in the sense that they trusted and wholly believed that Scripture was God-breathed and inerrant, and the only rule for faith and practice. This would involve a rejection of the Roman heresy which elevates human tradition side-by-side with the Bible. Either the Bible is sufficient or it isn’t; decide which and either reject it as a whole or embrace it alone and no other.

Second, they guarded Jesus’ word against encroaching heresy. They understood the gospel was the power of God unto salvation for all that believe (Romans 1:16) so that is what they clove to, preached, and practiced. This is what the Corinthian church needed to be reminded of, 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. Philadelphia was alive with a fervent and active love of Christ which was demonstrated far beyond any verbal confession, no matter how passionately stated.

Likewise they did not deny Christ’s name. The repugnance, the stumbling block of the cross was constantly on their lips, and the life of Jesus was constantly demonstrated in their character. John writes: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming,” 1st John 2:28. Abiding in Christ provides a basis for confidence about His sudden arrival via the Rapture. The Philadelphian church had little strength, they kept Christ’s word, and they proclaimed their loyalty openly. They were a spiritually powerful church.

To deny the name of Christ goes far beyond a mere verbal rejection of acknowledgement. Were that so, Peter would be in Hell presently since he denied his Lord not once, but three times. Though I am sure verbal repudiation of Jesus is a part of it, there is something more. It involves an open proclamation of Christ’s name without an internal transformation that makes us new men in Christ. Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” Christ means “Anointed One, Messiah; essentially Savior.” To deny the name of Christ is to profess Jesus Christ but deny the salvation His very name implies. ALL cults deny the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ name essentially translates into “Yahweh the Savior,” which is who Jesus is, and how He presents Himself in Scripture when you encounter Him. Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, etc, all profess Christ’ s name but refuse to accept the implication of what such a name means. God saves! Jesus is God, and He is the only Savior of men; if you accept Christ’s name you have accepted His person and office: that of Savior. You ARE saved; you are not in the process of being saved, hoping to one day be saved after death, or working together with Christ in a joint-salvation effort.

You either are saved by Jesus (at once by faith in Him) or you are not, and He is not your Savior. It is the height of foolishness to call Him such and live as though it isn’t true! Which is it? If you confess (and truly believe) that Jesus is Lord then I tell you stop doubting Him, believe that eternal life is your immediate possession as a free gift of God’s mercy, and live as though you are a reborn creature, remade in the image of Him that first created you: namely Christ, Colossians 3:10! If you cannot believe Christ has done all for you, and there is nothing you must add or even can add, then you have professed with your mouth what you utterly deny in your heart and life. Christ is not your Lord; nor was He ever. In this regard you are like the Pharisees who liked to speak nicely of God when it suited them, but never drew near to Him in any effort to know Him and have a relationship with Him, Matthew 15:7-9.

3:9 behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Jesus berated the Pharisees (the sect of Jewish religious leaders) as being a brood of vipers; literally sons of serpents. The serpent being Satan (Revelation 12:9; Genesis 3:1), Jesus likened the Jewish religious leaders who plainly rejected God’s will for themselves as sons of the Devil, Luke 7:30; see also John 8:44 for Jesus’ condemnation of anyone who rejects the light of truth He offers. Herein is the essence of the unforgivable sin; that one is so hardened in their rebellion that they reject Christ and attribute Him and His words to lies, madness, or deluded falsehood.

The Jews continued their diligent persecution of Christians in the first century. Paul wrote: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost,” 1st Thessalonians 2:14-16.

Finally in Revelation we hear about the fate of such religious pretenders and hypocrites. They will be brought before the feet of those they have wronged, persecuted, maligned, and otherwise done violence to. At the very feet of the saint whom they rejected and harmed they will worship God; note that Jesus does not say they’ll worship us. I hope that no one received this impression from the verse. They will worship, and they will worship at the feet of the saints, but it is only and always God that they will worship. This may be construed as a forced acts of worship as God compels them to bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; an act they were too proud to perform in life, or simply standing before the presence of God at the Great White Throne will be enough to force them to their knees and confess the truth they had, all their lives, struggled so hard to deny. The Scripture states, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2:9-11.

Such hypocrites fancy themselves the special object of God’s love because of their innate moral goodness. Here we find the opposite: the “morally good” who have whitewashed their sins by external religious practices are bowing at the feet of those who came to the fountain of cleansing to be washed free of stains only God’s blood could remove, Isaiah 1:18.

3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Luke records Jesus’ words about presumably this same hour of temptation: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” Luke 21:34-36.

There are several camps here. One position is this: Faithful believers will be Raptured to Heaven while the disobedient will be left behind to suffer the Great Tribulation. Another position is this: All Christians alive in this era will go through the Tribulation, but the faithful saints will be protected (kept) by God, while the others will suffer His judgments. A third position states that faithful saints preserved their salvation and were Raptured while the remainder proved unworthy of eternal life and were left behind to perish. None seems to notice that this passage might just address the Jews who enter Tribulation and are saved by the witness of 144,000 and the two witnesses…but that is for a later conversation.

Seeing as how the Bible is crystal clear in regards to the fact that one is passed from death to life and will no longer suffer wrath from God when we are saved, we must reject all three of these views. Why? Scripture does not support them. How did such views become prominent? We know that the Christian is no longer the object of God’s wrath; the sons of disobedience are, and those that obey not the gospel, 1st Peter 4:17; Ephesians 2:2-3; John 3:36. What does it mean to obey the gospel? Obeying Christ means believing in Him, John 6:29; Romans 10:14-17; Hebrews 3:18-19. Obeying in this sense implies trust in the object of our faith; that object being Jesus Christ. As Moses was commanded to erect the brazen serpent so that anyone who looked on it in faith lived, so too anyone who looks on Jesus Christ crucified and risen lives eternally, Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-15.

The persecuted Christians of Philadelphia were presently suffering tribulation, so God reminded them that when genuine Tribulation arrived—that is, the Tribulation God would bring upon a Christ rejecting world—they would find rest. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2nd Thessalonians 1:6-8. We find the comfort of a forthcoming rest and removal from impending judgment for the saints, typified by this promise to the church of Philadelphia, and judgment and wrath poured out from God once the saints depart. The salt of the earth that preserves it is now gone, Raptured to Heaven. When the saints are removed and the hour of God’s patience is ended, judgment immediately follows.

This passage, rather than teaching that Christians will endure a partial or full Tribulation, is meant to comfort us by informing us that God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1st Thessalonians 5:9. Philadelphia will be spared the coming Tribulation that tries the whole earth. This message is for the whole church, and there is no single member exempted. Is all of this church so wonderful as to avoid wrath? All of the church is promised exemption; yet it is careless to believe that every single member lived such a circumspect life. The promise was made to the entire church because the promise is to the church universal: those who are Christ’s will not see the Tribulation because we shall be taken before it occurs.

This is in fact the necessary stepping stone to the progression of the Tribulation: the church (indwelt by the Holy Spirit) is removed, and the lawless one is at last allowed to come forward, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-7. This promise of forgiveness of sin and the reception of the Holy Spirit is for ALL who have been saved by Jesus Christ, Acts 2:38-39. If our sins are forgiven us because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, what would the saints left behind be punished for? Was Christ’s blood incapable of cleansing them wholly? This is blasphemy. Are they being punished for the same sins Jesus already paid for? This is unjust and it is heresy. A deficient view of our Savior’s person and accomplishment leads to a half-hazard treatment of Scripture as we shift the burden of responsibility from God to us.

Yet the Scripture declares: “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you,” Isaiah 46:3-4. The promise was made first to Philadelphia, and also to me and you. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” Romans 15:4.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus warned us that in the world we should have tribulation. How bad it will get before the rapture isn't clear, but as you remind us, This is meant to comfort us, not create fear.

    Great post.

    In answer to your question on on my blog, I don't think the Angel of the Lord refers to a pre-incarnation of Christ. I listed some scriptures there if you're interested.

    ReplyDelete

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