Study for the Month August 2012
PHILADELPHIA STAGE OF THE CHURCH
Time Period: 1833-1844; Church of Brotherly Love
Whole Gospel Ministries
I urge every Bible student, particularly the young in the faith to focus your reading and studies on these Bible subjects because they (a) are present, sealing truths, the testing truths of these last days (b) The Spirit of Prophecy books recommended provide invaluable assistance in understanding these subjects (c) Greater blessings are promised to those who pursue these studies diligently, systematically, and progressively under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the angels.
The urgency for doing so is stated in the following quote [emphasis mine]: See 1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5: 12-14; 6:1 first.
“It is too late in the day to feed with milk. If souls a month or two old in the truth, who are about to enter the time of trouble such as never was [Dan. 12:1], cannot hear all the straight truth, or endure the strong meat of the of the straightness of the way, how will they stand in the day of battle? Truths that we have been years learning must be learned in a few months by those who now embrace the third angel’s message. . . . There is no need of milk after souls are convinced of the truth. As soon as the conviction of truth is yielded to and the heart willing, the truth should have its effect, the truth will work like leaven, and purify and purge away the passions of the natural heart.
“It is a disgrace for those who have been in the truth for years to talk of feeding souls who have been months in the truth, upon milk. It shows they know little of the leadings of the Spirit of the Lord, and realize not the time we are living in. Those who embrace the truth now will have to step fast. There will have to be a breaking up of the heart before the Lord, a rending of the heart, and not the garment.” – Manuscript 1, Feb. 12, 1854.
We are inching closer each day towards “the early time of trouble,” i.e., if we have not yet entered into its earliest stages already. Look at the rapidly-deteriorating world condition around you in every level of society and in the physical universe. The only place left uncorrupted today is the sanctified hearts of God’s people, many of whom we even misjudge and ridicule for their singular devotion to God. Even the very air we breathe is filled with literal toxic miasma of mankind’s pollution and waste and reeks with spiritual rebellion and apostasy.
Let us all earnestly pray for one another that: (a) we will not be overwhelmed, discouraged, disheartened, or worse, desensitized (it’s difficult to say which is a worse evil; pick your poison as some would put it) by the constant barrage on our senses of corruption in the highest echelons of both government and religious institutions, deception, greed, and a fascination with violence, strife, bloodshed and death (b) our conscience will remain tender and pure lest it become calloused and hardened against the workings of the Holy Spirit (c) our spiritual discernment will become more keen to immediately spot and avoid areas, situations, ideas, and individuals who will cause us to stumble and fall later. There is so little probation time left to be bungling around and making mistake after mistake (d) we will become even more “wise as serpents yet harmless as doves” as we approach the prophesied time when Biblical wisdom, skill, and understanding, maturity, the indwelling peace of Christ and sense of His presence will keep us firmly anchored in the coming storm and tempest.
In Matthew 24 and Luke 21; 17: 22-37 are recorded the sure signs Jesus said would precede the close of human probation and His second coming. We are witnessing our physical universe undergoing increasing upheavals in earthquakes, tsumanis, cyclones, tornadoes, blizzards, melting of the icecaps, conflagrations, droughts, floods, outbreak of diseases, terrible accidents by air, land, and sea, in all lines of travel and centers of human activity.
Moreover, “the nations are angry.” The “‘wars and rumors of war,” and “nation rising up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” are escalating every year. Multi-awardee Kevin Sites, in “Hot Zone: Backpack Journalism for the New Millenium’ (yahoo.com), lists in his “Scheduled Conflict Coverage,” the following current nations and areas of conflict: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chechnya, China, Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kashmir, Israel/Palestinians, Lebanon, 2006 Mideast Crisis, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Vietnam. His “Hot Zone Watchlist” includes the following: Algeria, Angola, Burrundi, Chad, Ivory Coast, Korean Peninsula, Liberia, Nigeria, Peru, The Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.
This list, which will but increase in the days ahead, focuses on “the kingdoms of this world.” But underneath all these seething cauldrons of political, economic, and military conflicts sizzle the fires fuelled by religious strife—no, not between “Christianity and Democracy” versus Moslem religious extremism and sharia law” so conveniently branded as “terrorists,” but the spiritual conflict of the ages between Christ and Satan and their respective followers and agencies on earth.
With all the multiplying confusion and warring factions, at the end of time, however, only two classes will remain. Every person born into this world since the time of Adam who lived up to the age of accountability, will be permanently recorded in the books of heaven as either belonging to one class or the other—lost or saved.
“There are only two classes. Each party is directly stamped, either with the seal of the living God, or with the mark of the beast, or his image. Each son or daughter of Adam chooses Christ or Satan as his general. All who place themselves on the side of the disloyal are under Satan’s black banner and stand charged with rejecting and despitefully using Jesus Christ. They are charged with deliberately crucifying the Lord of life and glory.” –Manuscript 40, 1897 (see SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 227, 242-3; Selected Messages, vol. 3, pp. 415-18.
And now we return to our study topic for this first month of the New Year 2007!
THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shuteth; and shutteth and no man openeth.” Rev. 3:7.
PHILADELPHIA. – A word meaning ‘brotherly love.’ This city was founded before 138 B.C. and was name for Attalus II Philadelphius of Pergamum in honor of his loyalty to his elder brother, Eumenes II, who had preceded him on the throne. After a damaging earthquake in A.D. 17 it was rebuilt by the Roman emperor Tiberius, but remained comparatively small. It was situated some 30 miles southeast of Sardis.”- “Footnotes,” E.G. Comprehensive Commentary on Revelation, vol. 2, p. 592.
Dr. John D. Davies says this of Philadelphia:
“A city of Lydia, In Asia Minor. . . in the plain of the Hermus. It was built by Attalus Philadelphius, on a part of mount Tmolus. . . It was the seat of one of the seven churches of Asia addressed in the Book of Revelation (1: 11; 3: 7-13). Unlike most of the seven, it receives commendation and encouragement, unmixed with censure. It is now called Allah Sher, and continues to be inhabited. The walls of the ancient city, which are still standing, enclose several hills, with the remains of a temple and other buildings.”- “A Dictionary of the Bible, Fourth Revised Edition, Westminster Press, PA, 1942.
Halley’s Bible Hand Book of the New International Version (Zondervan), p. 924 says:
“Philadelphia was a Lydian city founded by Attalus Philadelphius (159-138 B.C.). The city was an outpost of Hellenism in Anatolia. It lies in a broad, low, easily defended hill, which explains why Philadelphia was the last city of Asia Minor to fall to the Turks in A.D. 1390. The district is disastrously seismic, and the great earthquake of A.D. 17 that also hit Sardis ruined it completely. Place right above the fault, Philadelphia was tormented for 20 years by recurrent quakes after the disaster of A.D. 17. This may be the basis of imagery of Revelation 3:2 [‘a pillar,’ ‘go no more out,’ ‘a new name’). The ‘new name’ is certainly a reference to the proposal to rename the city Neocaesaria in gratitude for Tiberius’s generous earthquake relief. The district was vine-growing and a center, in consequence, of the worship of Dionysus, the god of wine and intoxication.”
The foregoing information was placed in a box, while in the lower portion of the same page it adds that:
“A ‘new name’ seemed to refer to unimaginable joys to be realized in heaven. Here, he that overcomes will receive God’s own name. It is a sign of ownership and a mark of citizenship. In the same way, followers of the beast receive the mark of their master (Rev. 13: 16, 17). Each of us belongs either to the Lord or to the beast.” – Ibid.
Not having “the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10) in their midst, which the true remnant church of prophecy does, this authoritative source used as reference by ministers, pastors, and Bible students of mainstream Christianity, misses wide of the mark of both the context and spiritual meaning of what “the new name” refers to. It says that this “new name” refers to “unimaginable joys to be realized in heaven,” and then adds that it also refers to “God’s name” that “the overcomer will receive.” Which is which?
While their statement that “each of us belongs either to the Lord or to the beast” is scripturally sound, particularly after the “mark of the beast” has been enacted and enforced, their interpretation of who the “beast” of Revelation 13 is, also misses wide of the mark as well. The prophecies of Daniel clearly explain that “beasts” refer to empires, nations, and kingdoms—not individuals! Notice what they say:
“One of the heads of the beast seemed [italics in the original] to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed’ (Rev. 13:3). It comes as no surprise that Satan, the great imitator, orchestrated ‘the death and resurrection’ of the Antichrist. A cheap imitation, indeed, but the ‘whole world was astonished and followed the beast.’ How easily people are deceived if they don’t know the truth found in God’s Word!”
Then it adds:
“To the preterist interpreter, this first beast is the old Roman Empire, whose mission was to persecute the church. The futurist interpreter believes that this beast (the Antichrist) is a literal man who will rise to political power in a revived Roman Empire and will continue as a world power for 42 [literal] months. He will blaspheme the name of God and will be given power by Satan to make war on the saints (God’s true believers)—but the rest of the world (those whose names are not written in the Book of Life) will worship the demon-possessed politician. It will be a time of trouble the like of which the world has never known. At the end of this 3 and 1/2 [literal] years of terror, Christ will return to reclaim His dominion of the earth from Satan.” – Ibid, p. 944.
It is correct to point out the fearful truth that “How easily people are deceived if they don’t’ know the truth found in God’s Word.” But more fearful is the truth that those who command a wider reach and a wield a greater clout of influence such as the writers, editors, and publishers of Halley’s Bible Handbook are—become even greater deceivers themselves, perhaps inadvertently and ignorantly but certainly not innocently, when they pass off as gospel truth erroneous interpretations of the Bible, particularly the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. This they do by presenting two views that are diametrically opposed to each other, preterism vs. futurism but both united against the true interpretation as to who the beast and the “man of sin” is, — the papacy! Such duality serves only to further confuse the honest yet credulous searcher for truth.
The True Historical Application
“When the historical application is made, the message to Philadelphia may be thought of as appropriate to the various movements within Protestantism during the latter years of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth, whose objective it was to make religion a vital, personal affair (see on v.2; see Additional Note on chapter 2 of our past study). In a special way the great evangelical and advent movements in Europe and the United States restored the spirit of brotherly love and stressed practical godliness in contrast with the forms of religion. Revived faith in the saving grace of Christ and in the nearness of His return resulted in a deeper spirit of Christian fellowship than the church had experienced since the early days of the Reformation.”- “Footnotes,” An Exhaustive E.G. White Commentary on Revelation, Vol. 2, p. 592 (emphasis mine).
I thank and praise God for this scripturally-sound and historically-correct interpretation of who the Philadelphian church of Revelation refers to in Christian church history since after Pentecost. In the early 1990s, after reading some of the earliest publications of the pioneers of the Advent movement, I prematurely arrived at the conclusion that the true church of the last days would be Philadelphia, “the church of brotherly love,” and would be made up of those who “come out of the apostate Laodicean Church” and the “11th hour converts.” Such an interpretation, seemingly sound at the outset, was really a product of spiritual immaturity and limited understanding of who the true commandment-keeping remnant church of the last days is, and that it would undergo a Laodicean or spirtuaally lukewarm condition but would be purified by the shaking and sifting till “all dross is removed” by God’s different appointed means. These would include allowing wordliness, apostasy, fierce temptations, false teachings, false teachers, spiritualism in its most deceptive forms, and finally, persecution during the early time of trouble at the enactment and enforcement of the Sunday Law. Only then will the church triumphant emerge as the overcoming, sealed remnant.
Notice the following inspired statements:
“I am in great travail of soul for our people. We are living in the peril of the last days. A superficial faith results in a superficial experience. There is a repentance that needs to be repented of. All genuine experience in religious doctrines will bear the impress of Jehovah. All should see the necessity of understanding the truth for themselves individually. We must understand the doctrines that have been studied out carefully and prayerfully. It has been revealed to me that there is among our people a great lack of knowledge in regard to the rise and progress of the third angel’s message. There is a great need to search the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation, and learn the texts thoroughly; that we may know what is written.
“The light given me has been very forcible that many would go out from us, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. The Lord desires that every soul who claims to believe the truth shall have an intelligent knowledge of what is truth. False prophets will arise and will deceive many. Everything is to be shaken that can be shaken. Then does it not become everyone to understand the reasons of our faith? In place of having so many sermons there should be more close searching of the Word of God, opening the Scriptures, text by text, and searching for the strong evidences that sustain the fundamental doctrines that have brought us where we now are, upon the platform of eternal truth. [Now, where does (a) women ordination and (b) counterfeit “Righteousness by Faith” or “1888 messages” figure here?]
“For more than half a century God has been giving His people light through the testimonies of His Spirit. After all this time it is left for a few men and their wives to
CHARMED BY SPURIOUS HOLINESS
“My soul is made very sad to see who quickly some who have had light and truth will accept the deceptions of Satan, and be charmed with spurious holiness. When men turn away from the landmarks the Lord has established that we may understand our position as marked out in prophecy, they are going they know not wither.
“I question whether genuine rebellion is ever curable. Study in Patriarchs and Prophets the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. This rebellion was extended, including more than two men. It was led by two hundred and fifty princes of the congregation, men of renown. Call rebellion by its right name and apostasy by its right name, and then consider that the experience of the ancient people of God with all its objectionable features was faithfully chronicled to pass into history. The Scriptures declares, ‘These things . . . . are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.’ And if men and women who have the knowledge of the truth so far separated from their Great Leader that they will take the great leader of apostasy and name Him Christ our Righteousness, it is because they have not sunk deep into the mines of truth. They are not able to distinguish the precious ore from base material.
“Read the cautions so abundantly given in the Word of God in regard to false prophets that will come in with their heresies, and if possible will deceive the very elect. With these warnings, why is it that the church does not distinguish the false from the genuine? Those who have in any way been thus misled need to humble themselves before God, and sincerely repent, because they have so easily been led astray. They have not distinguished the voice of the true Shepherd from that of a stranger. Let all such review this chapter of their experience.
“For more than half a century God has been giving His people light through the testimonies of His Spirit. After all this time is I left for a few men and their wives to
undeceive the whole church of believers, declaring Mrs. White a fraud and a deceiver?
“’By their fruits you shall know them.’ Those who can ignore all the evidences which God has given them, and change that blessing into a curse, should tremble for the safety of their own souls. Their candlestick will be removed from out of its place unless they repent.
“The standard of truth, of the first, second, and third angels’ messages has been left to trail in the dust. If the watchmen are left to mislead the people in this fashion, God will hold some souls responsible for a lack of keen discernment to discover what kind of provender was being given to His flock.
“Apostasies have occurred and the Lord has permitted matters of this nature to develop in the past in order to show how easily His people will be misled when they depend upon the words of men instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, as did the noble Bereans, to see if these things are so. [Acts 17: 10, 11] And the Lord has permitted things of this kind to occur that warnings may be given that such things will take place.
REBELLION AND APOSTASY
“Rebellion and apostasy are in the very air we breathe. We shall be affected by them unless we by faith hang our helpless souls upon Christ. If men are so easily misled now, how will they stand when Satan shall personate Christ, and work miracles? Who will be unmoved my his misrepresentations then—professing to be Christ when it is only Satan assuming the person of Christ, and apparently working the works of Christ? What will hold God’s people from giving their allegiance to false christs? ‘Go not after them.’
“The doctrines must be clearly understood. The men accepted to preach the truth must be anchored; then their vessel will hold against storm and tempest, because the anchor holds them firmly. The deceptions will increase, and we are to call rebellion by its right name. We are to stand with the whole armor on. In this conflict we do not meet men only, but principalities and powers. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Let Ephesians 6: 10-18 be read carefully and impressively in our churches.” – E. G. White, Undated MS. 148/Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, pp. 57, 58.
After continuing research, I realized my mistake and abandoned my former thinking and position, humbly asking the Lord for forgiveness. He knew I was earnestly searching for advancing truth (and still do, even more with much greater joy and freedom since then), and that it was part of my education and purification in “the school of Christ and affliction” to undergo such humiliating yet cathartic experiences. I further understood that such was indispensable to helping expand my spiritual lateral vision so that I could correctly understand and interpret other subjects of present, sealing truth that would naturally unfold in the years following to this very moment.
NOTE: An invaluable contributor to my awakening was the study I got into on the three kinds of love, namely, eros, philos, and agape. It quickly pointed out to me that to settle for philos, the brotherly love of which the Philadelphian church was known for, was to settle for less than God’s requirement and expectation for His church triumphant in the days—the John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13 agape love—the one that unites, not divides! See John 17. This is the only love that the saved church will possess—one that “loves and forgives one’s enemies unconditionally” while “hating sin with perfect hatred,” as Jesus did; one that “is not puffed up nor easily provoked,” is not self-righteous or fanatical but calm, kind, patient, merciful, and courteous, particularly to the enemies of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” It is this love alone that compels and that conquers all—the very one described in Rom. 8: 35-39!
“He that is holy, He that is true.” – “This title is equivalent to ‘the Holy One,’ used of God in the Old Testament (Isa. 40:25; Hab. 3:3). In the New Testament a similar ascription is applied repeatedly to Christ, implying His deity (see Luke 1;35; Acts 4;27; cf. on John 6:69). True is the Greek alethinos, meaning, “genuine,” “real,” in contrast with false gods.”- Ibid.
“Key of David.” – “This verse applies to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Eliakim, to Christ (Isa. 22:20-22; see 2 Kings 18:18). Eliakim was appointed to have supervision ‘over the household’ of David, as signified by the fact that he was to be given ‘the key of the house of David.” Christ’s possession of the ‘key’ represents His jurisdiction over the church and over the divine purpose to be achieved through it (see Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22). Compare Rev. 5:5; 22:16; see on Matt. 1:1.”- Ibid, pp. 592-3.
NOTE: The Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that Peter holds the literal keys to heaven. (See on the internet). Hereunder is the true Biblical interpretation of the keys given to Peter:
“Peter had expressed the faith of the twelve. Yet the disciples were still far from understanding Christ’s mission. The opposition and misrepresentation of the priests and rulers, while it could not turn them away from Christ, still caused them great perplexity. They did not see their way clearly. The influence of their early training, the teaching of the rabbis, the power of tradition, still intercepted their view of truth. From time to time precious rays of light from Jesus shone upon them, yet often they were like men groping among shadows. But on this day, before they were brought face to face with the great trial of their faith [in the foreshadowing of the cross], the Holy Spirit rested upon them in power. For a little time their eyes were turned away from ‘the things which were seen,’ to behold ‘the things which are not seen.’ 2 Cor. 4: 18. Beneath the guise of humanity they discerned the glory of the Son of God.
“Jesus answered Peter, saying, ‘Blessed are thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.’
“The truth which Peter had confessed is foundation of the believer’s faith. It is that which Christ Himself has declared to be eternal life. But the possession of this knowledge was no ground for self-glorification. Through no wisdom or goodness of his own had it been revealed to Peter. Never can humanity, of itself, attain to a knowledge of the divine. ‘It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?’ Job 11: 8.
“Only the spirit of adoption can reveal to us the deep things of God, which ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man.’ ‘God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.’ 1 Cor. 2: 9, 10. ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him;’ and the fact that Peter discerned the glory of Christ was an evidence that he had been ‘taught of God.’ Ps. 25:14; John 6:45. Ah, indeed, ‘blessed are thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.’
“Jesus continue: ‘I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ The word Peter signifies a stone,—a rolling stone. Peter was not the rock upon which the church was founded. The gates of hell did prevail against him when he denied His Lord with cursing and swearing. The church was built upon One against whom the gates of hell could not prevail.
“Centuries before the Savior’s advent Moses had pointed to the Rock of Israel’s salvation. The psalmist had sung of ‘the Rock of my strength.’ Isaiah had written, ‘Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerst0ne, a sure foundation.’ Deut. 32: 4; Ps. 62:7; Isa. 28: 16. Peter himself, writing by inspiration, applies this prophecy to Jesus. He says, ‘If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.’ 1 Pet. 2: 3-5, R.V.
“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ 1 Cor. 3: 11. ‘Upon this rock,’ said Jesus, ‘I will build My church.’ In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself,—His own body, for us broken and bruised. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell shall not prevail.
“How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown.
“For six thousand years, faith has built upon Christ. For six thousand years the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation [Jesus Christ, not Peter]; but it stands unmoved.
“Peter had expressed the truth which is the foundation of the church’s faith, and Jesus now honored him as the representative of the whole body of believers. He said, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’
“The keys of God’s kingdom are the words of Christ.’ All the words of the Holy Scriptures are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received of rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death [2 Cor. 2: 15, 16]. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.
“The Savior did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. At a later time, repeating the words that were spoken to Peter, He applied them directly to the church. And the same in substance was spoken also to the Twelve as representatives of the body of believers. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often contending as to who should be the greatest [see Matt. 17: 22-27; 18: 1-20; Mark 9: 30-50; Luke 9: 46-48]. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master, and honored the one whom He had chosen.
“Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples, ‘Be not ye called Rabbi;’ ‘neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.’ Matt 23: 8, 10.
‘The head of every man is Christ.’ God who put all things under the Savior’s feet, ‘gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.’ 1 Cor. 11: 3; Eph. 1: 22, 23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or to be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. The Savior declares, ‘All ye are brethren.’ All are exposed to temptation, and are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. ‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.’ The Lord ‘is the Rock, His work is perfect.’ ‘Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.’ Jer. 17:5; Deut. 32: 4; Ps. 2: 12.”- E.G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 412-414.
“He that openeth.” – “That is, with the ‘key of David.” Christ has full authority to open and to shut, to carry the plan of redemption forward to success.”- Ibid, p. 593.
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee and open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and has not denied My name.” Rev. 3:8.
“An open door.”- “In the preceding verse Christ is said to have ‘the key of David.” Verse 8 may imply that with that ‘key’ He now opens before the Philadelphia church is a ‘door’ of unlimited opportunity for personal victory in the struggle with sin, and for bearing witness to the saving truth of the gospel. For similar uses of the ‘door’ as a symbol of opportunity see Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3.” –Ibid, p. 598.
“Seventh-day Adventists hold that the close of the Philadelphia period (in 1844) marks the beginning of the investigative judgment described in Dan. 7:10; Rev. 14: 6, 7 (see comment there). Christ is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14, 15; 8:1), ministering in the sanctuary above, ‘the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man’ (Heb. 8:2, 6; cf. Exo. 25:8, 9). Now, the ritual of the earthly sanctuary consisted essentially of two parts, the daily service of ministration for sin, in the holy place, and the yearly service, on the Day of Atonement, which was considered a day of judgment, in the most holy place (see Heb. 9:1; 6, 7; see on Dan. 8: 11, 14). In view of the fact that the earthly sanctuary served as an ‘example and shadow of heavenly things’ (Heb. 8:5) it is proper to conclude that the daily and yearly services of the earthly sanctuary have their counterpart in the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.” – Ibid, p. 598.
“No man can shut.”- This refers to a spiritual “shut door” which some of the early Advent believers thought to be the close of probation on those that rejected the first angel’s message (also known as the judgment hour message or the “midnight cry” given in the summer of 1844). What it really means, however, is explained in the following:
“To speak in terms of the symbolism of the earthly sanctuary, which was ‘a copy of the true one’ (Heb. 9:23, RSV): On the antitypical day of atonement, beginning in 1844, our Great High Priest may be thought of as leaving the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and entering the most holy place. Accordingly, the ‘shut door’ would be that of the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary and the ‘open door’ that of the most holy place where Christ has been engaged in the work of the great antitypical day of atonement since that time (see GC 430, 431, 435; EW 42).
“In other words, the ‘shut door’ indicates the closing of the first phase of Christ’s heavenly ministry, and the ‘open door’ the beginning of the second phase. For a discussion of the ‘shut door’ in early Adventist teaching see L.E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. 4, pp. 829-842; F.D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp. 161-252. For a summary of the sanctuary doctrine see Additional Note on Heb. 10).” – Ibid.
“No man can shut” also means that “Christ will carry forward the work of redemption until it is complete.” No one in heaven or earth neither all the evil hosts of angels and wicked men on earth united in desperation, can ever frustrate much less prevent our omnipotent God from finishing what He begun! And it will be an eternally, glorious triumphant issue although now it appears that God has been defeated by Satan in deceiving the whole world–except for a very small remnant!
“A little strength.” – “Or simply, ‘little strength.’
“Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844. Even now, after the lapse of many years, all who shared in that movement and who have stood firm upon the platform of truth still feel the holy influence of that blessed work and bear witness that it was of God.” – Great Controversy, p. 401.
“It is not clear whether Christ is here reproving the Philadelphia church for having so little strength, or commending them for having ‘some strength.’ Except for a ‘few’ in Sardis, that church was all but ‘dead,’ and it may be that the ‘little strength’ of Philadelphia represents a more encouraging situation than that in Sardis [see last month’s study on Sardis]. The fact that the ‘little strength’ is so closely connected with the commendation for heeding Christ’s Word and not denying His name tends to confirm this conclusion. Also, the ‘open door’ may be thought of as an invitation to enter into an experience of even greater strength. The church in Philadelphia was apparently neither large or influential, but it was pure and faithful.”- Ibid.
“The Philadelphia period of church history, with its increased attention to God’s Word, particularly the prophecies of Daniel and of the Revelation, and to personal godliness, represented a much more encouraging picture than the preceding period [the Sardis period].”- Ibid.
What diligent students of prophecy should be magnifying upon when studying the Philadelphian church, are the following:
It describes the various religious movements within Protestantism during the latter years of the 18th century and the first half of the nineteenth. In a special way the great evangelical and advent movements in Europe and America restored the spirit of Biblical brotherly love and stressed practical godliness in contrast with the mere forms of religion that characterized the Christian church up until that period, leading up to tremendous events of 1840-1844.
It represents “increased attention to God’s word, particularly the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, and to personal godliness.”
These are the special qualities that the Philadelphian condition represent and exemplify, and thus is the message and lesson particularly applicable to us today. To insist that “the Philadelphian church is the true church of the last days” (and kindred errors), as some of the early pioneers did, and some still do today in spite of overwhelming scriptural evidence to the contrary, is to:
1. Destroy the harmony of the prophetic depiction of the Christian church as it goes through only seven successive conditions – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—no more, no less, and in this pre-ordained perfect order. Why? “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Cor. 14: 33. Order is heaven’s first law (CH 101; 6T 201); God is a God of order” (PP 376; 2 SM 476), and is the “law of heaven” (4T 142).
2. Entertain the spirit of stubbornness against God’s Word as well as “make of none effect the testimony of God,” which is “Satan’s last deception in the church” (see 1 SM 48; 2SM 78). Notice what the Word compares this to: “For rebellion is the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:23, NKJV). God’s servant expands the latter to include “the idol of man’s opinion,” a more deceptive form of idolatry since many who are victims of this particular error have long dispensed with physical images for worship made up of wood, stone, or precious metals. The “idol of man’s opinion” is further identified as a “sin most nearly hopeless and incurable” (see 7 T 199-200, etc). King Saul and the Pharisees stubbornly persisted in it and eventually committed the unpardonable sin. Worse, those deceived, deceive others, and they still others. And none know how many souls will be misled and lost until the day of God!
Again, this is not to say that those deceived by this particular error do not love God or His Word. Nothing can be farther from that. It only reveals how delusive the temptations and deceptions of Satan are for these last days “knowing his time is short” (Rev. 12:12). He has “invented unnumbered schemes” (GC 488), devious devices, temptations, and deceptions designed to hit our weakest points of moral character that have not yet been overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony” at this late hour. And yet all of us can take heart in the following promise with its accompanying provisions (emphasis mine):
“Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth that it deceives those who are willing to be deceived, who shun the self-denial and sacrifice [of self-opinion] demanded by the truth; but it is impossible for him to hold under his power one soul who honestly desires, at whatever cost, to know the truth. Christ is the truth and the ‘Light; which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ John 1:9. The Spirit of truth has been sent to guide men into all truth. And upon the authority of the Son of God it is declared: ‘Seek, and ye shall find.’ ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ Matt. 7:7; John 7:17.”- Great Controversy, p. 528.
“And has kept My word.”- God’s word expresses His will; His will is an expression of His thoughts, character, love, power, and authority.
Ques. How has and does God reveal His will?
Ans. God has revealed His will through six agencies, namely,
1. through nature
2. through His prophets and apostles
3. by the direct witness of the Holy Spirit to the human heart
4. through the experiences of life
5. through the course of human history
6. and preeminently, through Christ.”- Ibid.
“And has not denied My name.”
Name is the Greek onoma which means “(literally or figuratively,) authority; character.” – Strong’s Greek Lexicon. The Bible says so: “For as his name is, so is he.” 1 Sam. 25: 25. Dr. John Davies says: “Name is often used in Hebrew in the sense of revealed character and essence. God swears by His great name to carry out His purpose (Jer. Xliv, 26), that is, He swears by His attested power to accomplish His word. The name of God which is excellent in all the earth (Ps. viii, 1), is the expression of His being which is exhibited in creation and redemption.” –A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 528.
What denying Christ’s name mean for us today and what it comprehends is explained in the following quotes (emphasis mine):
“He who would confess Christ must have Christ abiding in him. He cannot communicate that which he has not received. The disciples might speak fluently on doctrines, they might repeat the words of Christ Himself; but unless they possess Christlike meekness and love, they are not confessing Him. A spirit contrary to the spirit of Christ would deny Him, what ever the profession. Men may deny Christ by:
(3) words that are untruthful or unkind.
(4) shunning life’s burdens,
(5) the pursuit of sinful pleasure.
(6) conforming to the world,
(7) uncourteous behavior – (Jesus was courteous even to His enemies and persecutors]
(8) love of their own opinions
(9) justifying self
(10) cherishing doubt
(11) borrowing trouble
(12) dwelling in darkness. [the darkness of willing ignorance, willful sin, cherishing error]
“In all these ways they declare that Christ is in not in them. And ‘whosoever shall deny Me before men,’ He says, ‘him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.’ Matt. 10:33.”- Desire of Ages, p. 357.
“We may deny Christ, in our life, by:
(13) indulging love of ease or love of self
(14) by jesting and joking
(15) seeking the honor of the world.
(16) out outward appearance
(17) by conformity to the world
(18) by a proud look
(19) costly apparel
“Only by constant watchfulness and preserving and almost unceasing prayer, shall we be able to exhibit in our life the character of Christ or the sanctifying influence of the truth.” – 1T 304/Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, p. 60.
All seeking to glorify God by overcoming like Christ did in the human flesh, as our Example and Enabler, should become thoroughly familiar with this comprehensive list of the different ways we have, and continue to deny Christ—consciously or unconsciously—if we desire to know for a certainty whether Christ, by living faith, is truly dwelling in the throne of our hearts or not! If not, a different spirit for this is the only throne is never vacant. Either Christ or Satan, the master of deception is in control. The vast majority of Christians think they serve both these masters. Jesus clearly warned: “You cannot serve two masters at one time. You will either love the one or hate the other”…….”
This listing is an integral part of our spiritual diagnostic tools which include the evidence-meter of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by the manifestation of its fruits as recorded in Galatians 5: 22-25, and is part of “the whole armor of God” carefully spelled out in Ephesians 6: 10-18. It is so revealing that of our true condition that it can be truly classified as scary!
“Never was there a time when this warning was more appropriate than at the present time. Far too large a number of professed Christians are Christians only in name. They have no root in themselves. Their hearts are filled with pride, impurity, unholy ambition, self-importance, and love of supremacy. They may have an intelligent knowledge of the theory of the truth, and prove their doctrines to be sound and Scriptural, but they hold the truth in unrighteousness. By their course of action they deny the Savior.” – Review & Herald, Nov. 28, 1899.
Let us “think on these things” and examine ourselves even more closely instead of looking for and magnifying on the faults, weaknesses, and sins of others, particularly those belonging to “the household of faith.” This does not mean, however, that we shall shut our eyes and mouth and deliberately refuse to call sin, apostasy, and rebellion by its right name. We are to do both difficult work and only for God’s glory. Our salvation depends on it.
To be continued next month.