Never heard of “Reformation” outside the historical era of the Great Protestant Reformation? Well, the Book of Revelation foretold that epoch-changing era of men, nations, empires… and the empowerment of the Church of Jesus Christ. But Reformations have occurred throughout the whole of Scripture. Learn here what that means for YOU … and all of our brethren throughout the ages as well.
In this chapter, “keeping God’s word” is repeated as a major characteristic of this Church. That certainly was NOT the testimony of the last several Churches. They entertained “Jezebel” the harlot- prophetess for their “Standard.” They were found “where Satan dwells”. They even knew the “depths of Satan”, a reference to the abyss out of which the beast kingdom of Revelation 13 and its lamb-like counterpart ascend.
In Sardis, they were decayed unto death in their “testimony”. They killed the Two Witnesses who gave testimony of the Lord’s word.
In Rev. 3:8 and 3:10, the Church of Philadelphia, unlike all the others, is commended twice for having kept God’s Word. That is one of the greatest compliments God could ever bestow upon a people, church or individual. It is a rare commendation in Scripture and it is not found in the other 6 Churches, though there are individuals commended in those Churches for their faithfulness.
This Church is much different. It formally acknowledges and actually uses the Bible as the authoritative Standard. The whole Church, less those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are “Jews” (cf. Romans 2: 28-29).
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 shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. - Rev. 3: 7-8
Something has happened in the Church of Jesus Christ to SUDDENLY reverse course from complete deadness to vibrancy and obedience. It is NOW the case that the Lord, who opens and no man closes, and closes and no man opens, is now opening a door according to the text. But, the Lord is also closing the door more and more to the once dominant authority who is now in a lesser position to command attention and obedience.
What has happened?
The Bible makes clear that conformity to the Word of the Lord is the duty of all individuals and societies (Proverbs 1: 20-33). This Church is fulfilling its God-given responsibility to be the “pillar and ground of the Truth.” (I Timothy 3: 15). It is axiomatic; the Lord has declared that this issue is such importance that to know Him (His name) is to “magnify His Word ABOVE that name.” – Psalm 138:2
But how do we know that this Church of Philadelphia initiates its career with the Protestant Reformation (and is followed by other reformations over the centuries that follow)? As always, we have biblical language describing the historical markers of prophecy. We have several markers in this text, tying them to the greater explanations later in Revelation. However, we also have the sequence of the movements of history helping us understand what we find in this chapter.
God’s ability to “open” is expressed repeatedly throughout Scripture, commanding nature to obey His Word (including in His timely acts against the wicked):
• Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven. – Psalm 78:23
• He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. – Psalm 105: 41
• The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. – Psalm 196:17
Christ tells us in the Gospels that we should FEAR Him who has the power of heaven and hell. Note the language elsewhere concerning this issue:
• Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. – Isaiah 5:14 This is what will happen to the enemies of righteousness in Revelation (including those of the apostate Churches studied earlier) – Revelation 20:14. Christ’s rule and reign as the King of Righteousness is described in the first chapter of Revelation in these terms, I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
The Lord credentials His presence (and earthly ministry) and presents His power and glory on behalf of the Truth and people:
• Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. – Isaiah 35:5 This is precisely what Christ accomplished as He credentialed His own claim as God by opening the eyes of the blind (Matt. 9:30; Jn. 9:32).
• The LORD hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans. – Jeremiah 50:25
• Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you… Matthew 7:7
• Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures… (Luke 24:45) Christ OPENS the understanding of His people as a sign of His presence, love, and grace.
Perhaps, the closest DIRECT application to the passage before us is referenced in passages below like unto it, especially the MISSION of God’s Word expressed as an OPEN DOOR:
• And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. –Acts 14:27
• For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. – I Cor. 16:9
• Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord… II Cor. 2:12
• After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. – Revelation 4:1
This passage introduces the REAL MEANS and CAUSES of the “opening” of the door in the MISSION of the Word of God. That MISSION, the GREAT COMMISSION is OPENED by the CHURCH of CHRIST with these “agents” and authorities acting in concert as the means behind the Church. Christ sits on the Throne empowering His elders. Christ also sends forth His Angels. Four of them are especially empowered in the book to oversee the work of righteous judgment.
But, that “opening” of the door as the mission to the nations actually succeeds another “opening”, the opening of the scroll in Rev. 5:5:
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. –Rev. 5: 5
This follows directly upon the declaration that NO MAN had been able to open the scroll, i.e., the Lord had CLOSED the scroll, and no man was able to open it, save only Jesus Christ. He alone will open up the Mystery of will of God and the meaning/purpose of the World.
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. – Rev. 5:3
The Lord “opens” or “closes” any issue or situation He chooses and no man order otherwise. “Open door” is used especially of opening the Word of God as a Mission to the world, and the hearts of men.