Little Strength

“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.”
Revelation‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭NLT

Encouragement and love. Jesus’ message to the Philadelphians couldn’t have been better. And there is that door again. Jesus is holding it open for them and we know from the previous verse that only He has the key to this door. “You have little strength” conjures up a picture of a small group of inoffensive but determined Christians. Physically they lacked the ability to defend themselves. They probably lacked influence in their society. A number of them may have been slaves. The reference to “Satan’s synagogue” indicated that they were perhaps suffering persecution. But in all of this they stood firm in their faith. Staying obedient to God’s Word. And always declaring His Lordship in their lives. What an example. And Jesus said He would vindicate them, by forcing the false Jews to bow down to them, acknowledging that the Philadelphians were the ones that Jesus loved. 

There are several examples of “little strength” in the Bible. I’m reminded of Jeremiah, who stood up against the religious leaders of his day, pointing out their corruption and apostasy, receiving threats and even direct action in return. We read in Jeremiah 20 how he was whipped and put in stocks, because of his faith. He had “little strength” but persevered in faith. And there is that wonderful chapter in Hebrews about the faithful, those with “little strength”, who suffered greatly in the face of persecution. In 1 Corinthians 1:27 we read, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. The Philadelphians knew by faith that with God on their side, they were invincible, even though they had “little strength”.

Jesus had strong words for the local Jewish synagogue. A place of worship and connection with God instead appeared to be populated by Jews who were worshipping someone else. How did that come about? Jesus Himself encountered people in synagogues who were so fixed in their ideas that they were unable to accept a visitation from God Himself. We read in Mark 3:5-6, “He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus”. A synagogue containing leaders who were so hardened in their hearts that they wanted Jesus to be killed for breaking their sabbath laws. Sadly, I know churches today that would be unable to accommodate a Jesus in their midst. Upsetting their liturgies. Disturbing the furniture. Challenging the status quo.

For the pilgrim today, God knows that we have “little strength”. But all He asks of us is that we are obedient to Him and His Word, and that we don’t deny Him in the face of difficult situations. Thankfully, in our Western societies we don’t suffer the physical persecution experienced by our bothers and sisters in places like Afghanistan or North Korea, but we can still come up against others hostile to our faith. There are always some who ridicule us in our workplaces, schools and universities. And, sad to say, even in our churches. But God sees the big picture and He knows our hearts and one day we will hear those wonderful words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

Dear Lord Jesus. We thank You for Your encouragement. We thank You for standing with us when the going gets tough. And we thank You for equipping us with Your Heavenly resources, day by day. Amen.

Key of David

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the One who is holy and true, the One who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.”
Revelation 3:7 NLT

In his revelation from Jesus, John moves on to the church at Philadelphia, addressing the angel there with his message. Philadelphia was a city in what is now Turkey, and in those days it was on a trade route of strategic importance. Not much remains of the First Century city because of earthquakes in the region, but when John wrote his revelation it was a thriving place extending Greek culture to surrounding nations.

In Revelation 3:7, Jesus once again establishes His credentials. He is the holy and true One. In Hebrews 7:26 we read, “He is the kind of high priest we need because He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin…“. He is true as we read in John 14:6, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life..””. But what is this “key of David“? Jesus was repeating the prophecy made about Himself from Isaiah 22:22, “I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them“. Jesus was often referred to in Biblical literature as being the Son of David, indicating His royal ancestry.

So what is it that only Jesus can open and close? The Isaiah prophecy mentions doors, and that would seem an obvious target of Jesus’s keys. But doors to what? And what is so important that only the Son of God has access to them? In Matthew 16:19 the words of Jesus, in a conversation with Peter, were recorded: “And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven”. So perhaps this “key of David” unlocks the door into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Heaven is a special place, of complete holiness and purity. A place where God lives. A place that, although we only get a glimpse of it through the Bible, we still gain something about its wonder and ultimate desirability for our eternal home. There is a script used much in old cartoon films and pictures, of a person who has just died arriving at the gates of Heaven. Everything is white and shining, and Peter is sitting behind a desk looking down at the person, consulting books to see if he can be allowed in. But nothing can be further from reality, from the truth. The door into Heaven isn’t opened by a key when we die. There is no Peter, or even Jesus, waiting to let us in, in that respect. There is a process that has to be gone through first. A process that will unlock the door ready for us at some time in the future.

Jesus, while He walked the paths in Palestine, didn’t focus on the place called Heaven so much as He talked and taught about the Kingdom of Heaven. We have to understand that there is no sudden transition between life and the after-life, between our earthly kingdom and the Heavenly kingdom to come. There is a choice to be made, and Jesus was teaching that the Kingdom of Heaven is here right now and we can access it, and live in it, through the One who has the keys to open its door. We start our journey to enter Heaven at the Cross, where Jesus went through a horrible death so that we would gain entry into His Kingdom. By accepting in faith that He is the Son of God, believing in our hearts that He died for us and only salvation comes through Him, then Jesus will unlock and open the door for us, into His Kingdom.. 

There are only two kingdoms accessible to us in this life. The kingdom of darkness, or the Kingdom of Light. The devil’s kingdom or God’s Kingdom. The earthly kingdom or the Heavenly Kingdom. Whatever we call them, there are only two kingdoms. And there is a sobering and important fact about these kingdoms – the default kingdom is not God’s. If we want to spend eternity with God then we can only enter His kingdom by choosing to do so.

Going back to our Scripture in Matthew 16, Jesus very publicly gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. If we read a few verses before, we see that Peter had just made a statement declaring Jesus’ divinity. We read in verse 16, “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God””. On the back of that statement of faith, Peter went on to make very effective use of the keys to the Kingdom – after he preached his Acts 2 sermon, 3,000 people were added to God’s Kingdom that day. He unlocked the door into the Kingdom of heaven for them and they subsequently chose to enter.

But Peter is long dead. Did the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven die with him? Thankfully not, because when we become a child of God, we not only receive the free gift of salvation, we also receive the key that will enable us to unlock the door into God’s Kingdom for anyone we meet. We have a responsibility to fulfil our Kingdom commission by firstly telling others about the Kingdom of Heaven and secondly by telling them how to enter. That is unlocking the door. And for those who reject the free gift of salvation from God, the door remains locked. By default, they will continue to live in the earthly kingdom, and will find, when they cross the Great Divide, that the door into the Heavenly Kingdom is locked and they cannot enter. Instead they will join the devil in the other place. For eternity. 

One last thought today. We are living in a period of unmerited grace. A time when God has graciously made entry into His Kingdom possible for all. There is no monetary charge for entry – salvation is a free gift. In Romans 10:10 we read, “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”. That’s what God requires. A choice that will allow Jesus to unlock the door for us. So the question for everyone today is this. Which kingdom do you want to live in? please, folks, make the right choice before it is too late.

Dear Lord. How can we ever thank You enough for Your amazing grace and mercy. Please bring to us those who are open to the Gospel and who are looking for the Kingdom of God, so that we can show them the way. For Your sake. Amen.