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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The Open Door

M. L. Moser, Editor

From The Baptist Challenge, January 2014

[This message on “The Open Door” was preached June 18, 1979, and is being printed “as preached,” and is one of a series of 113 messages on the Book of Revelation preached at the Central Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas over a period of two years, 1979-1981. It is our hope to complete transcribing all of them and to print them in the form of a verse-by-verse commentary.]

This morning we did not get as far as we intended. In the outline that I have made for the Book of Revelation and which I am going by, sometimes I do not get as far in the outline as I intend, and this morning was one of those cases. We covered the identification of the Author this morning, and I intended to go further than that.

You’ll note in the seventh verse the identification is made concerning the author of this letter. “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” (Rev. 3:7). We pointed out three means of identification for this author.

First, “He that is holy.” That refers to the character of the Author. Second, “He that is true.” That refers to the conduct of the Author. Third, “He that hath the key of David.” We went back to Isaiah 22:22 and found that that referred to the work of the Author, the work of being the Messiah. This key represented authority and power and that Jesus Christ has all power and all authority. Next we pointed out that He is the one who opens and closes the doors according to His sovereign will.

In this passage we find an open door placed before this church of Philadelphia. “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. 3:8).

Now tonight I want us to note that He says, “I know thy works.” This is the same thing that He has said to all of these churches. He knows one just as well as He does the others. Nothing escapes Him at all. And yet, knowing all about this church at Philadelphia, we find that in the reading of these verses about this church, not one place does He rebuke this church just as He did not rebuke the church at Smyrna.

The Lord does not have one critical word to say about this church of Philadelphia. In fact, the Lord does not even say a word about their works. All He says is, “I know thy works,” and this indicates that He was satisfied with them or else He would have criticized their works even as He criticized the works of these other churches.

Now He says, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door.” Any time that the Lord places an open door before a church, they should consider that open door as a gift from the Lord. It is given to them as an opportunity of service. Open and shut doors represent opportunities for service, and if, or whenever the Lord places an open door before a church, it is so that that church might enter through that door and that they might make use of that door. It is a means whereby God intends for them to serve Him. So for the church at Philadelphia, He says, “Behold I have set before thee an open door.”

The Apostle Paul used this term “open door” many times, and it was always used in connection with the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us note some of these.

Turn with me to First Corinthians 16:9. Paul says, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” Then in 2 Corinthians 2:12, “Furthermore when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord.” In Colossians 4:3 we read, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.”

Next, turn to Acts 14:27. “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.”

So we see that the open door is an opportunity of service that involves the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We could say that it involves the opening up of the opportunity of doing missions. No wonder then that this church of Philadelphia is a church that represents the great missionary activity that took place after the Reformation, the period from 1750 to 1900.

It was during this period that the greatest missionary activity that has ever been known in the world has been practiced, and it also is representative of the many great revivals. In fact, you and I today can say that we owe much of our spiritual heritage as a result of the great revival activity that took place during the 19th century.

This is when America really became the great spiritual nation that it was, and when America assumed the responsibility of sending out missionaries to all the world. So that was the period of the open door. Now the Lord said, “Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it,” showing them that it is the Lord who gave them this opportunity of service.

There are two characteristics that denote this age, that represents this period of time. In verse 8 we read, “For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” In verse 10 we read “because thou hast kept the word of my patience.”

What we see here is obedience to His word, and it is mentioned twice. All we need to do is to go back in our history, think about our preceding century, the 19th century, and we see that obedience to the Word, to a great extent, is that which characterized them.

Secondly, we find the phrase “faithfulness to his name.” In the later part of verse 8 it says, “and has kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Both of these, the Word and the Name, are to be denied in the last days. But during this time period represented by the church of Philadelphia, we find that they maintained the obedience to the Word, and they did not deny His name. We find that the rejection of both the written Word and the living Word are to be characteristics of the churches of the last days.

This was not true of the church of Philadelphia. Though they were little in number, their little strength is to be used by the Lord with the keeping of their word and therefore is to be very effective. Again, note what the Lord says in verse eight: “For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Now when you put a “little strength”, with obedience to the Word, and with the keeping of God’s name, that in itself becomes great strength.

When you just stop and look at New Testament churches, from a human standpoint, all of them had little strength. When you think of the great corporations of our world today, such as General Motors, Sears Roebuck, IBM, AT&T, or Walmart, we see great strength, and we see the abilities that they have and what they are able to accomplish.

On the other hand look at churches, how little they are and how inconsequential they are in comparison to these great giants of commerce. They have no computers; they do not have the facilities, or the resources, either human or financial, and yet somehow, churches with little strength when they are obedient unto the Word and keep the faith, they are able to accomplish much more than either Sears and Roebuck, AT&T, IBM, or any of these great companies of our world today. The reason is that when we take the “little strength” that we have, and put it in the hands of God, then it is able to do great and mighty things.

Sometimes when we think about the task and the work that God has given us to do, we have a tendency to become discouraged and say “We just can’t do it.” But that’s looking to self rather than looking to the Lord. That’s looking to human strength rather than looking to divine strength. When we take what little strength we have, and put it into the hands of God, it becomes an effective tool for fulfilling God’s commission. It can be done, because it is not us that does it.

There’s a song, I don’t guess it’s ever been sung here, maybe it has, but I have heard it sung called “Little is much when God is in it,” and our little becomes much when it is in the hands of the Lord. “Thou hast a little strength.”

I preached a message one time on “Little Faith,” and then referred to the different kinds of faith such as “mustard seed” faith, etc. Really, God doesn’t require much faith. All God requires is a little faith on our part, and then God will take that and He’ll do much.

Here’s an open door that’s been placed before this church, and they only have a “little strength,” but because they have obedience to the Word, and because they have not denied His name, they were able to accomplish the impossible. They were able to accomplish, (this may not be a good word but I’m going to use it anyway), they were able to accomplish the “unaccomplishable,” which would be the impossible of doing. Though little in number and though little in strength, they were able to do it, and that’s in spite of their adversaries.

Their adversaries were not little. Their strength was little, but their adversaries were not. Notice He says in verse nine, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” So we see that their opposition or their adversaries were referred to as a “synagogue of Satan.”

Now just who are those that composed the “synagogue of Satan?” All right, look at the church at Smyrna. Remember that we found there that these were unsaved church members. They were false professors who clothed themselves with great religious pretensions, but in reality who opposed Christians. They were referred to as the “synagogue of Satan,” false professors. These here in Philadelphia are the same kind of people, the same class of people, and when you are talking about false professors, the Lord uses extremely strong language about them.

Occasionally someone will criticize a preacher because he uses strong language. A preacher would have to go a long way before he used stronger language than that used by the Apostle Paul. He’d have to go a long way before he used stronger language than what the Lord Himself used, and when you’re talking about these false Christians, those who form a part of this “synagogue of Satan,” these false professors, the Lord used some extremely strong language about them. Notice in Matthew 3:7:

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadduçees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers.” He accused them of being a bunch of snakes, “a generation of vipers.” Next, notice in Matthew 23:23. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

Now notice verse 33, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Then in Luke 3:7 “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” In other words, the Lord used some very strong language when He was talking about hypocrites. Hypocrites are church members who are unsaved, and who know they are unsaved, but they still carry a pretense of being saved.

Now a hypocrite is one that knows they’re lost but they seek to deceive others to make them think they are saved when they themselves know they are lost. Now every unsaved church member is not necessarily a hypocrite. Somebody may be a member of the church and may be unsaved but they may not know it, and they then are not a hypocrite.

An unsaved church member, maybe he’s not sure he’s saved or he may not be sure he’s lost, that is not a hypocrite. The hypocrite is that person that probably you would never finger as a hypocrite. The hypocrite is one who seeks to live like a Christian, tries to be spiritual in his attitudes, to present himself as spiritual, but in reality, is a lost church member. Sometimes those who appear to be the most spiritual minded can be your greatest hypocrite in a church. They’re the ones that are of the “synagogue of Satan.” That’s what these Pharisees were.

The Pharisees were religious people; morally they were good people. They would brag about their goodness and their tithes and offerings and how much they gave, how much they did for the Lord, how much they prayed. They would pray in public and pray long prayers so that all might see, and hear, and know how spiritual they were, yet all the time they were members of the “synagogue of Satan.”

The Lord Himself says, they were simply a bunch of snakes, underhanded, cunning, sly, all out to destroy as we find here in the third chapter of the Book of Revelation. They were the adversaries of the true church, members of the church, yet adversaries of the church. They were members of the church, having their name on the roll, being in regular attendance at the church, and yet working against the church from the inside.

“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.” They call themselves Jews and yet they were not. The Lord says one day they’re going to come and they are going to worship at the feet of the Philadelphian church. The Lord says He’s going to exonerate them. The Lord says that His church yet is going to gain the victory over her adversaries.

Now then let’s notice some of the commendations that the Lord has to say about them. He says, and we touched a slight bit on it, but we want to go a little further on it. He says, “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,” or thou hast a little power.

You know the greatest of rewards will not be given because of the greatest of opportunities. Now let me repeat that. The greatest of rewards will not be given because of the greatest of opportunities, but rewards will be given according to one’s faithfulness in responding to the opportunities. You may not have great numbers of opportunities. If so, God will not reward you according to great numbers, but He will reward you for your faithfulness in responding to the few opportunities.

It’s the same way in the area of talents. There are those who have ten talents, others who have five talents, and then there are some who have two talents, and maybe some who just have one talent. Now God is not going to give rewards to the person with ten talents a greater reward simply because they had ten talents, but He is going to give them their reward as they respond to all of those ten talents, as they use those ten talents for the Lord.

But for that person who just has one talent, their reward will be just as great if they are as faithful in using that one talent for the Lord, as will be that person who has the ten talents who uses those ten talents for the Lord.

You see it is not the number of opportunities that determines rewards, but it is your faithfulness in responding to those opportunities that God gives you. Their measure of strength may have been little, it may have been small, but this church was faithful in responding to that open door or that opportunity that the Lord laid out before her.

Secondly, “And hast kept my word.” We noted that this appears twice, once in verse eight and again in verse ten. Now one does not keep the Word merely by defending it, but you keep the Word by submission and obedience unto it. This is how you keep the Word. There are some who think that simply because they are ready to defend the Word that they have kept the Word, but keeping the Word involves more than simply defending the Word. We must submit ourselves unto the Word and we must obey the Word, and only then can we say that we have kept the Word.

Now then let’s notice verse eight. “And hast not denied my name.” Some did, just as there are some today who deny the name.

There are five promises that we find in verses 10-13:

“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. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”

The first thing He says is that the enemies of this church are going to be humiliated. In verse 9 He says, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie, behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” These enemies are then going to be humiliated.

Secondly, we find that the promise is made that this church is going to have deliverance from the great tribulation that is to come. This refers to the deliverance from the Tribulation Period. There are some today that teach that New Testament churches, that is churches like ours, are going to have to go either halfway through the Tribulation Period or all the way through the Tribulation Period. Those who claim the halfway mark are called “Mid-tribs” or “Mid-tribulationists.” Then there are those that are referred to as “Post-tribs” or “Post-tribulationists.” Finally there are those (like me) that are called “Pre-tribs,” that is, we believe that the rapture will be pre-tribulational. Churches will not enter into the Tribulation Period for the Lord will preserve His children from the Tribulation Period. In verse ten we have the promise, “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.”

Now when He says, “the hour of temptation” this refers to this great Tribulation Period that is described in chapters 6-19, or “the things which shall be hereafter” as we find in 1:19. This is called the Tribulation Period.

I want to read a verse from the Book of Daniel. In chapter 12 and verse one we read:

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time, and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”

When? When Michael stands up. And when Michael stands up “thy people shall be delivered” Delivered from what? From that time of trouble which refers to the Tribulation Period.

Notice in the 24th chapter of Matthew beginning in verse 15 concerning this Tribulation Period:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand;) Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house; Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that  are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day; For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:15-21).

In other words, the Lord tells them that this does not refer to the normal trials of Christians but refers to the hour, and that identifies it as the Tribulation Period.

Furthermore, He says, “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Now this does not refer just to ordinary tribulations or persecutions that have been upon all the earth in previous years. Churches have been persecuted. They have not been preserved from tribulations.

However, this one is different from that which occurred before, because this tribulation period or this “hour of temptation,” shall come upon all the world, and there never has been a period like this in history, never one that covered all the world. You’ll note that this tribulation is going to extend upon all the inhabitants of the earth, and its object is to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Now the Lord does not tell this church here that they are going to be preserved in it or through it, but He says that they are going to be preserved from it or out of it. They will neither go in whereby He will preserve them while they’re in it, but He says they will be preserved out of it. They will not go into this Tribulation Period because the saved will be raptured before the Tribulation Period falls upon this earth.

Now verse 11 tells us that the coming of the Lord is imminent. “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). The doctrine of the soon coming of the Lord has been held by believers and Christians since the days of the New Testament. Even the believers during New Testament days thought that the Lord would come in their own lifetime. So much so, that at Thessalonica the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Second Thessalonians to prevent them from going out and selling their houses, because they thought the Lord was going to come that quickly.

We had some like that here in Arkansas a few years ago. We had a group of people that sold all their houses and then went to the top of a mountain to wait for the rapture. They all moved into one house, and they all began to pray and wait for the coming of the Lord. It wasn’t long until the Health Department had to move in, and then the school authorities had to move in because they had taken their kids out of school, and they were just waiting for the coming of the Lord.

The Lord intends for us to understand that He can come at any moment, but He also says that no man knoweth the day or the hour when the Son of Man cometh, so we’re not to do as the church at Thessalonica. They misunderstood that letter from the Apostle Paul and they thought that He was going to come so soon, that they began to sell their houses and their goods and just sit down and wait for the Lord.

Waiting upon the Lord does not mean sitting down and waiting in idleness. Waiting upon the Lord means to get out and be busy working for the Lord, because of the limitation of the time. But the Scriptures do teach the imminent return of the Lord, what might be referred to as the “any moment” coming of the Lord. God does intend for us to live as though He could come at any moment, and we are to expect the coming of the Lord in our own lifetime.

Let us turn over to that book in First Thessalonians, chapter four for a minute. Now these are the verses that gave this church at Thessalonica the idea that the Lord was going to come in their lifetime and therefore they began to...well, they just misinterpreted and began to sell everything, etc. but notice in First Thessalonians chapter 4 beginning in verse 13:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13-15).

Paul indicates here that even he himself might be living when Jesus comes again. He says in this verse

“For this we say into you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain ... unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15-17).

Now you can see and understand how this church at Thessalonica could say, “Well, maybe the Lord is coming that fast, that soon.”

Now the Lord intended for all of us to believe that He might come at any moment. It is for this very reason that the Lord has kept us in a nebulous state as to the time of the coming of the Lord. We do not know when the Lord is going to come. But the Lord did say that we are to be ready because “in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh,” and this is all through the Scriptures. Everywhere you read in the Scriptures concerning the coming of the Lord, it tells us that we are to be ready because He can come at any moment.

Turn with me to the 21st chapter of the Book of Luke. Though the Lord has not given us any evidence as to a specific time, the Lord has given us certain signs, certain indications that let us know when we get to the general period of time when the Lord might come. I want to show you one right now in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

Fifty years ago this sign could not have been fulfilled, but unless I am mistaken, (and I could be), this sign has been fulfilled in your lifetime. Notice in verse 24 of Luke chapter 21: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations.”

Now that’s been fulfilled. That’s talking about the dispersing of the Jews throughout the world, and today the Jews were captured and they have been distributed throughout the whole world. So it says, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive into all nations.” And now notice this, “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

Now this is a sign of the coming of the Lord. The Jews were to be captured and dispersed throughout all the world, and remain there until things are ready for the return of the Lord. Then they are going to be re-gathered back to Israel, as we find in many of the prophecies of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Here we find this prediction: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Now when the “times of the Gentiles” is fulfilled, according to the Book of Romans, Paul tells us that the wild tree that was grafted in was the Gentiles, but that the Lord is going to once again graft back into the olive tree, which is the Jewish nation, the Jewish people, and that will be at the end of the times of the Gentiles when God is going to graft in again, or bring back in, the natural tree, the olive tree, the Jews. When? When the times of the Gentiles end. That is at the time of the second coming of the Lord. This is one of the signs.

As you know, the city of Jerusalem has been trodden under the foot of the Gentiles all these years, 2,000 years. Even in 1946 when Israel was again formed as a nation, and allowed to have their land, though many did live at the city of Jerusalem, they were in what was referred to as New Jerusalem which was outside the city walls, and the Gentiles still were on the inside of the Old City, and there was no crossing from one side to the other.

Then came the “Six-day War.” In the Six-day War the Jews moved into Jerusalem, the Old City, and took it over, and today the Jewish nation is in possession of Jerusalem, and the city of Jerusalem is no longer trodden under the feet of the Gentiles.

What does it say? “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Somebody asks, does that mean that is the end? I’m not sure. If you listen to what the Jews say, yes, because they say they will not give up the city of Jerusalem, and if they maintain possession, and if they hold it, and if they do not give it up, or if it is not taken from them, if they hold it, then you can know that this is a fulfillment of this verse of Scripture.

But, there’s still the possibility that they might lose it. I don’t know. God does not want us to know. He does not give us specific times, but He gives us some general prophecies that are to be fulfilled in the last days, and He says, “And when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that your redemption draweth nigh,” so that really you and I can anticipate and expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lifetime. The imminent return of the Lord. “Behold, I come quickly.”

Are you ready if the Lord should come tonight? He could. He could come this very night. I do not know of anything that has to take place before Jesus comes back again.

You say, “Preacher, do you expect Him tonight?” No. I have plans for what I’m going to do tomorrow. But remember the Lord says “In the hour ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” It’s when you don’t expect Him, that’s when He’s going to come. Therefore it behooves us to be ready always. For Christians, it behooves us to be ready always, because we don’t know when the Lord is coming.

But how much more important it is for those who are the unsaved to be ready. If Christians are unprepared and not ready, it may be the loss of rewards. It will not be the loss of salvation for the saved person, but the loss of rewards is serious enough for the believer. For the unsaved person, you’re not even eligible for a reward, but what it means is the loss of your soul for eternity, and He could come tonight. Are you ready?

This is what the Lord’s talking about right here. The time of the coming of the Lord when He is going to bring in the greatest tribulation upon the face of this earth that this world has ever seen, and if the Lord should come tonight, the only thing that you have to look forward to is one of two things. First, you might die an early death in the early part of the Tribulation Period, which will just take your soul right on down to hell right then.

Secondly, if you do survive the first part of the Tribulation Period, you still must go through the balance of that Tribulation Period, to suffer all the great plagues that God is going to pour out upon this earth, and then ultimately still to die and go to hell. All because you weren’t ready.

As I said this morning, God has now placed an open door before you. No man can shut it. It is the door of salvation. If you want to be saved, all you have to do is go through the door. It’s there. Jesus will save. All you need to do is come to Him by faith, trust Him as your Lord and your Savior.

The Lord is coming, and the Scriptures tell us He’s coming soon, and the signs that we see show that we are now at the very brink of the coming of the Lord. Are you ready? If not, would you trust the Lord tonight? Be saved tonight! Don’t wait. Don’t postpone it, for Jesus could come at any time.

I want us to sing the hymn “There’s a Great Day Coming” and as we sing this hymn, if you’re not saved, why not become ready now and not wait. If you are saved, then why not get ready and become busy for the Lord right now, for His coming is soon.