The following post is the sixth in a series focusing on Revelation 2-3, the letters to the 7 churches. I have written these posts to supplement the Sunday School class I am teaching on the same topic, however they will be helpful to you independent of the class as well. Enjoy!
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8
The church at Philadelphia knew all about being missionaries. Since it’s founding, the city had a singular purpose of spreading Greek language and culture to the rest of Asia Minor. They were missionaries for everything Greek, and they were very good at it. They were so good in fact that by 17 AD cities such as Lydia had all but forgotten their old language and spoke only Greek.
Because of their background and calling, when they saw the words from the Risen Christ I have set before you an open door…” they knew exactly what was being said. Scholars will debate whether this refers to the mention of the open door in Revelation 4:1 and whether the implication is that these believers will be spared from the Great Tribulation. When we boil it down, however, the immediate meaning to this church was simple:
They had been missionaries for Greek language and culture for years. Now, they were being called as missionaries to a much more important Kingdom.
God was placing in front of them an open door to share with the good news with those who were far from God. They were being called, once again, to be missionaries. We see the phrase “open door” being used in the New Testament time and time again to refer to spreading the Gospel, and this was no different (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Acts 14:27).
Here are two key principles from this short passage regarding our responsibility to be missionaries for the Kingdom of God:
- Our work begins right where we are. Christ did not place the open door for the church at Philadelphia 2,000 miles away. He set it before them. Their calling to spread the Gospel began right in their own backyard. Our calling, then, as believers, is to begin being missionaries right where God has placed us. You have been placed by God right where he wants you. Now it is your responsibility to be a good steward of this time and place in which you live.
- The reward for faithfully working for the Kingdom is more work. Verses 8 and 9 have no punctuation in the Greek. Because of this, the phrases I know that you have but little power” and “You have kept my word and not denied my name” could be applied to either the thought preceding it in verse 8 or after it in verse 9. The most common interpretation is that they apply to what immediately precedes it. In other words, Christ gave them an open door because they had kept His word and not denied His name despite having little power. When we faithfully serve The Lord and His Kingdom, we can expect as our reward more opportunities to serve. If service to the Kingdom is a result of our faithfulness, shouldn’t we begin to see serving as a blessing rather than an obligation?
Where is your open door, friend? Join me in stepping forward into the calling that we each have to be missionaries for the Kingdom.