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In this post about Jesus’ seven letters in the Book of Revelation, we will look at what He wrote to the Philadelphian church. This fellowship of believers is the church that many Christians think they are or would surely like to be.

We believe this for two reasons. First, Jesus has no harsh words for these saints. Christians tend to ignore negative truths in Scripture and suppose they are addressed to others. The other reason is that Jesus told the Philadelphians, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).1 Many Christians believe that the Philadelphian church is the believing Church of the Last Days and have confidence it will be caught up with the Lord in the air and escape the hour of trial, the Great Tribulation.

This post will not deal with the eschatological doctrine of what is popularly called the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Regardless of one’s position on this topic, I do not think it is wise to ignore troubling biblical passages in these last days. After all, the New Testament writers thought the Lord would come in their lifetimes, and they were disturbed about many things that were to come upon the Church. Indeed, Jesus Himself was concerned about His people at the end of the age. After He foretold the destruction of the temple, His disciples came to Him asking, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3). The first thing Jesus said in response to this question was, “See that no one leads you astray” (Matthew 24:4b). His first concern was not earthquakes, catastrophes, or wars; it was that believers would not be deceived and led astray.

And the following warning should extinguish any Pollyannaish ideas about the condition of the Church at the time of His coming: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8b).

We should heed this wise counsel from Paul: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Therefore, let’s not ignore the negative things the Bible says, thinking they must refer to someone else. We should allow the Word of God look us directly in the face.

Now, let’s return to Jesus’ letter to the Philadelphians.

The positive things Jesus said to the Christians in that city are wonderful, but the meaning is unclear. He told them:

“Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (Revelation 3:8a). What kind of door is that? We can only speculate. However, such is often the way with our great God. He often announces or performs things about which we have little understanding. This passage John wrote about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem may help explain our puzzlement: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him” (John 12:16). His truth is unfolded to us over time.

A few times in my life, the Lord has spoken to me in ways that were unclear. Please allow me to state strongly that we must be careful about experiences. They must line up with Scripture. However, it is obvious in Scripture that the Lord speaks to His people. In my walk with Jesus, this is not a regular occurrence. In fact, it is more the exception than the rule. Here is what happened. In 2008, I was downstairs in our granny flat, watching the election returns. The networks were announcing that Barack Obama was the predicted winner of the presidential election. I have voted in several elections. I have never heard the Lord say anything about any of them; in fact, He has not said anything to me about politics whatsoever. However, as I watched, a word from the Lord was spiritually impressed upon me—just one word: Bad. Looking back, one could say that the Lord told me that because of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s foreign policy, or any number of things one might disagree with. However, I am certain that the Lord God of the universe cares very little about health insurance and many political issues in the United States. So, what did the Lord mean? Why did He say that? I confess to you that I do not know for certain. It may have to do with his relationship with Israel. What should I do about my uncertainty? I am asking.

Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He had opened a door that no one could shut. Whatever that door was, the Christians in that city would be able, without question and with God-glorifying certainty, to walk through it—and did. I do not yet fully know why the election of Barack Obama was bad according to God’s great wisdom. However, it is bad and will somehow revealed to be bad, eternally. Jesus doesn’t speak just to hear Himself talk.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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