August 2010

Dear Friends,

"I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world." (Rev. 3:10) The pre-tribulation rapture is seen here in verse 10 regarding the church at Philadelphia and all true believers in the church age. In fact, the Greek word for "church" (ekklesia) is not mentioned after Revelation chapter 3 (the tribulation period is seen in chapters 6-19) until the end of the tribulation in Revelation 22:16. Scripture calls us to live in a constant state of readiness to meet the Lord. Some people confuse the rapture with Christ's second coming. In the rapture we meet Christ "in the air" and there are no signs that precede the rapture (1 Thess. 4:17) so it can happen at any time. Paul thought it may happen in his day (1 Thess 4:13-18) as he used "we" in speaking of being raptured. (The word "rapture" comes from the Latin rapere used by the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word harpazo in this verse, which is rendered by the phrase "caught up" in most english translations.)    So we are called to be always watchful and ready as believers for the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Whereas Christ's second coming is when He comes to earth and it is preceded with many signs (Matt. 24; Daniel 9:21-27).                                                            

Philadelphia means "brotherly love."  This church received only words of praise from the Lord. Some commentators refer to this church as representing the "revived" church as opposed to Sardis the "dead" church which received only words of rebuke from Jesus. 

"He that is holy, he that is true." Jesus Christ is holy in character and true in doctrine and action. Unlike the Pharisees, right doctrine and right living go together. "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; as it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15; Lev. 11:44-45) It helps to think of holiness as living in obedience to God's Word. Evaluating our level of holiness is like assessing our level of humility. As soon as we think we have it, we lose it.

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." Jesus Christ is in absolute control over His world and He alone can "open" spiritual doors. It is supernatural and cannot be explained otherwise. Open doors can mean many things: doors of opportunity for ministry at home, at work, even across the world which even the devil can't stop from happening as we say yes to the Lord. {1 Corinthians 16:9 – "Because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me."  2 Corinthians 2:12 – "Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me." Colossians 4:3- "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains."} Also we see opening doors of understanding to spiritual treasures in His Word (Psalm 119:18); opening the doors of heaven through the gospel. Jesus even calls Himself  "the door"- John 10:9. {The mention that no one can shut it may imply that the Jews in Philadelphia (mentioned in v. 9) sought to exclude the Gentiles from God (cf. Matt. 23:13; 1 Thess. 2:15f), but Jesus had made access available to them through Himself. Steve Gregg -Thomas Nelson Pub.}                                                                                  

"I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." A paradox of true Christianity is that in our weakness Christ's strength is made manifest both in us and through us. It is our sense of self-sufficiency that thwarts the flow of God's power through our lives. One barometer that reveals our conscious spiritual weakness is heartfelt prayer -crying out to God for His help to glorify Himself through us so we can keep His word and not deny His name.  Prayerlessness reveals our sense of self-sufficiency. "Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘ My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.'  Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size-abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." (Paul in 2 Cor. 12:7-10 – The Msg.)                                    

"I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you." One day "every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10)  This includes unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles.                                                           

"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently." Sometimes the greatest and most pleasing thing we can do for God is to simply not give up (endure patiently) and continue to do the next right thing.  "I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. " Most commentators believe that this clearly refers to the tribulation (hour of trial). The phrase "keep (terein) from (ek)" means to keep out of, not protect in the midst of. The "hour" refers to a time period (the seven years of tribulation). This promise applies to all true believers in the church age (Messianic Jews included) and as Paul says we are to "encourage each other with these words" (1 Thess. 4:18) as he speaks of the rapture.

"I am coming soon" means suddenly (and unexpectedly for those who are not looking for Him) which again calls for us to live in readiness to meet the Lord at the judgment seat for His judgment of our works (rewards or loss of rewards), not our sin.  "Awaiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One)." (Titus 2:13 Amp.) "If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Cor. 3:14-15)                                 

"Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown." This fits with the gain or loss of rewards, as crowns often are "rewarded" for faithful obedience. {See 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10.} We are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8) but are saved for works which God specifically planned for each of us to do (Eph.2:10) and are rewarded for works done for His glory (1 Cor. 3:10-15). The crowns we receive will simply be something we'll have with which we can bring glory to Him throughout eternity and that will be our greatest desire when we see Him (even as it should be now – Rom. 11:36).

"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." {"The pillar is a reminder of the two in the temple of Solomon (cf. I Kgs 7:21) and connotes stability, strength, and permanence. Those who have been with Christ in the day of His rejection will realize the glory of the day of His enthronement (Rom. 8:17). To be a pillar in the temple implies a prominent place of service in Christ's kingdom (Luke 19:16-19). He who overcomes: The overcomer is identified with the names of God (signifying His ownership); the city of God, the New Jerusalem (citizenship in the heavenly city); and Christ's new name (the full revelation of His character). The latter also implies special intimacy (Rev. 3:21; 2:7, 17)." KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994, S. 2666 Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary.} Jesus applies the words He spoke to the churches to individual believers. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."


 Be ready: Does the immediacy of the rapture (in the twinkling of an eye) and your appearance before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11) motivate you to be right with the Lord at all times?

"I know that you have little strength." Do you think weakness is a good thing?  (2 Cor. 12:7-10)                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Until He comes, Len and Kristen        

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