Thursday, July 4, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 14, The Lord's Words To The Church At Philadelphia/The Sixth (And Present) Church Age, Part One

Today and tomorrow we are going to be studying what the Lord has to say to the church at Philadelphia, and I'm very excited about this passage because the church of Philadelphia represents the times we are living in now. This portion of Scripture has to do with the sixth church age. The sixth church age began in about 1750 AD and continues on up to the time when the church will experience what is known as the rapture (the "catching up") to be with Christ.

Nothing in Scripture remains to be fulfilled before the rapture of the church. There are quite a few prophecies that must be fulfilled before the Second Coming of Christ, such as the events contained in the years of the Great Tribulation, which we will be taking a look at very soon. But Christ could call His church out of the world at any moment. In describing the most highly anticipated event in the church's future, the Apostle Paul said it would happen "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye". (1 Corinthians 15:52) Life will be going on as usual and it will seem like just another ordinary day. This is why the Lord Jesus compared the sudden removal of the church to the flood of Genesis. In Genesis, rain had never fallen on the earth before, then one seemingly ordinary day the rain began to fall. The people had scoffed at Noah's message about the coming flood because it had never rained and they believed it never would rain. The Lord hasn't taken the church out of the world yet, and since He's been with the Father for over two thousand years now, some believe He never will take the world out of the church. Some think He doesn't exist at all, so when talking about the rapture of the church, the Lord explains it like this: "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. This is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:36-42)

Noah preached the word of God to the people during the hundred or so years it took him to build the ark. When the Lord says that those who perished in the flood "knew nothing about what would happen", He doesn't mean they weren't warned to repent. He's not saying they weren't told the flood was coming. He's saying that they chose not to know it. They chose not to believe the Lord's message that He gave them through His servant Noah. In the same way, those who will be left behind at the rapture of the church are not left behind because they have not heard the word of God. They are left behind because they chose not to believe the word of God. But even then, all is not lost. When we move on in to the study of the terrible events of the Great Tribulation, we will see that the people left on earth will mercifully be given a second chance to come to Christ during those dreadful days.

We who belong to the Lord need not anxiously look around us for signs of the end times. We are the bride-elect of Christ and what we are to be looking forward to is being called by our Bridegroom to the wedding. As we talked about earlier in our study of Revelation, at the Last Supper the Lord Jesus spoke words a man would speak when making a marriage proposal by saying He was going to prepare a place for us and would return for us when that place was ready. When a Jewish man of Jesus' day became engaged, he went home and built a dwelling onto his father's house for his bride, and when the father inspected the dwelling and saw that all was as it should be, he'd say to his son, "Go get your bride." The Lord Jesus has been working on our dwelling place for over two thousand years. He wants it to be absolutely perfect for His bride---for His one true love. Any second now the Father may say to Him, "Go get your bride." And quicker than anyone can bat an eye, we'll be gone from this fallen world. We'll be gone before the dark days of the Great Tribulation. Jesus makes that promise to His bride in His message to the church in Philadelphia, as we will see in tomorrow's study.

The Lord begins His message to the church like this: "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open." (Revelation 3:7) In Isaiah 22:22 we find the prophet predicting that the key to the house of David would be placed upon the shoulder of a man named Eliakim who would be the vizier of King Hezekiah of Judah. The word "vizier" is of Egyptian origin, meaning one who has authority over the household and the provisions of a king. For example, Jacob's son Joseph, who was vizier to Pharaoh in Egypt, had the key to Pharaoh's storehouses during the famine. The person who held the position of vizier wore the key pinned to the shoulder of his robe as an emblem of his authority, much like military officers in our day wear emblems to denote their rank. The key the vizier wore signified his authority over everything his master owned. He had permission from his master to dispense goods from the storehouses to the master's servants. By telling us He has possession of the key of David, the Lord is telling us He has authority over everything the Father owns and that He has the Father's permission to dispense these great riches to us.

No one but the vizier could unlock the doors to the storehouses. Likewise, no one but Christ can unlock the doors to all the blessings of God. We need not fear that anyone---not even Satan himself---will steal from us what the Lord has promised us. Our inheritance is in a safe place. It is secure. No one can wrest from the Lord's hands the treasure that is stored up for us "where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal". (Matthew 19:20)

Since the Lord will call His bride to the wedding during the sixth church age, we find Him speaking His marriage vows in our text today, promising in verse 7 to be "holy and true" to His bride. When we promise in our marriage vows to be faithful, what we are really promising is to be holy. Being holy in marriage means giving our physical and emotional allegiance to our spouse. It is adultery to have a physical affair or an emotional affair with someone else, yet it happens every day in this wicked world. Satan loves destroying every marriage he can because marriage symbolizes the holy relationship between Christ and the church. Satan especially likes to break up Christian marriages in an effort to discourage unbelievers from coming to Christ, in hopes they will conclude that there is no power in Christ and that there is no benefit in following Him.

I don't know whether you've been betrayed by a marriage partner or whether you grew up in a home where one of your parents betrayed the other. Some of you have been deeply hurt by unfaithfulness and as a result you may have a cynical attitude toward marriage. One of the things that, in modern times, has led to a great deal of unfaithfulness and divorce is a weapon Satan has forged against marriage. This weapon is the theory that there is someone in this world who is our perfect "soul mate", and that we must go from relationship to relationship until we find that perfect soul mate. There is nothing Scriptural about the concept that our marriage partner is going to "complete us" or "make us whole", but the devil has quite successfully used this concept to convince thousands of people to be unfaithful to or divorce their marriage partners.

What the Scriptures do tell us is that the One who completes us and makes us whole is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our one true soul mate. There is no human being on the face of the earth who can fulfill us the way Christ can, and expecting our marriage partner to be our whole world and to supply our every need is a recipe for failure. Marriage is a wonderful thing which is ordained by God and which has His blessing upon it, but your spouse is not Christ. And since your spouse is not Christ, you can't expect your spouse to "complete" you. You can't expect your spouse to fulfill the deep spiritual and emotional needs that only Christ can fulfill. There is a true love that fulfills our deepest needs, but it is found in our relationship with the One who will never break His promise to be holy and true. He will never fall out of love with you. He will forever be so enthralled by you that His eyes will never wander from you a single time. He will never wonder if He might have been happier with someone else. He will never think one disloyal thought about you, and He will never do anything behind your back, and He will never lie to you. You can rest secure in the knowledge that, for all eternity, He belongs to you and you belong to Him.

Not only does the Lord speak His marriage vows to us in our passage today, but He honors us for the strength it takes (in a fallen world and in our feeble human ability) to make our marriage vows to Him. "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name." (Revelation 3:8) He says, "In spite of all the temptation and the pressure not to remain true to Me, you have purposed in your hearts to keep your vows. You have not denied Me. The devil has thrown everything he has at you, but you have not been unfaithful to Me."

Jesus doesn't list the deeds of the Philadelphia church and of the sixth church age. There are too many to list. During the sixth church age, missionaries have gone out into the world as never before. Believers have taken the gospel to the world by means that weren't available until the advent of things that came into existence during the sixth church age like the printing press, the radio, the television, and the internet. It is during this age that the Lord has opened a door that no one can shut, for the gospel must go into all nations (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10), and the Lord is making available every method possible for the gospel to reach the utmost corners of the earth. The Lord is vizier over the Father's house, and no one can shut a door that was opened by Him who holds the key of the house of David. The Christians of Philadelphia were a minority in their region, but they held fast to Christ. More and more it seems like Christians are becoming a minority in the world, but we know that we will continue to hold fast to Christ in the sixth church age because He praises the Christians of this age for keeping His word and for not denying His name.

I hope you can join the study tomorrow when we find our Bridegroom making the beautiful promise to us that, because we have kept His word, He will keep us from the time of trial (the Great Tribulation) which is going to come upon the world.

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