Christ speaking to Peter says, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”. What are these mysterious keys? What do keys do? Keys lock and unlock things. They open doors. And in this case, we are talking about the door to the Kingdom of Heaven.
If we turn to John 10, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, is the same as a thief and a robber. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. And the stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them but they understood not what things they were, which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them, verily, verily I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief comes not but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and cares not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and I am known of them”.
Jesus Christ is the good shepherd. He is the door. He is the door to the sheepfold and the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is through that door that we can enter the Kingdom of God. The door is the way to the Kingdom of God. That door is Christ. And it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ paying the penalty for our sins that opens the door. And that sacrifice is applied to those who repent of sinning, who are aggrieved with their past behavior, and sorry enough to stop doing what they have been doing, to stop breaking the commandments of God, and to start keeping those commandments. This is what repentance is. It means a change, a change from doing wrong to doing right. It means to stop sinning. And what is sin? I John 3:4, “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law”.
We must repent of breaking God’s law, of breaking His commandments, and when we do that, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be applied to us.
This is exactly what Peter said on the official birth of the new covenant church. We find this in Acts 2:37. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
These people were told to repent, to turn away from commandment-breaking, to turn away from sin and embrace the commandments of God, embrace the law of — for Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 5 and verse 18, “Truly I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle, one punctuation mark shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled”.
The law will exist as long as matter exists. As long as the heavens and the earth exist, the commandments of God exist and must be fulfilled. They must be kept. They must be done. And in Matthew 19 and verse 17 our Lord also said, “Why callest me good? There is none good but one, that is, God”. Even Jesus Christ said, “Only God is good”. That is God the Father, and to enter into life, last part of the verse, if you’wil enter into life, keep the commandments.
What commandments? The commandments of God, of God the Father, for we are even told to pray to the Father, “Thy will be done”. And what is His will? “That we do what He tells us, that we do what He says. We are to keep His commandments and we are to pray that His commandments be kept. We are to pray, “Thy will be done”.
Repentance does not mean simply saying we are sorry in order to avoid punishment. Repentance means to actually be sorry enough to STOP doing the offensive thing.
If you were a parent and every time you had a problem with your child, your child said, “Sorry” and ran off, and you knew very well he was not sorry and will continue to do those things. And that child ignored everything you said and went out and did whatever he wanted, and did a great many very bad and evil things. And every time you called him on it, he would say, “Oh I’m sorry and I’ll do better”, and he went away and did the same things again, it wouldn’t be long before you would throw up your hands in frustration and say, “What am I supposed to do with this child? How can I get him to stop hurting others, and stop stealing, or lying, or fighting, or abusing others, or whatever it is”.
How it is that people think God is so very different? That God is just going to tolerate and put up with whatever we do, with us ignoring Him, with us ignoring His commandments, with us cheating, and stealing, and lying, and abusing, and hurting His other children. That somehow God is going to put up with all that; and tolerate that; and smile on us; just because we say that little word “sorry” and God will say, “Bless you child. Go on and do what you want to do and inherit my kingdom”. How do we think that we can get away with doing this? Do we think that God doesn’t care? Don’t we realize that our behavior in the Kingdom of God, in the Kingdom of Heaven, is going to be exactly the same as our behavior now? That we are practicing to be in God’s Kingdom, and how we behave at this time is how we can be expected to behave in the future?
What we are doing now needs to be corrected before it becomes a permanently ingrained habit, a permanently ingrained pattern of behavior. We have to learn to do things right. We have to learn to stop hurting one another, to stop doing evil, to stop breaking the commandments, because our behavior now is the same behavior we will have in the Kingdom.
People go around with this attitude, “Well I can do anything I want now and in Heaven or in God’s Kingdom, things will somehow be different; everyone is going to be so nice and so great”. So they go and they do as they please, and they think, ” I can do what I think I sright and thumb my nose at God’ Word and somehow god is going to overlook that and give us his gift of eternal life, doing for eternity what we are doing now.
It doesn’t work that way. We have to learn to behave now while we are spiritual children, before we become spiritual adults. When we are spiritual adults, we are mature in the things of God, we are keeping the commandments of God, that is when we will be allowed into God’s kingdom and not before.
If we are not keeping His commandments, if we are not repentant of sin. If we are not repenting and turning away from breaking those commandments: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is the key to opening the door to God’s Kingdom and letting us in; will not be applied to us and we will not be allowed entry into God’s Kingdom.
For it is written in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”. The eternal Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem, only those who keep God’s commandments will be allowed entry!
The apostle Paul tells us that I Corinthians 7 verse 19, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the commandments of God, the keeping of the commandments of God”, that’s what’s important. If we have a mark in our flesh, it doesn’t mean anything unless we also keep the commandments of God.
We need to repent of breaking God’s commandments and start keeping them, start listening to our Father, start doing what He says, start doing His will. And then our Father’s heart will be turned toward us as our hearts are turned towards Him. Malachi 4:6 will be fulfilled, and he shall turn the hearts, speaking of the Elijah to come. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with destruction”.
The establishment of the singular and plural in this translation was a matter for the translators. But we know because Jesus said in Matthew 10:35 that he came to divide parents and children and brother from brother. So we know that this particular statement by Malachi is not talking about physical parents and children. It is talking about turning the hearts of the children of men toward the heart of God for we are told in another place that John the Baptist was a type of the Elijah to come. And it is written in Luke in chapter 1 verse 76, “And thou, child”, speaking of John, “shall be called the prophet of the highest for you shall go before the face of the eternal to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people for the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the days spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.
It is the job of Elijah the prophet to turn men toward God to turn them toward repentance, to give them knowledge of salvation, to shine the light of God’s Word in the darkness of this world, and to show us the way to peace; which is the keeping of the whole Word of God and all of God’s commandments. It is God’s laws which lead us into proper harmonious peaceful coexistence with one another and with God.
Now Jesus is recorded by John in John 15 as saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, the trunk of the tree; no more can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cut forth as a branch, and is withered and then gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned up”.
This is talking about the second death, the lake of fire. It is saying that anyone who does not abide in Christ, that is, who has not repented and has not been covered by the atoning sacrifice of Christ cannot bear good fruit and will be cast into the fire. In verse seven, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatsoever you will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples”.
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you must ABIDE in Him. You must be like a branch grafted into a strong tree, which bears fruit not by its own ability or power, but through the power and the ability and the strength given to it from the trunk, from the vine, from the main foundation, which is Jesus Christ.
And in order to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must repent of our commandment-breaking. Then He will apply His atoning sacrifice to us, opening the door to God’s Kingdom, opening the door to the resurrection to life. In Revelation 12 and 17 it is written, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”.
Keeping the Father’s commandments makes the Dragon, the devil, Satan, very angry. He doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like God. He’s jealous of God. He wants to replace God in our lives. Because he wants to replace God in our life, he doesn’t like it when we keep God’s commandments. He wants us to keep his, Satan’s, commandments.
This verse also shows that there is a difference between the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. You cannot come and say, “Well, this is referring to some vague commandment by Christ to love one another”.
The testimony of Jesus Christ and the commandments of God are different yet they are almost the same; for the testimony of Jesus Christ is His example that we should follow, and his instruction is to keep the Father’s commandments as he did. We see this again in Revelation 14 verse 12, “Here is the patience of the saints: Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”.
The faith of Jesus Christ is deeply involved with keeping the commandments. If we love Jesus Christ, if we follow the testimony [example] of Jesus Christ, we will be keeping all the commandments as Christ did. For He Himself said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments”.
At this time in history, one can look around and find very many different groups calling themselves the Church of God. And most of these people or these groups label themselves as Philadelphian Christians. The truth is that most of these people don’t have a clue what a Philadelphian Christian is. They read through Revelation 2 and 3 and read the messages to the seven churches, and they single out Philadelphia because it appears that there is no criticism and they are told they will be kept from the hour of trial.
And it is human nature to want to think well about ourselves. People want to feel comfortable with themselves. They want to think that they are pretty good folks, that God has no criticism for them. And so they just read through the Bible and they say, “Wherever there is a good guy, that must be us. Wherever there’s a good group, that must be our group”. And people just overlook any criticism. This was never the intention of Scripture. Scripture was intended to be a mirror of ourselves to show us what we are really like in the eyes of God. I am against labeling ourselves or making claims that I am a Philadelphian or I am this or I am that. I utterly reject that.
What is important is that we read all of these messages and apply every one, every single one to ourselves and say, “Could we be doing better? Could we be learning more? How can we be closer to God?” And apply every one of these messages to ourselves and strive to be closer and more God-like, to have a better relationship with God. Because in the ultimate end of things, it doesn’t matter a grain of dust what we label ourselves. God will call us what we really are in His eyes. And we can go around patting ourselves in the back and saying, “We’re Philadelphians until the second of our death”. While at our judgment God may call us something very different indeed. God calls things what they are. Unfortunately, people do not.
People like to claim high sounding titles like apostle or prophet or Philadelphian church in order to impress others. People try to impresses in order to get followers.
God doesn’t do that. If you are a sinner, God will judge you to be a sinner.; I don’t care how much and how strongly you believe that you are a great guy. So we need to look at all Scriptures, and apply all scripture to ourselves, correct ourselves by every word of God, for the whole Word of God is written for our instruction, and our profit; all of it, not just the good things, all of it.
But what does God or Jesus Christ here really have to say about the Philadelphians? Let’s read in Revelation 3 and verse 7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; these things sayeth he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens”. So who shuts and no man opens? And who opens and no man shuts? Is it Peter? Is it some apostle? Is it some prophet? Is it some minister? Is it some man somewhere? Or is it Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the son of the Most High God?
Read it in verse seven of Revelation 3. It is Jesus Christ who has the keys and the key is on our part, repentance, but on His part for forgiveness, the application of His sacrifice that is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. And without repentance He will shut that door and no man can get through it. But with repentance, He will open that door, apply His sacrifice, bless us with His loving forgiveness, and open the door to God’s kingdom for us. And He goes on in verse eight, “I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door that no man can shut”.
He said to the Philadelphians, “The door to God’s kingdom is open to you”. Why? Because you are repentant, because you put the things of God first, because you seek the Father’s will, you keep the Father’s commandments, and you have a testimony of Jesus Christ. “Therefore, I have set before you an open door” [into God’s Kingdom]. No man can shut it for “you have a little strength, and have kept my word and have not denied my name”. You have kept my word, that is my commandments and my commandment was, if you will enter into life, keep the Father’s commandments.
Jesus Christ commanded us to keep the Father’s commandments and the Philadelphian has obeyed him and “you have not denied my name”, that is you have not denied my authority, my power. You have not put some man between yourself and Jesus Christ. You have always directly gone directly to God the Father; through the ONLY Mediator, the Intercessor, the High Priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ. And you have always stood on the foundation of God’s Word, which is the apostles and prophets sent by Christ who wrote the Scriptures. You have stood in the foundation of God’s Word, the chief cornerstone of that foundation being Jesus Christ. You have not denied His name; the authority of his word!
Verse nine, “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not”, which say that they are converted, that they are Godly people, and they are not, “and they are not, but do lie. I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you”.
What! are men going to worship at our feet? Are they going to worship the Philadelphian? Of course not. They are going to be at the feet of the Philadelphians and they are going to worship Almighty God and Jesus Christ, for no Philadelphian would ever permit another man to worship himself.
A Philadelphian would point all men toward God. And these people who are sinning now will later on repent and acknowledge that these Philadelphian people are standing on the word of God. And they will worship God the Father and Jesus Christ while sitting at the feet of these people saying, “Tell me, teach me, show me, for we know that you are with God. And we know that Christ has loved you”. Verse 10, “Because you have kept the word of my patience”; that is, you have obeyed God and kept his word word patiently, you have patiently endured and overcome, “I will keep you from the hour of temptation, which will come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the Earth”.
That is the great tribulation. It is not some minor little persecution somewhere. This trial is the hour of temptation or trial is coming upon the whole world to try all those that dwell upon the earth. And in verse 11, “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, and let no man take your crown”. Because there will be a lot of people coming around and saying, “You are self-righteous because you don’t agree with us. You are standing on your own concept of the word of God, instead of on Herbert Armstrong’s concept or the Pope’s concept, or this guy’s concept, or that guy’s concept”.
There are many who are out there trying to take people’s crowns. They are saying, “Oh you have got to believe in what we say, or believe in the Bible as explained by this man or that man, or as explained by us”.
No, you don’t. You go to God’s word. You find as many Scriptures as possible on a particular subject, and put them all together, pray about it and put God first, and whenever anybody tells you something, including me, check it out, check it out, check it out the third time.
Prove it. And if it’s wrong, I’d appreciate it if you tell me because it might just be some kind of misunderstanding. And if it isn’t, if I’m wrong, then I’d better get straightened out. And if I’m right then hey, I’m going to keep on cruising. I’m going to keep on doing what is right by God’s word and not by what this person or that person says. Verse 12, “He that overcomes”, that is, makes it to the end standing on God’s word, well, “I make in a pillar in the temple of my God”.
Now if you’ve ever seen a model of the temple, you will see that it has many pillars. And what do pillars do? They stand on the foundation. Spiritually speaking, a Philadelphian stands on the word of God. His foundation is the word of God. And he has a little strength. He does have some strength, and he is able to stand on the word of God, to stand alone as pillars often do, and to bear some of the weight of the roof or the rest of the structure. A Philadelphian is a pillar in the church. He stands on God’s word and he stands out from all the others because he stands on God’s word. And people can look to that person for some wisdom and guidance because that person is with God and not with some man.
Verse 12, “He shall go no more out of the temple”. That is simply saying this man, or these men, these people, these women; have proven through a lifetime of standing on God’s word, of putting God first, of patiently enduring, of putting everything on the line for God; that God knows them so thoroughly and trusts them so implicitly that He can promise that if they make it to the end, if they endure to the end, that they will be permanently part of His temple, permanently part of this temple in Jerusalem, which will be the headquarters, eventually of the entire universe.
These people will be top level, will be at the top level in His government permanently, because God knows He can trust them implicitly, because they trust Him and rely on Him implicitly and they have proved that through a lifetime of endurance and of standing on His word.
“He shall go no more out: and I will write Him upon the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven, and I will write upon Him my new name”. To have the name of God written upon you means that you are representing God. You are one with him. In a certain physical example, a person might say, “I’m arresting you in the name of the King”. That means he is acting for the King. And when we have the name of God, and the new name of Jesus Christ written on us, we are their personal representatives, we are acting personally on their behalf.
Now I’m using the word “we” here, and I shouldn’t really. I’m talking about anyone who is a Philadelphian, anyone who has written on them the name of the Father and of the Son written on whoever. They are personal representatives of the Father and of the Son, and therefore will have the authority of the Father and the Son, the authority of the capital of the universe, and the authority of Almighty God the King of the universe.
Now, what is a Philadelphian? We have talked about his reward, we have talked about him standing on God’s word, upon the foundation of God’s Word, but what is the difference between a Philadelphian and a Laodicean?
And the answer can be found in Luke 18, beginning in verse 11, Jesus here is talking about prayer, and he says, “The Pharisee”, the Laodicean, “stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, murderers or even as this publican. I fast twice in a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, and said, smote himself upon his breast, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you ,this man, this publican went down to himself justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted”.
The Philadelphian is a sinner. He knows he’s a sinner. He knows he needs to repent. He stands upon the word of God, and he looks honestly at the word of God. He looks honestly at himself through the mirror of God’s Word and he knows what he really is. And he repents, he turns to God and he says, “I can see by your word that I’m doing things wrong. I’m making mistakes, I am committing sins. I am not worthy. Please be merciful to me. Help me to change, help me to learn, help me to overcome, help me to grow, help me to progress. Show me the things of God. Give me of your spirit and help me to walk in your ways.
Where the Pharisee, the Laodicean says, “I know it all. I am a righteous man. I am not like these other wicked men. Thank you that I am such a fine person”. And he doesn’t realize as it talks about in Revelation, how truly blind and wretched and naked, how destitute of righteousness he really is. And the difference between the two is something called humility and something called self-righteousness. The Laodicean, the Pharisee, the latter-day Pharisee thinks he is pretty hot stuff. He thinks he’s pretty great. He is doing what he thinks is right. He is looking at the word of God through other men’s eyes. And he was picking out the best and applying it to himself.
But the true Philadelphian is looking at all the Scripture, every word of God. Remember what Jesus Christ said to Satan in the wilderness, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the living God” mat 4:4, 4:10. Who is he talking about? Was he talking there about his own commandments? Was Jesus saying, “You must keep my commandments” at that particular point; to Satan? He was telling Satan, “You must live by every commandment proceeding out of the mouth of God the Father”. And He told Satan that, and He tells us that. Because if we are wicked we are Satan’s children, and we need to be told the same thing.
The Philadelphian lives by every word of God, which means he realizes and knows that he has no right to cherry pick the good things and apply it to himself. He has to apply the whole Scripture to himself, and he does, and he realizes that he comes up short. And he turns to God, calling out to Him in repentance and begging for mercy. He realizes how much he needs God, and he stands on God’s word and puts God first. While the Laodicean says, “I believe in the Scripture as explained by this man or that man.”
When they stand before God on judgment day, the Laodicean will have to run around and try and find that man to try and justify him. I wonder if this man or that man will stand there as his judge and say, “You did a good job following what I said about the Bible!”
No, it’s not going to work that way. Our Judge, the judge of every one of us is God the Father and Jesus Christ. And They are going to judge us; not by what this man or that man said about Their word. They are going to judge us by what They said in Their own Word.