Bible Study with Jairus- Revelation 3, part 2
The Mission of the Church in Philadelphia is to be a replica of the New Jerusalem
Traditionally, our understanding of the letter to the Church in Philadelphia is limited to noticing a few key facts. We point out that this church was one of the few churches in Revelation that was not criticized by the Lord. We also observe that the word “Philadelphia” means brotherly love, indicating that the people of this church must have loved one another. We often use the idea of the church in Philadelphia as a metaphor for revival.
These are all helpful observations. However, let’s not forget that the theme of the book of Revelation is to bring forth a mature Bride of Christ who can judge angels, ushering in God’s ultimate judgment on the world. Therefore, we know that God’s work in Philadelphia will somehow contribute to the maturity of the Bride of Christ. The New Jerusalem, the holy city that descends from heaven, is the Bride of Christ. Revelation 21:2 says that the New Jerusalem is like a bride adorned for her husband. The Lord’s promise to the overcomers in Philadelphia is that they will not only become pillars in the temple of God, but they will also have the name of God’s city (the New Jerusalem) written on their foreheads (Revelation 3:12). From these verses, we see that God wants the church at Philadelphia to become a model of the New Jerusalem.
God also wants his body to mature into warriors who can eventually judge angels. The work of the Lord in the church in Philadelphia brings maturity to the church and defeat to the enemy. Although the church is not yet judging angels, we can tell that the enemy is already losing ground—especially in the church in Philadelphia. For example, Revelation 3:9 says that the Lord will make the false Jews in the synagogue of Satan come to worship at the feet of believers. Demons cannot worship at our feet if they are possessing us or sitting on our heads like monkeys (to borrow imagery from the visions of people with prophetic gifts). How can an evil spirit riding on your head bow down to you? That is impossible. You must first cut ties with evil spirits, cast them out, and distance yourself from them. Only then can they bow down to you. God’s work in the church at Philadelphia is to continue to break Satan’s ties with believers. Only then will the “synagogue of Satan” be able to bow down before believers. This analogy about evil spirits is not limited to evil spirits alone. Many sinners, including the false Jews mentioned in this passage, have the work of evil spirits behind them. Only when we deal with the evil spirits within these false teachers will they be able to bow at our feet.
We will one day reign with Christ, just like Joseph reigned over Egypt. God used famine to humble his brothers so they would repent of their sin and bow at Joseph’s feet. Joseph ruled over them as second-in-command, the person closest to Pharaoh’s throne. In the same way, faithful believers will be second-in-command to God. The believers in the church in Philadelphia will become the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the ones closest to God’s throne. This leads naturally to the next letter to Laodicea, in which we learn that the overcomers will sit on the throne with the Lord (Rev 3:21).
The One Who Has the Key of David, Who Opens and No One Will Shut.
At the beginning of this verse, the Lord reveals Himself as “the holy and true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (3:7). What does this verse mean? We know that the Book of Revelation quotes about 500 passages from the Old Testament, many of which are woven naturally into the text and not clearly identified. This verse is quoted from Isaiah 22:22. We must look at the context of the book of Isaiah in order to understand the meaning of this verse.
Isaiah 13 to 23 contains God’s judgments on various nations. These countries that were judged include Babylon (Chapter 13), Assyria and Palestine (Chapter 14), Moab (Chapter 15-16), Damascus (Chapter 17-18), Egypt (Chapter 19), Egypt and Ethiopia (Chapter 20), Babylon and Arabia (Chapter 21), Jerusalem (Chapter 22), and Tyre (Chapter 23). In this context, let us talk in detail about God’s judgment on Jerusalem. God’s judgment on Jerusalem included the dismissal of the king’s steward, Shebna, who symbolized an unfaithful steward (Isaiah 22:19). At the same time, Eliakim, a faithful man, was called to God’s service. He was clothed with a girdle, and the government was committed into his hands. He would become the father of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and of the house of Judah (Isaiah 22:20-21). Eliakim symbolized God’s faithful servant. He would receive an anointing and authority from God to do God’s work. In this context, God says he will give Eliakim the key of the house of David and lay it on his shoulder. What he opens, none would shut. What he shut, none could open. Since Jesus Christ used this sentence to describe himself in Revelation, we can infer that Eliakim symbolizes Jesus Christ. Eliakim is a type of Christ.
As mentioned earlier, Joseph is another type of Christ. Joseph experienced many years of suffering and trials and was even imprisoned in an Egyptian prison. But one day, God opened the door for him to become prime minister of all Egypt. This was an open door that no one could close. When it is God’s time, no one can shut the doors he opens. But when it is not his time, no one can open the doors he has not yet opened. During Joseph’s trials—being sold into slavery by his brothers, being falsely accused, being forgotten by the cupbearer—God refused to open the door to power. God’s time had not yet come. Joseph’s experience helps us understand the letter to the church in Philadelphia. God’s appointed time had come. He had worked in the church of Philadelphia, and it had reached a certain level of maturity. Therefore, he was opening a door for future growth. Just like Joseph matured through trials, the church of Philadelphia had gained a level of maturity. God would now use the key of David to open for them a door that no one could close.
The Key of David in Daily Life
In 2001, I left China to study in the UK. Before a year had passed, I had heard the gospel and repented of my sin. In 2002, I was baptized and became a Christian in the US. In 2004, God appeared to me and I surrendered to His service. After this experience, God did not reveal to me exactly how he wanted to use me. Instead, he led me through more than 10 years of study and experiential growth, including many difficult circumstances in the spiritual wilderness. At the beginning of 2017, God ended our ten-year infertility and gave us a miracle baby. On the last day of 2017, the Lord lifted my spirit into heaven and told me that He would use me greatly. At the same time, I received many prophecies from prophets who said that I would do great work for God in the future. Yet I didn’t see God opening the door for me to serve Him. Although I also served him in a few ways, they were all very small-scale.
As I waited, I was being trained by God. While I was getting my Doctor of Ministry at United Theological Seminary (UTS), I knew I was still preparing for God’s service. I continued to receive prophetic confirmation that God has plans for my life. A sister in Christ with the gift of prophecy told me that when she was praying, she saw in her spirit that the enemy had built a wall around me, trying to block the fruits of my service. Not long after that, I also had a dream. In the dream, there was a wall around me. As I tried to tear down the wall and stab the wall with a dagger, a snake slithered away. These prophetic messages told me that there are indeed enemies around me who have erected spiritual barriers in an attempt to hinder my service to God.
A few years ago, I was praying for two of my relatives, hoping that they would come to know the Savior and experience real repentance. I fasted and prayed every day at noon for one family member for six months, hoping that he would repent and be saved. I gave another family member the book of heavenly testimony, hoping that he would also be saved. However, after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, and during the months surrounding the 2020 US election, the enemy used the flesh to stir up conflicts among us. Due to these conflicts, my family members moved further away from salvation and repentance. The discord Satan stirred up among us has temporarily prevented them from getting saved. I believe they will eventually be saved. But in the meantime, I wonder, “Why can’t I win this spiritual battle?” One reason is that I am not yet full of light and love. I am not yet fully filled with love, reflecting the New Jerusalem. For that reason, Satan is attacking and using my life.
God has promised me that one day he will open the door for me to serve Him. He will even use me as a healer of spirit, soul, and body. But before I can be used by God in this way, I must experience the healing of my own spirit, soul, and body. My spirit needs to be uplifted, and my soul and body need to be healed. I need to break away from sin, the influence of the world, the entanglement of the flesh, and the oppression of evil spirits. Only then can I truly experience the infilling and the overflowing of the Holy Spirit, manifesting the rule of righteousness that is characteristic of the New Jerusalem. Only then will I be able to cast out the evil spirits in others.
Madam Jeanne Guyon once testified that she wanted to drive out a spirit that was possessing another person. But before she spoke, the spirit went out. The evil spirits knew and feared Jesus and Paul, but they were not afraid of the seven sons of the Jewish chief priest, Sceva (Acts 19:15). In the same way, the spirits are not afraid of me, and I cannot cast out the demons in my relatives. My fasting, praying, and preaching of the gospel only aroused the resistance of the evil spirits inside of them, stirring up their flesh to oppose me. Although I believe that God is still working on them, my job right now is to learn how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Only then will I be able to drive out spirits in others.
I once had a dream in which I was taking a shower in a simple outdoor bathroom in my hometown in rural China. As I bathed in lukewarm water with my clothes on, I sang happily. There were some flies around me. Outside the curtain, a group of children was waiting for me to come out. The inspiration I got from this dream is that God wants to use me to help Chinese people (represented by the children) be freed from the ties of evil spirits. However, God must cleanse me first. Bathing with lukewarm water with my clothes on symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s cleansing of my heart, words, and deeds. The flies around me represent my past sins, as well as the evil spirits of my family and nation. My joyful singing reminds me that the joy of the Lord is my strength. With God’s power, I will eventually be freed from the oppression of evil spirits and become a vessel that brings God’s blessing to others. God has confirmed this call to me through the prophecies of many prophets, as well as His direct words to me. But we must become a living copy of the New Jerusalem before we can make the enemy bow down before us.
When will God give us the key of David? God will give it to us in His Sovereign time, and he will wait until we each become a living replica of the New Jerusalem.
What is the New Jerusalem?
So what is the New Jerusalem? As I said, every letter written to the churches reflects a stage of God’s work in the book of Revelation. The mention of the “pillar in the temple of God” and “the name of God and the name of the city of God (that is, the New Jerusalem) written on the forehead of overcomers” reflects what is written in Revelation 21 about the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven (21:2).
First of all, Revelation 21:11 describes the New Jerusalem, saying, “In the city is the glory of God; its radiance like the rarest jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.” To become a replica of the New Jerusalem, we must be filled with the glory and the light of God. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness never overcame it.” Whenever we harbor darkness in our hearts, the enemy gains a foothold in our hearts. Only because Christ had no darkness in him could he say that Satan had no hold over him (John 14:30). Madam Jeanne Guyon was able to cast out demons because she was filled with the glory and light of God. Satan and his evil spirits cannot enter the realm of the New Jerusalem. We must remember that any darkness in our spiritual lives provides a dwelling place for evil spirits.
Secondly, according to Revelation 21:12-14, the New Jerusalem demonstrates a unity between Jews and Gentiles. The gates of the New Jerusalem contain the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel (Jews), and the foundations of the city walls contain the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (believers). Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” The word “both” refers to Jews and Gentiles. Through Christ, Jews and Gentiles abandon their hatred toward one another. They can both approach God through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. To become a replica of the New Jerusalem, we must abide in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus Christ, before God the Father. Only when we live in this intimate fellowship with God can we manifest the light of the New Jerusalem.
Third, we notice that the walls of New Jerusalem are made of jasper. The city is made of pure gold, and the foundation of the walls is adorned with all kinds of precious stones (Revelation 21:18-20). These precious substances illustrate the final result of God’s dealings with the seven churches. Gold is refined by fire, and gemstones are transformed through immense pressure. In the same way, our personal spiritual lives must be refined through fire and pressure so we can be transformed into precious stones in God’s sight.
Fourth, we learn that the twelve gates are made of twelve pearls (Revelation 21:21). Pearls are produced from the secretion of mussels who have been injured. This demonstrates that suffering and trials can produce beautiful gems in the lives of believers.
Lastly, New Jerusalem is filled with the glory of God, and nothing unclean will ever enter into it (21:23-27). From this passage, we learn that the degree to which we are filled with the glory of God is the degree to which evil spirits can be subdued in our lives.
Conclusion: We Need to Become a Replica of the New Jerusalem
The letters to the seven churches reveal the seven spiritual stages of God’s work in the church. These different stages of spiritual work are an outline of the seven stages of God’s work in the entire book of Revelation. If we want to become a replica of the New Jerusalem, we must learn about God’s work described in the six previous letters to the churches.
- We must deal with our sins and return to our first love for God (the work of the Lord in the church in Ephesus).
- We must overcome the attacks of the spirit of death (the work of the Lord in the church in Smyrna).
- We must overcome the teachings of Balaam and deal with all the idols in our hearts (the work of the Lord in the church in Pergamos).
- We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit within (the work of the Lord in the church in Thyatira).
- We also need to outwardly manifest the righteousness of Christ (the work of the Lord in the church in Sardis).
- Only then can we become a prototype of New Jerusalem (the work of the Lord in the church in Philadelphia).
- Finally, we will be enabled to sit on the throne with the Lord (the work of the Lord in the church in Laodicea).