The Seven Churches, Part X: The Church of Philadelphia

The Bible says that we are not to bear any grudge. Why? Because God does not bear grudges, and we are to have the character of Jesus. This is what it means to be holy. We are to be holy, for God is holy. We are to be like Him, so we are told that we are to not “bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I [am] the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18.

“You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I [am] the Lord.” Verse 30. In Genesis 2, God declared: “I keep the Sabbath, so you are to keep it too.” When Jesus came to earth, He kept the Sabbath, and He is our Example.

“Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I [am] the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31. Do not go after astrology, witchcraft, or mediums, because to do so is not holiness. This is not what Jesus did. “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I [am] the Lord. And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Verses 32–34. The Jews taught that you should love your neighbor but hate your enemy. Sometimes they interpreted this to mean, “hate the stranger that is among you.” Somehow they did not read the entire message. The Bible does not just say, “Love your neighbor,” but love also the stranger whom you do not even know, just as you love your own self, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” He loves us and wants us to be like Him.

Message of Holiness

In essence, the message to the church of Philadelphia, in Revelation 3, is, “I am Holy, therefore you shall be holy.” This was the message of the reformer, Wesley, and it brought a great reformation, which stirred the world and prepared the people for the Three Angels’ Messages.

The message of Martin Luther was a wonderful message, but, for some reason, the people did not respond to it in the way that they reacted to the message given by Wesley. The churches refused to allow him to speak from their pulpits, because they were teaching that an individual did not have to be holy. All you have to do is believe, the churches taught, and by faith you will be saved. But Wesley taught that this kind of faith would never save you; you not only had to believe, but you had to do what the Bible instructed. Consequently, he was turned out of the churches and forbidden to preach.

So, Wesley took his message to the people, often preaching five times a day, some days beginning at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. As workers were going to the coal mines, he would preach to them. They would get up an hour early and make their way to a field to listen to Wesley speak for an hour, before going to work. They would come by the thousands to hear him preach. His message turned society around! His movement grew into the British Bible Society and the American Bible Society. A great missionary outreach began with people like David Livingstone. Whole continents were influenced by Christianity.

Revelation 3:8 says, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Oh, many tried so hard to shut this door. The preachers refused to let Wesley preach in the churches. They banished him, but God said, “I have set before you an open door,” so he went out into the fields, and the people came there to hear the message. The door could not be shut.

Pattern for America

The message came to America. The teachings of Wesley and Wycliffe helped to frame the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States, when the Methodist movement became strong. Before this time, and even before the Revolution, there were many towns that were given up to wickedness. Many of the frontier towns had only a couple of saloons and maybe a general store. When the Methodist preachers came through these towns to preach, just as Jesus went through towns, some were left without a single sick person. Some towns were so transformed that there was not a single person left in the saloons, and these barrooms were sometimes transformed into churches. How wonderful it would be to see this again!

Studying America’s history, you learn that not all of its founders were of the purist sort. On some of the buildings, built during the beginning of this country, may be seen figures that portray pornography and other immoral things. But the Methodist influence had an effect on the society of America. There is a reason why pornography, in general, was not allowed in America, why morality was on such a high level.

No one can study American history without realizing that America probably had the highest morality of any nation since the days of David. The greater portion of the population read the Bible. It was read in morning and evening worship by the average person of America. People did not steal. You could leave your house unlocked and return to find it as you left it. Prostitution, astrology, and witchcraft were unheard of in America. America was fashioned by the message to the church of Philadelphia.

“Indeed I will make [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” Revelation 3:9. The preachers hated Wesley in his day. They tried, a number of times, to kill him. Burning at the stake was no longer used, but mobs were sent out to kill him. Many times he was saved from certain death by an angel of God. His movement influenced the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the American lifestyle.

Door is Yet Open

The Bible says, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Revelation 3:8. This door is open yet. The gospel is going to go forth with a loud voice. It will go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (Revelation 14:7, 6.) The door is still open, if we will but walk through it. Not everyone is going to respond. We will not see the great crowds that Wesley saw. Those days are gone. The Bible says that, in the last days, only a small remnant will be saved. (Romans 11:5.) But, dear friend, that small remnant is going to carry, with a loud voice, the gospel to all the world. The door is still open. Whether or not anyone comes through the door, it is open. The door is open for the gospel message.

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which hall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:10. The people of that generation, because they were faithful, died in relative peace. The great time of trouble, which was to come upon the entire world, was spared them. They did not have to go through the seven last plagues. Verse 11 says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”

Decline of Methodism

Sad to say, they did not hold fast. This is why another church had to be formed. I have a book, written in 1963, which details the various religions of America. Each church was allowed to choose someone to write about it. The book is not biased. It is not written against anyone. It is just a book written to provide every church the opportunity to explain itself.

With some curiosity, I turned to the Methodist section, written by one of the Methodist leaders. There I read, “Methodists today are about as broad and liberal in their code of behavior as are other leading Protestants.” Now, the writer is stating this as a compliment. “We are just like all the others today.” I do not think it is a compliment, do you? I think it is a shame. It shows that this church has fallen.

It says, “Methodists traditionally have fought against intemperance, gambling, licentiousness, indulgence.” It is of interest that, throughout American history, until just a few years ago, gambling was outlawed in America. Everyone knew gambling was wrong. We have come a long way! “Traditionally the Methodist fought against intemperance, gambling, and licentiousness. John Wesley formulated a list of general rules for the members of his society, because he believed they needed concrete standards as well as ideals. For many years the church had a provision forbidding diversions such as card playing and dancing. This tradition was changed nearly 30 years ago. The Methodist church has taken official action to change all those rules.”

There was a time when Methodists did not believe in going to theaters. It was against their rules, because they did not believe such action would lead people to holiness. They were not allowed to wear jewelry; they were not allowed to smoke.

I met a young fellow, from a small town in Pennsylvania, who was a leader in the Methodist Church. His wife and, eventually, he were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He told me that although the main body of the Methodist Church had long before changed, some of the little country churches did not change. This is generally the way things go. A ruling is passed in the main body, but some of the little country churches do not change. They continue to uphold the standards.

Hold Fast

The Bible says, “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Everyone who believes in the “once saved, always saved” theory has to cut this verse out of their Bibles. All they have to do to blow their theory is read, “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Revelation 3:11. Is it possible to have your crown and then lose it? The Bible says it is. This should cause every one of us as Christians to become very serious.

Paul said, “It is possible for me to preach the gospel and lose my own soul.” He added, “Therefore, I keep myself under subjection.” (1 Corinthians 9:27.) We have a victory to win today, not just yesterday. Paul says, “Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the goal,” to those things which are good. Philippians 3:13, 14. What is behind cannot save us today. We have to press on today.

“Hold fast,” says Jesus. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And [I will write on him] My new name.” Revelation 3:12.

The Bible says that those who overcome will have the Father’s name written in their foreheads. That is speaking of the 144,000. “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred [and] forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1.

What does it mean to have the Father’s name written on their foreheads? It means holiness to the Lord. This is what Aaron had written on his forehead. (Exodus 28:36–38.) What does this holiness mean? It means that we have God’s Law—His character of His Ten Commandment Law—written in our minds and our hearts. As it says, in Revelation 14:12, “Here [are] those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

The Open Door

Today, God has opened before us a door, to help us to be among the 144,000. He not only opened the door to mission work in the world, so the gospel could go to all the nations, but He opened also another door. In 1844, this door was opened in heaven, when Jesus entered the Most Holy Place. There was a door entered when Jesus went in to where the Ten Commandments are kept. In Revelation 11:19, we are told: “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.” This was the ark of the Ten Commandments. So, today, God has opened the door in heaven, the door to where His Ten Commandments are located. And the light from these Ten Commandments is shining through this open door to the world. Many people would like to shut this door, but it cannot be shut.

There may have been a day when people could keep Sunday as sacred and do other things and still be saved, because the door was shut and many people had not yet seen beyond this door. For instance, it was as if Martin Luther had a blindfold over his eyes. God can put a shield over people’s eyes. Remember what God said to the church of Thyatira? He said, “Just hold on to what you have. I will not require of you anything else, because you have come out of such great darkness.” So Martin Luther did not understand all these things. But the Bible says that God would open a door in heaven and no one could shut it, and today we are responsible for walking in the light which shines from this open door.

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light . . . .” John 3:19. Dear friend, we are simply accountable for the light, which God has allowed to shine on our pathways. The door has been opened, and no man can shut it. You and I are responsible for walking in this light. We can never be saved, as were our forefathers, whose door was not opened. We must walk in the light from this open door.

Two Happenings

Two things happened when the door was opened in the sanctuary in heaven. First, as we just read, the ark of the Ten Commandments was seen. Second, through this opened door, God has again chosen to communicate with the world.

In Revelation 12:17, we find there are two things which characterize God’s last day people: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God”—they walk in the light from this open door—“and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In Revelation 19:10, we learn that the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy. Indeed, once again, God is communicating to the world, and no one, dear friend, can shut this door. Oh, people can turn away from the light; they can reject it; they can cover their eyes; they can go with blinders on, if they choose, but no man can shut the door.

Malachi 4:5 tells us, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Elijah, the prophet, will once again come before the Second Coming—this is “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” As we have already read, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.”

You and I cannot be saved the same way as were our forefathers, before the door to the Most Holy Place was opened. God told them, “I will not require of you any other thing.” We can try to open this door all we want, but it is shut to us. God has opened another door—the door into the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary, where His Ten Commandments are and where, today, our High Priest is ministering for us. He wants to write this law of love on our hearts and in our minds. This door is open, and no man can shut it.

He who overcomes will be made a part of the 144,000. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:13.

I want to hold on to the light that God has allowed to shine upon me. I do not want to be among those who do not hold on and lose the crown that I once had. I do not want someone taking my crown. How about you? May the Lord grant that each of us may have His holiness written within and without through faith in Jesus Christ. May His character of love and faithful obedience be written in our minds, on our hearts, and in our characters.

To be continued . . .

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.