“Vindications” – Revelation 3:7-13

The coming trial (which involved great tribulation) would encompass “the whole world,” a designation that typically references the expanse of the Roman Empire (e.g. Rom. 10:18). And the term “those who dwell on the earth” is a typical term in Revelation referring to unbelievers, “enemies of the church,” here referring not only to apostate Judaism centered in the land of Israel, but unbelievers across the Roman Empire.[6] History proves Jesus’ prophecy, in that, after Emperor Nero (who vigorously and horrifically persecuted Christians) … after Nero committed suicide in AD 68, the empire went through the turmoil of civil war, indeed having four emperor’s in one year (AD 69), settled only when Vespasian took power. The Jewish War had also continued to carry on from AD 67, bringing great tribulation upon the land of Israel and Jerusalem, until it was finally settled with the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, in AD 70 leaving the nation of Israel utterly destroyed, by the time the Romans finished mopping up at Masada in AD 73.

It was, in this destruction, particularly of the temple and Jerusalem, that Jesus the King was vindicated, as he brought his judgment down upon apostate Judaism (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Rev. 1:7). The Jews that were persecuting the church in Philadelphia would likewise be thrown in turmoil, as the very heart of their religion was gutted. They would wail and mourn along with all the tribes of the land (which included all the tribes of Israel dispersed throughout the world), their laments mingled with the laments of the Romans who had suffered in the civil war (Zech. 12:10-14; Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7). In particular, with his specific reference to the apostate Jews and the contrasts he lays out, Jesus assures the church in Philadelphia that he was coming soon, bringing judgment upon the Jews who were not Jews. Apostate Judaism would prove false. But the church, those who existed in the name of the true one, those who conquered, his people would be proven true and, like Jesus, vindicated.

When this letter was written, it was a tough time for the Christians. Nero’s persecution was ongoing in the empire, and the Jews were riding on the back of the beast, bringing war against the elect (Rev. 17:3-6). In the midst of this, the church in Philadelphia, seemingly, had little power, and Jesus states this flat out, in v. 8. The church in Philadelphia was a small group with little legal power and likely poor due to economic fallout from the persecutions and other reasons. But what they did have was each other, in fellowship, united by the Word of God and the name of Jesus. And there lay their power. They had Jesus (1 John 1:3). To the world it seemed they had little power, but in reality, they were empowered by the ultimate power—the Living and True God, Jesus the King. They were invincible, as, in his power, they faithfully kept the Lord’s Word and did not deny his name, keeping “the word of his endurance”—the gospel and the Lord’s calling to persevere in him (Rev. 3:10 & Heb. 12:1-2). So, Jesus spells out what he, out of love, gives his people in contrast to what the apostate Jews think they have, but are lacking in reality.

First off, Jesus gives his people entrance into the Messianic Kingdom via his open door. Verse 8: “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” The Jews thought that it was through their heritage, traditions, worship, and law that one would enter the Kingdom of God (while denying that Jesus was the Christ). And, as some suggest, they may have barred Christians from entry through excommunication. But the fact is that only Jesus has the authority and power to give and bar entry to the Kingdom. The Philadelphian Christians (both Jew and Gentile) entered the Kingdom through Jesus Christ by grace through faith—as he is the only way (John 14:6). Those who reject Jesus stand before a shut door. Only by Jesus may the door be opened, and no-one has the power to bar entry to what Christ has opened.

Even more, not only will Jesus give his people, the faithful, who conqueror in his power, entry into the Kingdom, he also makes us pillars in the Temple of God (v. 12), a symbolic representation of the solidity of place in God’s Kingdom household. Believers are not just visitors to the place of God’s dwelling; believers make up its very structure. Even now, we are God’s dwelling and the Spirit dwells within us (1 Cor. 3:16). This is in utter contrast to what was coming for the apostate Jews, whose temple (what Jesus called “your house” in contrast to God’s house—a “desolate” house—Matt. 23:38) … whose temple, despite its magnificent structure, was just a building that would soon be utterly destroyed, as Jesus brought down his judgment (Matt. 24:2, 30). The contrast the Lord is making here could not be clearer. The Christians have all the benefits of the eternal, heavenly Temple of God, and are incorporated into its very structure and purpose, whereas the Jews (whose religion was tied up with OT temple Judaism) would lose even the God-abandoned temple in Jerusalem very soon, leaving them like chaff in the wind.