“I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:7-8)
There is something wonderful, and at the same time terrifying about allowing Yahweh God to be your teacher. So often times, we find ourselves focusing or worshiping ‘what’ we believe instead of ‘who’ we believe, and in that forms the seed of pride. Pride that we own the truth, pride that we know it all, pride that we are ‘ready’ and worthy.
All ten virgins who were expecting and waiting on the bridegroom believed themselves prepared, and yet five were left behind.
Every church congregation, and every denominations likes to think of themselves as the wise virgins. They have crossed every t and dotted every i. And yet, in scripture when Jesus walked among the lamp stands, He spoke to seven churches, in several spiritual conditions, and only before one church was placed an open door. Only one seventh of those claiming to be the church of Christ, were found worthy to be preserved from testing and purification, and this is something that I believe the body of Christ is ignoring in this age, to their detriment.
Please test the spirit of this revelation as you will, after I share my reasoning and biblical evidence with you, but I believe that the Lord has revealed to me in scripture that there is a first fruits who are empowered with and by the presence of the Lord, -before- the large scale, complete removal of the purified church from the earth that we typically think of as ‘the rapture’ I believe that the number and portion of the church who is spared the hour of testing, (either through a literal catching away or a spiritual covering that protects them) is a lot smaller than we think, and so we all need to search our hearts and relationships with God to align ourselves with the condition of that church, if it is our desire to be spared that hour of testing. We all ‘get there’ but we do not all get to ‘fly away’ from the hour of trial. This escapist teaching, is one which has encouraged laziness in our spiritual readiness, and spirits of judgment and entitlement, and these are the very things which may find us like the five foolish virgins, unprepared. Only one in seven of the churches was presented an open door.
Follow me on a brief journey through the word. God’s word cannot contradict itself, and any spirit that is not of God cannot come into agreement with scripture. When the Lord revealed this to me, it shook me to my foundation, rocked everything about my spiritual traditions and has planted me squarely at a crossroad of decision making which I am currently, prayerfully considering.
“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. 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 3:7-8)
The church in this modern age, from the Catholics to the least known ‘cult’ of Christianity, attempts to lay claim to the condition and inheritance of this church, because of its reward. The scripture goes on to reveal that the reward of this church, is to be spared the hour of trial and testing that will come upon the earth. A time period we commonly identify as the great tribulation, ( in which there will be persecution of the saints) which is followed by the wrath of God, (the judgment of the unredeemed on the earth.)
“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
So what are the characteristics of the church of Philidelphia?
“You have little strength.”
Strength, power, might, numbers? This specific church does not have a large following, and it holds little recognized power in its world. This gave me pause. Contemporary Christianity would find it hard to describe itself as of little strength, even if believers are being persecuted. Many powers of the world declare themselves as ‘Christian nations.’ Christmas and Easter and other ‘Christian’ festivals dominate the times and the seasons. I stuck a pin on that. Next?
“You have kept my word.”
Don’t we all keep/ observe the fullness of the word of God? I wondered. The blunt answer to that question frankly is no, we don’t. What is the fullness of the Word of God you may ask? Is it in observances and rituals, do’s and don’ts, days to worship or feasts to celebrate? No. The fullness of the word of God was embodied in Jesus’s words. His command was that we love each other as He loved us. It’s the simplest and most difficult command to follow at one and the same time.
Mankind’s nature and desire is to create a structure, a list of laws and regulations that become a yoke of bondange and failure prone self effort because we desperately want to feel that we have ‘earned’ our place in God’s favor. This was Cain’s sin (error). He wanted his hard work to be acceptable as an offering, even if it was not quite what God had commanded. True Love, from a human soul is almost impossible to effect. Only the infilling of the Love of God can bring us to the place of keeping this ‘word’ or command of our Savior. We cannot love like He loves, without being filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Walking with and in God and letting Him love through us, will bring us to that place of being the ‘church of brotherly love’ Fitting, is it not? The very name of that congregation provides that greatest clue of what it takes to be a qualifier for its crown.
The third condition of the church at Philadelphia:
“You have not denied my name.”
This also would seem to be a no brainer. Every church on the planet that is a follower of Jesus, acknowledges His name- be it the greek interpretation of the Hebrew name, Yehshua, or any other name by which He is named. In Hebrew His name means The Lord is our Salvation and this is the spirit of the meaning of the name of Jesus.
Jesus is the savior of the world. This was His commission. He was sent to pay the price for the redemption of mankind and all of creation, and it was paid, IN FULL. The moment that He laid down His life, the price for every sin was paid and the world became His rightful possession, bought back from the power of sin and death. What the special company of the Elect identifies and experiences as salvation in this age of grace as the Bride, is actually the experience of reconciliation and sanctification. It is the restoration of the positive relationship between the redeemed and their redeemer. The apostles themselves identified their ministry as the ministry of reconciliation; as being the facilitators of bringing God’s redeemed (blood bought) people back into a relationship with Him, for the express purpose of being raised up as shepherds in the age to come, in order to bring that same reconciliation to all of the creation which groans for the manifestation of the sons of God.
It may be a controversial proposal, but I believe that denying or not denying Jesus’s name only deals in part, with whether we confess Him as our savior and Lord under persecution. In it’s fullness, acknowledging the name of Jesus, may in fact be tied to our recognition that He is in fact the savior of all men, through the redemptive work of His blood sacrifice. In other words, the embracing of the belief or understanding that in His perfect time and season and way, somehow Jesus will reconcile all of creation, past present and future, to His Father, because He has already paid the price for their sin. He paid the wage with His death. Some may endure punishment and chastisement..they may suffer for a season (which may be a long one, until the end of all the temporal ages of the earth) for their rebellion, but the name of Jesus bears witness that they will be restored in a mystery.
If, and I will admit that this is a HUGE if.. If the acceptance of the doctrine of universal reconciliation is one of the qualifiers for the church of Philadelphia, then almost all of organized Christendom is currently missing the mark by espousing the doctrine of eternal damnation in hell. (The same hell, which, by the way, is cast into the lake of fire and destroyed) The case has been made, and well, from scripture and in particular the original Hebrew and greek versions of the scripture, that the doctrine of eternal damnation may be one of the greatest errors of doctrine that ever came into the church, making the God who is LOVE and MERCY into one who embodies UNFORGIVENESS in the very opposition of everything His incarnate image in Jesus Christ ever taught. Must man forgive his enemies 70×7 (codespeak for ‘without limit’) but God who created man not be held to the standard that He has established with that decree to Love without ceasing? No..Something doesn’t add up somewhere, and I tend to be inclined toward believing that God can follow His own greatest command; that we love our friends AND our enemies.
Yehshua said of the church at Philidelphia,
“I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)
And there will be reason that they are worthy of that reward. One not easily earned, and one awarded to a company few in number and weak in strength/power in the earth.
And so, on reflection, to qualify as being a member of the Church of Philadelphia, before whom there is an open door to be spared the hour of trial that comes upon the earth, an individual is probably practicing a minority, not widely recognized version of the Christian faith. One that likely walks in the true love for all men that Jesus commanded and that worships and recognizes Yehshua by His true name; the Savior of the world. They also keep the WHOLE of His word, and so they are likely walking in the fullness of the dispensation of grace, filled with the Holy Spirit, and acknowledging the gifts that He has given the church.
This awareness, for me, is an almost seismic shift of spiritual awareness, and doctrinal belief, and one with which a number of decisions will likely have to be made, regarding how I walk out my process of reconciliation and sanctification before the Lord. I desire Philadelphia’s reward. Less for the ‘pass’ on time of testing that the bride will endure to be made pure, and more for the reward of the overcomer. Choosing this path will no doubt put me at odds with the belief system of most of Christendom, but I have to trust the whisper of the Holy Spirit that assures me of the truth of the fact that God is perfect LOVE. There is no shadow of turning in Him, even if somehow, man has managed to make His very written word, appear to contradict His living incarnated Word in the establishment of organized religious doctrine.
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” (Revelation 3:11-12)
The church has taught, incorrectly, that this is the reward of the -entire- body of Christ, when it is in fact Philadelphia’s reward for overcoming by meeting the qualifiers I’ve just proposed. An easy miscalculation, if the modern day church is perceived as all being Philadelphia, rather than still separated into the seven spiritual conditions. There is evidence of this, when we realize that we can identify separate rewards for each church’s overcoming conditions.
To him who overcomes in..
Ephesus– I will give the right to eat from the tree of life (Rev 2:7)
Smyrna– I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Rev 2:11)
Pergamum– I will give some of the hidden manna, and a white stone on which is written their new name. (Rev 2:17)
Thyatira– I will give authority over the nations. I will also give that one the morning star. (Rev 2:26-28)
Sardis– They will walk with me, dressed in white. (Rev 3:4)
Philadelphia– I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.(Rev 3:11-12)
Laodicea– I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. (Rev 3:21)
*Note. The Laodicean congregation was the one accused of being lukewarm, who were counseled to.. ” buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Rev 3: 18-19) I believe this is the dominant condition of the church in this age, which is why it will be required to endure refinement. This may happen in our walk in life through suffering and affliction, or in an apocalyptic setting, through the enduring and overcoming of tribulation. Scripture also reveals that the martyrs of the tribulation period will rule with Him on earth during the millennial reign of Christ here, and so the promise of a throne as a reward does not contradict itself, despite their weaker condition.
Having established then, that Philadelphia is NOT the entire body/bride of Christ, and that we will not all spared testing, does the scripture provide further evidence that Philadelphia is in fact caught away as a smaller community, before the body of the bride is, at the appointed moment during their season of testing? The answer is a resounding yes, and this were where God sucker punched me with the revelation.
“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” (Revelation 14: 1-5)
Wait, what?.. Rewind. What is the reward of Philadelphia?
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.”
Could the church of Philadelphia, the ones small in number, who kept the word and did not deny the name of God, be the 144 thousand who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, sing the new song and bear the name of God on their foreheads as their reward for being an undefiled part of the bride? Only God knows, but scripture certainly seems to point that way.
What are the implications of all this, in the end? I am -not- denying that there will be a catching away of the entire bride of Christ. In fact, I believe scripture points fairly directly to when exactly it would happen. The moment when the Lord’s voice says ‘Come up here, and just before the sounding of the first trumpet.” After the two prophets/witnesses have been dead in the streets for days at the end of their ministry, the bible says,
“But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.” (Revelation 11:11)
Given that the deaths of the witnesses seems to come at the climax of the time of persecution of the saints, (during the season of the sixth seal) and right before the sounding of the trumpet that hails the beginning of the judgement of the earth,(the seven trumpet judgements) it seems a logical moment for the bride to join Yehshua in the air on His triumphal march toward earth, a purified and perfected bride. The dead martyrs shall rise, like the witnesses did, at his ‘shout/call’ then we (the church) shall all be caught up to meet Him in the air and to watch Him execute judgment. Notice that the sealed 144 are still present during the trumpets, (the sealed of Israel) since they need to be preserved from the plague that rises from the abyss at the fifth trumpet. That there is a remnant of God’s people (the Jews, and those who respond to God’s final warning after the church has been removed) still present to be caught up at the seventh/last trumpet, before the bowls of God’s final wrath are poured out, again seems to speak to the idea of an incremental ‘harvest’ of the Lord’s people from the earth. (Jacob did marry Leah, then Rachel after)
What I -am- saying, is that I do believe there will be an initial catching away of those who carry the witness of the church of Philadelphia, as first fruits to the Lord, and that this group is not who most of us think they are. This is why the Lord’s coming will be like a thief in the night. These are they who are the five wise virgins, and there will likely be mass chaos when a seeming ‘mass abduction’ of people occurs, but most of what people think of as the true church is still on earth. It also seems that a first fruit of Israel is also sealed to some purpose, but in both instances the remnant of God’s elect still, in their entirety eventually are called to his presence before the Wrath of God is poured out. This is why it is not a contradiction to believe that God’s people can and will face ‘tribulation/persecution’ and yet still scripturally be spared from wrath.
These are the times that will test the patience and perseverance of the saints.
This is not an easy ‘doctrine’ to subscribe to. I don’t know if there will be 144 thousand only, to be found in Philadelphia when the Lord calls, and that’s not what I would claim. I can only point out that 144 thousand people, bearing the name of God on their forehead that was specifically ascribed to that church, were to be found with Christ in the vision of mount Zion.
(I am, incidentally still in prayer for revelation about if this 144k with the name of God on their heads, are the same 144k who are sealed of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Hebrew words used for seal, and the name of God are different, and I’m beginning to think there may be two different groups with two different experiences and assignments in these times. It’s not a stretch to believe, given we have the 12 apostles of the church age, and the 12 patriarchs of the old covenant. That God would reap a first fruit of the church, and seal a first fruit of natural Israel is not something that would contradict scriptural patterns.)
The idea of a mass bride escape, is comforting. It’s safe. It means our commitment to God would not need to be put to the test. But we only need to look around, even in our own congregations and into our own hearts, to know that some of us need to be refined. The Lord will receive a spotless and unblemished bride, in the end. The fact that most of us are probably afraid to face trial, is probably a good indicator that we might need it.
Trying to ‘escape testing’ should not be our motivation for being found in Philadelphia, but rather, a desire to be the faithful witnesses of the fullness of God’s word, the LOVE of God, and of the undefiled truth of the good news of salvation that He has given to the world. We cannot work to earn a portion of this body, but we can love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and our neighbors as ourselves AND believe that God loves us, as much as He is asking us to love each other.
Stepping out of comfort zones and traditional beliefs and practices tainted by ‘Babylon/Jezebel’ will be hard, especially if they are ingrained practices and beliefs. But God is able, if that is what He is calling you to, to provide the confirmation, and the grace to walk through the narrow gate.
I have been shown what I believe to be a truth, I suppose for me that means I have to decide what to do with it.