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WAY OF ESCAPE FOR THE PHILADELPHIANS
Let’s again look at how God describes the Church in Philadelphia.
The problem with issuing a separate warning to the Philadelphian members and the Laodicean members is that all genuine members tend to believe they have a Philadelphian attitude. We all have a tendency to believe that God understands that our faith is genuine, and if we sin then He is merciful to forgive us and protect us during the Great Tribulation.
Many of us condone our sins due to being physically weak, and we believe God will understand and forgive us and protect us. But God’s standard is zero sin. That is what all members of God’s Church must strive for with their whole being. And yet we know that we live in the Laodicean era and some will have a Laodicean attitude and will have to go through the Great Tribulation.
So what are the dangers that Philadelphians face that they must guard against? We need to look at the cautionary warning that Jesus gave to the Philadelphians. Let’s look at the message to the Philadelphians again in Revelation 3:7-13 (NKJV):
“7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": 8 I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 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. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And 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. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Jesus Christ commends the Philadelphians for:
1) Doing God’s work
2) Having kept His word.
3) Not denied His name.
4) Endure all trials patiently
They are commended for keeping God’s command to endure all trials patiently and persevere in doing all things, meaning with enthusiasm and fiery zeal.
Then Jesus cautions the Philadelphians to:
5) Hold fast to what they have that no one may take their crown;
6) They must overcome sin.
Since some of the Philadelphians and Laodiceans are most likely attending the same Churches, the Philadelphians also need to know what they should avoid so that they do not become Laodiceans. The actions and conduct of individual members thus determine whether Jesus Christ judges them to be Philadelphians or Laodiceans. So we need to look at Jesus’ warning to the Laodiceans as well in Revelation 3:14-22 (NKJV):
“14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
From the warning to the Laodiceans we learn the characteristics and attitudes the Laodiceans should avoid:
1) They should not be lukewarm in their attitude and actions in doing God’s work of warning the world or overcoming sin.
2) They should avoid the attitude of thinking they are rich (in material wealth, or in spiritual knowledge or in their righteousness) and have need of nothing. They are smug in their belief that they are basically good and their crown is assured. This is a caution particularly to those who are materially well off and feel that spiritually they are just fine because God is blessing them materially.
3) In reality the Laodiceans are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked spiritually, but they are unable to discern and recognize their true spiritual condition. They have deceived themselves into believing that their attitude with God is just fine and that they don’t need to overcome. The Laodiceans are then cautioned to:
4) Buy gold refined in the fire, meaning that they will have to go through the Great Tribulation to demonstrate their righteousness.
5) They are also admonished to anoint their eyes with eye salve so that their blindness is removed and they can see their true spiritual condition.
When we look at the descriptions of the two churches, we can understand the attitudes and actions each of us should hold on to and which ones to avoid. These are the characteristics also by which God separates the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans.
1) The most important characteristic that distinguishes the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans is that they are persevering in doing the works, meaning God’s work of warning the world of the coming global catastrophes followed by the good news of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. This means that we are to avoid becoming lukewarm in doing God’s work.
2) We have to keep and hold on to God’s word. This means we are to hold on to the truth in the form of doctrines and judgments God restored to His Church through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. This admonition is also contained in the caution to hold fast to what we have.
3) We are to never deny God’s name. This means that we are to never deny that we are members of God’s Church and that we obey God the Father and Jesus Christ. Before the Great Tribulation actually comes on the world, the faith of all members of God’s Church will be tried. Conditions will be terrible and there will be tremendous pressure to deny that we are members of God’s Church in order to save ourselves from physical death. That is why there will be a need to flee to the place of safety. But we are required to never deny God’s name and that we belong to Him, which we demonstrate by admitting that we are members of His true Church and keeping God’s identifying sign the Sabbath as well as all of God’s annual holy days. We are to put our entire faith and trust in God to protect us physically in the place of safety and then resurrect us to eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ.
4) In addition we are also commanded to endure all trials patiently and persevere in overcoming sin, and not become lukewarm. This means that we are not to rationalize and accept any form of sin in ourselves believing that God understands our weakness in flesh and is merciful and will forgive us. God’s standard is zero sin or perfection.
5) We are cautioned to let no man take our crown by holding fast to what the Philadelphians have been given. What the Philadelphian era has been given is restoration of all of God’s truth in the form of doctrines and judgments through Mr. Herbert Armstrong through whom God founded the Philadelphian era of His Church. Philadelphians are warned not to allow anyone to take their crown by deceiving them into believing or compromising with what God restored through Mr. Armstrong, or by causing them some offense, or by being persecuted for their beliefs that lead them to become bitter and leave God’s Church.
6) We are to never develop an attitude of smugness of the rich, believing that our spiritual condition is excellent and we have need of nothing, and finally
7) We are to anoint our eyes with the eye salve of God’s holy spirit so that we can see, meaning that we need to develop the ability, and devote the time and effort necessary to examine ourselves and discern our true spiritual condition and take immediate corrective action. In fact, the ability to discern one’s true spiritual condition and overcome any shortcomings with fiery zeal, and doing God’s work with fiery zeal are the critical factors that separate those with a Philadelphian attitude from those with a Laodicean attitude.
Again, in many cases since those with the Philadelphian or Laodicean attitude are attending the same Churches (whereas in other cases some Churches that have splintered off from the main body and have modified some of their beliefs from what Mr. Armstrong taught are entirely Laodicean), all members should evaluate their actions and conduct to discern whether they are Philadelphian or Laodicean. One of the problems of the Laodiceans is that they are unable to evaluate their conduct correctly and believe that they are Philadelphians in their attitudes and actions whereas they are Laodiceas in the whole range from being cold to tepid. This is where the importance of beseeching God for His eye salve, His holy spirit, and the ability to discern one’s attitude and conduct correctly comes in.
Every member has to evaluate his conduct in terms of these seven characteristics Jesus mentions about the two eras of His Church. Let’s see what each of these characteristics means and how we should evaluate whether we are personally doing all these things with fiery zeal and enthusiasm that lead Jesus to commend us, or doing them in a lukewarm attitude or not doing them at all that leads Jesus to test us further and be refined as gold in the fire of the Great Tribulation.
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