E W Rogers, Oxford
To this church the Lord presents Himself as irresistibly Sovereign. He is "true" to all that His name in every aspect implies and he has the royal key of David; He possesses sovereign rights on earth as well as in heaven. He, therefore, can open and none can shut, and vice versa, 3. 7.
What is the "door opened" which He has given to this church? Several conjectures have been made, but by a consideration of such passages as Acts 14. 27; 1 Cor. 16. 9; 2 Cor. 2. 12; Col. 4. 3, it would seem that it is a door of opportunity to proclaim the Word. Paul had himself taken advantage of the opened door and had proclaimed faith among the Gentiles; such an opportunity on a large scale had occurred at Ephesus; a door had been opened at Troas.
If we regard these letters as depicting the outline of the history of Christendom, it would seem to denote the evangelistic era which has embraced our own times as well as earlier. But while such doors were opened in apostolic times, and while they have been opened here and there throughout the whole Christian era, there has been, as history attests, a special period of unique evangelistic opportunity. It may be that the day of Gentile opportunity is closing and the Lord Himself is shutting the doors now. Time will tell, for we may be assured that, whatever men and governments may determine, until the Lord shuts the door no other person can do so. We must use to the full our present privileges; they may not last long.
It appears to be too general to say that this is the key of entrance into the kingdom, since that has been existent right from the days when Peter opened it to the Jew on the day of Pentecost and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. Much less does it relate to entrance into the local church. That should have been open to every sterling Christian from the very beginning. It seems to accord with the tenor of the rest of the New Testament that this is the door of evangelistic opportunity.
It has been opened by One who is both holy and true -descriptions that are not infrequently used of the Lord Jesus. He was "that holy thing" born of the virgin Mary and as the Holy One He gave the unction to all believers - the Holy Spirit. The word used for "true" here denotes not so much true to His word (and that He ever is) but true to all that He Himself is - He is true to the promise of His name as well as of His lips.
The Lord acknowledges that this church had a little strength, and that they had been faithful both to His word and name. Though but a relatively feeble few, they had returned to the fountain head of divine truth, the Scriptures, and in loyalty to Him who loved them, v. 9, had sought to keep it. There were others who, claiming to be the people of God ("Jews, and are not"), opposed them but from time to time have been compelled to acknowledge where the truth was. The opposition of the Jews to the gospel in apostolic times is seen clearly throughout the book of the Acts. Later, others have claimed to be God's people on earth and have been equally hostile to the simple preaching of the pure gospel. We need not name them; such claimants will readily come to mind.
To this church the Lord gives the promise of exemption from the hour of trial that is to come upon the habitable earth to put earth-dwellers to the test. Note carefully they are to be kept from the hour, not merely from the trial, 3. 10. The time of this special trial is the latter half of Daniel's seventieth week, but before even that week itself commences the church will have been raptured to heaven; see Rev. 17. 14.
The words of the promise should be carefully noted. It is not a promise of being kept safely through the trial but being kept out of the hour of that trial. Space forbids the setting out of the full evidence in support of this. We did so partially in our previous series of articles* relating to prophetic future events. The Revised Version reading is very clear and assuring. Patience has been exercised by the saints on earth, a patience which is called "my patience" for the Lord Himself in heaven is patiently waiting the fulfilment of the expected promise, Heb. 10. 13. That patience will be rewarded. "Behold, I come quickly" is the promise by which the deliverance from the coming trial will be effected, Rev. 3. 11. No date or sign is given, but the saints are enjoined to hold fast what they had, things which the Lord acknowledged to exist - their strength, faithfulness and witness - in order that they lose not their victor's crown in that day. In 2 Samuel 12. 26ff is recorded an instructive incident in which David was likely to have lost his royal rights over a city.
Thus the saints are encouraged to endure, being given the hope of the near return of their Lord with its consequent deliverance from the unequalled time of tribulation that will come upon the habitable earth. At the same time, they are reminded that the judgment-seat lies ahead when crowns will be given as rewards for service here, a reward of which they must see that no one robs them, Rev. 3. xi. Verse 10 is incapable of a satisfactory exposition if the prophetic view of the letters is rejected. Attempts have been made to construe the verse as if it were a promise of preservation in the trial itself, but that is not the meaning that the words convey. They promise immunity from the very hour of the trial, and if one is not here in the hour of the trial, neither can one be in the trial of that hour. All faithful translations are unanimous.
The possibility of the loss of one's crown is envisaged in 1 Corinthians 3. 15; 9. 27; Luke 19. 26. It is neither possible for a child of God to lose any blessing given him in sovereign grace, nor to lose his place in the kingdom, but he may lose his reward and his crown. We cannot be too careful in this regard.
The overcomer will be made a pillar in the temple of God, out from which he will go no more, though he may have been expelled by men on earth, Rev. 3. 12. He will bear the name both of God and of His city. He will also have Christ's new name. The pillar denotes responsibility in the future as James, Cephas and John were pillars in the early church, Gal. 2. 9. The frequency of the words "my God" implies that the Lord has once been here on earth as dependent Man, and appealed to His God in His direst hour of need, Matt. 27. 46. The inscription of the names indicates both to whom the bearer of the name belongs and his place of residence. In a word, the whole of the promise denotes the inseparable union of the overcomer with God and His Christ. It may not be apparent now, but it will be then. Revelation 19.13,16 throw light on the "name" and chapter 21 describes the "New Jerusalem". As a man may wear a cap on which the name and town of his employer are inscribed, so then the overcomer will bear in himself such an identification mark.