Revelation 3:8

Sermon preached on January 29, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I grew up in a harbor town. The town I was raised in is called North Sydney. It's across the harbor from Sydney. I'm not sure how far it was across the harbor at the shortest point— my guess would be a couple of miles. Our house was probably not much more than a tenth of a mile from the water. It was absolutely great being brought up so close to the water. When we were kids we had a little rowboat and we would put it on a little cart and wheel it to the water and have a lot of fun rowing around. We'd play on the shore, swim in the water in the summer and just generally have a lot of fun. That was true in the winter as well. Some winters the harbor froze. And sometimes when it froze, if the conditions were right, it would freeze like a sheet of glass. It was just perfect for skating on. That was a lot of fun. Everyone would be out on the ice, skating and playing hockey. It was unbelievable having a skating rink that big. One winter a friend and I skated all the way across the harbor and back. Not only that, in the late winter the flow ice would come down from up north. This happened every year. This was ice that had broken up but it was packed together and you could walk on pieces of them. We called them ice clampers. Our parents always warned us not to play on the ice clampers. There's a picture here from my home town paper of the police warning kids not to go out on the ice clampers. But do you know what—nothing was more fun than playing on the ice clampers—jumping from one to the other and trying not to fall into the water between them. I don't know what made it such fun—but it was just the most fun a kid could have. To prove it was fun all I have to do is show you the next picture. Here we have a painting of men out on the ice clampers. I think it's a painting from a Newfoundland village and it shows some men out on the ice clampers with long poles. I'm not sure what they were doing—the only thing I can figure is that they were clearing a passage for their little fishing boats to get in and out of the cove. Sometimes men's work is just fun.

But the ice for skating and the ice clampers was actually something that made our harbor a poor harbor, as far as the shipping companies were concerned. Even though our harbor was the gateway to the province of Newfoundland—where the ferries and supply ships carried goods to Newfoundland—the passage would sometimes be blocked. I remember one year the ferry to Newfoundland, which was an icebreaker, got stuck in the ice just off the entrance to the harbor for something like 5 or 7 days. They had to helicopter food and supplies out to it. Shippers don't like harbors like that. They like ice free harbors. For example, Halifax harbor is about 200 miles south of where I grew up and that has a year round ice free harbor. That's why Halifax became a much bigger city than my home town. A harbor that is open all the time—that's what shippers like.

In our text Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia that He has placed on open door before them, an open door that no one could shut.

The great question is:

What is this open door?

The most common interpretation is that it signifies a great opportunity for successful evangelistic activity. Paul used this metaphor that way in 1 Corinthians 16:9. He told the Corinthian Christians of his plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost,

"because a great door for effective work
has opened to me…"

We see the same thing in 2 Corinthians 2:12 where Paul wrote,

"Now when I went to Troas
to preach the gospel of Christ
and found that the Lord
had opened a door for me…"

And in in Colossians 4:3 Paul wrote,

"And pray for us, too,
that God may open a door for our message,
so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ,
for which I am in chains."

An open door in the New Testament often refers to an opportunity for evangelism.

But other things suggest that the primary meaning here is something else. Consider the context. Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He holds the key of David, which we saw last week, refers to Him controlling the entrance into the New Jerusalem. The open door most likely refers to that.

The door to heaven is open to us. You who are Christians should be absolutely assured of your entry into the eternal kingdom of God. That is our true home. G. K. Beale says that (Revelation, p. 287)

"the 'open door' primarily means the church's 'own assured entry into the New Jerusalem…'"

David E. Aune agrees and refers to the open door as, (Revelation 1–5, p. 244)

"their 'reserved seats' in the eschatological kingdom."

We might be tempted to think of this only in terms of when we die—that the door of heaven has been opened to us and when we die we will surely enter in. That's certainly part of it but it's only one aspect of it. The concept here is much richer, deeper than that.

In addition,
at the beginning of chapter 4, John sees an open door, and this is a door in heaven. John is then told to come up and see what must take place after this. John then sees God on His throne and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders praising God. Afterwards John sees a Lamb, standing at the center of the throne. He observes how the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the angels praise and worship Him. The door there is the door of heaven—to experiencing God's glory, to being able to praise and glorify Him as we should. The door is the door to the proper worship and service of God.

Thus the open door seems to refer to the greatest thing that can ever be—

the experience of knowing that the door of heaven is open to you and that you are, right now, living the life of the coming age and are taking part in establishing God's rule over all things—thus bringing glory, honor and praise to God.

Beale writes, (p. 285)

"Christ, who is the true witness and sovereign over the realms of life and death, exercises his power in this regard on behalf of the Philadelphian church. He has granted its members power to enter into the sphere of salvific life: 'behold, I have given before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.'"

Beale sees it as showing that Christ has given the Christians at Philadelphia,

"power to remain in this sphere of life…"

Those of you who are familiar with Star Trek will remember that sometimes a spaceship would use a tractor beam. They would open a door and pull a disabled or unwilling smaller ship into the open door. Now that doesn't quite fit here because it's not a mere external attraction that is in view. But in one sense it gives the idea of what I'm talking about—a power coming through an open door. Rather than think of it as an external attraction—think of it as a great outpouring of grace that comes from Christ in heaven to us. The kingdom life of the coming age has broken forth into this old existence. The power of the life to come, the resurrected life of Christ—has struck out into the old order and is conquering and overcoming it. The Spirit of God has come in great power and lives in each of us.

Christians properly belong to the age to come. We have been raised with Christ. (Colossians 3:1) In one sense we already sit with Him in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 2:6) In 2 Corinthians 1:21–22 Paul referred to this saying,

"Now it is God who makes both us
and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us,
set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts
as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

In Galatians 5:25 Paul wrote,

"Since we live by the Spirit,
let us keep in step with the Spirit."

We live by the Spirit. This describes our condition in Christ, our true status. The second idea there, to keep in step with the Spirit—tells us to live accordingly. Christians are to 'become what we are'.

Herman Ridderbos writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 63)

"Because the old man was condemned and put to death in Christ's death on the cross, the body of sin, the flesh, the old mode of existence of sin, has lost its dominion and control over those who are in him. In Christ's death and resurrection they have been transferred to the new order of life—the life order of the new creation, the new man."

In Philippians 3:20 we are told that our citizenship is in heaven. In Colossians 3:4 Christ is referred to as, 'your life'. He is our life.

The point is that the resurrected life of Christ has broken through into this old age—in the lives of believers. Again, we belong to the new order. Michael Horton speaks of the fruit of righteousness that believers exhibit and says that this fruit, (The Christian Faith, p. 591)

"is not the result of their imitation of Christ's life but of their being incorporated into Christ and his eschatological resurrection-life in the Spirit."

In 2 Corinthians 3:7f the apostle Paul speaks of the glory of the new covenant and it far surpasses the glory of the old covenant. In what way? How is it more glorious? Well, the glory of the old covenant was fading. The glow of Moses' face slowly ebbed away. The new covenant is not like that. It is characterized by the 'ministry of the Spirit'. The new covenant, unlike the old, is not a ministry that condemns—but one that 'brings righteousness'. (verse 9) We have the forgiveness of sins. We have not only been acquitted but we have been declared righteous. Even more than that, we have been given a new principle of life—the Spirit. The new covenant is also eternal, it lasts (verse 11).

One of the points of 2 Corinthians 3 is that the new covenant power is already at work in us. Michael Horton tells us that Jesus, (A Faith to Live By, p. 402)

"after completing his own work—sends the Spirit to inaugurate a new creation on the pattern of his own glory, both as God and as the glorified new Adam."

The Spirit is doing that in and through us. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

"we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed
into his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul tells Christians that if anyone is in Christ,

"he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"

Now putting all this together, what this means is that the life that you're living as a Christian is one that has an open door before you. The open door has to do with the breaking forth of God's power into this old age to transform it. There is nothing to stop you from bringing Christ glory in all that you do. The fact that you have an open door in front of you should fill you with great joy.

This has other practical applications as well.

First, as a Christian you should know that

your entry into the New Jerusalem is absolutely assured.

You who are Christians should have great comfort and assurance. The door to the New Jerusalem is open to us and God's power is already transforming us into the likeness of Jesus—we are truly heirs of eternal life.

Remember what Stephen saw when the angry crowd rushed him to kill him. In Acts 7:55–56 we read,

"But Stephen,
full of the Holy Spirit,
looked up to heaven
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus
standing at the right hand of God.
'Look,' he said,
'I see heaven open and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.'"

God was giving Stephen a visual assurance that heaven was open to Him. Jesus was there to welcome Him. Jesus had opened the gates of heaven for Stephen and Jesus was there to welcome Stephen into glory.

Unlike Stephen, we don't have a visual confirmation of this, but we have Jesus' word on it. Christian you should be assured of your salvation. You should know that you belong to Jesus and that He belongs to you.

Secondly, this should really impact how you live—

it should cause you to be more holy, to live more and more for the Lord.

The common misconception is that being sure of your salvation will lead you to being lax about holiness. Some Christians believe that you shouldn't be assured that you're going to heaven because it will lead you to forget about being holy, that it will cause you to indulge in sin.

That may happen in some cases to some people who profess Christianity. But in reality that's not the response of someone who knows Jesus.

In fact, the opposite should happen to those who are Christians. If God has put an open door in front of you and that door can never be shut, if He tells you that the power of His resurrected life come to you so that you can live for His glory—what effect should that have on you? How holy and righteous you should be! The door is open for you to grow, to bring honor and glory to Jesus. Vern Poythress says that the open door, (The Returning King, p. 91)

"symbolizes freedom to approach God himself (cf. 4:1). As a result of this privilege, the church has freedom to grow and develop spiritually, in spite of the opposition of Jews and the threat of trial. (v. 10)."

Thirdly, this should be one of principles that affect how you face all of life—that you have an open door before you.

This should impact your attitude toward life, toward difficulties, toward the future. It should be one of the principles that you live by—that Jesus has put before you an open door. This means that life is full of opportunities—opportunities to do God's will, to bring Christ glory, to shine for Him in this dark world. You have an open door before you—nothing should stop you from doing God's will—not threats, not persecution, not unpopularity.

You should be very bold in living for Jesus. Jesus is using you for His glory—He is bringing everything under His control. The world may try to stop the progress of the gospel but they cannot. The Jews who were fighting against the Christians at Philadelphia would one day come and acknowledge that Jesus had loved the church there. Jesus is going to be glorified by everyone. Every knee is going to bow before Him. Every tongue is going to acknowledge Him to the glory of the Father. (Philippians 2) You have a part in that process.

Lastly, for those who are not Christians,

what you should realize is that the door of heaven is closed to you and that you need to do something about it.

People don't like having closed doors in front of them. I told you a few months ago about a friend of mine who wanted to be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but he was too short and they wouldn't let him in. That door was closed to him. He was so disappointed. Sometimes a boy will like a girl but she will close the door on him and date and marry someone else. Closed doors can be very disappointing.

But there's nothing like this closed door. More than anything else in the world, if you only do one thing in this life—this is what you should do—is ask Jesus to open this door to you. All happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction is through that door—through Jesus. Go to Him today.

Outside of Him there is nothing but eternal grief, despair, loneness, misery and suffering. Go to Jesus. Go to Him today.