Jesus' Care for Believers in Adversity
Revelation 3:8: "…I know that you have but little power/strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." Then word there for strength is the Greek noun DUNAMIS [dunamij] which means power. There are some whom you may hear or read who say that they were weak spiritually, that they did not have a spiritual power, but that is not what this is saying here. It is not a mention of spiritual power or spiritual strength because the strength that we have in our spiritual life is based on the eternal omnipotence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It doesn't come out in small increments. We have passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:24: "but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." There is no just a little bit of power in Christ, it is all or nothing, an absolute concept. 1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Romans 1:4: "and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." The point here is that when DUNAMIS relates to spiritual power and strength it is an absolute reality. When we are walking by means of the Spirit we have the supernatural power from God the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. It is not a little bit, not a fraction, it is an all or nothing concept. So when the Lord Jesus Christ evaluates the church at Philadelphia and says they have a little strength He is not talking about their spirituality. Another reason it is not talking about their spirituality is that that would be a negative statement. But this is not included in a negative statement. He says they have three things. All three things are either going to be positive or negative. Little strength is simply a reference to the fact they numerically they are small and in their human strength they can't do anything. But they are strong spiritually and that is indicated by the next two phrases: "you have kept my word"; "you have not denied my name." The word "kept" is the Greek word TEREO [threw] which is sued a number of different ways. It is used for protection, as in verse 10, but it is also a word for obedience, maintaining something. For example, John 14:15: "If you love me, you will keep [be consistently obedient to] my commandments." Here we see that the keeping of the mandates of Scripture is an indication of spiritual maturity. It is only through obedience to the Word of God, making it a priority, letting it transform our thinking, our lives, that we demonstrate that we love God. Jesus is not talking about the Mosaic law, He is talking about the mandates, both the positive imperatives that we find in the New Testament, as well as the negative prohibitions, putting into practice the things that are mandated in the Scripture. That is not in contrast to grace. Being obedient is not necessarily legalistic, it is how we demonstrate our love for Christ.
The third element there in verse 8 is that they did not deny His name. Even under persecution they did not deny Christ. The interesting thing is that when we get to the verb here for denied it is in the aorist tense, a simple past tense. So it indicates something that had actually happened in the remote past in contrast to the fact that when Jesus said earlier that "you have kept my word," it is a present tense. So the contrast is that "you have and are keeping my word but you did not in the past deny my name." This indicates that they had gone through some specific historical incident of persecution and had passed the test with flying colors. They continued to be obedient but in that instance when they had the opportunity to deny Christ's name they did not do so.
Revelation 3:9, the source of that persecution is indicated: "I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you." This is a fascinating verse for a number of reasons, but ultimately what we take from this in terms of application is going to be the reality that whatever we go through in life, no matter what the difficulty, persecution, adversity, heartache, …
The synagogue of Satan: Cf. Revelation 2:9, to the church at Smyrna: "I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." So twice in this context there are believers, in Smyrna and in Philadelphia, who are dealing an unbelieving Jewish population who become a source of persecution for them. Why are they called a synagogue of Satan? First, we need to take note of what Paul says in Romans 9:6: "For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel." To be a Jew requires only one thing, and that is descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But to be a true Jew requires a trust in the messianic promise of God in the Old Testament. So those in the Old Testament who did not trust in God's promise of a future deliverer, Messiah, redeemer, were not saved. In the New Testament period Jews who did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah are not saved. Thus they are not true Israel. They may be physical Jews but they are not full spiritual Jews following in the footsteps of faith laid down by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus made this same point when He challenged the Pharisees and said: "You are of your father, the devil." So a true Jew is one who has accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah; a false Jew is one who rejects Jesus as Messiah.
"I will make" is a poor translation in the NKJV and the NIV. The NASB translates, "Behold, I will cause." The verb is DIDOMI [didomi] which means to give or to grant something. It usually indicates a gracious gift whenever God the Father or Jesus Christ is the subject of the verb, which is what we have here. It should be "I will give." They lie because they have never trusted Christ as their savior. Then the next clause: "Indeed" IDOU [i)dou], which means "behold." "I will make them," and here there is a verb shift. It is not DIDOMI, it is POIEO [poiew]. Many translators try to make them the same because there is a similarity here in terms of idiom. But Jesus Christ is going to provide something—POIEO means to do or to make. The DIDOMI was a present tense verb, probably a futuristic use of the present. Sometimes a future tense is viewed with a future nuance, and that indicates that something is happening in the present or is spoken of as a reality in the present, even though its fulfilment is in the future—but it is in the immediate future. A future tense verb would indicate something more in the distant future. "Indeed, I will make them come and worship." This isn't something that Jesus is forcing them to do, this is not the sense of POIEO here, it indicates something that He will bring about in history. They will "come and worship before your feet." There are two different ways in which people look at this particular verse. One is in the far distant future, that when Jesus Christ returns at the second coming every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. All demons, all unbelievers, will do homage to Jesus as the redeemer and as the sovereign King, even though they are not believers. The will be forced to recognize who he is and that is a far distant application of this verse. What happened here is something historical in the situation in Philadelphia. Jesus is promising that in their situation there would be a change among these Jewish oppressors, just as there was a change in the apostle Paul. Many times those who are most hostile to Christianity are fighting hard and resisting the gospel presentation but often come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is what this is talking about because it uses the word "worship," PROSKUNEO [proskunew], the common word for worship. They are worshipping along with those in the church in Philadelphia. The word "synagogue" may refer to a literal building or it may simply refer to an assembly or association of people. What we see here is that God is promising that he is going to bring these Jews to a point where they are no longer hostile but they are going to be worshipping Christ along with the believers.
"…and they will learn that I have loved you." This must be understood to be something that happened historically at that time.
Revelation 3:10: "Because you have kept my command to persevere, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth." In the English Bible it will be noted that there is a period at the end of verse 9, as if it ends with the simple statement, "I will make them come and worship before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you." Then verse 10 begins with a capital B in "because," indicating a new sentence. This is important because the main clause of verse 10 is "I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth." We have to understand something here. There is this word translated "because," which is HOTI [o(ti]. It can mean because or for, both of which have a similar meaning. Or it can have a thir`d meaning, "that." There are two ways in which the relationship of verse 9 to verse 10 can be understood. The way it has been traditionally translated is that verse 9 ends with a period and verse 10 begins with a new sentence, "Because you have kept my command to persevere." Here is the problem: a) Translators of the KJV had a tendency to make every verse autonomous, an independent sentence, even if it was a long sentence in the Greek. b) In the Greek there is no punctuation. In fact they don't even have a space between words, or hyphenation. The only way we can tell where a sentence would break is on the basis of syntactical features.
This is the option. One of the principles that we see is when "Because" is at the beginning of a sentence it modifies or gives the cause or reason for the main clause. That would indicate in verse 10 that "I [Jesus] will keep you from the hour of trial because you kept my command to persevere." We will see that the hour of testing is the Tribulation, so that would seem to indicate perhaps partial raptures. The alternate punctuation would be: "I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you, because you have kept my command to persevere…" Here we see that in light of their persecution and their perseverance and obedience to Christ, no matter how tough things got, now He is going to, in turn, bless them by changing the persecution situation and eventually many of these Jews would come to know Christ as their savior. This would mean that the statement in verse 10, "I will keep you from the hour of trial," begins a totally new thought. This is supported in the usage of the grammar.
First principle: When "because" begins the sentence it states the cause of the following clause. That is a little awkward, it is called the suspensive use.
Second principle: When "because" follows a comma, as it would if we placed a comma at the end of verse 9, it links to the previous clause. That makes more sense.
The least common use of "because" begins the sentence. It is very rare for "because" to begin a sentence. Out of about 450 uses of the causal HOTI grammarians recognize only twelve as suspensive. Furthermore, the apostle John uses HOTI in the causal sense about 180 times, and only 11 of those is suspensive. So the indication is that the normal way in which John would use this word would be at the conclusion of a sentence, not to begin the next sentence. Then we come in an look at how it is used and look at the context, and then bring in comparison with doctrine and other things, as we realize that this phrase, "because you have kept my command to persevere," links to verse 9 and is the reason why Jesus Christ is going to work in their situations because they have been faithful and have endured in the testing. He is going to alleviate that particular testing and there will be a change take place in the hearts of these unbelieving Jews, and many of them will reverse course, trust Christ as their Messiah, and this will relax the source of adversity.
The Lord does the same thing for us. He doesn't necessarily keep us under the same test for a long time. Some of us may question that. If it is a medical test or a family test it may go on for years, if not decades. But what we know from this is that the Lord is not unaware. He is always aware of what we are going through.