Revelation 3:8
I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) I know thy works: behold, I have set (better, given) before thee an open door (better, a door opened).—A reference to the passages (Acts 14:27; 1Corinthians 16:8-9; 2Corinthians 2:12-13; Colossians 4:3) in which a similar expression is used reminds us that the open door was not simply a way of escape from difficulties, but an opening for preaching the gospel, an opportunity of doing good, as well as an abundant entrance into the kingdom.

For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.—The tenses used point back to some epoch in the history of this Church when some heavy trial or persecution arose, which tested the sincerity, fidelity, or Christian love of the faithful. “The reward then of a little strength is a door opened” (Dr. Vaughan).

3:7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers; he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it. This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people. Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought the good fight, and came off victorious.I know thy works - See the notes on Revelation 2:2.

Behold, I have set before thee an open door - Referring to his authority as stated in Revelation 3:7. The "open door" here evidently refers to the enjoyment of some privilege or honor; and, so far as the language is concerned, it may refer to any one of the following things - either:

(1) the ability to do good - represented as the "opening of the door." Compare Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3.

(2) the privilege of access to the heavenly palace; that is, that they had an abundant opportunity of securing their salvation, the door being never closed against them by day or by night. Compare Revelation 21:25. Or.

(3) it may mean that they had before them an open way of egress from danger and persecution.

This latter Prof. Stuart supposes to be the true meaning; and argues this because it is immediately specified that those Jewish persecutors would be made to humble themselves, and that the church would but lightly experience the troubles which were coming upon the world around them. But the more natural interpretation of the phrase "an open door" is that it refers to access to a thing rather than egress from a thing; that we may come to what we desire to approach, rather than escape from what we dread. There is no objection, it seems to me, to the supposition that the language may be used here in the largest sense - as denoting that, in regard to the church at Philadelphia, there was no restraint. He had given them the most unlimited privileges. The temple of salvation was thrown open to them; the celestial city was accessible; the whole world was before them as a field of usefulness, and anywhere, and everywhere, they might do good, and at all times they might have access to the kingdom of God.

And no man can shut it - No one has the power of preventing this, for he who has control over all things concedes these privileges to you.

For then hast a little strength - This would imply that they had not great vigor, but still that, notwithstanding there were so many obstacles to their doing good, and so many temptations to evil, there still remained with them some degree of energy. They were not wholly dead; and as long as that was the case, the door was still open for them to do good. The words "little strength" may refer either to the smallness of the number - meaning that they were few; or it may refer to the spiritual life and energy of the church - meaning that, though feeble, their vital energy was not wholly gone. The more natural interpretation seems to be to refer it to the latter; and the sense is, that although they had not the highest degree of energy, or had not all that the Saviour desired they should have, they were not wholly dead. The Saviour saw among them the evidences of spiritual life; and in view of that he says he had set before them an open door, and there was abundant opportunity to employ all the energy and zeal which they had. It may be remarked that the same thing is true now; that wherever there is any vitality in a church, the Saviour will furnish ample opportunity that it may be employed in his service.

And hast not denied my name - When Christians were brought before pagan magistrates in times of persecution, they were required to renounce the name of Christ, and to disown him in a public manner. It is possible that, amidst the persecutions that raged in the early times, the members of the church at Philadelphia had been summoned to such a trial, and they had stood the trial firmly. It would seem from the following verse, that the efforts which had been made to induce them to renounce the name of Christ had been made by those who professed to be Jews, though they evinced the spirit of Satan. If so, then the attempt was probably to convince them that Jesus was not the Christ. This attempt would be made in all places where there were Jews.

8. I have set—Greek, "given": it is My gracious gift to thee.

open door—for evangelization; a door of spiritual usefulness. The opening of a door by Him to the Philadelphian Church accords with the previous assignation to Him of "the key of David."

and—The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and Origen read, "which no man can shut."

for—"because."

a little—This gives the idea that Christ says, He sets before Philadelphia an open door because she has some little strength; whereas the sense rather is, He does so because she has "but little strength": being consciously weak herself, she is the fitter object for God's power to rest on [so Aquinas], that so the Lord Christ may have all the glory.

and hast kept—and so, the littleness of thy strength becoming the source of Almighty power to thee, as leading thee to rest wholly on My great power, thou hast kept My word. Grotius makes "little strength" to mean that she had a Church small in numbers and external resources: "a little flock poor in worldly goods, and of small account in the eyes of men" [Trench]. So Alford. I prefer the view given above. The Greek verbs are in the aorist tense: "Thou didst keep … didst not deny My name": alluding to some particular occasion when her faithfulness was put to the test.

I know thy works: it is very probable, that our Lord, by these ministers’ works, understands the works proper to them in their function, their labour in preaching and propagating the gospel, which Christ did not only know and observe, but also approve of, and promiseth them a liberty to go on, and success in their labours, under the notion of

an open door: see 1 Corinthians 16:9 2 Corinthians 2:12 Colossians 4:3.

And no man can shut it; so as it should not be in the power of adversaries to hinder his success.

For thou hast a little strength; both inward strength, and outward helps and advantages.

And hast kept my word; the doctrine of faith is by thee kept pure, as also my precepts for a holy life.

And hast not denied my name; and thou hast not been by any temptation prevailed upon to apostatize from the profession of the gospel. I know thy works,.... Good works, of faith, love, and patience; and which lay much in preaching, professing, and maintaining the pure Gospel, and in acts of charity to one another; and which were done to some degree of perfection, and with great sincerity; since this church is not complained of, that her works were not perfect before God, as the former church is:

behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it; or "which no man can shut", as read the Alexandrian copy, and others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions. This "open door" may design an uncommon opportunity of preaching the Gospel; and a very great freedom of mind in the preachers of it, and great attention in the hearers, whose hearts will be opened to observe, receive, and embrace it; and a very large gathering in of souls to Christ, and his churches; much and frequent preaching of the word with great success, which it will not be in the power of any creature to stop or hinder: now will the abundance of the sea, the forces of the Gentiles flow in, and the nation of the Jews shall be born at once,

For thou hast a little strength; which is not to be understood of inward spiritual strength, for of this the church in this period will have a great deal, as well as of courage and fortitude of mind, but outward power and authority: some great men, and princes of the earth, will come into the churches of Christ, even kings will come to the brightness of her rising; for now will all those prophesies have their accomplishment, which respect the secular grandeur of the church, with regard to its numbers, power, and riches; see Isaiah 49:18.

And hast kept my word; both the commands and ordinances of Christ in practice, and that in their primitive purity, as they were delivered by Christ and his apostles, particularly baptism and the Lord's supper; which have been, one or other of them, or both, most sadly corrupted in all the periods of the churches hitherto, excepting the apostolical one, but will now be restored to their pristine purity and glory; and also the doctrines of the Gospel, which will be kept, not in memory only, but in the heart and life; they will be publicly and openly preached, professed, and defended:

and hast not denied my name: Christ himself, his doctrine respecting his person, office, and grace, neither in words, nor in works, but both ways confessed and owned it.

{7} I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

(7) The note of praise is in this verse of promises, and Re 3:9 to bring home again them that wander, in Re 3:10 to preserve the godly and in Re 3:11 to exhort.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 3:8. With οἷδά σου τὰ ἔργα we are not to immediately combine the ὅτι μικρ. ἐχ. δυν. as though the latter words[1426] contain an explicit statement of the ἔργα;[1427] for, in a formal respect, it is impracticable to regard the entire clause ἰδού

ἀυτήν as a parenthesis; and, as to the subject, the point expressed in the assumed parenthesis belongs already also in the idea of τὰ ἔργα. But[1428] by the words οἷδά σου τὰ ἔργα, the Lord testifies chiefly, without any further determination, that every thing is known to him with which the church in its present life is engaged.[1429] To the church at Philadelphia this is a word of commendation and consolation. This results from the words of the Lord which immediately follow: ἰδού, δέδωκα, κ.τ.λ., in which the thought is expressed that the fidelity maintained by the church, notwithstanding its external helplessness, depends not only upon a gracious gift of the Lord, but also serves the purpose,—and that, too, again through his government,—that through the faithful church the Lord’s kingdom is increased. This sense depends chiefly upon the correct interpretation of the figurative expression δεδ. ἐν. σ. θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην, κ.τ.λ. The door is opened, viz., either in order that the church itself may enter,[1430] or in order that by means of the church others may enter.[1431] According to the former idea, N. de Lyra,[1432] etc., explain: “a door is opened for understanding the Scriptures.” Arethas: τὴν εἴσοδον πρὸς ἀπολαυσιν (“entrance to fruition”). Bengel: “Entrance into the joy of thy Lord, and meanwhile into unhindered progress in all good.” Eichh.: “Entrance to me lies open to thee;” in the shallow sense: “I desire well for thee.”[1433] Züllig: “Entrance into the temple.” Hengstenb.:[1434] “Entrance to the house of David, or the kingdom of God.” According to another mode of representation, it is explained by Andr., Rib., Alcas., C. a Lap., Stern, Grot., Calov., Vitr., Wolf, Ew., De Wette, Ebrard, etc., who think of the favorable and successful opportunity for the missionary activity of the church. A decision in favor of this explanation, and that, too, in reference, not to heathen,[1435] but to Jews who are to be won by the fidelity of the believing church, is made by the connection with Revelation 3:9. A special intimation of the connection of δέδωκα, διδῶ, and ποιήσω, lies even in the threefold ἰδού.[1436] A declaration concerning the entrance of’ the church into heavenly joy, of which alone, according to the first mode of statement, we can think, could scarcely be made at the very beginning of the epistle. The statement correctly understood stands, consequently, in close connection with the designation of the Lord, Revelation 3:7, ὁ ἔχων τ. κλεῖν Δ., κ.τ.λ., and emphasizes a special point, corresponding to the further contents of the epistle, of the supreme power in reference to his kingdom, to be ascribed from Revelation 3:7, in unlimited universality, to the Lord; i.e., Christ expressly, and with visible results, attests his Davidic power of the keys in this, that he has opened a door before his faithful and steadfast church, through which a multitude of still unbelieving Jews are to enter. For the words ἰδού, ποιήσω αὐτοὺς ἵνα ἥξουσι, κ.τ.λ., Revelation 3:9, are in substance an exposition of ἰδού, δεδ. ἐν. σ. θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην, κ.τ.λ., as they state the actual, but yet future, consequence of an opportunity already given (δέδωκα, perf.). That Christ can say of himself δεδωκα and ποιήσω, depends upon the fact that it is he who has the key of David.

ἐνώπιόν σου. To be distinguished from σοι[1437] only in mode of contemplation, but not[1438] in substance. The Hebraic coloring of the formula[1439] corresponds well with the statement in this passage, and the style of the Apoc. in general.

The demonstrative αὐτήν, brought in after the relative ἣν, is also Hebraistic.

ὅτι. Incorrectly, Vitr.: “Even though.” Rather is that which immediately precedes based upon on ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν καὶ ἐτήρησας, κ.τ.λ. The “little strength,” viz., of the church, cannot be explained by the lack of miraculous gifts,[1440] but refers to the smallness. of the church,[1441] which must also be regarded in destitution when compared with the richer Jews.[1442] As now with the μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν, the καὶ ἐτήρησας is combined, these two members of the sentence externally united by the mere καὶ show themselves to have a definite inner relation: “and (yet) hast kept,” etc[1443] Concerning the subject itself, cf. Revelation 3:10; Revelation 2:3. The church, therefore, already had had opportunity, as the aor. forms ἐτήρησας and ἠρνήσω indicate, to confess the Lord’s name in opposition to unbelievers,—apparently Jews and heathen. Therefore, because (ὅτι) the church has done this, although of insignificant outward power, the Lord has given it an “open door,” the meaning of which is stated in Revelation 3:9. [See Note XXXVIII., p. 183.] Thus the idea is advanced, that the faithful, steadfast confession of the church, indicated especially in τὰ ἔργα, is the cause whose effect and reward, through the Lord’s disposing (δέδωκα, cf. διδῶ, ποιήσω, Revelation 3:9), is to be the conversion of a number of his enemies. Faithful confessing has itself opened the door, but of course only because the Lord had given believers power for testimony. Thus the clause ἰδού, δέδωκα, κ.τ.λ., stands upon the idea τὰ ἔργα, and the whole (Revelation 3:8) upon the designation of the Lord, Revelation 3:7.

[1426] Cf. the ὅτι, Revelation 3:1.

[1427] Bengel. Cf. also Ewald, De Wette.

[1428] Cf. Ebrard.

[1429] Cf. Revelation 3:1; Revelation 2:2.

[1430] Cf. Acts 14:27.

[1431] Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3.

[1432] Cf. Revelation 3:7.

[1433] Cf. also Heinr.

[1434] Bleek.

[1435] Cf. C. a Lap.

[1436] Cf. also Bengel.

[1437] Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3.

[1438] Vitr.

[1439] לְפָניןְ

[1440] N. de Lyra: “Because I have not given thee, like many other bishops of this time, the gift of miracles, I have recompensed thee with excellent knowledge of the Scriptures.”

[1441] Grot., Wetst., Eichh., De Wette, Ebrard,, etc.

[1442] Hengstenb.

[1443] De Wette, etc.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XXXVIII. Revelation 3:8. ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν

Plumptre: “The words point to something in the past history of the church of Philadelphia and its ruler, the nature of which we can only infer from them and from their context. Some storm of persecution had burst upon him, probably at Smyrna, instigated by the Jews, or the Judaizing section of the church. They sought to shut the door which he had found open, and would have kept so. They were strong, and he was weak; numbers were against him, and one whose faith was less real and living might have yielded to the pressure. But he, though not winning, like Antipas, the martyr’s crown, had yet displayed the courage of the confessor. Like the faithful servant in the parable, he had thus been faithful in a very little (Matthew 25:23); and therefore, as the promise that follows shows, he was to be ‘made ruler over many things.’ ”Revelation 3:8. οἶδάἔργα as in the case of Smyrna implying unqualified approval. The reward of this steadfastness (8 c, 10) is threefold: (a) security in their relation to God (8 b), through the love of Christ for them (9); (b) ultimate triumph over their foes (9), and (c) deliverance in the final crisis (10). The open door, here as in Paul (for the ethnic use of the term on sepulchres cf. C. B. P., ii. 395) is usually taken to denote facilities for preaching and advancing the faith among outsiders, in which case the sense would be that the extension of the gospel depends upon, as it forms a high reward of, open confession and a decided stand for Christ. But in view of a passage written by Ignatius to this very church (ad Philad. 3, where Christ himself is termed θύρα τοῦ πατρὸς, διʼ ἧς εἰσέρχονται the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, ͅκαὶ ἡ ἐκκλησία) and of Clem. Rom. xlviii. (where the gate of righteousness is described as open in Christ), the phrase is better connected with Christ himself, not with any good opening for Christian activity. He makes access to God through himself sure; despite trials and temptations (Revelation 3:8-10) his church’s standing is guaranteed by his authority (as in John 10:7; John 10:9, Christ ἡ θύρα τῶν προβάτων). θύρα here is the open heart of God for man; in Revelation 3:20, man’s open heart for God. Jesus, then, equipped with the O.T. attributes of divine authority, assures the church how futile are such excommunications as the Jews were levelling against them. The latter have nothing to do with the conditions of the kingdom. Faith in Jesus constitutes a relation to God which cannot either be impaired or rivalled. Only, the perseverance of the saints is needed; an assured position with God depends not merely on Christ’s will and power but on Christian loyalty as the coefficient of grace. The church at 2 Peter is not blamed for the slenderness of her equipment, which evidently is due to causes outside her control. She is praised for having made good use of the slight resources she possessed (cf. Mark 14:8). Otherwise, though less well, a full stop might be placed after αὐτήν, and ὅτιτὸ ὄνομα μου taken as the reason for the promise ἰδοὺσε, just as in Revelation 3:10 ὅτιμου is followed by κἀγὼγῆς.—αὐτήν, pleonastic use of pron. after relative, a Semitic idiom with Greek affinities (Vit. ii. 138, Thumb 128, Blass § 50, 4) confined to Apoc. (exc. cit. fr. LXX, Acts 15:17) in N.T. In Enoch (xxxviii. 2, and passim) to deny the Lord of Spirits is the capital crime,’ as opposed to “believing in his name’.

[904]. Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Revelation 2:13-16.8. an open door] Through which thou mayest enter into the Kingdom, into the house of David.

and no man can shut it] Probably the false Jews mentioned in the next verse denied the title of the Christians in Philadelphia to the privileges of brotherhood—whence we may suppose that they were mostly Gentiles. Christ answers, that He would grant what they refused.

for thou hast] Rather, that thou hast, depending on “I know thy works,” the intermediate words being parenthetical.

thou hast a little strength] Better, thou hast little strength and [yet] hast kept &c. The point is that his strength is not great, not that he has a little left in spite of the strain upon it.Verse 8. - I know thy works. Once more Christ's judgment is based upon intimate personal knowledge. A question arises whether the next sentence, introduced by "behold," should be parenthetical or not. It is possible, as in the Authorized Version and previous English versions, and also in the Vulgate, to avoid what is certainly an awkward parenthesis. On the other hand, it seems clear that in ver. 1 and ver. 15 ὅτι depends upon οῖδα, "I know thy works, that thou," and does not introduce a fresh sentence; "I know thy works: for thou." Then must not ὅτι depend upon οῖδα here? But either arrangement makes good sense, and perhaps the omission of the parenthesis makes the best sense: "Because thou hast little power, and hast made a good use of that little, I have given thee an opportunity of which none shall deprive thee." This seems to be the obvious meaning of the"opened door," in accordance with 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 14:27; Colossians 4:3. The Philadelphian Church, in spite of its small advantages, whether in numbers or prosperity, kept Christ's word when called upon to deny him; and for this it shall ever have the privilege of giving others an entrance into Christ's fold. The aorists, ἐτήρησας and ἠρνήσω, appear to point to some definite occasion. On "keep my word," see notes on Revelation 1:3 and Revelation 2:26. The antithetic parallelism, "didst keep and didst not deny," is thoroughly in St. John's style, and is one of many instances of the Hebrew cast of his language (comp. Revelation 2:13; John 1:3, 20; John 3:16; John 10:5, 18, etc.; 1 John 1:5, 6; 1 John 2:4, 10, 11, 27, 28). The ungrammatical repetition involved in η{ν οὐδεὶς δύναται κλεῖσαι αὐτήν recurs in Revelation 7:2; Revelation 13:12; Revelation 20:8. Such frequent solecisms argue imperfect grasp of the language (comp. Mark 7:25; Acts 15:17). I have set (δέδωκα)

Lit., I have given. For a similar phrase see Luke 12:51.

An open door (θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην)

Rev., more literally, a door opened. This is variously explained. Some refer it to the entrance into the joy of the Lord; others to the initiation into the meaning of scripture; others again to the opportunity for the mission-work of the Church. In this last sense the phrase is often used by Paul. See 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. Compare Acts 14:27. I have given is appropriate, since all opportunities of service are gifts of God. See on Revelation 2:7.

For thou hast (ὅτι ἔχεις)

Some texts make behold-shut parenthetical, and render ὅτι that, defining thy works, etc. So Rev.

A little strength (μικρὰν δύναμιν)

This would mean, thou hast some power, though small. Many, however, omit the indefinite article in translating, and render thou hast little strength; i.e., thou art poor in numbers and worldly resources. So Alford, Trench, and Dsterdieck.

And (καὶ)

John's single copula instead of a particle of logical connection. See on John 1:10; see on John 6:46; see on 1 John 1:5; see on John 8:20.

Hast kept my word (ἐτήρησάς μου τὸν λόγον)

Rev., rendering the aorist more strictly, didst keep. For the phrase, see John 17:6, John 17:8.

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