The passage is taken from one of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches and is from His letter to the church at Philadelphia. The letter is about open and shut doors and, in it, Jesus gives His approval to the church.
But why does one need a key to an open door? When we consider a key as a symbol of authority, the passage takes on new meaning.
Philadelphia is significant because it had experienced many earthquakes. Therefore, many people lived outside the city, in huts and feared going into the city streets lest they be killed by falling masonry. Like many today fear coming into city, lest they be killed by flying bullets from drive-by shootings.
Back then, those who still dared to live in the city were reckoned mad; they spent their time shoring up the shaking buildings and every now and then, during the tremor, were seen fleeing to safe spaces.
The Church at Philadelphia was founded with the deliberate intention of being a missionary place of Greek culture and language to Lydia and Phrygia; and it did its work so well that by A.D. 19, the Lydians had forgotten their own language and were all but Greeks.
Three centuries before this letter, in A.D. 16, Philadelphia had been given an ‘open door’ to spread Greek ideas in the land beyond; and now in this letter comes another great missionary opportunity to carry Christ’s gospel and His love to men who never knew Him.
The door of opportunity is much like that; always open for one to enter. It stands unguarded, yet many linger at its entrance, scared to enter, even though no key is needed.
On the other hand, there are others who come boldly and fearlessly enter. The fearless Christian knows Christ is the key to the ‘open door,’ but even today Christ remains a mystery to many. Though He is open to and for all, many still walk through the wrong doors. Just because it is an ‘open door,’ entering without Christ (the key), makes it the wrong door that leads us to nowhere.
Christ holds the key to ‘the open door.’ He is the key of David, “Who opens and no man will shut, who shuts and no man opens.” Christ is the final authority.
This is the picture painted by the Apostle John, the writer of Revelation. It is Jesus alone who has the authority to admit people into New Jerusalem, which is to be a new city of David.
Christ, as the key, is not found in our church doctrines, or our skin color, or religious culture; and He is certainly not found in the form of church or state government.
Christ’s approval comes from our maintaining His teaching, keeping God’s Word and commands, all while spreading the gospel of good news to the poor; building a multicultural church, a blended community of faith-filled believers that Jesus will be glad to claim upon His return to earth.
The Rev. R. Joaquin Willis, D. Min., is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org