The Church of Philadelphia and the Parable of the Pearl Compared
by Larry Cockerham


The Church of Philadelphia and the Parable of the Pearl Compared

By Larry Cockerham

The Church at Philadelphia was characterized by great missionary and revival endeavors and covered the post-Reformation period from A.D. 1750 to approximately A.D. 1900. Phillips states "the phrase 'an open door' (3:8) epitomizes the period. It suggests the era of revivals and missions. Men like John and Charles Wesley, Moody and Finney, Carey, Livingston, Taylor, and Judson mark this period. God brought the church back to Himself and then thrust it forth to reach a lost world. The Lord in His sovereignty has set an "open door" before us as well. He tells us, "he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (3:7). The question is, will we take advantage of the opportunity?

Not only will we find opportunity, but there will also be opposition in the Christian experience. The Philadelphian believers faced hostility from those who were of the "synagogue of Satan" (3:9). These so-called "Jews" were actually being used of Satan but would one day be humbled before the "feet" of the true believers.

The believers are promised to be "kept from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world" (3:10), which many see as a reference to the great tribulation. Nothing in history up to this time has compared to what will take place during this period. Daniel 12:1b tells us, "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." Jesus said in Matthew 24:21-22 that, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."

The Parable of the Pearl (Matt. 13:45-46) represents the Church, and is one of those three groups mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:32: "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." The merchantman is Christ who gave His life at Calvary to purchase the "pearl of great price." Pentecost comments, "We observe (1) that the church, like the pearl, becomes the possession of the "merchantman," Christ, by purchase; (2) the church, like the pearl, is to be formulated by gradual accretion; (3) the church, like the pearl, can only become His adornment by being lifted out of the place in which it was formed." Thus we see that the sixth parable and epistle teach that the "pearl," the true church of the last days, has been given an "open door" of opportunity to witness to a lost and dying world before the Tribulation hour begins and the saints are caught up to be "forever with the Lord" for time and eternity.

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