To the Church at Philadelphia
The Church in Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven churches, and the name Philadelphia simply means “brotherly love”. Philadelphia was said to have been founded around 150 BC by the Greek king Attalus II who was known as “Philadelphos” because of the love he had for his brother King Eumenes II (the king of Lydia). The city was used as an outpost to guard a pass between the Hermus and Meander river valleys which protected Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. It also had very important roads that ran from Philadelphia to Pergamum, Sardis, and Smyrna which allowed it to become the trade hub of the area. The early language of Philadelphia was Lydian, but by the time of the Apostles it had changed to Greek. Philadelphia became a Roman province when the king of Pergamum bequeathed his kingdom over to Rome in 133 BC. Philadelphia did not have the natural defenses that other cities had so it fell constantly in battle throughout its history, and it was also located on a major fault line so earthquakes were a normal activity for the city. In 17 AD a major earthquake devastated the cities of Philadelphia and Sardis, and because of their destruction the Roman ruler Tiberius Caesar had to allocate large amounts of money to rebuild them. However, when Philadelphia was rebuilt it was given the new name of “Neocaesaria” which meant “The New City of Caesar”. Because of all the earthquakes, volcanic activity, and constant warfare the city of Philadelphia had a hard time existing and was a risky place to live. However, a major plus for Philadelphia was that it was located in an area of rich soil and became famous for its wine making. Finally Philadelphia was known for worshipping the Greek god of wine Dionysius, and the only temple in Philadelphia was dedicated to her.
As far as the spiritual side of Philadelphia, it served as a major thoroughfare for evangelists, which gave Christians access to pagan areas in the east, and it provided them with a huge mission field to work. An interesting point here is that five of the seven churches ceased to exist after the time of the Apostles, but Philadelphia was around until the 14th Century. Many have speculated that this was because the Church at Philadelphia was constantly evangelizing the area and they were blessed because of their work. However, with the rise of the Turkish Empire that would eventually encompass the city; Philadelphia was forced to become a standalone Christian city. Finally, the Seljuk Turks besieged Philadelphia and brutally killed every Christian within its walls. Philadelphia is now known as “Alasehir”, and today there is not much left of the original city because of all the calamities that it went through.
7) And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
8) 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.
9) Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10) Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11) Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12) Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
13) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Chapter 3 Verse 7
Unlike the other five letters to the churches, the letter to the Church of Philadelphia does not use any of the former descriptions that John used to describe Jesus in Chapter One. The description of Jesus here starts with “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true” so immediately we get a new insight into who Jesus is. The word holy means pure from carnality, morally blameless, and physically pure, and because of His holy sacrifice we are allowed to be whom we are in Christ. This is very humbling because none of us can say that there is ever anything good in us, and we are only who we are because of what Jesus did for us. However, when Jesus came to die he did not die so we could do whatever we wanted but that we could be made “Holy even as He is Holy”. Our Lord wants us to be different from the world and it says in 1 Peter 2:9 that “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. When we realize that our salvation and our lives are to show forth His praises it makes us accountable for everything we do or in some cases what we don’t do. Next Jesus says that He is the one that is true. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, and why is this important? Because he said in John 8:32 that “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set thee free”. Many people think knowing the Bible will set you free, and yes it is a component of that but Jesus said you shall know the “truth” and that he was “the truth” so the more we know Jesus, the freer we will become because we become one with Him. Another aspect of Jesus being “he that is true” is that we can always rest assured that what he tells us, he will do. This is such an amazing fact because once we surrender to Him we will never have to worry about our lives because they are in His more than capable hands. Next it says that Jesus has the “Key of David”, but what exactly is the “Key of David”?
The key of David is a reference to an incident involving Shebna in the book of Isaiah. Shebna was in charge of the palace of Hezekiah, however he was caught doing things that were for his own benefit so God removed him from his position and raised up Eliakim in take his place. In Isaiah 22:22 is says “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his (Eliakim) shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”. In other words, the entire kingdom of Hezekiah would be Eliakim’s responsibility from that day forth which meant that Eliakim would have the power to let people in or to lock them out. Even greater now is that fact that Jesus has the Key of David which means any door he closes cannot not be opened and any door he opens cannot be closed. Wow, to think that we serve a God who is Holy and True, and a God that goes before us to open and close doors for our benefit is POWERFUL stuff!!! This also tells us that Christ will open doors of opportunity for us to go and make disciples so we should always be on alert for doors that God is opening to us to minister!
Chapter 3 Verse 8
This verse starts out with “I know thy works”, and because they were living as they should Jesus did not rebuke them for anything. We should also always remember that Jesus knows everything about us so we should always be about our Father’s business for we all want to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” and not “…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 25:21 & Matthew 7:23). Next, he tells the Christians of Philadelphia that he has set before them an open door that no man can close and he does this because of their faithfulness. However, an interesting point is that the reason he is opening the door is mentioned afterwards. First it says that they had little power, and I do not believe this was a lack of spiritual power but a lack worldly and geopolitical power. This means they meant nothing to the citizens of Philadelphia nor to the Roman Empire. The Christians in Philadelphia were under constant attack by the Romans and the apostate Jews so they no say in anything, and they were hated by Jew and Roman alike. A great point for the Christians in Philadelphia was that their weakness was actually their biggest strength because in their weakness the strength of Jesus was made perfect. (2 Corinthians 12:9). Since they had to totally rely on Jesus then he could show his power by opening the doors of ministry for them. Sometimes we think closed doors are bad, but if we are following Christ then a closed door is just a prelude to a new door opening.
The next reason that Jesus was opening the doors for them was because they kept his word and held on to the teachings that were given to them by the messengers of Christ. Jesus told us that “… he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21) and that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). The final reason he opened doors for them was because they did not “deny” His name. Jesus said it clearly when he said that “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven”. You cannot get any more cut and dry than that, and there is no grey area that we can wiggle out of. So we can see that because they relied on Christ for strength, held on to the words of Jesus, and did not deny the Lord before men that the Lord kept his Word and made sure they were taken care of. Many people do not experience these open doors because they have not held up their end of the Covenant. God will not bless sin, so if we are not blessed then what are we doing wrong and what do we have to repent from?
Chapter 3 Verse 9
In verse 9 we once again we hear about the synagogue of Satan, which was first referenced in his letter to the Church at Smyrna. To refresh our memory the synagogue of Satan pointed to the Jews of the day that were “Hellenistic” Jews. This group opposed Jesus being the Savior and the Messiah. However, Paul said in Romans 2: 29 that “…he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”. This was a condemnation to all the Jews who considered “gentiles” as undeserving of forgiveness or that Gentiles could not have Jesus as their Messiah. The sacrifice of Christ was for all sin and not just for the Jews (1 John 2:2). The second part of this verse tells us that those of the synagogue of Satanic Jews would come and bow before their feet so that they would know that Jesus loved them. However, this does not mean that the fallen Jews would be worshipping the Christians, but that they would bow out of respect because the Born-Again Believers are now the true members of the family of God.
Chapter 3 Verse 10-12
Verse 10 begins the promise stage to the Church at Philadelphia. As always the promises of God are conditional on what we do, not on what God does. The first thing we see is that since the Church at Philadelphia have kept God’s command to endure, God will keep (guard) them from the hour of temptation that is coming to test the world. Keeping the Word means that they executed proper Bible doctrine, and did not allow themselves to be corrupted by the pagans of the time or by false teachers that Jesus said would come. Next we see that it does not say Jesus will take us “out” of the trouble that is coming, but that He will “guard” us from what the world is going to endure. I do not get into doctrinal wars over certain pieces of “dogma”, but I simply read what God’s Word says so you can take that verse however you would like.
In verse 11 Jesus tells us that he is coming quickly (thief in the night), so we should hold fast to what we have so no one can take away our crown. This verse though short has a HUGE impact on this Church. First, Christ reminds us that when he finally returns there will be NO chance for repentance. If we remember the parable of the wise and unwise virgins we will remember that when the unwise returned to the wedding after the Bride Groom had shut the door he said to them “Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:1-13). We should always be in the work of our Lord, and always be close to him so that when he does return we are ready at any given time. Next he tells them to hold “fast” to what they have. We have mentioned this many times, but once again “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13). We as believers are going to have to endure “something” until the end, so the question is what is the end? The reason we are to hold fast and endure is so that no one can take our crown, and these “crowns” are rewards for being faithful to Christ, and holding fast to His Words.
Verse 12 gives us the final rewards for being faithful to Jesus. First Jesus will make us a “pillar” in the temple of my God. Pillars can represent stability or permanence depending on how they are used. However, if you remember the history of Philadelphia they were constantly having to leave because of natural disasters and war so Christ could be telling us that this will be our final home which is in His temple because He says “they will go out no more”. Next Jesus says he will write the name of his God upon us, and the name of the holy city of His God, and finally Jesus will write on us HIS new name!!! Now do you understand HOW important you are to Jesus, and how what you do now affects you for all eternity?? This last statement completely reassures us that we will forever be His in the Kingdom he is preparing. While we have His name written on us, the unbelievers will forever have the mark of the beast written on them…
Once again he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to unto the Churches…
Grace to faith and faith to Grace, How I long to see your face
To feel the warmth of Your embrace, When I’m finished with this race
We’ll all come knocking at your door, Looking for Your love some more
And when you answer what we’ll see, Will melt our hearts eternally
Your smile builds a better me, It fills my soul and sets me free
I’m filled with joy of your goodwill, Your breathless bride is standing still
We all can’t wait to hear your speech, You take a seat and start to teach
I see a child in your hands, Representing all of man
You call your bride to gather round, For what was lost has now been found
I rush to get a closer look, And find my name is in your book
I find myself upon my knees, Soaked with tears for you are pleased
(Poem by Kenneth Booth)