The Letter to theChurch at Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13
The City of Philadelphia • It derived its name (brotherly love) from Attalus, king of Pergamum because of his loyalty to his brother Eumenes. • It was known for its it grapes and wine. The soils were perfect for growing due to the volcanic ash. • Though it had temples to many gods (it was known as “little Athens”), its chief deity was Dionysus, god of the vine or wine.
The City of Philadelphia • The city was the last postal stop in that region on the way to the east. • It was near the border of Lydia to the rugged region of Phrygia. • It is attributed with facilitating the spread of Grecian culture to the barbaric tribes of Phrygia. • “As a border city it viewed itself as an ‘open door’ from one culture and country to another” (Pugh).
The Speaker3:7 • “He who is holy” • “Holy” means to be sanctified or set apart. • Jesus is holy. This is in contrast to the many gods which are represented in the city. • He must be set apart in our lives; we must regard Him as holy above all else (Lev. 10:3). • “He who is true” • Dependable, genuine, real. • Faithful (1 John 1:9).
The Speaker3:7 • “He who has the key of David.” • Physically He is David’s son, heir to his throne. • Thus, spiritually, He has the authority of David as king in the kingdom of God. • Having the key, Jesus has the right or authority to open the door. • “He who opens and no one shuts, He who shuts and no one opens.” • Language is taken from Isa. 22:22. • Playing off of Philadelphia as an “open door”, Christ shows that He is the One who opens and shuts doors. • Having the authority He settles a manner and no one can change that.
What was Right with the Church • Vs. 8: “I know your works”: both their efforts and their difficulties. • “I have set before you an open door and no one shuts it.” • He is watching over us. • He opens doors for us: opportunities, work, blessings, etc. • As they have been faithful with great struggle, they can take comfort in knowing that the Lord has opened a door for them which no one can shut.
What was Right with the Church • “You have a little strength” • Not spiritual strength, but physical. • Poverty, few members, physical, etc. • “You have kept my word” • Regardless of physical weaknesses, it is still possible for congregations to be faithful to God. • We do not need physical strength to be faithful—though the denominations may not agree. • When we are weak then we are strong because we are forced to put all of our trust in Christ (2 Cor. 12:10).
What was Right with the Church • Vs. 8: “You have not denied My name.” • In spite of being weak physically, they showed spiritual strength. • In spite of the pressures all around them they did not deny Christ, but kept His word. • Vs. 10: “You have kept My commandment to persevere”: • “Endurance, patience, continuance” (Strong’s). • Such endurance is a command, not an option. • Their struggle was an ongoing one and they did not give up hope, but continued on.
Vindication against Enemies • Vs. 9: “The synagogue of Satan” • Reference also made in 2:9. • John 16:2: Claim to serve God, but in fact fight against Him; fighting for Satan. • Such were the Jews and Judaizers who persecuted those who were faithful to Christ. • “They say they are Jews and are not.” • True Jews (people of God) are Jews inwardly—living by faith, having their hearts pure, seeking to please God rather than men (Rom. 2:29).
Vindication against Enemies • Vs. 9: “I will make them worship before your feet.” • Not make the Christians as gods. • Rather, a humiliation of those who fight against God’s people (2 Thess. 1:6-8). • Their enemies will be humiliated while the faithful will be glorified. • This is seen in the following statement. • “They will know that I have loved you.” • When God’s people are glorified the world will know that God has loved them. • Those who persecute God’s people will have no choice but to give them honor for their true faithfulness to God.
Exhortation • Vs. 11: “Hold fast what you have” • Though physically they have little, spiritually they have much. • They are exhorted to hold fast, to continue on. • They have kept their faith and diligence, they must continue on in that manner. • Our faithfulness is what results in our crown in heaven. • We decide whether we give that crown away or hold fast.
Comfort Given • Vs. 10: Hour of testing coming, but Christ will protect them. • They have been passing the test of faithfulness over time. • Because of their continued faithfulness and endurance Jesus promises protection in the “hour of trial.” • Notice, divine protection is coupled with human exertion: i.e., “hold fast.” • When we are faithful we will have strength in Christ to meet all trials (Phil. 4:13).
Promised Reward • Vs. 12: “I will make Him a pillar in the temple of My God.” • Pillar represents strength, stability. • The church is the temple of God. Those who are faithful are firmly founded, having their place in the house of God. • As pillars, nothing can shake them: “He shall go out no more.”
Promised Reward • Vs. 12: Three names written upon him. • “The name of My God” • If we bear God’s name then we belong to Him (as opposed to destruction). • God’s seal will be upon our hearts (2 Tim. 2:19). • “The name of the city of My God” • If we belong to God then our home is in His city. • When we bear the name of that city then it is where we belong. • “My new name”: • Daniel-Belteshazzar: when taken by Nebuchadnezzar. • Abram-Abraham: When separated to God. • In like manner, we will receive our new name from Christ, to whom we belong.
Conclusion • Vs. 13: “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the seven churches.” • Do you have an ear to hear?