By: Nicole McLeod
The letter to the church at Philadelphia - Revelation 3:7-13 (ESV)
“The Faithful Church”
Rev. 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. 13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
This has been a rich and challenging study for all of us and I believe we are growing spiritually and personally through these powerful messages from Jesus to His beloved churches. They have been working in my heart, and I hope in yours too. And I am listening to (and responding to) these messages as though they were written just to me personally. I encourage you to do the same. Like these churches, we see ourselves from our own limited perspective, but God sees with His all knowing all seeing eyes of love and understanding. We want to hear what He has to say to us, don’t we? If not, please ask now for receptive ears to hear.
If I could visit any one of these seven churches, I’d pick this one, because Jesus was pleased with them! They loved God’s Word, and were “doers of the Word and not hearers only” as they put what they heard into practice in their lives. This brought them praise from Him They gave honor to Jesus Name, and impacted the world around them, because Jesus gave them an open door to do so. This small church lived out the life of Jesus faithfully in the midst of a city where dark opposition and hostile persecution came against their witness for Christ. And they must have been humble… because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, and we clearly see the grace of God upon this church. It is only by God’s grace that we can enter His kingdom in the first place, and only by grace can we stand strong, and maintain our witness to the world of “brotherly love”. It’s only by grace that believers persevere against opposition, remain faithful and true, and finish well! They weren’t a perfect church, nor were they perfect people (as there has never been any but Jesus), but He has words of praise and encouragement to hold fast for them, with glorious promises for their future. If we wish to learn from the example of this church, (and wish to avoid some of the personal and spiritual problems of the other churches), we should take to heart the words of Hebrews 4:12 and humbly come before our most Holy God in prayer, daily, to offer our lives afresh to Him and to His leading and guiding into His service, coming “unto His throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need, so that we too can walk in His Spirit of “Philadelphia” (brotherly love) and faithfully serve Him until He comes, or we go to be with Him."
Jesus said: John 13:35 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Historical notes: This church was situated in the commercial city of Philadelphia, founded by Attalus II, (nicknamed “Philadelphos” for his devotion to his brother). The word “Philadelphia” is used seven times in the NT referring to brotherly kindness and love, and is a mark of a true believer in Christ. The city itself was established as a center for spreading Hellenism (Greek language, culture and manners) throughout the Asian provinces, and was on an important trade route from Rome to the East. Philadelphia was an ideal location for an evangelically minded church, and a great place from which to reach the world for Christ. And this church was given an open door to do just that. The area suffered frequent earthquakes and In AD 17, an earthquake demolished the area, and this affected the churches Jesus wrote to, but by the end of the 1st century the city was rebuilt, and this church had established a loving and enduring testimony for Christ on the only sure foundation of His Word and His Holy Name.
I. Who wrote this letter is important to consider!!!!!
Rev. 3:7 To the Church in Philadelphia: 7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of The Holy One, The True One, Who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens."
These are “The words of The Holy One.” (Jesus.) This letter was written down by the Apostle John and sent to the minister (angel of the church). It was a holy message from the Lord, to be handled with reverence, and be read to the church. Whenever we open the Word of God we are in a sense standing on holy ground, and should listen with reverence, and thoughtfully and personally embrace its message, for the One who wrote it is Holy. Then, after we hear the Word, we should meditate on it to think about how to put it into practice so that we walk in newness of life, pursuing holiness and turning daily to Christ.
a. “The words of The Holy One”. Everything about Jesus is Holy, and He is the source of all holiness in our life. Holiness means set apart, and He is set above and apart from all other teachers, writers and prophets who have ever been. 1 Samuel 2:2 "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God." The Lord Jesus shares the holiness of God. When He was born, He was called “that Holy Child”. Consider this verse thoughtfully:
Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
b. The True One: Jesus is the true: (authentic), and the author of truth. (John 5:20 and John 17:3)) John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (And aren’t you glad that He loves us enough to tell us the truth!)
c. The One who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. The “key of David” establishes Him as the promised Messiah, (as well as the Holy and True God). The key is a symbol of Sovereign authority. He has the undisputed authority to admit or exclude from the kingdom of God and Heaven. He has opened a door of entrance into His kingdom to those who will believe and receive Him as Savior and Lord and someday that door will also shut. He is the One with the keys to unlock and open what no-one else can. He unlocked my closed heart using the gospel, and unlocked my dark mind using His scriptures. He opened the door of His church to me for fellowship and Bible study, and He unlocked closed countries where I got to visit as a missionary (countries which were formerly locked shut by governments.) He opens prison doors and sets captives free. He is the one we seek when doors are shut and when we are locked out we can pray to Him, for He can open them. And we trust His wise sovereign ways when doors of opportunity open and close. His ways are higher than ours and He has the government upon His shoulder," as the one who holds the keys to the kingdom and all the treasures of heaven. (cross ref. story in Isaiah 22:22).
II. What He said to them was important to consider!!!!!
Rev. 3:8 8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My Name."
a. "I know your works” The church at Philadelphia had served God faithfully in very difficult circumstances, and Jesus knew it well. He knows the works, labors and doings of all who are His and the difficulties they face, for they are in Him, and in Him they live and have their being. There is nothing secret from His all knowing eyes. He knows!
b. Behold “I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut.” Behold: (GR. Idou) When Jesus asks us to behold (see), we are asked to look intently, perceive with our senses and consider. Here He asks the church to see the “open door” He set before them. In Paul’s language, an “open door” was freedom to proclaim the gospel… and was a cause for prayer. In his letter to the Colossian church he wrote: (Col 4:3-4) “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
Example: On his 2nd missionary journey the Apostle Paul tried to go into Asia to preach the gospel but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit; (it was a shut door). Then he tried to go into Bithynia, but it was another shut door. But when he had a vision of a man from Macedonia, he learned that the Lord had opened a door for him into Europe, which changed the history of the whole Western world. (Later, the Lord did open the door for him to go to Ephesus, the capital of Asia. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 16:9 "A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me,")
When the Lord sets an open door in front of us it is an opportunity to do something that He would like us to do and He will empower us to do it. Sometimes, when doors open we feel inadequate or fearful, and that is because it is only by His power working in and through us that we can do it. We must pray (and wait) for His power and strength. We must not look to ourselves, or to earthly methods, or be frightened by the greatness of the task for the work is holy and He is Holy. As we continue in faith and prayer with Him, He will work in and through us. I believe Jesus is opening doors around us today. Look for them, pray and be open to His leading, and be faithful with whatever small or great thing God gives you to do for Him. Keep an open heart to His leading and guiding. Phil 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purposes.” He will show us as we pray and step out. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do.”
What doors of opportunity do you see before you? …or before your church? Here is a good question to ask the Lord in prayer: What is my part in Your plan to reach the world for Jesus Christ in this season of my life? Is there a door of opportunity or service you have for me that I am not seeing yet?
c. Jesus says: I know that you have but little power: (GR. mikros dunamis). Small "ability or capability.” This was likely a small church with limited resources, in a hostile city where the powers of wickedness and darkness were great and well funded. We too may think we have little strength against the forces in our culture, but remember that God is big even when we feel small. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, God said to the Apostle Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness. [So Paul’s response is,] “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak then I am strong.” Commentator: (quote) “Human weakness is no hindrance to the power of God; on the contrary . . . it provides the setting for the manifestation and the magnification of God’s power.”
d. (3:8). Jesus says, you have a little strength, “have kept my word, and have not denied my name.” May the Lord say of us, “You have kept my word.” They had preserved it’s meaning, received and believed it, and applied it to their lives. “And you have not denied my Name” (GR. Onuma- name) they did not deny Christ’s Name, under great pressure to do so. They proclaimed His Name, and all the majesty and excellence his name implies, the Name above all names which is holy, Hallowed be Thy Name! Throughout history men, women and children have suffered unthinkable torture and even death for the simple reason that they would not deny His Name, or compromise or recant under the great and terrible pressure to do so… “For they loved not their lives even unto death.” All around the world, there are many today attempting to keep believers from proclaiming the name of Jesus publicly. May God give to us all the grace and courage we need in our time, in our community and country to uphold the Name of Christ in our day, and pray fervently for those believers who are being persecuted today.
In what way today are you being pressured into denying Jesus Name? In what ways are you being told to abandon God’s Word? Do you feel persecuted? How are you responding (in love) standing firm?
These believers (in the city of “brotherly love”), faced persecution, exclusion, accusation, lies, threats, slander, torture, beatings, imprisonment and death from the unbelieving Jews in the local Synagogue. The Jewish community was hostile toward the Gentiles because they believed that the Gentiles were not God’s chosen people, and they were hostile to the converted Jews who had placed their faith in Christ. And Jesus who knows all assures this church that their accusers were not “true Jews” actually.
III. What He promised to them was amazing, and important!!!!
(Vs. 9) 9 “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.”
Jesus, said that this local synagogue was not led by God, but by Satan. Satan means "adversary.” They said they were Jews (because ethnically and legally they were), but He said they weren’t! And they were opposing the work of the gospel and the work of Christ… and this church. But the faith and faithfulness of these believers would be vindicated by the Lord Himself, and be rewarded.
a. Jesus says of these professing “Jews”, "9 Behold, I’ll make them come and bow down at your feet” That’s the picture of a humbled enemy, "and they will learn that I have loved you.” Their enemies, would bow and come to see the truth, that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He loves His church. I sincerely hope that salvation came to those Jews. Perhaps God graciously saved the very Jews that had been persecuting them through the witness and preaching of this faithful church. This picture Jesus gives is of “the Christian expectation of the ultimate triumph of Christ”. Keep that in mind when you look around and you see the hostile and vocal opponents of Christ in government, in media, in education, in positions of power of influence today. We need to pray that God will bring them also to repentance and to see and acknowledge that He is Lord. For we know that someday, as Romans 14:11-12 says: “11 for it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
(Vs. 10) Here in verse 10 Jesus gives this church another promise that is remarkable and is taken to apply universally to His church at large, the body of Christ.
a. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, (through the persecution, and the difficultly,) Perseverance, patient endurance, is especially needed in times of adversity and this is not easy. But no trial lasts forever, and we often-meet God more fully in those times and we must keep “fixing our eyes on Jesus!” ( ref. Heb. 12:1-3)
b. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I also will keep you from the hour of trial, that which is about to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” This is widely believed to be a reference to the worldwide trial described in Revelation chapters 6-9, called “The time of Jacob’s trouble.” This is called “The Great Tribulation” and is spoken of by Daniel, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and in the Book of Revelation. This is a great promise from a great God and great Deliverer who alone can deliver His people! Quote: “The final test that comes on the whole world will not be for the faithful.” This is a vast subject and of great importance, and there is much written on it to study, so I won’t delve into it here. Pastor Steve taught on this letter and gave an excellent teaching on this subject, and I recommend that podcast to you on calvaryag.org if would like more information.
(Vs. 11) Here in verse 11 is another promise that is also remarkable “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”
a. “I am coming soon” (Quickly, speedily, without delay,). The time we have to serve Him on earth is short, so work “while it is day because the night is coming when no man can work.” Expect Christ’s return. It is a hope that leads to holiness, and will be a time when all our longings for Him will be fulfilled. It’s a promise to comfort the church, to remind them that the reward is close at hand.
Are you ready? Are you in need of prayer today to get ready? Is there anything you need to get right with the Lord about? Has He been speaking to you about an area of your life that needs repentance? Now is the time and today is the best day to turn to Him and do it!
b. “Hold fast what you have”, (be continually holding fast!) Hold fast to Him and to all He has given to us in Christ. Rely on Him for persevering strength and wisdom and help. Hold fast to His promises and to the faith He has given us, the hope we have. He will get you through this day, this season, this trial …and whatever comes next week. Hold fast to what you have….
c. “So that no one may seize your crown”. (Speaking of heavenly rewards). Jesus encourages them to finish their course strong… As the times get harder and it is more difficult to be a Christian, we must be careful to guard that precious new life and love that is ours and remain faithful! Gal. 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
(Vs.12) “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” These are some amazing promises from a Holy God.
a. “The one who conquers, or overcomes, I’ll make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore.” Pillars in great temples were dedicated to people and this looks like a picture of stability and the promise of being forever with God in heaven!
b. “and I will write upon him the name of My God.” Sounds like the equivalent to ownership.
c. “and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven” Forever citizens with privileges to the Eternal City.
d. “And I will write on him My new name” What could that name be? We’ll have to wait and find out… When He died, the Father raised Him from the dead and gave Him a name that is above every name…
(Vs.13) Rev. 3:13 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Are we listening and are we hearing? This is a message for the ears of the church! Lord give us ears to hear and ears that are daily listening to God’s voice. It is a message for the heart that wants to know the will of God. We have so much to learn from each of the seven letters. I hope and pray we will read them many times prayerfully asking the Lord to help us understand and do the things He tells us and be ready for His coming.
Conclusion: Build your new life on the foundation on Christ, His Word and His Holy Name. Be praying to see clearly the open doors for ministry God gives, and persevere in the work He gives us to do great or small. Daily depend on His strength to do the work, keep loving the brethren, and listen to His Word, uphold His great and Holy name as it is the only name whereby we can be saved (Acts 4:12). And hold fast to Him, to His promises and to the hope we have in Him. Let’s walk in love and humility and take courage from the wonderful promise: “I am coming soon.”
May we continue to think about and pray about those things the Lord has shown to us and have courage to make needed corrections in our lives. He is such an amazingly gracious God.