To the Church in Philadelphia
- Philadelphia was thirty miles east of Sardis and located on a major trade route to the rest of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Of the seven cities addressed in Revelation, Philadelphia was the youngest.
- The city was founded in 189 B.C. and received its name from an early ruler’s loyalty and devotion to his deceased brother, earning him the name Philadelphus (“lover of his brother”)
- Just as in the earlier letter to Smyrna, the Christians in Philadelphia receive no words of rebuke from Jesus. It is interesting that the two churches that escaped Christ’s condemnation were both under a severe threat from Jewish persecution. Both churches also lacked important resources yet each held firm to its confession.
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.
- The Holy One = Only God is Holy in the proper sense – who shares his holiness with the angel of the church / the pastor — even us.
- Isaiah likes referring to God as the Holy One – Isa 1:4; Isa 40:25; Isa 43:15
- How do we get holy? God holies us by being baptized into Jesus, being one with Jesus – by being flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone with Jesus through the Holy Supper.
- ‘And the true one’ – I am the way, the truth…” — Pilate asking ‘What is truth?’ and Jesus standing there looking at him “Hello?”
- Key of David – Isa 22:22 = see Rev 1:18 at the commissioning of John. The keys of death and hades = victory.
- Jesus identifies himself as the one who now holds the “key of David” with absolute authority. The point of this identification is that Jesus holds the power over salvation and judgment and holds all authority to determine who enters the kingdom of God. In David’s time, the holder of the key had authority to grant or deny access to the royal palace.
- Jesus claims to have absolute authority to grant or deny admittance into the New Jerusalem.
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.
- Again, Jesus knows the works of the individual local congregations.
- The concept of the Open Door – Jesus opens heaven to these people.
- ‘Little power’ – is probably a numerically small but faithful minority – but with that little power, they remained faithful and did not deny Jesus.
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.
- Here Jesus makes the same division that Paul makes in Galatians and Romans. Not all Israel is Israel.
- What defines Israel is faith – what defines a son is faith. But the Jews here are liars. If the Jews were to tell the truth, they would confess Jesus, who is truth.
- ‘and they will learn that I have loved you’ – This is the scandal of particularity. This is not a literal rounding up of the Jews, to bow before the Christians, but it is a “don’t worry” moment.
- They have you outnumbered, they are persecuting you, they claim to be Jews and they claim that you, the church, are apostate heretics – but you are not.
- I love you and not them. You will win and they will lose.
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
- ‘Patient endurance’ = Faith under pressure / trial. The trials will intensify
- This is the great anti rapture verse. This verse is not about exemption from trials but protection from within the trial. In fact, the notion that Christians should be removed from trials, tribulations, and persecution would be completely foreign to the authors of Scripture.
- The Bible is clear that the saints will go through the great tribulation as seen in Rev 7 – “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
- The primary issue at stake is not physical harm but spiritual harm, which has always been and always will be the greatest threat to the people of God.
11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
- The Lord’s continual promise to come soon. However this time it is not in a threatening way – but a positive encouragement.
- Hold fast – perseverance – do not give up.
- What you have – we saw this earlier – they have his word and his name.
- Who can seize my crown? What is Jesus warning of? If it is impossible, why is Jesus wasting his breath?
12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
- The one who conquers – now we see a promise. To be made a pillar, the promise is that they not only are allowed into God’s house, but metaphorically become a part of God’s house – which is a position of permanence. You are in forever – you are finally home for the first time.
- This is what happens in baptism as God places his name on us.
- Pay attention to the remainder of this description. The names.
- Jesus promises those who overcome that they will receive three names: the name of God, the name of the City of God, and Jesus’ new name.
- The city of my God – the New Jerusalem. Where does the city come from? Sent down by God from Heaven.
- Who has the new name? Jesus has a new name.
13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
- The standard closing.
- But realize this – Jesus will preserve his church and will present his bride to his Father at the end of the age.