This is the seventh part in the Bible study series: The Churches of Revelation. God’s inspired words to the congregation at Philadelphia are an uplifting message of hope and encouragement. Unlike the other letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, correction is not to be found. But there is an admonition — to continue what they were already doing. Christ promised them great rewards for their faithful perseverance. Join us a we study the church in Philadelphia for timeless instruction for us today.
[Steve Myers] Well, good evening everyone. Welcome to our mid-week Bible studies. Good to have you here with us, right here in the room, in Cincinnati. Welcome to those of you joining us on the web as well.
Tonight, we’re going to be continuing our series on the churches in Revelation. We’re getting near the end, we’re down to the church at Philadelphia, is the topic for tonight. And then, our last in the series will be two weeks from tonight, where we’ll close out with the church in Laodicea. So we’re going to be wrapping up this series in two weeks, so we hope you’ll join us for that last study as well.
But before we begin, let’s ask God’s blessing on our Bible study night. If you’d like to stand and we’ll bow our heads, and ask God’s blessing. Good, loving Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your wonderful ways, Your truth, Your love, Your mercy. Thanks for Your Word. We are so blessed Father, to be able to have Your Word in front of us, to be able to open it up and study it whenever we want. What a wonderful blessing that is. And so Father, we just ask for Your presence tonight, as we do that very thing.
We open up Your Word and look at the inspiration that You have there for us. So we pray for Your inspiration, we pray for Your guidance, we pray for Your direction in our lives, Father, so that the things that we hear, we can come to a deeper understanding, not just that we can know it but that we’ll be able to apply it in our lives and become more like You and our elder brother Jesus Christ. So we thank you for the study, we pray for Your guidance and presence, and we pray and ask all of this, by the authority of our Savior, Your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, tonight’s study is on the church in Philadelphia. We’ve got this beautiful map behind me. Philadelphia was on that mail route from Rome. You can see how it came down through Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis. Philadelphia was a major stop on that road, where the mail, the imperial post road is what they called it, the mail route is an easier way to think of it, the mail route from Rome, a direct access there. It became a very important city.
We can probably take most of this time during the study to give you a lot of background on the city but I decided not to do that. Rather than do that, I thought that it might be a little more helpful to jump more straightway into the Bible itself and talk about the message to the church in Philadelphia.
Now, it was an interesting spot, maybe just a tiny, little bit of background. It was founded by one of the rulers I guess you could say, someone who was in charge, his name was Attalus, Attalus. And the reason it became known as Philadelphia was because of this guy named Attalus, this was like 150 BC or so. And you’d never guess how he felt about his brother. He loved his brother, in fact, he had a nickname, brother lover. And so, that’s the name Philadelphia, to love your brother. And so, it’s the city of brotherly love, not much unlike Philadelphia in the United States, which is supposed to be the city of brotherly love, as well. That’s what the name means.
And so, that’s where this particular city got its name from, as well. Of course, if you look in history, it had a whole lot of bunch of other names as well, Decapolis and others, but we won’t get into that tonight. But it is interesting that this particular founder was a lover of his brother. He loved his brother and became known as that. The other thing that’s significant for Philadelphia is it was in an area that experienced a lot of earthquakes. In fact, this whole region had a history of that. And that becomes important when we consider the letter to the church there, and we’ll see how that fits in as we get a little bit further on in our studies, so keep that in the back of your mind for just a little bit.
But let’s go to this letter to Philadelphia, it’s in Revelation 3:7 Revelation 3:7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;
American King James Version×is where that letter begins. And it says, “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write.” So this is to the messenger, not necessarily a spiritual angel as you might think but most likely to the pastor, to the leader of that congregation, to the messenger of that congregation. And he’s taking note, this is what is written to him. Notice who is doing the writing. Like all the other letters, there are connections here, whether we read here, 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.” Well, who is writing the letter? Well Jesus Christ is writing that letter. We go all the way back to 2:1.
Here, we have the same thing, beginning in verse 1, “These things say He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands.” It’s talking about Christ. We go down to the next letter. When we go down to Smyrna, verse 8, “These things says the First and the Last, He who was dead and came to life,” that’s Jesus Christ. So as you look at every single church, the letter is written from Jesus Christ, every one of them, so this one is no different. Back to Revelation 3:7 Revelation 3:7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;
American King James Version×, Christ Himself is writing this. And we see oftentimes, even here in the book of Revelation, He who is holy and true, is what’s significant about this particular letter and the attributes that Christ has, described as His holiness, He who is holy.
You can’t help but think of those different passages throughout the Bible that He is holy and we are called to holiness as well. “You should be holy because I am holy.” I think that’s back in the book of Leviticus that it talks about that, God even called the Holy One of Israel. That is also referring to Jesus Christ. Because ultimately, who is the source of holiness? Well, it can’t be anyone else than God and His Son Jesus Christ. And so, God is Holy, He is true. It’s a foundational characteristic of God that He has to be truth. He is truth, He is all that is good and right and holy. God cannot lie. And so, it goes right to the very heart and core of who God the Father and Jesus Christ are. And it begins like that. It can only refer in this case to Jesus Christ. And we see that throughout the other letters as well. So this letter to Philadelphia doesn’t start too much different than the other letters started. But pretty quickly, it gives us some more information. It also tells us here in verse 7, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no on opens.” Now, why would it describe Christ in that manner? Why would it describe Christ as, “He who has the key of David?” What is the key of David all about?
Well, we can try to turn to all kinds of other passages in the Bible that refer to the key of David, but guess what? There’s only one other one that really zeroes in on this key of David, and it’s back in the Book of Isaiah. So let’s go back to Isaiah for just a moment, to get a little bit more information about this concept of the key of David. What is that referring to and why is Christ described as the One who has this particular key? And maybe as we’re turning over to Isaiah 2, I could pose a dumb question for the moment, dumb question of the evening, “What does the key do?”
Has anybody got a key in their pocket? Okay, it does something with a lock, right? A key opens things, it opens a lock. Maybe you’ve got a master key, you’ve got a padlock, maybe on your shed out in the back or you’ve probably got a lock on your house that you have to unlock the door to come in, or your car, those kinds of things. So a key unlocks something. I think that’s an important principle to keep in mind, as I try to stop talking and turn over to Isaiah 22.
But a key’s going to open…and in fact, think of it this way as well. There’s another aspect to a key. If you take something is a key or this is a key principle, or a key concept, what comes to mind when you think about it, in those terms, this is a key. Well, it not only unlocks something, but it gets you in where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to go. If it’s a key, it can also mean this is significant, this is important, this is fundamental, this is necessary. There’s no other way without this key.
And so, I think both of those concepts come to mind and are applicable when you think of this key of David. So in Isaiah 22, look at verse 15. This is talking about a steward who worked for the king. And this particular steward’s name was Shebna. And so, in verse 15, God says to go to the steward Shebna who is over the house. Shebna was a steward for the king. The steward was the one that basically, well, what would we call it today, maybe he’s like the press secretary? He’s the one that controls access to the president, in this case, to the king. Shebna it says, in verse 15, is over the house, he organizes all these things. Verse 16, what does God say to him? “What have you here and whom have you here, that you’ve hewn a sepulchre here, as he who hews himself a sepulchre on high, who carves a tomb for himself in a rock.” This Shebna is bringing glory to himself. So, they’re building the king’s tomb as something in honor to him. Who is he building this for? Himself, himself. So God says to him, verse 17, “Indeed, the Lord will throw you away violently oh mighty man and will surely seize you.”
So Shebna is out of line, misusing his authority, misusing all of those things that a steward would do, as he helps control the activities of the king. Verse 20 then, let’s jump down to verse 20. And verse 20, it says, “Then it shall be in that day, I’ll call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah.” It says, “I will clothe him in your robe and strengthen him in your belt. I’ll commit your responsibility into his hand.” So, Shebna’s out, who’s in? Now, we’ve got Eliakim. Eliakim is in, Shebna’s out. Well, what are Eliakim’s duties now? Well, it says, in the middle of verse 21, “I will commit your responsibility, Shebna, into his hands. He’ll be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David, I will lay on his shoulder. So he shall open and no one will shut. And he shall shut and no one shall open. I’ll fasten him as a peg in a secure place and he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.” And keys in ancient times were no different that keys today. They opened gates, they opened access. The steward would have given access to the king. He would set his schedule, he would help him with all of these various things. So when he opened something, people could have access. And so, it was no different.
So here we see an important aspect of what this key of David is all about, it’s about access. It’s about gaining entry, it’s having the right to see the king, the right of entry. And in that sense, this key of David implies this kind of a scenario where Shebna is replaced by a godly individual, it seems, Eliakim. And it’s also interesting, in these times, he was a man of honor, he was a man of responsibility, he was a man who was faithful. And he took those responsibilities to heart. And one of the interesting things, if you read about what a steward did in these ancient times, and how they handled their responsibilities and even the clothing that they wore, you could walk into a room and you could pick out who the steward of the king was by looking at their clothing. If you came into a military room, you could probably pick out who is in charge by what they wore, “Oh, that guy has got a lot of stars, he must be in charge.” You could recognize those kinds of things. And it really wasn’t much different in ancient times. If you read some of the backgrounds to those responsibilities of the steward, one of the things that’s seen in the outfits that they wore, that there actually was a key that was embroidered on their garment. So you could walk into a room, see that key that was embroidered on their robe, and say, “There is the steward, there’s the man that’s in charge.” It was right there on their shoulder, very obvious to everyone.
And so, this connection seems to have some importance when you think about this key of David. Because He says here, “I’ll lay on his shoulder the key of the house of David.” Well, there’s this embroidered key that signifies the responsibility that the steward had. Also interesting, if you think about other passages in the book of Isaiah that relate to that as well, when it came to Jesus Christ are the connections to replacing man’s government and a righteous government will take its place. We know that’s going to happen at Christ’s return. And Christ will be that righteous ruler. He will be, in a sense, like Eliakim, that He is going to replace all of the rulers that had gone before Him that had been unrighteous, and He will have…well, not just an embroidered key on His shoulder, what will be on His shoulder? The government shall be upon His shoulder. And so here we see, there are some interesting connections between this key and the right of access, the right of entry. In fact, another aspect of this particular key is the authority that went along with it, the authority that who had this key, this embroidery on their shoulder, had the authority to gain, to give access to the king.
And so, here we have that representation for Eliakim and also that connection to Christ in Revelation, chapter 3, where Christ is giving access, the access, in a sense, to the kingdom, the access, in a sense that this key was also given, it’s the key of who? The key of David. Christ gave this key to David, so in a sense it belongs to David in that sense. And so, this key of David connects to the authority that goes along with it, and that authority hat was given by Jesus Christ. And of course, the tie-in can’t be denied as well, when you think about access, you think about the way that it ties in to the authority. It also ties in to the fact of government, it ties in to government. The key of David has to tie in to government because of the way that the steward was connected to the king, which was connected to the way the whole kingdom ran.
I mentioned a little bit in Isaiah before but if you turn over to Isaiah 9, we’ll see how the government ties in with this key that’s on the shoulder and this concept of authority, and, well, in his case, righteous government. Look at Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
American King James Version×. You know this passage, it says, “For onto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder,” much like the key embroidered on Eliakim’s shoulder. We’re talking about a righteous king, Jesus Christ with the government on his shoulder, “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And the increase of his government, He says, there will be no end.
And so, we see this righteous government, is what’s described by this key of David, the key of David that opens and no one can shut. And so, the government is an important aspect of this key as well. Of course, we also recognize that there was some connection in, especially in Eliakim’s case, to the king himself, to the rulership, to what you could call the scepter as well. The scepter was that little baton-like thing that the king would hold that represented his authority, his rulership, and it was an emblem of that rulership. And so, there was also a connection there, as well, that this scepter, this concept of government also tied in with the kings that would rule until the time of Christ, as well.
And so, there’s a connection to rulership when it comes to the key of David but is the key of David all about that? Is it only about, well, someone would sit on the throne of David for all time? “It will never lack for someone to sit on that throne.” That’s a quote from Jeremiah 33. Well, certainly, that ties in, there is a prophetic understanding that there is the house of David that won’t lack for someone to sit on that throne until Christ returns. But that’s not the only meaning for this kingdom, the key of David, can’t be, it can’t be. There are so many factors that are involved in that.
To only say it has to do with a physical promise I think would be lacking in our understanding of what that’s all about because we see it’s got to do with the right of entry or access. It’s got to do with authority, it’s got to do with the scepter, the rulership, the government. And as you put all those various things together, when you talk about what is it that gives us access to Christ, what is it that gives us the authority of God, what is it that gives us the key in order to be a part of the Kingdom of God forever? Christ in Revelation 3 describes Himself as having the key of David. How does it all fit together? I think there’s an interesting passage that points us in that direction. Over in Romans 8, if you turn over to Romans chapter 8, I think it gives us a little bit of direction about this key to help frame exactly what Christ is referring to as we put all of these various factors together.
Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×, He says, “You’re not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed, the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Can you gain access to Jesus Christ without God’s Holy Spirit? Pretty tough. Can you be a part of the Kingdom of God without God’s Holy Spirit? It seems the key points to the Spirit of God that is the authority given by Christ, that is directing us to the government of God, through God the Father, in Jesus Christ that guides us and leads us in that direction. Because we know even in Zechariah, it says, “Not by might, not by power, but…” by knowing who the inheritors of the king of David is? Is that what is the key, ultimately? No? You can know that and not have any part of God. No, it’s you’ve got to have God’s Spirit, you’d better have God’s Holy Spirit working in you because it’s “’not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord God of hosts.” That’s in Zechariah 4:6 Zechariah 4:6Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said the LORD of hosts.
American King James Version×. It’s certainly a reminder of that. And throughout the New Testament, Christ even describes Himself as being the door and the key to walking through that door is accessing God by His Holy Spirit. So it’s something that we don’t want to misplace or we don’t want to lose it or forget it or put it somewhere and neglect it or with our electronic keys we don’t want to erase them. It’s the only way to unlock the door to the Kingdom of God.
So as we look back, let’s see how that fits with Revelation 3, as we think about all those various aspects. I think we see, like an Eliakim who could open the gate to have access to the king, we see that Jesus Christ has that key to open access to the Kingdom of God. And so it says in verse 7, “He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens, no one shuts, shut and no one opens.” He, Christ can open and close the Kingdom to who He will. He is in charge, and the only way we’re getting in is by access through Jesus Christ. It’s the only way. In fact, as we go on from there, let’s notice, verse 8. He says, “I know your works, see, I’ve set before you, an open door. No one can shut it.” Now, was that referring to the same door or is that a different door that they might be talking about? He just kept on saying, “He who opens and no one shuts and shuts and no one opens,” seems to be pointing to his Kingdom but then there’s this other door He says, “I’ve set before you an open door, no one can shut it.” What is this open door that is before this church in Philadelphia?
Well, there’s a passage in 2 Corinthians 2 that I think ties in, at least gives us an idea of what He is referring to here. If you turn over there, 2 Corinthians 12, we have the example of the apostle Paul. And in this particular example, He uses this same concept of an open door to describe something. Let’s notice the way that Paul refers to it here, 2 Corinthians 2:12 2 Corinthians 2:12Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me of the Lord,
American King James Version×. Here, he’s describing one of his journeys. As he was on his journey preaching, teaching, he describes it here to the Corinthians, as he says, of 2 Corinthians 2:12 2 Corinthians 2:12Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me of the Lord,
American King James Version×, he says, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel,” and he says, “a door was opened to me by the Lord.” And he said, “I had no rest in my spirit because I didn’t find Titus, my brother, but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.” Or sometimes this is called the Macedonian Call; you can read about it in Acts 16 as well.
We see that this open door was a door open to what? Well, in this case it’s not directly to the Kingdom of God. This door is open so that he could preach, and he could teach, and he could bring the gospel to Europe. And so, he could go to Macedonia, and so this open door seems to point to the fact there is an open door of being able to preach the gospel that is set before the Philadelphia church. He said, “I’ve set before you an open door, no one can shut it.” And Paul referred to that door here, so it seems that that is certainly an aspect of what’s being referred to in Revelation 3, that there’s this open door before the church, the church with the opportunity to preach the gospel.
I don’t know that it’s limited to that, because it seems that it also involves not only an open door for preaching and teaching, that’s certainly an aspect, but also on a personal level that we can grow in our understanding. We can understand God’s plan and His purpose. And so, there seems to be a two-fold aspect to this open door of preaching the gospel, not only collectively as the Church, but also on an individual basis, the gospel is preached and impacts people’s lives.
I’m trying to think of where that passage is, there’s a passage that also talks about that, that ties those things together. Oh, I’m thinking of Matthew 24, where it talks about, “Go ye therefore into the world. This gospel will be preached to the world as a witness” in chapter 24 and verse 14 (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×). It describes that very thing, that there is this open door before the church in Philadelphia but it’s not also just relegated to those things as well. There’s another example in Acts 14 that ties in, if we interpret the Bible, Acts 14:27 Acts 14:27And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
American King James Version×describes another open door. Let’s see if this ties in to Revelation 3.
Acts 14:27 Acts 14:27And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
American King James Version×, in Acts 14:27 Acts 14:27And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
American King James Version×, we’ll see how this door was opened. It said, “They had come, gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the gentiles.” So they stayed there a long time with the disciples. So there was also this open door for the preaching of the Word. God had opened the door not just for the Jews, but also to those who weren’t Jewish. The gentiles had a door of faith opened to them. Is the preaching of the Word of God today strictly for just one race? Of course not. Of course not, it’s to all those who God may call.
And so, there is a door before the Philadelphia church, an open door that no one can shut, an open door to everyone, to everyone. And so, that open door is wide open in other words, that even those that aren’t of a particular heritage have an opportunity if God’s calling them to go into the house of God, to be a part of His people, to be a part of His Church, His family, not only physically but also ultimately spiritually. So it’s interesting to think about it in this way, maybe on a more personal level. God’s given the Church collectively a job to do, to preach the gospel. But have you ever thought of it on a personal level? Are there any doors that God has opened for you? When you think about it, opportunities to be that example in front of others’ eyes, other opportunities that God has given an open door to me, to you? Has God put an open door in your life? Something interesting to think about.
It’s also interesting as we go on a little bit further in verse 8, this open door, preaching the gospel, open door to all that God would call, open door to the Kingdom of God when Christ opens that door, He says, “No one can shut it. No one can take it from us.” When Christ opens that door, it is open, because He has authority to have that door open. We know it’s not because we’re so great and we’re so strong and we’re so mighty, because right after this, what does He say? If you go back to Revelation 3, notice the middle of verse 8. He says, “You have a little strength. You’ve kept My Word and not denied My name.” So, it wasn’t by their strength. In fact, as we read through this little section here, there’s a couple of different traits of this Philadelphia church that he mentions. The first one here is “a little strength.” Now, if you think about that, why would it be a good thing to have just a little bit of strength? If you go to the gym and you pump some iron, you’re going to be happy with just a little bit of strength? “No, I want to get those big weights, I want the mega-lift, that’s what I want.” Right? But why would a little strength in the description of the Philadelphia church, why would that be a good thing? That a little strength is a positive characteristic that…well, what kind of strength is he talking about? Talking about political strength?
Well, that would probably be true, financial strength? Maybe. Numerically, were they just small in numbers, was that what it was describing? Maybe comparing it to other aspects of the guilds or other organizations that would have been around during those days, are they talking about that kind of strength? Well, it doesn’t really say. It doesn’t really tell us. But is there anywhere in Scripture maybe that gives us maybe a little bit better concept of what maybe the important aspect of this little bit of strength might be referring to, and why that would be a good thing? Well, hopefully, you remember that passage, you might not remember chapter and verse, but it’s back in 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:9And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
American King James Version×, 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:9And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
American King James Version×. Here, the apostle Paul is describing his power and his strength in the midst of his physical disabilities, I guess you could say, 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:9And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
American King James Version×. He had petitioned God for healing. What did God tell him? 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:9And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
American King James Version×, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s strength was made perfect in weakness. So, if you think about that, in terms of Revelation 3, well, no wonder a lack of strength, or just a little strength is considered a good characteristic, because evidently, the Philadelphia church is reliant on the strength of God, and that’s a very good thing.
So, a little strength is a good thing, so that’s the first characteristic. Let’s go back to Revelation 3. Second trait that’s listed here for the Philadelphia church, they have a little strength, a little…in fact that strength word is the word where we get our word dynamite from, we have a little dunamis, we have a little bit of power, we have a little bit of strength. But we’re relying on God for His power, and His authority, and His strength.
Now, the next thing it mentions back in Revelation 3:8 Revelation 3:8I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.
American King James Version×, He says, “Not only do you have a little strength, but you’ve kept My Word.” A little strength and keeping the Word, the Word of God, they were keeping it. We know Christ often warned about that, that people could say, “Lord, Lord,” you know, “I should get in the Kingdom. I should be a part of things. Haven’t we prophesied in Your name? Haven’t we done all these great things? We cast out demons, we did all these wonders in Your name. We had all these mighty works, things that looked pretty good.” But what did Christ say to them? He said, “I never knew you. I never knew you.” Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×, “I never knew you.” And I think that relates to keeping His Word. Why do we do the things that we do? Are we obedient to God? Christ’s words are very important. Have we kept His Word? Second trait that was listed there.
Going on in verse 8, “They had a little strength, they kept My Word.” Thirdly, “they haven’t denied My name. They haven’t denied My name.” We know that Christ also talked about that in Matthew 10:32 Matthew 10:32Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×, where He said, “Who confesses Me before men, I will confess before My Father who is in Heaven.” That’s not just talking about words and talking, that’s talking about being a doer of the Word. “You haven’t denied My name because you’ve acted like you’re a part of the family.” We carry the name of Christ, we claim to be Christian. We carry His name. Does that standard describe the kind of people that we are? If we’re not that kind of person, then we have denied His name. And so, no wonder that’s an important characteristic for those that would claim to be a part of Philadelphia. They have not denied the name of Jesus Christ. So we are a part of the family, we strive to live by that, we keep His Word and we rely on the power that comes from God. That’s what Philadelphia does. In fact, when we go on to verse 9, verse 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.”
As you read through this section, you might think, “Well, were there Jews that were persecuting the church in Philadelphia and was that a problem there?” Some seem to think that that could be an issue, but it doesn’t seem to explain everything that He’s talking about in this particular scenario. “Those that say they’re Jews and are not,” so, they’re non-believers. But what are they saying about themselves? Well, it says they’re of the synagogue of Satan, obviously, they’re not true Christians. They look like they fit in, they say they’re Jews, but they’re not, and then He says, “I’m going to come and make them come and worship before your feet.” So, what is He getting at when we think of it in those terms?
Well, I think first of all, why would being a Jew, “They say they’re Jews, and they’re not,” why would that be important? We’re not Jewish, but we are in one sense, aren’t we? In the spiritual sense, we are. In Romans…well, maybe we should turn over there. Romans 2, let’s see how Romans 2:28 Romans 2:28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
American King James Version×fits in. I think to how Christ is describing these individuals. Romans 2, notice verse 28, Romans chapter 2:28, it says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly. And circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from man, but from God.”
That gives us some insight, I think, to what Revelations 3 is talking about here. Here are these individuals who are claiming to be spiritual, they’re claiming to be a part of the truth, they’re claiming to be righteous individuals, but they belong to the wrong church. They’re actually of the synagogue of Satan it says. They’re trying to look like true, godly Christians, but they’re not. And so as you consider that, they’re claiming to be spiritual Jews, “They say they’re Jews, but in reality, they are not.” Of course, that almost sounds like the things that Christ said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord? You don’t do the things that I say.” And so, what’s going to happen to them? Go back to Revelation 3, “They say they’re true Christians, maybe even outwardly they might appear that way, but they lie.” He says, “Indeed, I’ll make them come worship before your feet and to know that I have loved you.” Especially in ancient times, kneeling down before someone…well, even today, showing honor, showing respect, a symbol of recognizing their authority as well. You could look through so many different prophecies throughout the book of Isaiah that talk about this very thing as well, that God is going to bring those who afflicted God’s people before them and make them bow down.
There is great example of that in Isaiah 60, I might look that up later. That describes that very thing. So here we’re flashing forward in time to a time when those who claim to be true are shown to be false. “They say they’re Jews, and they are not.” They are not spiritual Jews at all. And so, ultimately, God’s going to make them bow down. So imagine, God’s going to make it very clear who He’s pleased with, very clear about those who He has loved. He says, “I’ll make them know that I have loved you.”
It’s interesting how He ties that in to these amazing characteristics of these people that He’s referring to here in verse 9. Let’s notice it in verse 10, He says, “Because you’ve kept My command to persevere,” and He’s going to bring these people to come and worship before them, why? Well He says first off, one of the reasons why here, is because they persevered. And I think that’s an important aspect of these people. They’ve persevered, they have continued to…in fact, some of the translations talk about endurance, that they have endured, and they’ve been steadfast and they have been relentless in enduring and constant in keeping the Word of God. And so, God describes this church, these people, as keeping the command to persevere.
Where exactly is that command to persevere? That’s probably throughout Scripture, when you think about it. Perseverance is part of our calling, it’s part of our calling, isn’t it? To endure, to endure our trials and struggles and difficulties. And so, these individuals keep that command. They persevere, there is an endurance that they are never going to let go of the truth of God. And so, that’s an important characteristic of this church. He also says, the middle of verse 10, “I will also keep you from the hour of trial, I will keep you, I will keep you,” which is also an interesting aspect of what God says He’s going to do. He says He’s going to keep them, keep them from the hour of trial. And then of course, it describes that trial as one that will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the Earth, a couple of interesting aspects, when we think about that for a moment. Philadelphians endure, they’re steadfast, they’re constant. And then God says, “I will keep you from the hour of trials.” And of course, He describes that hour of trial, maybe we should go there. “For what is this hour of trial that is going to come up on the whole world, to test those who dwell on the Earth.”
Well traditionally, we’ve understood that to be referring to the great tribulation. Matthew 24 describes it – hold your place here – go to Matthew 24 for just a moment. Something that would come upon the whole world, there is your key phrase there, what is the whole world that is going to be under this trial? Well, it certainly seems to tie in to Matthew 24. So look at verse 21 in Matthew 24. So we will see how this fits in with what’s been described in Revelation 3:10 Revelation 3:10Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.
American King James Version×. Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version×, Christ describes this hour of trial. He says, “For them, there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor shall ever be unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.” But for the elect sake, those days will be shortened.
It seems that this hour of trial ties in with the description that Christ is giving in Matthew 24, “An hour of trial that will come over the whole earth, to test those who dwell on the earth.” It seems to tie in very well with what’s described as the great tribulation. And so, how will those be kept from the hour of trials? I mean, they don’t have to experience it at all? They’ll be whisked away and everything will be just peaches and cream?
Well, that’s one of the interesting aspects of this word, to keep. Now, can mean, to keep you from the hour of trial, you don’t have to go through it, to keep you from going through it. Yes, it can mean that, but it can also mean to keep you through it. So it can mean okay, you won’t have to undergo it, it means, I’ve avoided it altogether but keep can also take on the meaning to keep you through it, to keep you through it.
So that’s an interesting aspect of it. We read later in the book of Revelation, there are some that are protected, and that there are others that, for whatever reason, are kept through it, are kept through it. And so, this hour of trial is coming. And so, no wonder with the way that this is described here, this seems to have this meaning that not only applies to ancient Philadelphia, but more specifically, to the time of the end because it seems it’s describing those times that are getting closer and closer. And unless those days are shortened, there would be no one saved alive.
So that’s an important aspect, especially the way it’s described as testing those who dwell on the earth. And that’s an interesting aspect of this particular verse, is this idea of dwelling. It’s going to test those who dwell on the earth, and this phrase comes up over and over again throughout the book of Revelation. You could find it many, many times, I won’t go through all the different passages, even in the book of Revelation. But I think He uses that term for a very specific reason, because it draws a difference between a Philadelphian and just anybody else that lives in the world because it’s going to test those who dwell on the earth. Those who don’t dwell on the earth, it says He’s going to keep.
And so, do I dwell on the earth? Well, yes, I dwell on the earth, I live here, right? Yeah, but it’s not talking about just the physical type of a thing here. I think there’s an interesting contrast going on here. Is our heart and our mind set on earthly things, or is our citizenship somewhere else? You see, I think that’s what He’s referring to here, to test those who dwell on the earth. Those who dwell on the earth, they’re hostile to God. If you look in the book of Romans, we know what the carnal mind is. It is enmity against God. You contrast that with those who are citizens of the Kingdom, those whose citizenship is in heaven.
He’s contrasting those two things. When you go over Hebrews 11, where it says, “We’re not supposed to be those who dwell on the earth. Our thoughts, our hearts, our minds shouldn’t be focused on earthly things. We’re supposed to be strangers and pilgrims on this earth.” And so, this hour of trial is coming to test those who dwell on the earth, and I don’t want to be dwelling and having my mind set on earthly things. I want to contrast that with my mind is set on the Kingdom. That’s where my heart is set, that’s what I want. I want my citizenship to be in heaven. We’re to be strangers and pilgrims on this earth. We desire…the other thing Hebrews talks about, we desire, a heavenly city, a different country. And so, those who dwell on the earth are focused on earthly, worldly things.
Those who are focused on Jesus Christ, those who will be kept, their dwelling isn’t here. They see it as a temporary thing. The reality is coming from Christ. The Church, those true Christians, those true spiritual Jews are focused on the return of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. And so, that’s an important contrast that He makes, as He emphasizes the importance of what our focus really is. I’m going back to Revelation, notice verse 11. Verse 11 in chapter 3, Christ says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, hold fast to what you have that no one may take your crown.” Interesting word, this “quickly”. It can mean something that’s fast, but it can also take on a meaning of when this starts, there’s no stopping it. When it gets to a certain point, there’s no stopping it. “Behold, I come quickly.” Those who read this initially, if they thought it meant fast, well, it’s been quite a while since that original writing, but when it starts, there’s no stopping it, there’s no stopping it. And events in this world continue to fast-forward to this very time, toward the fulfillment of the prophecies of the end of time. And obviously, as we look at this, we see that, what else could it point to? What else could this point to? He is coming quickly, hold fast He says, hold fast to all these wonderful traits that these, in the Philadelphia frame of mind, have. They have perseverance, they have stuck to the truth, they have the key that was given to them by God, and He says hold fast because who opens and no one can shut. Well, that’s Jesus Christ, when He says, “Hold fast that no one may take your crown.” Crown is an interesting word there, that’s the stephanos crown and the Greek word stephanos, it’s a not the diadem, like a fancy kingly crown. So it’s not the crown of royalty but it’s the crown of a stephanos, which is the victory crown. That’s the crown of wreath or laurels that you would get as you won the race. That’s the victor’s crown.
So He says, “Hang on to that, so no one takes it from you.” Well, can somebody take your crown? How would that be? How would that be? How can someone take your crown? Well if I’m persevering, I’m holding tight, I’m steadfast, I’ve got all of those characteristics of constancy and I’m enduring, well, I’m hanging onto that crown. Nobody can take that. But what if I’m not doing those things? What if I’m not standing strong? What if I’m not enduring? You see, it seems to point to the fact that if I’m hanging onto it, if I’m doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing, if I’m close in my relationship to God, that crown isn’t going anywhere.
But I could allow someone to take it from me, I could give it up, I could give it away, I could let down. We’ve all seen those races, whether it’s in the Olympics or maybe somewhere else, someone’s winning by lengths in there, right there before the finish line and they slow down a little bit and then here comes the guy that passes them just before they get to the ribbon. You see, we could give up, we could let down. No one’s going to be able to take it from us unless we allow it to happen. And so, Christ is, I think, trying to make that point that much stronger to us. Don’t give it up, don’t let anyone take it, don’t let anything take it, don’t let any philosophy take it, don’t let any frame-of-mind take it, don’t let the values of this world take your crown, don’t get off track with those kinds of thing. That is what He’s talking about here. You have it. Hold fast, don’t let go. We’ve been given truth, we’ve been given understanding, we’ve been given the key, we’ve been given the wonderful character of Christ and it’s grown in us. Don’t ever turn your back on those things, hang on to those things and continue to grow. In fact, there is maybe one passage that comes to mind, it’s over in 2 Thessalonians 2. 2 Thessalonians 2 may tie in to this idea of someone taking our crown, really, the idea of us giving that crown up, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
American King James Version×. Here it talks about a little prophetic thing, we’re going to jump over some of those kinds of thoughts right here in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
American King James Version×.
But it says the coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing. The point is, there are those who are perishing. Why are they perishing? Well, something happened. Something happened. Well what happened? It says they’re perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Love the truth. If we love the truth, we are hanging onto that crown, we’re not giving it up. We’re not giving it up for anything. And so, we’re encouraged to hold fast to what we have. And so, we might think well I’m a Philadelphian, I’m in good shape.
Well, that’s true, in many ways that’s absolute…look at these wonderful traits a true Philadelphian has but don’t get self-confident. That’s part of the message to Philadelphia – don’t get self-confident, keep going, keep persevering, hold fast. That’s such an aspect that is vital, hold fast to the truth. We must be doing that, holding fast to that crown and don’t let anything interfere and take us off-track.
In fact, going back to Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
American King James Version×, we see that whole aspect come into play that we just can’t take it for granted. “He who overcomes, I’ll make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” An overcomer, someone who has prevailed, someone who has, and continues to be victorious, hanging onto that crown because they’re going to win. They’re winning because God is with them. He who overcomes and we see the reward. He’ll make of them a pillar in the temple of My God, kind of ties back to ancient Philadelphia, subject to earthquakes, and buildings often fell because of the earthquake that they suffered. In fact, ancient time, one time, the city was totally destroyed because of an earthquake. But here’s a temple that has pillars that are solid. And the promise here is that believers, those who overcome, will be a pillar in the New Jerusalem, in the temple of My God. And of course, in ancient time, pillars were often time dedicated to important people, to the magistrates, to the rulers, to the governing authorities, and it would actually have their name on the pillars.
Sometimes not only the name, sometimes the pillars would be actually carved with the image of that particular person, which is pretty interesting. And so, Paul’s… Jesus Christ is drawing on that analogy here, that faithful people will be like a pillar in the temple. And this temple isn’t just any old temple but it’s talking about the sanctuary of God. It’s talking about not the outer court, but we’re talking about the Holy Place, which will be include the Holy of Holies as well. And they won’t go out anymore. And they are not subject to earthquakes, they are not subject to physical problems.
In fact, the Greek actually points to never going out, we’ll always be there in the presence of God. In fact, that pillar, He says “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 heaven from My God, and I will write on him My new name.” So imagine this pillar, who may be, in ancient times, carved in the image of a magistrate or an important person also had their name carved on that pillar. Using that illustration, Jesus Christ draws our attention to our name, you will become a part of Kingdom of God.
What would God do? He talks about writing three names on those that are there at the New Jerusalem. One was God’s Name. Why write God’s Name on an individual? Well, it’s signifying who owns you. Who is your owner? When someone writes their name on something, would you write your name on things that belong to you? Probably the front of your Bible has your name in it. You wrote your name in it, maybe you stuck an address label on it. That belongs to you. This is signifying we belong to God, He’s written His Name on us.
Also talks about the city, God’s city name, is written on us. Why would the name of the city be written on God’s people? Well, where do we belong? Well, we belong in the Kingdom. We belong in the New Jerusalem. We have eternal citizenship in the Kingdom. And writing the name of the city on that recognizes that very fact that, this is an eternal citizenship, this just isn’t a part-time thing, this is not sojourning anymore. This is no longer a stranger or a pilgrim, now we are set. It’s signifying that eternal citizenship in His Kingdom.
And then there’s the third name that’s written on those who are there, a new name, my new name. It seems to point to the fact the fullness of God. A new name, maybe recognizing this secure relationship that we have with Him, a fuller relationship, a symbolism of eternal relationship, the fullness of His character, His new name written on us as well. So we see it’s covering all the bases there when we look at the names that are written on those who will be there. Of course that door is open to us.
The end of that letter then, and verse 13 says “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Important reminder as He concludes this letter, that not just the letter to those in Philadelphia applies to us. “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” we can back to chapter 2 and read through those. If we are a part of Philadelphia, we’d better pay attention to who has written to the other churches as well and that should impact where we’re at and our mind-set as well. And so, as we consider this letter to Philadelphia, it’s an encouraging letter, it’s fantastic.
There’s not negative things that are said here. But there’s certainly a word of encouragement. There’s a word that says, “Keep it up, continue to persevere, continue to grow, continue to overcome.” Maybe three important aspects as you consider the overall letter, that Christ as the head of the Church, has given us the key. He’s given us the key that opens the way to the Kingdom of God. Don’t lose that key, that is such a vital thing. Be sure that we use that key every day in our life, that we’re submissive to God and His Holy Spirit. That’s an important aspect of this letter to Philadelphia.
I think the second important thing is, go through that door He opens and no one can shut. Ultimately, the door to the Kingdom, but He’s opened up opportunities to preach and teach, and on an individual basis we must take those opportunities to do His work. If I’m growing more Christ-like, am I doing the work of God? Absolutely I am. It applies individually, as well as it does collectively. And as the Church of God, we must also go through the door. We must also be preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus Christ and the coming the Kingdom of God. We must about our Father’s business. We must do the work and through that open door that He’s given.
And maybe the third aspect of this particular letter is to remain faithful, and keep the faith, keep the faith. It was something my dad always used to say when we would part: “keep the faith.” Persevere, remain faithful. That is the message to Philadelphia. You’ve been doing all right, now keep it up, he who overcomes. That’s what He said, to keep it up. And if we do those kinds of things, I think no one can take that crown from us. And so, it’s such a powerful positive message to the Philadelphia church. So, I’d like to think I’m a part of Philadelphia, wouldn’t you?
All right, if we claim that, if we’d like to think that, then what does that remind us of? Well, it reminds us that we’d better be living like that. We’d better be doing those things, we’d better be keeping those things, we’d better be persevering and showing our self to be true Christians, to be truly dedicated to Jesus Christ and God the Father. So, let’s live like Philadelphians.
All right. That would do it for our study for this evening. Two weeks from tonight we conclude our series. Mr. Darris McNeely will be presenting the last of these seven churches here in the book of Revelation. We’ll talk about Laodicea in our next Bible study, so we hope to see you then.
Thanks for coming tonight and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time.