Part 7: Philadelphia

Revelation 3:7-13: “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars — I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

          Notice Who Christ says He is in the beginning of these verses: holy and true, and He comes from the natural lineage of David. A part of the Godhead and totally trustworthy because He is Truth. Our Lord also says He will open doors that no man can shut, giving us opportunities that will not be closed down, and He also closes down things that should not be that no person can reopen. Notice also that the Lord did not find fault with this church. What a recommendation!

 We know that our modern Philadelphia is called “The City of Brotherly Love.” The same is true for this one because of the great love of the brothers who co-founded the city about 200 B.C., whose modern name is Alashehir. Christians know they are supposed to love their Christian brothers and sisters, but do we always? Why are there disputes in churches that go unsettled until people leave? Yes, we will definitely have differences of opinion because God didn’t make us to all be alike, but can’t we settle those peacefully; perhaps we simply have to agree to disagree but we can do it without enmity.

           Not only should we love other believers but we need to love unbelievers enough to tell them about Jesus! How else will they know? Yes, the United States has many churches but people don’t go simply because they happen to live close to one. Someone has to invite them and befriend them. Sinners don’t see their need of a Savior because they don’t recognize their sin. Satan blinds their eyes to see a need for Jesus, so we must show them. One of the best ways is simply to tell them what a change Christ has made in our own lives.

           This city of Philadelphia was called “little Athens” because of all its temples to other gods. (Remember that when Paul went to Athens, he found idols to so many gods, even one to “the unknown god.”) In such a city, was a small and weak church, although it had been faithful during a time of testing since Jesus noted that the church had not denied His name and had endured patiently (see implications in verses 8 and 10.) Therefore, He opened a great door of opportunity to witness to those who did not know the Lord and says that door would stay open and would not be shut.

            What kinds of open doors do you and I have, not only to witness to the lost but for other areas of ministry as well? A vital part of any believer’s ministry can be to simply offer a smile to someone who looks weary or discouraged or perhaps an encouraging word. Smiles certainly aren’t the only things we can offer someone but are the least we can do. Are we serving God in the open doors He has given us? It’s an important question because if not, will we be ashamed when we face Christ and have to admit that we were too selfish of our time, money or talents to enter those doors? A church’s size and strength aren’t the most vital criteria to God but its faithfulness to do what He calls it to do. The same is true with us; our spiritual gifts and talents God will use to serve Him, whether or not we are well-known or well-educated; our only responsibility is to be faithful.

           Jesus speaks of the synagogue of Satan by which He means anyone who is against Him. In this case, He was addressing the Jews who kick believers out of the synagogue, lied about them, otherwise mistreated them and were hostile to them. Evidently these were Jews that only claim to follow the Jewish laws but do not trust God because Jesus Himself, a Jew, while on earth didn’t condemn those who loved God and worshipped Him in the synagogue but only those who acted the part and pthemselves higher than anyone else. Satan is the one who inspires these actions – no matter who does them. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against demonic hordes of Satan who inspire these people. We also have those who fight us today, even in our own country, with such liberal views that they go against the Bible. Jesus says, however, that one day we will be acknowledged as being correct in our worship of God by those who do not recognize Him. Since the Garden of Eden until the time Christ reigns upon the earth, Satan has fought and will continue to fight against anyone godly because that is his nature.

           Christ goes on to tell this church they will not endure the trials that will come at the end of time because of their faithfulness. We remember that these letters were intended for these churches but were also meant to be passed down through the generations of believers until Christ’s second coming. Just as God rescued Noah’s family from the flood and the Jews from the plagues of Egypt, He would rescue these devoted believers. That certainly does not mean that they or we will not face problems or persecution. As then, we see that occurring in many places around the world today.

             The pillars in the temple of God were important here because in 17 B.C. a powerful earthquake had destroyed Philadelphia, Sardis and 10 other cities. (Revelation was written about 95 A.D. so those believers would have heard about that earthquake from their parents or grandparents.) Pillars in a building would represent strength and security for that building; of course, there will be no stone or concrete pillars in God’s temple in heaven, but this is symbolic of these people’s assurance of a place in heaven. We have that same assurance as believers in Jesus Christ.

           Names in the Old Testament were meaningful, representing the character of a person, and Jesus says He will put on the person not only God’s name and the name of the New Jerusalem but will also give that person a new name. These faithful servants will have names that tell Whose they are and where they belong as well as a name proclaiming their character. Then all are warned to pay attention to what Christ has to say because the words are for us as well as for that small church.