A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Philadelphia

 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:”

Revelation 3:7 NASB

Welcome to the city of brotherly love, renowned for its great faithfulness. Located in a small volcanic valley about thirty miles from Sardis, Philadelphia was founded by Attalus II Philadelphus in 189 B.C. This city’s purpose was to spread Greek culture and language throughout the region, in addition to growing grapes for its wine industry. Consequently, the Philadelphians worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine, as their main idol.

As the second church to only receive commendations from the Lord, it is important to first pay attention to the four attributes with which the angel describes Christ.

“He who is holy…”

“We find that throughout the Old Testament, God alone is absolutely holy, separated from sin, pure, and completely flawless. The title “Holy One” refers to a messianic title in the New Testament. Peter refers to Christ with this title in John 6:69. Peter calls the church to be holy in 1 Peter 1:16, and Christ Himself declared His holiness, claiming to be God in Luke 22:70.

“…who is true…”

In the Greek and Roman worlds, many false gods and goddesses existed, so Christ distinguishes Himself from them as the only true God.

The Greek word translated “truth” is aletheia, which most closely resembles our English word “reality.” It means “the manifested, unconcealed essence of a matter.” A living, saving faith depends upon the premise by man that God is true in His being and character. The truth forms the basis for a person’s conversion.

Bible Tools, John 17:17

“…who has the key of David…”

God promised King David that his throne would last forever, and one of his descendants would always sit upon his throne. Even Gabriel referred to Jesus possessing the throne of King David when the angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah in Luke 1:31-33.

A key refers to one in authority, which we find in a prophecy in Isaiah 22:22. Eliakim would be David’s key-bearer, giving him the power of others’ access to the king. Jesus is now the key-bearer who has sole authority of others’ access to His Father and eternal life in heaven.

As saved believers, we gain access to the Father only through this key–the cross and the shed blood of Christ. Just as Revelation 1:18 reveals that Jesus holds keys to death and Hades, He also holds keys to blessing and opportunities for ministry.

“…who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…”

Here we see the awesome power of our Lord to shut and open doors that no power can undo. His authority is the final authority.

Understanding these attributes awakens us to the realization of what a great and awesome God we serve!

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus reveals Himself to this Philadelphian church. Now let’s examine His promises to them.

Promise #1

‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have followed My word, and have not denied My name.

Revelation 3:8 NASB

Jesus had opened a door of ministry to this church, and they had been faithful to obey His Word and proclaim His Name. Although their power was weak and could have been stronger, they were faithful. Paul echoes this in II Corinthians 12:9 where he states that God’s grace is perfected in weakness. Therefore, we are encouraged that what matters is Christ’s power working through us as yielded vessels.

Promise #2

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.’ 

Revelation 3:9 NASB

How could Jews be false? They might be circumcised outwardly, but their hardened hearts needed to have unbelief cut away. Philadelphia must have endured serious persecution from these unbelieving Jews who were really a synagogue of Satan. Jesus was going to reward this church by having these unbelievers submit and acknowledge that God loved these Christians. As in Psalm 23, God will prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Such a wonderful and reassuring promise!

Promise #3

Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth.’ 

Revelation 3:10 NASB

The hour of testing refers to the tribulation, which is coming upon the whole world. This promise supports the pretribulationist viewpoint, that the church will be raptured at the beginning of the tribulation (see John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). This comforting promise isn’t just for Philadelphia, but for all believers on that future day.

A command and four final promises

‘I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; 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 out of heaven from My God, and My new name. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Revelation 3:11-13 NASB

 First, Jesus commands the faithful believers in Philadelphia to hold fast to what they have so their spiritual crown will be secure.  Jesus exhorts the church to continue to be faithful and to patiently endure until He returns for them. Jesus had also promised the church in Smyrna the crown of life if they were faithful unto death. This faith will be proof of salvation, which no one can take from us.  More importantly, those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus will be rewarded with eternal life lived in the presence of God.

The four final promises are:

  • Our salvation will be secure in heaven;
  • We will eternally and personally belong to God;
  • We will be citizens of God’s future city, New Jerusalem;
  • We will forever have our identify with the risen, glorified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity.

This letter to faithful Philadelphia shows us that the holy and true God pours out His blessings on churches and individuals who are faithful to Him in all circumstances.

Dear Lord, may we be faithful to You, serve you as You open doors of ministry for us, and endure patiently in our persecution. We look forward to Your coming when You will rapture the church out of the tribulation. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Philadelphia by Karen Jurgens copyright ©2023 All rights reserved

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Sardis

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV

Welcome to SARDIS

Known for its woolen, textile, and jewelry industries, Sardis may have been wealthy at one time, but that was in the past. Its location on top of a hill surrounded by steep cliffs gave it a false sense of protection. Twice attacked and conquered due to its arrogance and lack of watchfulness, this church perfectly illustrates how pride goes before a fall (See Proverbs 16:18).

False Worship

Worship of the false mother-goddess Cybele, also known as Artemis, engaged the people in festivals of the most debased and impure kind. One of Sardis’ most important temples in the first century honored Artemis (i.e., Diana, goddess of the Ephesians). Additionally, this temple was twice as large as the Parthenon and the seventh largest Greek temple ever built. Unless worshippers donned clean, white clothes, the temple banned them from participating in temple activities.

Like Artemis, Christ expected His people in the church at Sardis to also approach Him wearing white garments, which represented a righteous life and heart. The problem focused on the majority of this church who had defiled their clothes through their apathy to the things of God.

The Sleeping Church

To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Revelation 3:1-3 NIV

The way Jesus appeared to each church pinpointed its problems, and the same is true for Sardis. The reference to the seven spirits and seven stars explains this church’s lack of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

The Seven Spirits of God

Although there is one Holy Spirit, He has a seven-fold ministry that allows us to experience genuine spirituality. As we walk by faith, the power of God enables us to deal with the sin in our lives through honest confession so that we don’t grieve and quench the Holy Spirit within us. (“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30 NASB). “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 NASB)). Therefore, we see that this church was grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

The Seven Stars

As Jesus told John in Revelation 1:20, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” Many believe the stars also refer to spiritual leadership, who brings forth the Word to the congregation. So, we can assume that the leadership failed to deliver the Word in a way that motivated believers to apply and respond to it. The lack of both the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God resulted in its spiritual deadness. (See Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12.)

Awake, Sleeper!

As busy as worker bees, Sardis looked good on the surface and enjoyed a stellar reputation as an alive church. But her deeds were not like the other churches, which Christ commended. Instead, these were unfinished and about to die. Christ commanded them to repent and return to the basic teachings of the gospel and again find the joy of salvation through obedience to the Word of God..

Let’s remember that deeds alone do not save us, but they are the basis for how we will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

Titus 3:5-8 NASB

Like Sardis, are we arrogant in our walk with the Lord, believing that we are elevated above evil to such a degree that we can relax and coast in our spiritual lives? Do we believe that we are so secure on our mountaintop that the enemy can never find a way to slip in and take us by surprise? Jesus warned sleeping Sardis that unless they repented, He would come like a thief in the night and swiftly bring divine judgment on them.

Promise to the Overcomers

‘The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Revelation 3:5-6 NASB

Although the remnant of true believers in Sardis was weak, Jesus recognized them and promised three things:

#1: Their white garments represent the forgiveness of their sins through the shed blood of Christ.

  • Here they specifically refer to those who boasted in Christ and not in their past achievements. White garments mentioned in Revelation 7:14 refer to overcomers of the great tribulation; the twenty-four elders in 4:4; the martyrs in 6:11; and the church in 19:7-8 at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

#2: Christ assured them that He would never erase their names from the Book of Life.

  • The names of overcomers will never be blotted out, but those names not included were never there to begin with. In Revelation 13:8, the names of those who worship the beast are only found in the books of judgment, and never written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (See 17:8 and 20:12.)

#3: Jesus promises to call out the names of believers to His Father and His angels in heaven.

  • He had made this same promise to His disciples in Matthew 10:32:  “Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” And in Luke 12:8: “Now I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before people, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God;” He will commend each believer with the words each one longs to hear in Matthew 25:21: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

In conclusion, may we always examine our lives so that we find the confidence of our salvation in Christ and His shed blood alone. Let’s also remember Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi which exhorted them to not become like a Sardis church.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13 NASB

Dear Lord, may we always be mindful of our spiritual lives so that we keep the fire of Holy Spirit and the Word of God alive in our hearts. May we be overcomers and stand before You, unashamed, on that glorious day. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Sardis by Karen Jurgens copyright © 2023 All rights reserved.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Thyatira

Jezebel’s death

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze, says this: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.’

Revelation 2:18-19 NASB

Welcome to Thyatira. Situated thirty-five miles east of Pergamum, it was known for its wool and textile industries, whose trade guilds also doubled as social and religious clubs. Thyatira also means a perfume, a sacrifice of labor.

Why did Jesus appear to this church with fiery eyes and burnished feet?

Bronze is a symbol of judgment. In the Old Testament, priests offered sacrifices on a brazen altar. Fire is also a symbol of purification from sin. Therefore, Jesus came to bring judgment and purification to this church.

First, Jesus commends them.

This church was overflowing with great faith as evidenced by their love for God and man. They persevered in their deeds, which continued to grow in strength and number. But in spite of these good things, He ends with a stern warning:

But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

Revelation 2:20-21 NASB

The issue with this church refers back to the same woman in 1 and 2 Kings–the woman who drew her husband, King Ahab, into idolatry, immorality, and false worship, and who helped him acquire a neighboring field by arranging the murder of its owner, Naboth. She worshipped Baal and killed God’s prophets. Read about her threat to kill Elijah HERE.

The main problem in Thyatira involved the church leadership preaching a compromising message, promising freedom from God’s moral laws. Pastors proclaimed that if the spirit were secure in salvation, then sexual sins and idol worship wouldn’t hurt them. The focus was on serving self and being accepted by the world.

Jezebel works with religion and witchcraft to hinder the church from moving forward and advancing the Kingdom. ~ John Eckhard

Does this sound familiar in some of today’s churches? But people can’t get away with these sins—even in our modern age. Listen to the consequences from the mouth of the Lord Himself:

Behold, I will throw her [Thyatira] on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

Revelation 2:22-23 NASB

Wow, Jesus is adamant about severely punishing those who follow the Jezebel spirit. Rather ironic, don’t you think, that Jesus threw this church on a bed of sickness—the same bed where she had committed adultery.

Jezebel is one slick spirit that works in conjunction with the spirit of religion.

Here’s a modern-day picture: A legalistic church tells us we’re fine if we’ve kept its rules, resulting in self-righteousness. The pastorate also loves to bestow a title of importance on people seeking recognition from the world, which goes a long way. Church members, wearing these titles like golden crowns, might be ordered to work shifts every week or month, tithe a certain amount, or perform in some other area to serve the pastorate. Of course, volunteering and tithing are good things that all church members should do, but when they’re forced or bribed into it, that’s where the line is crossed into the Jezebel spirit.

We know from Scripture in Malachi 3:10 that those who tithe receive a blessing from God for their obedience. But the truth is that these rules don’t justify us in God’s eyes—faith does. We find our righteousness in the work of the cross and through trusting in Jesus who performed that work—not in just following the rules and being “religious.”

The Spirit of Witchcraft

Jezebel also works with another spirit—the spirit of witchcraft—which is very subtle and thus hard to detect unless you’re paying close attention. Hidden lies inside partial truths swirl together to twist our perspectives by highlighting our personal wants and needs. This pull distracts us from God’s will and grace for the work He has called us to do. Our focus lands squarely on our needs, promoting and justifying selfishness.

Witchcraft attacks our minds through controlling words.

Watch out for the get-rich-quick gospel where a person must send a seed offering in return for an anointing or a percentage return on a donation—especially when it’s just available to the first three hundred callers!

There are true blessings from heaven and true financial miracles, but we must watch out for Jezebel, full of deceit and lies, lurking to “fleece the flock.” Hence, we all must pray faithfully about the fertile soil where we sow our seeds and plant our tithes.

Another ploy of Jezebel is through the idolatrous gospel.

Unfortunately for many of today’s Western churches, their pastors are idolized by their congregations. Instead of running to Jesus and His Word, some run to the pastor and believe only what he says is gospel truth.

Let’s run to Jesus and idolize Him—not a mortal man who preaches from a platform.


What do you think? Why did Jesus so vehemently warn this Revelation church to repent of her Jezebel spirit of immorality? The severe consequences of disobedience were designed to stop people from following Jezebel’s idolatry and witchcraft.

Knowing that the Lord is patient so that all may come to salvation, these consequences were actually merciful and full of God’s grace. He is patient toward us as He waits with open arms for us to come to Him and receive His free gift of salvation. He concludes with a wonderful promise for overcomers:

 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them-I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 2:24-29 NASB

Dear Father, Deliver us from the Jezebel spirit that controls through the spirits of religion and witchcraft. Let us not be deceived in our walk of faith to believe lies that lead us into immorality or idolatry. May we be found faithful in our love, service, and perseverance for Your kingdom. Make us to be overcomers. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Our next stop? The Revelation Church in Sardis. Meet you there.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Thyatira by Karen Jurgens, Copyright © 2023 All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy of Lightstock.com

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Pergamum

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Today we arrive in ancient Pergamum. Have you heard of it? An island city, it was located about sixty-five miles north of Smyrna in the Caicus River Valley. Renowned for its extensive library that was second only to Alexandria, most of its 200,000 volumes were written on costly sheepskin—marking this city as vastly wealthy.

It was also famous for its advanced medical knowledge. Is it surprising, then, that it showcased the temple of Asclepius, a god of healing? False worship was extensive, including three temples devoted to the worship of Rome’s Emperor, and one each for Dionysius, Athena, and Zeus. It’s obvious that their worship was of supreme importance.

Additionally, all-powerful Rome had granted that Pergamum use capital punishment, which established the sword as the city’s symbol.

Why is the sword significant?

The Christian church related to the power of the sword, both then and now. When Jesus addressed this message to Pergamum through the Apostle John, He reminded them that He is “the One who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12a NASB). Ephesians 6:17 tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Residing in the midst of evil

He also acknowledged that this church resided in a very evil place, where believers proclaimed the name of Jesus in spite of persecution leading to death. ‘…and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’ (Revelation 2:13 NASB). It was an extremely difficult time and place to be a Christian, but Jesus commended them for their courageous faith.

On the other hand, Jesus also had a warning for this church.

‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans’ (Revelation 2:14-15, NASB).

Do you recall the story of the talking donkey? Balak the king wanted Balaam the Gentile prophet to curse Israel. Read about it HERE in Numbers 22:1-25:9.

Who were the Nicolaitans?

We don’t know much about them, but we know that God hated their teachings. They encouraged sinful practices (licentiousness) so that God’s grace to forgive sin would increase, which is false teaching. Paul also addresses this in his admonition to the Romans, saying, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the Law but under grace? Far from it!” (Romans 6:15 NASB).

Lots of false teaching led to sinful actions. No wonder Jesus warned that unless they repented, ‘I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against [you] with the sword of My mouth’ (Revelation 2:16 NASB).

Can we imagine what a modern-day Pergamum might look like?

If we compare this city with the United States, there are uncanny similarities. Like them, our country has vast wealth, extensive libraries, the most advanced medical advances on the planet, and especially the sword of capital punishment.

But, like Pergamum, are our churches engaged in false teaching? Our Constitution affords religious freedom for all, whether we worship or not. But in these days of political correctness, we are conditioned to be tolerant of every religion—except Christianity.

There is even a move to combine the truth of Christ’s teachings with other religions, like combining vanilla and chocolate ice cream.  Swirled together, the vanilla gradually disappears, just as the truth of the Gospel cannot be watered down and remain pure. Just as a mouthful of cotton candy instantly dissolves in our mouths, so does the cotton candy gospel. It may taste sweet, but it’s empty. Beware of churches whose main attraction is personal prophesies, signs, and wonders, but devoid of studying the Word of God.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment will protect us from churches preaching false doctrine. We must wean ourselves from milk to the meat of God’s Word so we can grow and mature as Christians. Jesus addressed this issue through John in the last chapter of Revelation.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.’

Revelation 22:18-19 NASB

Strive for the prize.

Last, after these severe warnings, Pergamum was once again encouraged to strive for the prize. ‘To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it’ (Revelation 2:17b NASB).

Wow! Such amazing rewards await us for our obedience. All the suffering and persecution the world can inflict may be able to take our physical lives, but nothing can take away our eternal salvation. Let that knowledge empower us all to witness boldly to the lost.

His return is so close. Are you ready to meet Jesus?

Dear Father, thank you for Your Word, the sword of the Spirit. Make us overcomers in these days so that we’re not deceived into believing false teaching. May we always be rooted and grounded in Your truth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Let’s continue our journey to Thyatira. Meet you there!

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Pergamum by Karen Jurgens © copyright 2023 All rights reserved