“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.
‘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.
‘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!
‘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