INTRODUCTION:  The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John in 95 AD, on the Island of Patmos, a bare rocky Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located off the western coast of Turkey.   

All the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 were all located in Asia Minor, Modern day Turkey.  The Apostle was banished to the Island because of his Christian faith. There the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and dictated to him the seven letters to the seven churches.  These were not John’s letters but Christ’s letters to His churches. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, which he purchased by His precious blood walks in and among His churches (Rev. 2:1).  He knows their works, love, faith, labour, troubles, heart etc.  These letters to the seven churches are just as relevant to each individual Christian, each local assembly, and all church ages, since the Lord Himself says repeatedly: “He who has an   ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”  And  “To him who overcomes.”  May all followers of Christ and all local assemblies heed His word, more so, as His coming is at the very door.

The Faithful Church – Rev. 3:7 – 13.

Philadelphia at the time the letter was written.

The ancient city of Philadelphia was a trade town located near the Cogamus River, 30 miles south-east of Sardis.  It is known today as Alaşehir or Alasekir in modern day Turkey.  

The city of Philadelphia was a deliberately planned city and it was the newest of all the seven cities mentioned in John’s letter.  It was built around 189 B.C., by the king of Pergamum called Eumenes II, who so named the city for the love of his brother, Attallus ll(his successor),known also by his nickname – Adelphus Philadelphus.  Philadelphia or Philadelphus means brotherly love or one who loves his brother. This king was said to have had a strong devotion of love and faithfulness to his brother Eumenes ll.  

The city was built for the sole purpose of spreading the Greek culture, language and civilization to the barbaric regions around and beyond.  For this purpose the city was strategically located where the borders of the three cities of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia met. This sole purpose for which the city was built was successful, for by the end of 19 AD the surrounding cities had absorbed the Greek culture, language and way of life.

The city of Philadelphia being situated strategically on the border of three cities was very prosperous and was a centre of trade.  It was famous for the grapes that grew in the very fertile region and had a booming wine industry. 

 Also, the several hot springs in the region drew people worldwide who came to the hot springs for their therapeutic benefits. 

The city, however, been located in a volcanic region was prone to earthquakes.  Due to these often recurrent quakes the city had been rebuilt and renamed twice.  In 17 AD it was severely damaged by the earthquake which leveled several cities in the regionThe Roman Emperor Tiberius offered help, providing funds to rebuild the city.  Out of gratitude to the emperor the city was renamed Neocaesarea, meaning – new Caesar.   During the reign of Nero (54-68 AD) the original name was restored.   At another time, during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian the city was called Flavia after the family name of the emperor and was as well later reverted to its original name.

The city was also known as “little Athens” because of its public buildings, many idols, gods, temples and festivals held in the city.  Like all the other cities we’ve studied Philadelphia was also a pagan city.  The chief deity worshiped in Philadelphia was the Greek god of wine and fertility – Dionysus (known as the Roman god Bacchus).  The city also had a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor – Vespasian.  There were also numerous temples devoted to other pagan deities.

Philadelphia was a chiefly pagan city with a strong christian witness. Of all the seven churches of John’s letters Philadelphia and Smyrna have the longest duration of Christian testimony.

The Faithful church – Rev. 3:7 – 13.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,  ‘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” Vs. 7.

Jesus Christ reveals Himself to the Philadelphian believers as the Holy One and the True One.  There is no sin, no unrighteousness in Him. He is the one and only true messiah – the Anointed One of God.  He is the TRUTH – there is no lie in Him. He says what He means and means what He says, and He keeps His promises.

The key of David represents His authority and sovereignty.  He alone holds the key of David.  The Jews were exempted from pagan and emperor worship by the Roman Empire because of their belief in only one God (unlike other nations with many gods or deities) and a few other reasons.  In the earlier days of Christianity many of the early believers were Jews.  And they still worshipped in the synagogues according to custom.  But as time went on, the door of worship and fellowship were shut against them as they were expelled from the synagogues by the Jewish community who were opposed to the message of the gospel.  According to these Jews the Christians had no part in the Abrahamic, Davidic or Messianic covenants.  They saw themselves as the only true descendants of Abraham and the only ones with access into God’s kingdom.

Jesus is the eternal king who will reign on the throne of David in the new millennium (Acts2:30). He tells these Philadelphian believers who have been expelled from the Jewish synagogue that only He holds the key of the house of David.  Therefore He alone determines or decides who comes in and who goes out into the kingdom of God which is eternal. He not only decides who comes in or goes out, but when He opens no one can shut and when He shuts no one can open.  They may have been pushed out of the Jewish synagogue which is the general gathering of God’s covenant people, but their eternal security is assured because He only has that authority. 

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” – Matthew 28:18.

As we continue to walk with Christ faithfully we also have our eternal security assured in and by Him.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29).

As Christians we need also to remember that the Lord still opens and shuts doors in our lives for the glory of His holy name, for the sake of this kingdom and for our own good.  Whatever door He opens in our lives no man can shut and no man can open the one He shuts.

“I know your works. Vs. 8a.

This church like the one in Smyrna had no word of rebuke, only commendation and approval.  Like He said to all the six churches we have studied He says as well to the Philadelphian church, “I know your works.”   Christ sees and knows all they do and all we do as well.  Nothing is hidden from His all-seeing eyes. He cannot be deceived; He sees everything just as they are.  He knows the motives behind all we do and say.  One day He will reward us for our work and the labour of love shown to His name. He is a rewarder of those who faithfully seek and serve Him (Hebrews 6:10, 11:6).

“And behold, l am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.” – Rev. 22:12.

See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; Vs. 8b.

The city of Philadelphia had been founded for the main purpose of spreading the Greek culture, language and way of life to its environs and beyond, and the Philadelphians citizens were successful in that mission.  Here the Lord sets a door of opportunity before these faithful believers.  An open door set by the Monarch of the universe Himself, a door no one can shut: a door of spreading the gospel message of the cross to people far and near. 

“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9.

“Furthermore, when l came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord.”- 2 Cor. 2:12.

Set before them also was the open door to everlasting life in Christ’s kingdom.  This open door no man can shut (John 10:9).

For you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Vs. 8c.

Little strength perhaps speaks of a small membership, limited finances and minimal vital resources.  However, in spite of all these, the Philadelphian Christians were faithful in keeping Christ’s word and did not deny His name in the face of hardships, oppositions and persecutions.

The same is required from every believer and assembly: Faithfulness to God’s word.  Are you faithfully holding on to the word of God or do you, like many are doing today redefining the Bible?  Saying the Bible is outdated, or doesn’t really mean what it says?  Or instead of preaching the simple, sound doctrines of the Bible are you preaching the doctrines of men?  And if you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, do you live by it, is it your life’s constitution, are your convictions grounded in its written pages?  How much do you value God’s word and live by it?  When we fail to keep His word we also deny His name.

“He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and l will love Him and manifest Myself to him.” –John 14:21.

“Jesus answered him and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. – John 14:23.

“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” – John 14:24.

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. – Vs. 9.

The city of Philadelphia like many of the Greek and Roman cities had a fairly large population of the Jewish community.  The Jewish community in Philadelphia, like the one in Smyrna, was hostile to the Christians in their community.

They not only expelled them from the synagogue, but also constantly slandered and maligned them to the Roman authorities.  Since the Christians were no longer regarded as a branch or a sect of the Jewish religion, having been excluded by the Jewish community, they faced severe persecution from the Roman authorities who already saw them as a threat to their empire because of their faith. 

Jesus called this group of Jews who rejected and opposed the gospel message and were slandering and maligning the believers in Philadelphia as the synagogue of Satan. He promised the Philadelphian believers that He would make these opposing Jews to come and bow before them one day and make them know that He loved them. These ones who claimed to be children of Abraham were not true children of Abraham, for if they had been they would do the deeds of Abraham. These were fake Jews (John 8:39-47, Romans 2:28-29). 

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. – Vs.10.

In Matthew chapter 24 the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about a period when the whole world will go through a time He called the great tribulation.  The Old Testament prophets called it the time of Jacob’s trouble.  It is a period unknown in human history: a time of severe and unequaled suffering.  Here, the Lord promises this faithful assembly of believers that He would keep them from that hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world because of their perseverance in the face of various tribulations. 

This is one of the scriptures used by many Christians as the bases of faithful believers been raptured or caught away by the Lord before the great tribulation, or at the middle of the tribulation, shortly before the most terrible aspect of the tribulation breaks out. 

The Lord commands all His followers to always persevere in the face of adversities, trials or tribulations.

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. Vs. 11.

Jesus is coming back again, just like He went (Acts 1: 10-11).  We cannot tell the precise day and hour, but we know it is very soon.  We know that it is also imminent.  There is nothing we know in Scripture that shows that His coming will be delayed any longer. 

The faithful believer has a crown prepared for him or her by the Lord.  The Lord tells these Philadelphian Christians as well as all believers to hold fast to the word of truth, the true faith we have received (Col. 2:6-7) and to remain faithful so that no one may take our crown.  There is a crown prepared for all faithful believers and there is a possibility of losing it to another if one does not hold fast to what he or she has.  

Our Lord shall return soon and reward the faithful ones. 

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10.

“… He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6b.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. Vs. 12a.

To those believers in the city of Philadelphia this promise was very significant in meaning.  Being located in a volcanic region the city was constantly threatened by earthquakes.  After the other cities in the region had had a break from the earthquake, rebuilt their cities and moved on with life, the city of Philadelphia was still experiencing aftershocks and earth tremors for numerous years.  Because of these frequent earth tremors most of the citizens refused to go back into the city, but lived in huts built outside the city. Every time there were the slightest earth tremor those who lived or were working in the city would flee for safety to open country and only return when the trembling stopped. This they did repeatedly for many years.  They lived in constant fear of another earthquake.  Huge pillars of their city temples were mostly left standing when the quakes were over.  Some of these huge pillars (columns) can still be seen on the ancient site today.

Here, the Lord promises these believers stability like the pillars: they will have no more fear, no cause for alarm or cause to flee back and forth like they did in Philadelphia.  In Christ’s kingdom eternal security, rest and peace of mind will be theirs. They will be like the unmovable pillars in God’s kingdom.

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 I will write on him My new name. Vs. 12b.

Names were usually inscribed on temple columns in this part of the ancient world to honour distinguished citizens, sometimes the names of the donors of the columns.  The Lord will write on these faithful believers three names: the name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem and His own new name. He is theirs and they will be His forever.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ Vs.13.

The message to the faithful Christians in Philadelphia is written to us as well: the command to always persevere in the face of adversities, trials or tribulations, the exhortations, the encouragements and the promises.   Faithfulness to Christ till the end will be greatly and eternally rewarded. 

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5 Responses

  1. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!

  2. Loved this article! I believe that Yahuah’s true church will differentiate themselves from all other Christians in their beliefs by calling on the true, set apart names of Yahusha Ha’Mashiac and our father YAHUAH, which will ultimately lead to our martyrdom by the free mason leaders. Shalom and thank you!!

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