CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA
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”: I know your works. See, I have set before
you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have
kept My word, and have not denied My name. 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.
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. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may
take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My
God, and he shall go out no more. 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 I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:7–13).
letter to the Church of Philadelphia is the most complementary of the letters to
the Seven Churches of Asia. We do find that this church was infected with a
synagogue of Satan, but the infection was contained and had no significant
influence in the church.
is located on the Cogamus River at the foot of Mount Tmolus SE of the city of
Sardis. The city is known as Alasehir today. Philadelphia was established in 189
b.c. by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (Pergamus in the Revelation). Eumenes named
the city for the love of his brother, Attalus II, who was designated to be his
successor. The name of the city literally means “one who loves his brother”.
The last of the Attalid kings, Attalus III, a.k.a. Philometer, died without an
heir and bequeathed his kingdom, including Philadelphia, to the Romans in 133
city was struck by a severe earthquake in 17 a.d. and the Emperor Tiberius
relieved the city of having to pay taxes to help it overcome the damage. In
response to this benevolence, the city gave special honors to Tiberius. Later,
the city was again helped by Emperor Vespasian. The city sponsored an imperial
cult and was honored with the title of caretaker of the temple, the temple
constructed to honor the Emperors. All that remains of the city today is a small
theater on a hill outside Alasehir.
of the letter
7 the Glorified Christ reveals Himself as true and holy, having the key of
V 8–11 He describes the conditions He finds in the church.
in V 12–13 He offers His gift to the overcomers.
Glorified Christ Reveals Himself
reveals Himself in verse 7 as “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”. To
this church, Christ does not use any of the characteristics seen in chapter one
from which He presents Himself to the previous churches. This suggests that the
Church in Philadelphia was in an appropriate state of spirituality to know Him
who is holy and true.
identifying Himself as holy the Glorified Christ asserts His deity. Isaiah
speaks of Him in Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who
inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, With
him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones”. His name is Holy, and He
chooses to dwell with the humble. This seems appropriate for this church as it
appears to be of a humble and contrite spirit. The word contrite
in the Hebrew means crushed, thus suggesting they were dependent upon Christ’s
grace rather than on their works or reputation. In identifying Himself as true,
He is making an even stronger assertion of His deity. In His prayer recorded in
John 17:3 He says to His Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know
You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”. The Apostle John
amplifies what Jesus prayed here to positively establish His deity in 1 John
5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an
understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true,
in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life”. The disciples
of John the Baptist acknowledged Jesus to be the truth as recorded in Matthew
22:16, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth;
nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men”. And in
John 14:6 Jesus states without equivocation, “I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. In the realm of spiritual
and moral issues, there is no other truth than the Lord Jesus Christ; there is
no other way to God than through Him.
also says that He has the key of David and with this key He alone can shut and
open whatever the key unlocks or locks. A similar statement appears in Isaiah
22:22: “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall
open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open”. This
verse is in a promise to Eliakim as God promotes him to be the deputy of the
king of Judah. The key is the symbol of his rank and authority in the household
of David. Of this key, Adam Clarke writes:
is the emblem of authority and knowledge; the key of David is the regal right or
authority of David. David could shut or open the kingdom of Israel to whom he
pleased. He was not bound to leave the kingdom even to his eldest son. He could
choose whom he pleased to succeed him.
is the king in the Kingdom of God and as such He deputizes whom He will in His
kingdom, the church. This authority is seen in Matthew 16:18–19, “On this
rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against
it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind
on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed
verse 8 of this letter Jesus in a sense affirms the authority of this church to
minister the gospel and continue to build His church. He says, “I know your
works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” The
church appears to be having some difficulty but they are faithful to Him in
whatever the difficulty might be. He tells them, “for you have a little
strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name”.
Synagogue of Satan
of the difficulties is that there is a synagogue of Satan that has set up shop
in the church.
church at Smyrna had some trouble with a synagogue of Satan that was undermining
the work of the gospel, creating some tribulation for that church. It appears
that this synagogue of Satan at Philadelphia was not creating as much
tribulation as that at Smyrna, but the potential to do so was there. The people
of this synagogue of Satan were not teaching any false doctrines but yet their
influence was just beginning to undermine the work of this church. The reason,
they professed to be Jews but were not; they were liars. Jesus states plainly in
Revelation 21:27 that liars have no place in His church, “But there shall by
no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but
only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life”. Jesus consigns all
liars along with all sinners to the second death as He states in verse 8, “But
the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers,
idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire
and brimstone, which is the second death”.
the faithful had kept Christ’s words and not denied His name as seen from
verse 8 of the letter, it suggests that the people of this synagogue of Satan at
one time either had a genuine experience of salvation or had made a profession
of such an experience. These people did not persevere in their experiences but
lapsed into sin and still professed to be saved. In verse 9 Jesus says to the
church concerning these people, “Indeed I will make them come and worship
before your feet, and to know that I have loved you”. The word indeed
is rendered behold in the King James
Version. It means to see and by
implication to know. The Living Bible
uses a modern expression, “Note this.”
The word is not at all passive as if something may or may not happen; it is
quite forceful indicating the certainty of what is to be seen or known.
thing that will happen with these people for certain is that they “will . . .
come and worship before your feet, and know that I have loved you”. This is
not an easy statement to understand. What I see here is that their backsliding
is not irreparable. The fallen conditions in the other churches mentioned in the
Revelation gave no hope of restoration to those that had fallen away, but here
we do see a glimmer of hope.
still loves the backslidden, and while eternal death awaits them, He offers them
another opportunity at redemption. The backslidden can repent and be saved from
sin. Jesus will take back anyone that wants to come. Remember the parable of the
ninety and nine sheep and the lost one. Albert Barnes in his commentary seems to
feel the same way. He writes:
truth taught here is, that it is in the power of the Lord Jesus so to turn the
hearts of all the enemies of religion that they shall be brought to show respect
to it; so to incline the minds of all people that they shall honour the church,
or be at least outwardly its friends.
for the Overcomers
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. (Verse 10).
hour of trail may be difficult to understand as there are several trials to
which this might refer. Some suggest this trial is the persecutions that were
coming under the Emperor Trajan. Some look upon this as the tribulation that
precedes the millennium.
the Glorified Christ holds the keys to the kingdom and has control over the
door, we might consider the thought that the hour of trial has some connection
with a threat against the people in this church remaining in the kingdom. The
most obvious trial that attacks the people of God is the temptation to commit
Apostle Peter gives us some assurance of Christ’s keeping power in 2 Peter
2:9, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to
reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment”.
sets the context by telling the church they have kept His command to persevere,
they were obeying the teachings of Jesus and living holy lives. Barnes in his Commentary
makes a suggestion that seems in keeping with the context of Christ with the key
hour of temptation. The season; the time; the period of temptation. You shall be
so kept that that which will prove to be a time of temptation to so many shall
not endanger your salvation. Though others fall, you shall not; though you may
be afflicted with others, yet you shall have grace to sustain you.
statement following the hour of trial says that it “shall come upon the whole
world to test those who dwell on the earth”. In this, we would understand the
trial to be a future event. However, it is probable that this trial concerns all
people living then and in the future concerning their relationship to the
gospel—the door Jesus opens and closes.
are two kinds of temptation or trails the whole world experiences. The first
being Christians and the temptations to sin. The Lord knows how to deliver them
out of temptation.
temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is
faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but
with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to
bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).
one has to backslide or take on a profession without the experience. Salvation
is real and Christ will keep those that put their faith in Him. It may be that
some will commit a sin, but is not Christ’s intention to throw them out of the
kingdom and shut the door on them.
little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if
anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1
greater temptation is to those that are not yet in the kingdom. The temptation
they face is to reject the gospel and be lost for eternity.
tells the church He is coming quickly; hold on to your salvation and do not let
anyone take your crown. That crown is eternal life according to what Paul wrote
in 2 Timothy 4:8,
there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all
who have loved His appearing.
could take our crown?
marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of
Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who
trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–7).
Church at Philadelphia was in the region where some churches had given over to
false doctrines and were in the depths of apostasy. Just because we have
salvation today and enjoy the true teaching of the Word of God does not mean we
are exempt from falling away. There are always people that want to change the
gospel to make it more “people friendly”; that is, less demanding that
people turn from sin and live according to God’s Word. We live in a world that
hates the gospel and the holy way of life of the Christian experience. Some
would even want to come here and undo what we have in order to accommodate
we let the Lord keep us in our time of trial, we will overcome such things and
in so doing we are made pillars in the temple of God. Jesus tells us the
following in verse 12:
temple is the church, the body of Christ.
overcomers God uses us as pillars, those that uphold and strengthen the church.
keeps us and there is no reason for us to be put out of His church.
here is a beautiful thing: He writes the name of the city of God on us. We need
no other name. We do not need to be known by some denominational for fellowship
names, He simply writes Church of God on us and that is all we need.
closes this letter with an uplifting thought on the new name:
reward, therefore, promised here is, that he who by persevering fidelity showed
that he was a real friend of the Saviour, would be honoured with a permanent
abode in the holy city of his habitation. In the church redeemed and triumphant
he would have a perpetual dwelling; and wherever he should be, there would be
given him sure pledges that he belonged to him, and was recognised as a citizen
of the heavenly world. To no higher honour could any man aspire; and yet that is
an honour to which the most humble and lowly may attain by faith in the Son of