To the Church in Philadelphia
I don't know about you, but this is the first letter that really gets me excited. Did you notice that it's the first letter were Jesus has nothing to say against the church? Instead, he is filled with words of encouragement and hope for the people in the church of Philadelphia.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. 8 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 on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them 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 them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13
He begins this letter differently. In the other letters we've read, he begins by referring to himself in terms of the vision John had -
- Letter to Ephesus: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
- Letter to Smyrna: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
- Letter to Pergamum: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
- Letter to Thyatira: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
- Letter to Sardis: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
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.He is the Holy One - He is the True One. He is the only one who is morally perfect, without spot or blemish. There is no one holy besides Him and no truth other than His truth. He is the One who "holds the key of David," which is a reference to and event in the Old Testament.
In Isaiah 22, God speaks a prophecy against Shebna, King Hezekiah's top man in charge of the palace, who was working underhandedly to make his own life comfortable, with no regard for God or others. God says through Isaiah that Shebna will be banished to another country and die there and that He will appoint a godly man named Eliakim...
20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Isaiah 22:20-22Jesus refers back to that passage and applies it to himself, saying...
What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 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.Here, Jesus commends the church at Philadelphia for their steadfast faith, even in times of trial, where their strength was nearly gone. Their patient endurance of trials and sure trust in Him elicited a promise from Jesus - that he setting an open door before them that no one could shut.
What door would that have been? If we look back at the Apostle Paul, he speaks of open and shut doors in reference to being able to enter a city to preach the gospel and encourage the saints. In Acts 16:6, the Holy Spirit shut the door to ministry in Asia. When he tried to enter Bithynia, again the Holy Spirit shut the door. (Acts 16:7). It was a different story when he came to Troas. There he found that the Lord had opened a door for him. (2 Corinthians 2:12) Even more exciting is a statement in 1 Corinthians 16:9 that the door to Asia, which had previously been shut to him was later opened by the Lord, allowing Paul to enter the city of Ephesus, the capital of Asia.
See why I'm excited about this letter? When we are steadfast in our faith, when keep our faith strong in the face of trial, God is pleased and will open doors of opportunity for us and shut doors that he knows would not be beneficial for us. This tells me that God knows us intimately. He knows when we struggle, he knows the path he has for us, he is able to lead and guide if we remain faithful to him and to his word. I don't know about you, but that makes me want to do a little shouting!
But wait - there's more...
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 on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.Because they obeyed His command to endure patiently, because we endure patiently and remain faithful, there's amazing reward in store for us.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them 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 them my new name.
First, he promises that He will keep us from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of earth. Here, Jesus is making reference to an event that we call The Rapture. Though the Bible does not put a name on this event, it describes precisely what is going to happen...
The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV)This is not symbolism, it's a real event. It will happen, just as is stated here. When? Now, that's a question that has been debated long and hard in the Christian faith, but as I read this passage of scripture it's clear that it will be before "the great tribulation," that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, because He clearly says that he will keep us from (orginal Greek for this phrase means he will "take us out of, away from, not just shield us through) the unspeakable distress which is coming on the whole world. A horror such as we've never known in human history. Click the either of the two links in this paragraph to find a graphic description of the things to come, then thank God that if you are a Christian who is faithful to the end, you will be spared from going through this and pray earnestly for those who don't know Jesus as their Savior, for they will have to face all these things.
As we finish up this letter to the Church at Philadelphia, we are encouraged even more, because He promises that he is coming soon and if we hold on to what we have - that patient endurance - no one will be able to take our crown (of victory), we will be victorious and he will make us a pillar (a supporting, integral, or upstanding member) in the temple of God (Heaven) and we will never leave that place. He will write on us the name of God and the name of the city of God. He urges us to hold on because as time progresses it will become more and more difficult to stand strong in our faith.
Notice that in verse 11 he writes again,
"I am coming soon."Some would argue that this letter was written over 2000 years ago, so how could He say that He was coming soon. In fact, the church has been saying for generation after generation that Jesus is coming soon and yet he has not come. How can we continue to hope? First we must look at this statement in the context of what he's just been speaking about - the great tribulation.
We read about the sun being darkened, the moon not shining, stars falling from the heavens and men's hearts failing them for fear at the terrible things that are happening all around them. He says, we will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be famines and earthquakes in various places and many other things that we hear on the evening news and read in our newspapers.
In Luke 21:28, He says...
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
It's in reference to those events that Jesus declares, "I am coming soon." (We will learn much more about the Great Tribulation as we continue to study the book of Revelation.)
Again he ends his letter to the church at Philadelphia with...
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.Do you have ears to hear what he's saying?
Are standing strong in your faith?
Are you rejoicing that you will be taken to Heaven before the Great Tribulation?
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An Introduction to the City of Philadelphia
(video starts at the 12 second mark)
(video starts at the 12 second mark)
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