Updated: May 28, 2022
What can we learn from them
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
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 those who live on the earth.
Jesus Christ is a true descendant of King David in terms of faith and righteousness in contrast to those unbelieving Jews in Philadelphia. Jesus alone as the holder of the key of David has the ultimate executive power over all things in the cosmos with power to allow or to block as He sees fit. The key of David implies the Holder is fully ordained by God. Isaiah shows that all the glory of God’s family is vested in Him who holds the key of David, and that the Holder is like the firmly driven in tent peg that holds everything in the right place. All the honour of Father God’s household is represented as seated in the throne of Jesus Christ.
Although this church had grown weak it was still loyal to Jesus and probably had been specifically tested on this matter of loyalty to Him. Those unbelieving Jews were much more like Satan than the righteous Jews as required by the Law since they were the main accusers and persecutors of the Christians in the city. Jesus promises that one day these unrighteous Jews will need to bow and acknowledge that God loves the church members that these Jews had slandered.
The open door represents a wonderful opportunity to preach the Gospel and the tone of great comfort implies that the grace of God to empower and sustain the church is fully available. V10 ‘I will keep you from...’ is God’s promise of special protection to His church and specifically that He will in some way intervene to prevent them from going through a terrible ‘hour of trial’ that will affect everyone else alive on the planet.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.12 Those who are victorious I will make pillars 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.
He comforts this church with the fact that they will not have too long to wait for His coming. Jesus admonishes them to keep their love and faith so that their rewards will be full. To those who overcome the promise is given of eternally playing a key supporting role in God’s Holy Temple i.e. the New Jerusalem. The other rewards include being given a new name.
Those who are ready and able should listen to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The Church of Philadelphia – Further commentary from Jacky Wilson (the contribution of the late David Hilsley is acknowledged)
The Church of Philadelphia was in a centre of Greek civilisation. Founded only 189 years before Jesus, the city had a surprising influence on that area of the ancient world. This Church must have been very vital, for Philadelphia remained an independent Christian city until the close of the fourteenth century, when it was conquered by Turkey.
The message in this letter? To endure suffering, stay close to Jesus. Keep his word, and you can withstand anything.
Jesus’ Commendation Revelation 3:8 I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Condemnation: Not one word!
Counsel: Revelation 3:11 - I am coming soon. Hold fast to what you have, so that on one can seize your crown.
So who was this church? Well, Philadelphia was a strategically located trade town in Asia. It stood between Rome and the eastern world and was known as “little Athens” because of its many gods and idols.
But though it was filled with idolatry, the church remained faithful to Jesus. They had little power, as Jesus mentions in the letter.
They also faced persecution from the Jews, which we see in verse 9. But despite weakness and opposition, they trusted his word and remained faithful to him.
In a world filled with idolatry, they listened to Jesus alone, and that was their greatest achievement.
That’s our call today—listen to and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures must be the centring point of every church
Listen to how Jesus introduces himself in verse 7. “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens, and no one will shut, who shuts, and no one opens.”
We have in that single verse a four-fold description of Christ.
1) He’s the holy one. This is the distinctive attribute of God. He’s set apart, perfect, pure.
2) He’s true. He cannot lie. He keeps his word. He’s fully trustworthy always and in every way.
3) He has the key of David. Keys and locks and doors are a sign of power and official authority. Jesus holds the key not to Philadelphia but to the house of David. Remember, God told David that he would establish his kingdom and his son would reign on the throne forever. Jesus is that Son who takes the seat, the eternal throne.
4) He is the one who opens and shuts the doors. He’s sovereign overall. He’s powerful, able to open and shut.
These four marks show Christ worthy of our attention. He’s the pure one, the right one, the key to every door. How could we not listen to him?
We need this message today because at some point our faith will be tested, just as the Philadelphian church was, and when it is, we need the everlasting word of Jesus to help us stand like oaks of righteousness.
So, to that end, let’s consider three truths about the word of Jesus from this passage:
1. The word of Jesus is an open door for his humble people (v. 8). (See above)
2. The word of Jesus is a sure foundation for his suffering people (v. 9-10).
3. The word of Jesus is a promise for his enduring people (v. 11-12).
That they have but little power-that’s not an insult or rebuke. It’s just an acknowledgment that they had very little influence in their culture.
They were small. Even more, they were persecuted by the Jews who were stronger than them, as we see in verse 9. Yet in the face of opposition, they did not deny their faith in Christ.
Jesus wants them to know that the opposition was not their fault. Their suffering wasn’t a result of their lack of faith or anything else. They kept his word. They stood firm.
He knows their heart of faith toward him and their love for him. So, to encourage them, Jesus says he set before them an open door, which no one can shut.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” The door symbolises the need for a decision. It’s the entryway into Christ or the barrier keeping one from Christ. So, the door in this context seems to be entrance into Christ’s kingdom.
When suffering comes, it’s our reliance on Jesus during suffering that gives us such strong confidence in him. When Jesus is all we have, we realise Jesus is all we need.
We see in verse 9 that the Jews in the synagogue of Satan have caused harm to the church. These Jews, Jesus says, are not really Jews, but lie. These Jews didn’t love God. They loved themselves and their power and their status and their self-perceived righteousness. But these Jews didn’t trust Jesus. They, like Satan, set themselves against him. They thought they held the keys to the kingdom, but Jesus is that key,
So, church, keep his word with patient endurance because he rewards those who do. See that phrase there in verse 10? “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth”
Look at verses 11 and 12. “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.”
Jesus is coming soon. Therefore, he says, hold fast. Why: Because Jesus traded in the crown of thorns for the crown of glory, and he gives that crown of glory to all his people suffering the thorns of this world.
Jesus holds the keys. He is the door. “Don’t give up. He’s coming soon. Endure! Hold fast! Trust Jesus!”
 Isaiah 22:20-24
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 house 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. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honour for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.
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