Building a Strong Relationship with Christ – The Philadelphia Example: Faithfulness in the Word – Revelation 3:7-13

Continuing in our study of Christ’s letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor we are going to focus this month on the church in Philadelphia:

“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:  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 kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Behold, I will cause 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 at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  He 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.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Philadelphia (present day Alaşehir, Turkey) is located twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis (discussed in our last study).  At the time it was a farming community known for many agricultural products but was plagued constantly by earthquakes.  As John was recording the book of Revelation in 95 AD the most recent earthquake had occurred about 37 AD.  The city itself was named for a king of Pergamum, Attalus Philadelphus, who had built it.  The name is similar to a Greek word that can be translated “brotherly love” (a Greek word translated into the English phrase seven times in the New Testament).  Despite two thousand years of wars and cultural changes a Christian testimony remains to this day where Philadelphia once stood.

Jesus starts out this letter commending the Philadelphians for their faithfulness and perseverance in the faith despite their “little power” – or little strength.  As a result of their heart for the Word and their refusal to deny Jesus name the Lord informs the church that He has placed an open door that cannot be closed before them – a special blessing given to them as a result of their faithfulness to Christ.

The Lord’s encouragement of the Philadelphians continues as He informs them that their opposition, the synagogue of Satan, will one day be brought to account.  It is likely that the members of this group were not overt worshipers of Satan but simply followers of various false religions that could be seen throughout the region.  Whether in this letter’s time (95 AD) or now, pagan religions have always been major antagonists of the church.  It is not a surprise that they had opposition but it should come as encouragement that Christ promises to bring them into judgment.  He guarantees the Philadelphians that their adversaries will be forced to “bow down” at their feet and “make them know that I [Jesus] have loved you.”  I’m not sure of the logistics of how or when this happens but the blessing to the Philadelphians for their faithfulness is still obvious…

In the End Our Enemies Have to Acknowledge Our Faith is Real and Jesus Loves Us Because of It.

Christ’s promise to this group of believers, as a result of their faithfulness, was that they were not going to have to endure “hour of testing” (the Great Tribulation).  Notice that He did not say “I will keep you through the hour of testing” or “I will keep you safe in the hour of testing.”  Jesus intentions could not be clearer – as a result of their trust and faith in Him they would be kept out of (one might even say raptured) the time of tribulation. 

While the Lord makes some pretty awesome promises in this letter about the Philadelphians’ enemies being brought to justice and their absence in the tribulation there is an even greater lesson to this passage that can be found in what is notincluded.  Philadelphia is one of only two letters found in the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor that did not receive a rebuke or a stern correction from Christ.  The first was the church at Smyrna who were under constant intense persecution and poverty yet remained faithful. 

In Philadelphia’s case it appears that their perseverance was tied directly to two things: keeping the Word and not denying Jesus’ name.  Of the two I am convinced that the hardest to work into our daily lives is keeping the Word.  I don’t know about you but I often have the greatest intentions of spending time in the Word daily but the busyness of life usually drags me away or at least gives me the excuse to be lazy.  The only way for us to survive as believers (or make it until He returns) is to faithfully grow in our knowledge of His Word.  Romans 10 reminds us that faith comes by hearing the Word.  I might ad that to continue to grow in that faith and to continue to led by the Holy Spirit we must remain faithful to and increase our knowledge of His Word.  In short…

Study the Bible If You Want to Remain Faithful!