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.” NASU
Philadelphia – Description of Jesus
He Is Holy
To be truly holy is to be without sin. This is one area of Jesus’ life that is under attack when people do not ascribe to Him the deity that He has. If He were only human, He would have also been sinful and therefore couldn’t be described as holy.
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6 NKJV)
And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Isa 53:9 NKJV)
Even before Jesus came, our sinfulness was declared and His complete innocence was contrasted to our iniquity. When this promise of the Messiah came 700 years before His birth, it was evident that He would have to be able to carry the sins of others and that He Himself would not have the burden of His own sins.
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NLT)
Before His birth, the angel that talked to Mary proclaimed that she was to conceive by the power of God the Father working through the Holy Spirit. It is important to note there was no sex act involved. If that were true then Jesus would be no different from the children of the gods of Greek mythology. There were many myths regarding gods coming to earth and having sex with women. Each of these involved lust on the part of the god and therefore showed that not only were they not gods, but that their offspring were nothing special either. God did not have sex with Mary as some cults claim. If that were the case, the Bible would have stated it clearly rather than couch it in other terms. The angel reinforces the fact that the baby will be holy.
And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. (Luke 23:41 RSV)
Even the thief on the cross knew that Jesus was holy. He recognized that he was getting the just punishment of his sins. He also recognized that Jesus had done nothing that deserved death. Since the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), Jesus would have been able to live forever had He not voluntarily allowed Himself to be put to death.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NASB)
In the sacrificial system, the lamb had to be perfect, without blemish. Giving Jesus the title of the Lamb of God points to His perfection and holiness.
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? ESV (John 8:46)
Jesus himself testified that He was without sin by asking the Pharisees to show where He had sinned. The response is obvious. They hurled insults at Him because they knew what He said was true and could not come up with anything to prove Him wrong. We often react like the Pharisees. When we feel threatened or jealous of someone else’s ability we resort to calling names.
2 Cor 5:21, Heb 4:15, 1 Peter 1:18-19, all reinforce what has already been said. The Bible is consistent about this from the Old Testament through the New. The gospels, epistles and all of Scripture agree that Jesus is holy.
He Is True
Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart. (Ps 15:1-2 NIV)
Who is it that can dwell in the sanctuary of the Lord? This psalm speaks about the life we should live, but more than that, it shows that Jesus speaks the truth since He stands at the right hand of God. I selected this psalm because it says the He speaks truth from His heart. The very nature of Jesus is to speak truth. He is the Word, the Word of truth.
Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. (Ps 25:4-5 NASU)
If we want to know the truth and the ways of God our Savior, then we need to know Jesus. Since He is the truth, it stands to reason that as we get to know him better, we too, will know the truth. If He lives in us, then we become full of truth.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 KJV)
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6 KJV)
Jesus is portrayed as full of truth. He is not just true; He is full of truth. If we are living our lives for Him then His fullness is in us and His truth should come out in the way we live and talk. If it doesn’t, then there is something seriously wrong with our walk. If we continually walk in sin, then we have evidenced in our lives that we do not walk with Jesus, who is the truth.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." (John 14:6-7 NKJV)
Thomas didn’t know where Jesus was going. In response, Jesus refers to Himself as being the truth. It is very important to understand that everything He says is true. The ramification is that those who try to get to God by any other way will not make it and that’s the truth! Also, if someone knows Jesus, he or she already knows the Father. This is why it is so important to know who Jesus claimed to be. If you think that Jesus is someone other than God in the flesh, then you will also have a distorted, untruthful view of God, an eternally fatal view.
I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:12-14 NLT)
The NIV says, “I tell you the truth.” The NAS says, “truly, truly” and the KJV says, “verily, verily.” The Greek word is “ameen” or amen in English. It indicates trust and affirmation when we say it at the end of a prayer. Jesus uses it in front of a statement to indicate that what He is about to say is the truth since it is coming from the One who is true. He also tells us that we will do greater things by asking Him, and He will do it. Did Jesus describe Himself as being true to the Church at Philadelphia because He wanted to encourage them in the greater works He had for them?
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. (John 15:1 RSV)
Unless we draw our nourishment from the truth, we will wither up and die. Even when we are weak we are strong because of the truth to Whom we are attached.
Pilate therefore said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-28 NASB)
1. Apart from Him there is no salvation
2. He is the only way.
3. He and the Father are one.
4. One must be born again to enter the kingdom.
5. Anyone who believes has eternal life.
6. Those who reject Him will spend eternity in hell.
7. He prepares a place in heaven for us.
8. He carries our burdens.
9. We must deny self.
The list goes on and on, yet some scoff and ask, “What is the truth?”
In each church the description of Jesus had something to do with either the needs of the church or what was about to happen to them. It may very well be that the church at Philadelphia was walking in truth with Jesus so that they lived holy and truthful lives that were evident in their sharing the truth with others.
He Holds The Key Of David.
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam 16:13a KJV)
Like David, Jesus was anointed by God and the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him in power. He was chosen and given the power to accomplish His calling. The church in Philadelphia had little strength, but with the power that comes from Jesus, they were given an open door of opportunity to share the gospel. When we come to Christ, we are given His Holy Spirit and have the same opportunities.
But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. (2 Sam 7:15 KJV)
God’s love will never be taken away from Jesus and His kingdom will be forever. In times of hardship and testing, it’s easy to think that the love of God has departed as it did from Saul. But Jesus has the key of enduring love and an enduring kingdom. We always need to remember that His love for us is steady and sure. We may be tested or even punished but His love never leaves; we will always have everlasting life.
Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (Isa 55:3 NASU)
God is willing to give this enduring love to those who incline their ear – more than just listen – and come to him. Yhe covenant will be made according to the faithful mercies He has shown David.
One way was when David sinned and fell out of fellowship with God. The Lord was faithful to send Nathan to restore him. (2 Sam 12:1, 5, 13) David himself said that he deserved to die; yet the Lord replied through Nathan that He had taken the sin away. This also is the key of David that He has taken our sin away, and we will not die.
Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Ps 16:10 NIV)
One of the promises that was given to Jesus through David was that He would not see decay. His body would not be physically destroyed before it was raised. Since Jesus had this promise and it has already been kept, it is a key to our bodily resurrection also. In facing times of endurance and carrying the gospel to all places, this promise can bring comfort and encouragement. Even though we may die, we will be raised from the dead and will be with Him forever.
He Opens and Shuts
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter. (Ps 118:19-20 KJV)
He has opened the gate of righteousness through His death on the cross. We can enter that gate only because He has given us His righteousness.
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9 ESV)
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16 ESV)
Since He is the door, He certainly should be the one with authority to open it or close it. He is concerned for all that He knows and belongs to Him. The door is not there just for our protection and entry to eternal life. The open door is for us to go out to find those who don’t know Him and give them the message. They will hear His voice through us and we will come together into one fold.
Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27 NKJV)
Jesus gives us faith for salvation and to continue in His works. The open door is not just to go out and spread the gospel, but for all of our Christian life, for every aspect of it that requires faith. It is especially for faith in prayer because that is where we find out what to do and where to go after passing through the door of salvation. Jesus told the Philadelphians that they had little strength; however with the open door of faith, they would be able to accomplish a lot. Jesus told Paul in 2 Cor 12:9 that His power is made perfect in weakness. Think of what this church must have been able to do, with an open door and the perfect strength of Jesus! Paul’s attitude is a model for us and was probably the model the Philadelphians were using. When we feel least like serving or when we realize we are inadequate for the job, we need to turn to Him for strength and anointing so that He can use us. It is easy to depend upon our own intellect to memorize a gospel presentation or to learn apologetics, but without His power, all of this will not bring one person to Him.
There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me. (1 Cor 16:9 NLT)
We need to realize that an open door to spread the gospel will also bring those who oppose us. In the case of the Church at Philadelphia, this may have been the synagogue of Satan. As I mentioned before, these were probably Jews who were betraying Christians to the Roman government in order to escape persecution themselves. Today, it could also be those in the church that claim to be Christians but are not. Those who say they are for God, but do not honor the Son. Those who think that evangelism is a dirty word and that a person’s faith is a personal matter that should not to be discussed. The end result is that even these will have to acknowledge that Jesus loves His church and that He is Lord.
And pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one. (Col 4:3-6 RSV)
At the root of all open doors is the necessity of prayer. To have that open door placed before them, the Philadelphian church must have been a praying church. Of all of the prayers that the Lord must hear each minute, I doubt that He hears this one very often. The Evangelism Explosion program and other methods of sharing the Gospel (like The Way of the Master) have been answers to the same kind of prayer that Paul wanted. They place before us opportunities to share the mysteries of Christ in the clearest ways possible. These programs are wise because they show how to earn the right to proceed with the Gospel or stop when someone isn’t receptive. They can be used to make the most of every opportunity.
And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; (Rev 21:25 NASB)
In eternity, the gates to the new city will never be shut. We will always have access to the Lord. Perhaps this is why one of the promises has to do with being a pillar in the temple of God.
Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us,” then he will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” (Luke 13:24-25 ESV)
This is a message that people don’t want to hear. Jesus will shut the door of salvation at some point. It may be for most of mankind after He comes again or it may be for individuals who have tried to enter by their own righteousness instead of His.
This passage goes on to describe that those who want to enter will try to convince the Master that they should be able to enter based on their association with Him. I say association because they really didn’t know Him. They were only in the same proximity. It’s like the popular jock in high school saying that he knew the math nerd or vice versa. The only association they really had is that they ate in the same cafeteria. People who go to church but don’t know Jesus will be shocked when He closes the door and won’t let them in.
There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. (Luke 13:28 NIV)
Jesus describes hell in various ways. Here, it is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Other places He describes eternal punishment saying that their worm will not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48). The only way to be on the right side of the door that Jesus shuts is to know Him personally.
On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. (2 Cor 12:5 NASU)
Jesus says that the Philadelphians have little strength. This is probably the greatest compliment that He could give them. One of the greatest apostles, Paul, boasted about his weakness. When we do things in our own strength, we get the credit. When we do them through the power of Christ, He gets the glory. Jesus knows their deeds and lack of strength, yet He places the door before them. You don’t give opportunity to those who can’t handle it. It has already been proven that they could handle it through Jesus’ power by the fact that they have not denied His name and have kept His word. Jesus rebuked some of the other churches because they hadn’t done this.
This church must have already gone through some persecution, trials, or other problems. Jesus says that they have already kept His command to endure. It is as if they are ahead of the church at Smyrna. At Smyrna, they had not yet faced troubles to be tested.
It should be our objective to belong to a church that is not rebuked by the Lord, as was the church in Philadelphia.
Counsel and Warning
Counsel and warning do not seem to fit this church either. They paid attention to the Word, followed Jesus’ commands, and didn’t deny Him. These are the things He told the other churches to do. They recognized their weakness and were humble before the Lord. Rather than any other counsel we can look at the contrast between what they have before them in opportunity and the position of the other churches that requires more teaching and counsel. In our lives we need to become like this church.
Kept From the Hour of Trial
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Heb 11:7 NKJV)
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) — then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:4-9 NKJV)
Noah was in a very similar position as the church in Philadelphia. They were among the unrighteous but by their faith they demonstrated that the world is lost. Noah was not just one who lived his life and witnessed by demonstration. He was also a preacher. People were not only able to see his righteous life, but were told plainly why he led a life different from the rest of the world. This passage also demonstrates that Noah was brought through the trials and this was because of his faith and the preparations he did in obedience.
Lot was taken from the destruction even though he lost everything. These examples are presented as a picture of the final trials and tribulations on the earth from which some people will escape. The church at Philadelphia had been given a specific promise that they would escape.
It isn’t clear from this passage whether or not this is a promise that all believers can claim; however we can look more closely at the examples to see if there are any clues that will help us.
We can look at Noah as a picture of the church. Noah was given a task to perform while he waited for the flood. We are given the task to prepare for the future by laying up treasures in heaven instead of on earth (Matt 6:19-21). Noah preached to the unrighteous. While we are storing up treasures, we preach to the unsaved, exposing the sin and corruption in the world. Noah saw only a few saved. We only see a remnant saved and they are the ones God has chosen to enter into His provision. God closed the door for Noah and sealed him inside the ark. When the time comes, God will close the door on the Church as we know it and rapture the Church. When the floods came Noah was above all the problems just as the raptured Church will be. Afterward, Noah was in all essence the ruler of a restored earth. So too, the Church will rule with Christ for 1,000 years after Jesus restores the earth from the ravages of the tribulation.
We must be careful not to think that the Church in general is going to escape all trials, or that individuals will escape all trials. This verse says the hour of trial. It implies a very specific time of trial that will come upon the whole earth. The trials that we see in various countries today are not yet global in scope.
Rev 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 24; 17:2, 8 all speak about those who live on the earth or are the inhabitants of the earth. In all of these other cases, they are not believers, but the wicked. This hour of trial that the Church will escape is an hour of vengeance that the Lord will bring upon the earth and the unbelievers who populate it at that time. The current Church will not participate in that trial.
He Is Coming Soon
This is a promise to everyone for all time and because it is, it could also indicate that even up to the time of the rapture there will be churches like the one in Philadelphia. This is motivation for us to do as much as possible for Jesus before He returns. Think of the person who is getting ready for dinner guests. They scramble at the last minute to get everything in order before the guests arrive. “They will be here any minute,” carries with it the expectation of seeing them, but also a quick check around the house to put minor things in order. This should be our attitude whenever we remember the promise that Jesus is coming soon. Yea! He will be here any moment and we’ll be able to see Him. Hmmm, what do I need to straighten up before He gets here?
I’ve already covered what some of our crowns are so I won’t go over them again. This brings up the question as to which of these crowns it is possible to lose. Certainly it is not salvation. His love and compassion never changes so we won’t lose the crown of life that goes hand in glove with the crown of salvation. That leaves the crown of joy and beauty, which can be exhibited in our lives now. Remember that those who claimed to be Jews but were not in God’s eyes were harassing the Philadelphians. There is a distinct warning that if we let the way people treat us get to us, we can lose our joy, our mouths will turn down, and we will no longer radiate the beauty of Christ.
Pillars in the Temple of My God
Pillars are supportive in nature. In the architecture of the Middle East, most of the buildings had flat roofs. This would require the use of many pillars in a large building. The building would then have many rooms as the pillars could easily be used to divide the interior of the building.
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2 RSV)
Is it possible that as Jesus prepares a place for us that, somehow, He is planning to use us in that building?
A pillar was also used as a monument to remember something or a special occasion as in Gen 28:18 as Jacob did after seeing God in a dream. A pillar was used as a monument to someone so that the person would be remembered.
During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King's Valley, for he said, "I have no son to carry on my name." He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom's Monument to this day. (2 Sam 18:18 NLT)
We can see a stark contrast between Absalom and the church in Philadelphia. The contrast is between self-glorification and the glory and honor that the Lord will bestow on those who have been humble and have served Him.
To accentuate the permanency of the pillars, Jesus says that He will write three names on us. We write our name on something only when we intend to keep it. We will have God’s name, His city’s name and the new name of Jesus written on us. How much more secure could you feel?
I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me; Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: “This one was born there.” (Ps 87:4 NASB)
You might also look at this as the address of where we belong. We belong in the city of the Lord, with the Father and the Son. When we build a building and pre-fabricate the parts in another location then bring them together at the building site, the place in the building it is to take is usually written on it.
The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? (2 Chron 2:5-6 ESV)
Solomon knew that the temple he built could not adequately accommodate God. Jesus is speaking of God’s true temple in the New Jerusalem because it comes out of heaven from God. This temple will be fit for God because He has built it. God left the temple in the past because of the wickedness of Israel. Ezekiel has a vision of this in Eze10:1 through 11:23. Jesus says God will never again leave it. This is a great promise of security. We know that it is His temple, not built by human hands and we will be there with Him forever.
Church History - Churches Today.
The Philadelphian church is representative of the greatest missionary church period of all times. Its message is not watered down or mingled with paganism, nor is it corrupted by money as the church was during the Middle Ages. It is the time when schools were established, like Princeton, to train and send forth people to all corners of the world. This movement is still seen today, but even though there are more missionaries in the field than ever before, they are sent and supported by a minority of churches. When you are a member of a church like this, it is hard to imagine that all are not this way. There will always be some churches like this even just before the rapture occurs. He has promised that this church will disappear before the tribulation.
Jesus has revealed even more about Himself to us because of the faithfulness of this church. He has enriched His promises to everyone who overcomes. May we have the same devotion to Jesus and His truth as did the church at Philadelphia.