Election · End Times Issues · Faith · God's Law · Holy Spirit · Isaiah · Jesus

A Letter of Love from the Lord to the Church in Philadelphia

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 3:7-13).

John addresses the Church that is found in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was named during the reign of Attalus the Second who ruled in Pergamum, Turkey from 159-138 BC. Such was the love of Attalus for his brother Eumenes, that he called it Philadephos, or Philadelphia.

When an earthquake destroyed the city, the emperor Tiberius, who ruled from AD 15 to AD 37, had the city rebuilt. The people were grateful, and took on a new name for a while, Neo-Caesarea, the New City of Caesar.

As John writes to the angel, or leader, of the Church in Philadelphia, he ascribes three great titles to the resurrected Christ. Jesus is declared to be “He that is holy.” The word holy (hagios) means, “to be different,” or, “to be separate from”. Like God the Father, Christ Himself is holy. He is separate from sin and unrighteousness.

Concerning the holiness of God, in Isaiah 6:3 the song of the angels was that of singing, “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord of Hosts!”

 

In Isaiah 40:25, the question is asked, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One.” All through the Old Testament God is the Holy One, and now that title is given to Jesus. He is very God of very God, and we proclaim it to all the people of the ages. Jesus is declared to be, “He that is true.” The word used here in the original (alethinos) means, “to be real as opposed to that which is unreal.” John was the great champion of the truth that Jesus was come in the flesh. Christ was real, and He spoke about real spiritual truth. The Lord declared of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). To listen to Jesus, to embrace the teachings of Christ, is to embrace the truth.

Jesus is declared to be, “He that hath the key of David.” In the Bible a key is a symbol of authority. Jesus is represented as having ultimate and final authority. The Lord claimed all authority for Himself. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

By referring to the key of David, John was drawing upon an Old Testament incident. There was a king named Hezekiah, who ruled over Judah from c. 715 – 687 BC. Hezekiah had a faithful servant called Eliakim, who was charge of his entire house. Eliakim alone would admit those he wanted into the presence of the king. The prophet Isaiah heard God say of Eliakim, “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David, he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” (Isa. 22:22). For John, Jesus was Eliakim. Jesus alone has the authority to allow entrance into the New Jerusalem, the city of David.

In Revelation 3:8, the Lord once again asserts His intimate knowledge of the people in the Church in Philadelphia. “I know thy works,” He says. The implication is that the Church was performing good works. The Bible makes a distinction between the works of the flesh, and the good work of the sweet and sovereign Holy Spirit. The works of the flesh are listed.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-22).

The works of the Spirit are given in contrast to the works of the flesh. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22). The lifelong objective of the Christian is to manifest the work of the Spirit, or “good works.”

One result of the good works of the Church at Philadelphia was that of the opportunity to do more good for the advancement of the kingdom. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door.”

Several observations are to be noted. Observe the sense of urgency to recognize the magnitude of the grace of God. “Behold!” Observe the sovereign decision of Christ to give a particular ministry to whom He chooses. Observe the absolute hopelessness of man to fight against what God is doing to advance His kingdom. Observe why the Lord was so gracious to this church. Three reasons are given.

First, the Lord was gracious to the church because the believers were so weak, in and of themselves, that Christ must build His church. Second, because the believers had a sincere desire to obey Christ, and to take Him at His word, He would show mercy to them. Third, because the saints had not denied the name, or person of Christ, the Lord would honor them.

In addition to the privilege of ministering to others, Jesus had more exciting news. He will make those who say they are Jews, but are not, to come and worship before the feet of the church. A number of important concepts are brought into focus, beginning with the idea that not all Jews are Jews. Abraham had a spiritual seed. He had a natural seed, and he had a religious seed.

The natural seed of Abraham includes all that have the genes of Abraham. The religious seed consists of all who embrace the Jewish faith embodied in the Law of Moses. The spiritual seed comprises those who, like Abraham, believe in God, and see in Christ the promise of the Messiah.

It is possible for a person to say, “I am a Jew because I am of the racial stock of Abraham.” It is possible for a person to say, “I am a Jew because I observe the Law of Moses.” It is possible for a person to say, “I am a Jew because, like Abraham, I rejoice in Christ my Savior.” Following the death of Christ, His resurrection, and ascension into heaven, a person could still make claims to being a Jew along racial, or religious lines, and find himself cut off from fellowship by failing to love Jesus. There are those “which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie.” They lie because they claim to have faith like Abraham, but Abraham had faith in Christ. Only those who have faith in Christ are the true spiritual seed of Abraham. Only those who have faith in Christ are true “Jews.”

Dr. William Barclay comments on this truth. “It was the Christian belief that the Jewish nation had lost its place in the plan of God and that place had passed to the Church. A Jew in God’s sense of the term was not one who could claim racial descent from Abraham, but one of any nation who had made the same venture of faith as he had (Rom. 9:6-9). The Church was the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16).”

 

The early church believed that all the promises which had been made to national Israel had been inherited by the Church. It was to her, that one day all men would humbly make their submission.

The promise is a reversal of all that the Jews had expected. The Jews had expected that all nations would kneel before them. What John says is that the day was to come when they, with all nations, would kneel before Christ.

Until the ultimate expression of glory, God’s people will know great trials, but the promise made in Revelation 3:10 is that the Lord will keep those who have kept His commandments. Loyalty has a definite reward. Jesus will keep His own from “the hour of temptation.”

Commenting on this promise, Matthew Henry said, “Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution.”

In Revelation 3:11 the saints are encouraged to hold on to what they have, so that no one take their crown. The issue is not that someone will steal their reward, but they are not worthy to wear it. The Christians could remember how so many others lost their crowns.

Esau lost his crown to Jacob. “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). “And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” (Gen. 27:36).

Rueben, unstable as water, lost his crown to Judah. “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch….8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee” (Gen. 49:4).

Saul lost his crown to David. “And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons” (1 Sam. 16:1). “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. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Sam. 16:13).

Judas lost his crown to Matthias. “That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:25).

The Jews lost their crown to the Gentiles. “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy:” (Rom. 11:11).

To all that overcome, the Lord makes several promises. First, He will make them a pillar in the temple of God. A pillar is a great and honored support. On the pillar rests the weight of the building. Peter, James, and John are declared to be the pillars of the early Church. Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Second, the Christian shall go out no more. This translates into a promise of security, and a promise of rest. Third, the saint will have the name of God written upon their soul. In Revelation 7:3 the seal of God is upon the forehead of the Christian. “Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Rev. 7:3).

The imagery may refer to several things. First, in the cities of Asia Minor and Philadelphia, after he died, a priestly person of prominence would have a new pillar erected in the Temple in which he served. On the pillar would be inscribed his name as a last honor. Second, slaves were branded to show to whom they belonged. Third, and most likely, the reference may be to the time when God told to Moses the blessing which Aaron and the priests were to pronounce over the people.

“They shall put my name upon the people of Israel” (Num. 6:22-27).” To have the name of God is to have it be known that one is the personal possession of deity.

In addition to having the name of God, the saint is also promised the name of the city of God. According to Ezekiel, the name of the re-created city of God is, “Yehovah Samma”, “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezek. 48:35). What is certain, is that on the faithful Christian, Christ will write His own new name. What that new name is, no man knows. Taking these promises together, the saint can be assured that he belongs to God, he will dwell where God dwells and, he has the mark of God which will be his badge of honor to show, and to share, in the triumph of Christ.

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