Last week we looked at the Church in Sardis - a sad story it was indeed; a church referred to as a living dead church. Although Jesus addressed the church in Sardis as a dead church, all hope was not lost; Jesus saw the glow of embers among the ashes and exhorted the believers in Sardis to fan the flame with renewed commitment to Him. " . . a smoking flax shall he not quench" Matthew 12:20b.
Today we will look at the sixth of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation, Philadelphia. Like the Smyrna church it received absolute praise. Reading through these verses, you could just sense the admiration Jesus had for this church; the love that surged from Him would just "knot" your stomach and His promises would certainly warm your heart.
Philadelphia - The City and the goings on [Verse 7]
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."
The city of Philadelphia was geographically placed directly over a seismic fault and was shaken by repeated Earthquakes for 20 years following the 17 AD Earthquake. Also, by virtue of its location Philadelphia guarded an important pass through the mountains between the Hermus and Meander River valleys. It held the key to the door through which all east-west trade and commerce passed. (It was a gateway city). It was also the claim by the Jews of Philadelphia that they were the "true" people of God who held the key to the Kingdom of God.
So Jesus introduces Himself as the One who is holy and true to the church in a city sitting on a seismic fault and those who believed they were the "true" people of God and then introduces Himself to those who thought they held the key to the Kingdom of God as the One "who holds the key of David" and what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open"
The church in Philadelphia in comparison with the other churches would in my opinion be in first place among the seven churches. Why? Only two churches received commendation without rebuke; Smyrna and Philadelphia but while the Smyrna church was told to prepare for more hardship (Rev 2:10), the Philadelphia church was offered shielding by Jesus Himself as well as rewards as we will see in the next few verses. They certainly must have won His admiration. The reasons are listed below:
1. The Reward #1 [Here On Earth] - The Open Door [Verse 8a]
8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
Jews were exempt from participation in the emperor worship cult, but the Jewish Christians, had been denounced by some Jews in Philadelphia before Roman officials that they were not "true" Jews and were excluded from the Jewish community and synagogues, so they did not enjoy the same legal protection and therefore were persecuted to indulge in participation in the emperor worship cult .
John 9:22 says: "For already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue"
So, in the midst of all these, Jesus sends words of encouragement to this church: "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut"
In effect He was saying: "Forget about the doors that have been shut against you. They have shut you out of their communities and synagogues; but . . "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut!".
A door that due to the location of the city gave the church the wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel message throughout the country and beyond.
· The Reason For The Reward - Keeping the Word even when times were rough [Verse 8b]
"I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." [Emphasis mine]
O that we will hold on and make Jesus proud. He was as proud of the church as God was of Him! [Matthew 22:44, Psalm 110:1]. "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."] NIV. So He tells them in verse 9.
2. The Reward #2 [Here On Earth] - Divine Vindication [Verse 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."
I will make them pay for what they have done to you! He was saying. Jesus was aware of how the Jews capitalized on the weakness of the Philadelphia church. "I know that you have little strength . . " Jesus said. He was touched by the fact that although they were weak, they held on! We truly have a High Priest who is touched by the feelings of our infirmity. Heb.4:15 In this case, He was not only touched, He reacted.
Have we observed that we warm up towards the fragile? Especially the fragile that are making an attempt?
We should therefore be encouraged that no matter how weak we are, how despised or oppressed; if we will hold on, He will stand up for us! But we should be warned not to take advantage of the weak among us because He will fight on their behalf.
3. The Reward #3 [Here On Earth] - Divine Protection [Verse 10]
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.
· The Reason For The Reward - Keeping the Word patiently
At this point you could almost sense Jesus continuing His open show of love and admiration for this church; He pronounces another reward for the same reason; two rewards for the same reason! So they will " . . . acknowledge that I have loved you." In verse 10b He says: " 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."
In Chapter 2:10 He told the Smyrna church to prepare for persecution but here He was going to protect the Philadelphia church from persecution! Obviously Jesus had a soft spot for this church. His heart warmed towards them. Why? Although they were weak (fragile) they held on! They kept His commandments.
4. The Reward #4 [Heaven] - Divine Exposition; a heavenly assurance [Verse 11]
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
And from nowhere He reveals this; "I am coming soon"; there is a crown for you but here is what you need to do to no one will take your crown. "Hold on to what you have"
Jesus was, in effect saying: "I will not let you lose your crown after all you have done here on earth so I will reveal to you how to ensure you get your crown"
5. The Reward #5 [Heaven] - Eternal Life and Eternal Rewards [Verse 12-13]
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.
You could just almost say "how sweet" in a cute way. The one who is victorious Jesus says He will make them pillars in the temple of God (a physical pillar is a permanent and prominent part of a physical temple). Jesus once again relates this promise to the situations around the church in Philadelphia. They lived in this atmosphere of insecurity, instability and uncertainty so Jesus promised them the reverse of their situations. They were disregarded, secluded and unknown; so He promises "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"
The church in Philadelphia no doubt won the admiration of Jesus; we have seen how He stood up for them because they did not create an excuse for compromise. They held on although their strength was small. Jesus did not only commend them but He rewarded them; first on earth and then the promises of eternity. I pray that we would, in all we do make Jesus proud (by holding on to the truth and not deny him when times are rough) to the point where He will treat us like the church in Philadelphia and even better!
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai