Summary: The city of Philadelphia was founded by King Eumenes about 200 years before the birth of Jesus. It was named after his brother who was called Attalus Philadelphus. The name of the town, which is Greek, means literally the City of brotherly Love.
The Letter to Philadelphia
Reading Rev 1:9-11 & 3:7-13
The city of Philadelphia was founded by King Eumenes about 200 years before the birth of Jesus. It was named after his brother who was called Attalus Philadelphus. The name of the town, which is Greek, means literally the City of brotherly Love.
It was only about 25 miles from Sardis, the last Church we looked at and about 10 miles from the neighbouring towns of Laodicea and Collosae. Most of the wealth of this town seems to have come from agriculture as it was situated on some of the most fertile land in the whole area.
The town was once known as the City of earthquakes. In AD 17 a very severe earthquake completely destroyed the town and the people had to live outside of the city in tents. Philadelphia was rebuilt after the Roman Emperor gave them the money to do so. So the people renamed it Neocaesarea, which means literally The New City of the Emperor. The city was really remarkable for it's huge number of Temples and religious festivals, far more than any other town in the area.
You may remember that the first letter was written to the Church in Ephesus which had many temples to all sorts of Gods. Well Philadelphia had even more.
In later years the Turks and the Muslims flooded the area but Philadelphia remained true to Christ and was in fact the last Christian Church in Asia when it was finally destroyed in AD 1390.
There is still a town on the site of the old city which is now known as Alashehir, which means City of God.
We know there was a Christian Church in the City from a very early date. There had been some recent persecution in the Church but the Christians had managed to stay true to their faith in Jesus.
Philadelphia, along with Smyrna, are the only two Churches in this series of letters which are not told to repent. For all of the others the Lord has said "repent or else! The Philadelphian Church is the one that knows the favour of the Lord, the one which He has chosen to bless.
As in all of the other letters the leaders and the people in the Church are challenged to keep their eyes on Jesus. This letter points out three things about Jesus.
Verse 7 describes Him as "He that is Holy, He that is true" which are divine qualities that define His character.
This is the living Christ we are talking about here, the holy one, and we should respond to Him with respect and awe as John did in chapter 1.
He is also described as "He who holds the key of David". This refers to the prophetic link between Jesus Christ and the Royal house of King David.
Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and has absolute authority over all things. He holds the keys to all of the doors anywhere in the universe What He opens no-one else can shut and what He shuts no-one else can open.
He has opened a door for the Church that no-one else could possibly have opened, the door to the kingdom of God. This could have several meanings but the first is obviously the door of opportunity. Not all Bible Commentators agree with this but we know that Jesus used the analogy of a doorway several times Himself.
During the Sermon on the Mount He says
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
14:But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
In that particular scripture Jesus shows us two doors or gates. One is open wide onto a crowded street which slopes gently downhill and leads to hell and damnation.
The other opens into a sparsely populated and rarely used pathway which goes steeply uphill and leads to eternal life. So the door that Jesus has opened is not going to be the one that leads to hell, it will be a door leading to heaven. It's a door of opportunity, an opportunity that is not to be missed, it's the opportunity for salvation.
Another reason for this open door could be that it is an opportunity for Christian Service. All Christians have a deep concern about the spiritual needs of those around us.
After we have passed through the door of salvation we can go straight out through the door of service to tell others of what we have found.
One problem with the Church in Philadelphia was that it was physically weak. Verse 8 says that " I know that you have little strength".