Summary: Like Smyrna, the Lord offered only encouragement for Philadelphia, with no rebuke. They were a people of little strength, and yet they held great potential. Christ promised to open doors no man could close. He reminded them of His preeminence and the security of their future.
Philadelphia – The Church with the Open Door
Revelation 3: 7-13
Philadelphia is the sixth church addressed by Jesus. Like Smyrna, Jesus offered no rebuke, only encouragement for their faithfulness and endurance in the midst of opposition. Jesus knew they were a people of “little strength,” and yet they prevailed in a hostile environment, maintaining their witness for the Lord. Many agree they faced intense opposition from legalistic Jews, and likely were expelled from worship within the synagogues. As you examine this letter, you find many references to the Old Testament. It appears that Jesus sought to comfort the church, reassuring them of their true identity in Him, while reminding them of a secure future.
Philadelphia was situated on a major Roman road that led from Troas in the west through Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis, and then to Philadelphia in the east. The city derives its name from the loyalty between the two brothers who were influential in founding the city: Eumenes II and his younger brother, Attalus II. The younger brother resisted pressure from Rome to turn against his older sibling, earning him the nickname “Philadelphus” (“brotherly love”) … Like Sardis, Philadelphia was subject to earthquakes, and in AD 17 the city was devastated by the major quake that hit the region. Because of lingering aftershocks, many of the residents lived outside the city for a time and farmed the fertile volcanic soil… The main pagan cult in the city was the worship of Dionysus, the god of wine. More importantly, this church faced Jewish opposition similar to that encountered in Smyrna (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).” (i)
As we discuss the realties regarding this faithful church, I want to consider: Philadelphia – The Church with the Open Door.
I. The Authority of the Church (7-8a) – 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; [8a] I know thy works. This church operated under the sovereign authority of the Lord. He was given the preeminence in every aspect of the church. Jesus is the Head of the church; He must be in complete control. We will never prosper if He isn’t!
A. His Attributes – Jesus describes Himself as holy. He is once again declaring His sinless and pure character. Jesus was encouraging the believers in Philadelphia to be pure as He was pure. They dealt with sin and the attacks of Satan, as we do today, but Jesus, in His holiness, has the power to help us rise above this world and live according to His will. The liberals may not believe, but had Jesus not lived a sinless life, He couldn’t have been an acceptable Sacrifice for our sin!
He also described Himself as true, “that which is genuine.” He is the Christ; there is no other. The early believers were surrounded by false gods, but Jesus declared that He is the I AM.
I serve the true and living God. Many are looking to all kinds of gods, (wealth, pleasure, power), but I am trusting in One that is true. What I have is real. Jesus plus nothing else secured my salvation. He alone is the source of our salvation and hope!
B. His Authority – Jesus declared that He had the key of David. He is referring to Old Testament prophecy, Is.22:20-25. This is clearly a reference to Jesus. It speaks of the glory, the power, and the authority of God resting upon Jesus. He came as God in the flesh. He was set “as a nail in a sure place.” He fulfilled the Father’s will, but after a time He was cut off, a picture of the cross. Jesus died there, but He still possesses the keys! He has the keys of hell and death, salvation, the door to eternal life, guarding our eternal security. Satan can’t destroy the redeemed!
Jesus also speaks of opening and shutting doors. He is the authority in our lives. I am thankful for the doors He has opened, as well as, the doors He has closed. When Jesus opens a door, don’t hesitate, immediately accept His offer. On the other hand, don’t try to force open a door He has closed. We need the Lord to open the doors for our church. As He does, we must respond. We can’t open them ourselves. Good things come to those who wait. In His time, He will do what pleases Him!
C. His Awareness (8a) – I know thy works. Jesus again revealed that He knew the works of the church. He knew the intents and desires of their hearts. This has been repeated many times, but we must not forget. If we are sincere, He knows. If we grow complacent, He knows. I firmly believe we will receive in direct proportion to our faith and commitment. His awareness ought to challenge us to work harder, live better, dream bigger, and pray longer!