Summary: Lessons learned from the Church of Philadelphia. Sermon notes, power point, and video clips available upon request.
(TAB) Have you ever been betrayed by someone you love?
When I think of betrayal I think of a scene in one of my favorite movies – (TAB) Braveheart. William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) is fighting for Scotland to be free from the tyranny of England. Their only hope is if all the Scottish clans unite and fight as one. Over time, they do. And in the midst of a strategic battle that could win their independence… a few of the clans stand down. Men are bleeding on the battle, many dying & they’re betrayed by their own countrymen.
To confirm which Scottish leader is behind choosing to side with England – William Wallace races to confront a helmeted figure. In a fight, William removes the helmet to reveal that the betrayer is a beloved and admired friend. Watch how William reacts: ((TAB)-Video clip w/sound)
Betrayal is incredibly painful.
In the (TAB) book of Revelation, before all the apocalyptic prophecy… Jesus has John the Apostle transcribe (TAB) 7 letters to 7 churches. These are letters from Jesus preparing these churches, as well as us, for the future. Today we look at a church who knows the pain of betrayal. (TAB) The church of Philadelphia.
Let’s grab out Bibles and turn to (TAB) Rev. 3.
Philadelphia was established in 189 B.C. by (TAB) King Eumenes II of Pergamon. He named the city for the love of his brother. His brother was so loyal to him he earned the nick name (TAB) Philadelphus, literally meaning “One who loves his brother. So the King built this city and called it (TAB)Philadelphia – which mean: brotherly love. The city was located on one of the greatest trade routes in the world. (TAB)Philadelphia was the door through which all trade between Asia and Europe passed.
Let me give you the back story on why this church knew betrayal. For hundreds of years prior to this letter, Israel experienced war and persecution, many of the Jews were taken captive, others fled. Those who fled ended up in cities and towns in Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor and elsewhere. They wanted to remain true to their faith so they built synagogue to worship in.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, His apostles went out into the world to share His saving message. They were generally welcomed into these synagogues –after all they were their Jewish brothers. During the visit they would share about Jesus – some in the synagogues believed and trusted in Jesus as the promised Messiah. But over time, as the number of Christians grew - the message that Jesus was the only way to God the Father caused the Jews to begin excluding them. They weren’t allowed to attend synagogue anymore.
Author and Cornerstone University president Joe Stowell (TAB) says: “They were kicked out… they were alienated from family and friends. Because the synagogue was the center of the social life… the sense of exclusion was deep.”
Imagine what it would be like if you as a Christians went to worship with your family and friends and a leader met you at the door and said “No, you’re not allowed here anymore”. It would be horrible! They lived in a city named “BROTHERLY LOVE”, but that’s not what they experienced. They felt… betrayal by their own people.
Again let me quote Joe Stowell (TAB):
“In the early time of the empire Jews were exempt from having to say, “Caesar is Lord”. They had a register in the synagogue and the names that were on the register were exempt. Christian names… would be struck from the registry. If the Roman official came and the Christians were proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, their lives were at stake.”
So, not only were they excluded but they were at more risk of persecution. With this background, let’s look at what Jesus says to the church of Philadelphia, (TAB) Rev. 3:7 “To the angel of the church of 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.”
Remember this is a letter from Jesus. How do you think those words made them feel? He said He is holy and true? (TAB) HOLY: meaning one who is perfect in goodness and righteousness, (TAB)TRUE meaning without error but also one who is steadfast, loyal, faithful, unlike the synagogue. Jesus knew the exact words they needed to hear.
He also says, he holds the “keys of David”. This is a Jewish reference to King David of Israel. Jesus is saying, “I hold the authority as King of the Jews. Their fellow Jews had let them down, but Jesus says, “I will never let you down. I’m the authority that matters most.” He goes on to say that, what He opens no one can shut and what He shuts no one can open. They had the door of the synagogue shut to them… it seems to me that Jesus is letting them know His door will never be shut to them.