Summary: This is one of the two churches that Christ has no reproof for - other other being Smyrna. And it together with Smyrna are the only cities that still have a Christian church. The key is their perserverance. The catchword is " Be strong and faithful"
The letter to the Church in Philadelphia
This is the sixth letter to the seven churches in Asia that we find in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3.
It is written to the Church at Philadelphia.
It is one of the two Churches (the other being the letter to the Church in Smyrna) for which Jesus has no rebuke. So today I intend to focus on its positive aspects.
We have been looking at the Churches of the Apocalypse during lockdown
This week we are looking at the sixth Church of the Apocalypse - the church of Philadelphia
And the catchword here is
“Endurance in Adversity”
The seven churches of Revelation are
1.) Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
2.) Smyrna Rev. 2:8-11
3.) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
4.) Thyatira Rev. 2:18-29
5.) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
6.) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
7.) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
I believe that The Angel of the Church is the Bishop or the leader of the Church in the particular place.
Six weeks ago, we looked at the first Church of the Apocalypse - The Church of Ephesus and drew the lesson that we must come back to our first love.
It is good to have a Christian orthodoxy but in the end it the love of Christ that counts.
Ephesus was the church called back to its first love of Christ that it had lost
Five weeks ago, we looked at the Church of Smyrna and drew the lesson that loyalty to Christ is important - even if it means we die.
Four weeks ago, we looked at the third church of the Apocalypse, the Church at Pergamum
And the catchword there was
“Caesar or Christ
There is no compromise”
Two weeks ago, we looked at the Church of Thyatira
And the catchword for Thyatira was there can be
no compromise with false teaching
within the church
Last week we looked at the Church of Sardis and the catchword for the Church at Sardis is
“Be alert and on your guard”
This week we are looking at the sixth Church of the Apocalypse the Church of Philadelphia
It was a weak but loyal church and was commended for its witness and faithfulness to God’s Word.
It received no reproof.
The catchword for the Church in Philadelphia is "Endurance in Adversity"
1. Historical background
Philadelphia was a small town in the Roman province of Asia, a city plant you might say from Pergamum.
Its name meant “brotherly love” and it was grounded in the second century BC.
It was named after Attalus II, the brother of Eumenes, King of Pergamum.
Attalus was called “Philadelphus” because he showed so much brotherly love to Eumenes.
Philadelphia lies on the edge of a great plain called Kata kek aumene, which means Burnt land.
William Barclay describes it like this
“The Kata-kek-aumene was a great volcanic plain bearing the marks of lava and the ashes of volcanos then extinct.
Such land is fertile and Philadelphia was the centre of a great grape growing area and a famous producer of wines.” (William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 125)
One of the great disadvantages of the city was that it was prone to
The City was often rocked by earthquakes and in AD 17 Philadelphia was completely destroyed by an earthquake.
Strabo describes the scene in AD 17:
“Shocks were an everyday occurrence.
Gaping cracks appeared in the walls of the houses.
Now one part of the city was in ruins, now another.
Most of the population lived outside the city in huts and feared even to go on the city streets for fear of falling masonry.
And those who dared live in the city were considered mad; they spent their time shoring up the shaking buildings and every now and then fleeing to open spaces” (ibid p.126)
And even after the great earthquake - minor eruptions that were still going on.
The great earthquake had so got into the psyche of the Philadelphians that it was still thought about in in AD 95.
But we see a contrast between the City and the Church.
Following the earthquake of AD 17, the city was still unsafe due to follow up quakes.
And the citizens lived outside the City in tents.
In contrast Jesus promises that the members of the church will be kept safe by the Lord because of their faithfulness.
We read in Rev 3.v.11 & 12
To him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it.”
And a pillar in the Temple of my God would find resonance with the Philadelphians because in the culture around them, if a man led an extraordinary good life his friends would raise a pillar to him in the local pagan temple.