“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Understanding And Applying the Text
Philadelphia was a city of the Decapolis. Decapolis is Greek for “Ten Cities”. It was a Hellenistic league of the 1st century BC through 2nd century AD. In 106 AD Rome included it in the province of Arabia and rebuilt it.
The modern town is called Allah-shehr, city of God. It contains about 3000 houses and 10,000 inhabitants. Its construction is poor. The dwellings are mean and the streets filthy. The inhabitants are mostly Turks. A few ruins remain including a wall and about twenty-five churches.
Some of the native Christians believe one of the old mosques is the place of the church John wrote.
The introduction to the church in Philadelphia comes from Revelation 1:18. Christ said He has the key. He opens and shuts the door. Once He opens it no one can open it. And once He shuts it no one can open it.
Christ has the power and authority to rule. He has the authority to command and forbid. He has the power to deliver and punish. The house of David is the Church. And the continual promise of David’s kingdom belongs to Christ.
Christ stated He knew their works. For the other churches, Christ says “I know your works…” Then he goes on to mention the works He refers to. Here He interrupts Himself with a parenthetical. “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”
This is a two-fold meaning. First, it is a promise. It is a door no one can shut. Notice it says NO ONE. This would include the church in Philadelphia. Praise God. He keeps and protects. For we are prone to leave the God we love. When God opens a door no man can shut it. And when God shuts a door no man can open it. We cannot shut the door Christ opens. And we can not open the open Christ shuts.
The second meaning is the sovereignty of God. Without God’s sovereignty, we could not count on His promises. What God commands occurs. What God forbids will not occur.
Christ knew they were weak. They had no authority, no power. They were oppressed and persecuted. Yet they remained faithful. They kept Christ’s words. They refused to deny Him.
Like the church at Smyrna, they lived among Jews. But they were false Jews. Christ said they were not Jews. They lied. They pretended to be God’s people but were not. This should be a word of warning to us. We do not belong to Christ because we say we do. We are His because He says so.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:23)
Again Christ said
And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:9)
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:8)
We cannot presume upon God. Only those who worship God in and truth are the true Israel (John 4:24). Churches that worship false gods, or the true God in a false manner, are the synagogues of Satan. Even if they profess to be the people of God. They profess a lie.
God will show His love for the true church. He will cause the false churches to know He loves the true church.
Christ promised to protect the church from the tribulation was coming to the rest of the world.
There are at least two reasons we can assume the “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” has past is. First, the church is no longer standing. God promised to preserve this church. And He cannot preserve and protect it if it does not exist. Second, Christ said he was coming soon. Two thousand plus years is not soon. Christ’s words were to encourage the church. They were to hang in there, “so no one may seize your crown.” It is not encouraging to understand they would need to hang in there for over 2000 years. They would not see it. Their children would not see it. Their children’s children would not see it.
Oh let me add a third reason. Christ is not a liar when Christ said he would come soon, He meant soon. Two thousand years is not soon. Christ refers to here is an event that has occurred in our past.
In His usual manner, Christ promised a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He will be a pillar in the Temple of God. God will inscribe His name on those who preserver. And he will never leave the presence of God. He will live in the temple forever.