Tonight we're going to be looking at the Open Door Church, the church in Philadelphia, ending this series on the seven churches of Asia. I know this is the sixth church and there are seven churches. To go back to the seventh month of this year, July, I did preach a sermon on Laodicea, titled something a little different, the sin that should scare us all, the Sin of Lukewarmness.
I thought we'd just go ahead and end on a positive note with the church in Philadelphia.
Christ's Communication to Philadelphia
You think about the church in Philadelphia, we read about this church here in Revelation chapter 3, beginning in verse 7, down to verse 13. The word Philadelphia is a Greek word that is compounded from two words, love, and brethren. So it is to love as brethren or brotherly love.
The city of brotherly love, that's what this city is named for. The word Philadelphia is found a number of times in the New Testament.
"Seeing you have purified your souls and obeying the truth through the spirit and the unfeigned love of the brethren,..." — 1 Peter 1:22
That "love of the brethren", is the Greek word Philadelphia.
- 1 Peter 3:8
- Romans 12:10
It's used over and over throughout, the New Testament.
Now the city, the Greek city, or the Asia Minor city of Philadelphia, of course, you've got to understand, during the first century and prior to the first century, Asia Minor was Greece. It was part of Greece. It was as Greek as any part of Greece. And so, Philadelphia was founded in about 190 B. C. by a Greek ruler by the name of Attalus II. He was king of Pergamos. And so, this all was under the realm of the Kingdom of Pergamos, dating back to 190 B.C. His unusual devotion to his brother is what earned the city its name, the city of brotherly love. And so he had a great devotion to his brother, so he named the city to love his brother, to love as a brother or brotherly love.
And so as we see, as we're going to see that the church at Philadelphia, was a strong church. The Lord for this church gave no rebuke whatsoever. He gave no warning to this church. He only gave commendation, exhortation, and words of comfort to this congregation.
As we begin looking here, notice that Jesus again identifies himself in various ways. How he identifies himself, represents various aspects of Himself, His character, and His relationship to the church.
"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;" — Revelation 3:7
And so he begins by saying He that is holy. The word, holy, means, separate, set apart, and is characterized by perfection and purity.
- Hebrews 7:26
That verse defines the word holy; undefiled, separate. He is perfect in purity and holiness. He's holy in His character and His life.
- 1 Peter 2:22-23
- Hebrews 4:15
He was perfect in His holiness, even in the face of temptation. Perfect in His holiness.
- Revelation 4:8
You know, He is steadfast, dependable, genuine, and real.
- John 14:6; 1:9; 6:32; 15:1
- 1 John 5:20
- Revelation 3:14
As part of His communication to the church at Laodicea, he calls himself the faithful and true witness. Here Jesus identifies Himself as He that is holy, He that is true, and He that hath the key of David. Now, this was something that refers back to a prophecy in Isaiah
- Isaiah 22:22
Here, he's talking about the Messiah. So you think, that keys are symbolic of authority. Christ has complete authority in the Messianic kingdom and reign. And He's now sitting on David's throne, reigning not in a physical way, but in a spiritual way at the right hand of God.
- Acts 2:29-35
David said His Lord told him to sit there on my right hand. His Lord is Christ. Christ, we see, has the key of David. He has the authority. In fact, before His ascension back to heaven, He told His disciples that all authority, or all power, is given unto Me in heaven and in earth, (Matthew 28:18). All, exousia, is the Greek word, means power, it means authority.
- 1 Corinthians 15:23-25
And so, right now Christ reigns over the kingdom. He's going to deliver the kingdom, the church, up to the Father on that great day of judgment. Christ alone has absolute supreme authority. Over admission into the kingdom, both on earth and in heaven.
Keys also carry the idea of opening. The idea of shutting or locking. He opens and no one can shut. He shuts and no one can open.
- He is the One who is holy.
- The One who is true.
- The One who has all authority over the kingdom today.
- He has the keys of David.
And so, that's His introduction of Himself, His communication,
Christ's Commendation to the church at Philadelphia
He goes right into His commendation next.
- Revelation 3:8
He begins immediately by saying, "I have set an open door before thee." They had a great opportunity to preach to those who were willing to listen. We see this over and over throughout the New Testament, as Paul relates his missionary journeys and how God made an open door for Paul in his work.
- 2 Corinthians 2:12
- Colossians 4:3
He wants an opportunity. He's in bonds and he says, I need an opportunity, an open door to preach the gospel.
- Acts 14:27
There at the end of his first missionary journey, he comes back and shows how God opened doors for him in his work.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:1
Here that open door would give a free course for the gospel to be preached.
And so, He says, (Revelation 3:8), I have set before you an open door. He says, you have a little strength, and again, that word is power. The idea of power, God, can perform wonders with little things.
Think about Gideon going up against the horde of the Midianites. He's able to get 30,000 men together and the Lord says that's too many, and narrows it down to 10,000, still too many. And then they narrow it down to 300. And with 300 men, in their faith, versus the Midianite host, they sent them into a panic, and they destroyed them. They drove them off.
When Moses says, how will they know, why will they believe me? Remember, the Lord essentially says to him,
What is that in thine hand? He had a little staff, he had a rod, threw it on the ground, and we know what he did with that. It became a snake, he took it, reached for it and it became a staff again. He used that when he parted the Red Sea. Over and over, we see that power.
In Judges, we read about a man by the name of Shamgar.
- Judges 3:31
He had an ox goad, which is a stick with a point on it. And with it, he slew 600 Philistines. And we know about David's sling and stone, how he took down the giant Goliath. And so, you know, he said, there's an open door here. You have some strength. Why? Because you've kept my word. They had not only obeyed it, but they had protected and guarded it.
John chapter 14, verse 23 tells us the secret really to keeping His word.
- John 14:23
And so the secret of keeping God's word is to love God, to love Christ.
Christ's Comfort for the Church at Philadelphia
He says, you've kept my word, you've not denied my name. Now no doubt there have been times, maybe, when doing so would have saved them from ridicule, to save them persecution, but they were faithful to the trust.
They passed the test to this point, but they need some comfort. As we've noted in some of our earlier studies, those who were of the synagogue of Satan would often accuse Christians before the heathen magistrates, referring to, I believe the Jews in these cities that over and over, go back to the missionary journeys of Paul and primarily, who caused him the most trouble as he went from city to city, preaching from synagogue to synagogue? It was the Jews that rejected him. Uh, and so, they're referred to as the synagogue of Satan. However, in all of this, the brethren in Philadelphia had not renounced the name of Christ.
- Revelation 3:9-10
They kept His command to persevere. They had followed and upheld the gospel despite great opposition. They'd endured such as Christ had, and patience was manifested by Him.
And so, they had the endurance like Christ. They endured what He did, what He went through.
"Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and shall persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven." — Matthew 5:11-12
They passed the test to this point, but they need some comfort.
They endured a lot of things. They put up with their situation without wavering. And so, He commends them for that. But, again, this church is facing persecution and they're in a time of trial, faith is being tested, and so far it has passed.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
What this means is there is no temptation that we have to give in to. It doesn't mean that the way of escape is a physical way of escape. There may not be a physical escape when you're being held at swordpoint by the Roman authorities and being told to renounce Christ or die. There may not be a physical escape, but there is an escape from the sin of renouncing Christ. And so, the way of escape is always there.
- Romans 8:35-39
We cannot be taken against our will. We cannot be forced without any will or without any say to turn away from God. We can always be faithful to Him. Even if the cost of that faithfulness is death. We can always be faithful to Christ. If we stay faithful in keeping the Word of His patience, nothing can separate us from his hand.
- John 10:27-29
And so he gives them these great words of comfort. That they're going to face trial and temptation. But he's going to spare them from the worst of it. They're not going to face the worst of it.
Christ's Charge to Philadelphia and for All the Churches
- Revelation 3:11
He says, I come quickly. Now there are two possibilities. Perhaps it refers to His second coming and the manner in which it is going to come. We know it is going to be quick, not quick as in a short time, but the manner is going to be quick.
Or, it could simply mean that every generation is to consider His coming as near; as though it could happen in their lifetime. And that's how we ought to look at it. That's how Jesus commands us to look at it; as if it could happen at any moment. And so, He says, I come quickly. And again, perhaps, He's referring to the vindication of the saints there in the first century.
These letters, this entire book, were written to these seven churches and all the churches that were facing persecution to comfort them and to prepare them for what was coming.
Going back to the idea we've got to live as if He's coming at any moment.
- James 5:7-9
- 1 Peter 4:7
- Revelation 22:20
That ought to be the thought on our minds everyday, even so, come Lord Jesus. Being always ready for that day. It may also be in reference to the coming in judgment and retribution upon the pagan world that was persecuting them, bringing the plagues that are written here in the book of Revelation.
And so he says, Behold, I come quickly. He says, Hold fast to what you have. If you hold on tight, no one can rob you of your reward.
- Colossians 2:18-19
- 2 Peter 3:17-18
- 1 Timothy 6:12
He says to lay ahold of it, to not let go of it. We must be aware of any other guidance, other than the Bible, the ideas of men, the traditions of men, they can lead us astray. And cause our worship to be in vain. We must hold fast to the gospel if we want to be saved.
- 1 Corinthians 15:2; 9:25
Keep that gospel, hold on to it. Jesus tells the church here to hold fast to what they have. It is for the purpose of keeping the crown, you know, there are several passages which refer to the crown, which will be given to the faithful.
- 2 Timothy 4:8
- James 1:12
- 1 Peter 5:4
Over and over again, the crown is a sign of victory.
Christ's Covenant with The Church
- Revelation 3:12-13
This, signifies the identity and divine recognition. The Lord knows those who are His
- Revelation 21:1-2, 10; 19:12
- Colossians 3:4
- 1 John 3:2
And so, these inscriptions upon the one who overcomes, identifies him as belonging to God, belonging to Heaven, and belonging to Christ the Redeemer.
Lessons from the Letter to the Church in Philadelphia
As we look at this letter as a total, there's some lessons that we can glean from it.
- We should strive to overcome so that God might write His own new name on us.
- That we might be a pillar in the temple of God, the new Jerusalem.
- That we might always be ready and waiting for the Lord's coming.
- The need also is emphasized to keep the Lord's commandments to persevere and not let problems or hardships discourage us.
He says, you know, that they have a little strength. Always keeping the word of the Lord and never denying His name under any circumstances, sometimes, that may be all the strength we have, but with that, the Lord can do mighty things. We need to pray that the Lord will set before us an open door that we might find many willing listeners who will believe and obey the truth. And then strive to our very best, always to be a faithful church, to be faithful as the church at Philadelphia was. And as many other churches at that early age were as well.
If you're not a member of the Lord's Church, be baptized for the remission of your sins and be added to the church today. So that all these blessings that we read about here can be yours. Most importantly, the blessing of Heaven.
If you're a Christian who hasn't been faithful, we urge you to repent. We urge you to come back to the Lord.
If we can help you, please contact us today.