"To the Angel of the church in Philadelphia
write..." (Rev. 3:7a)
Philadelphia, known today as Alashehir, was named after its founder, Attalus II Piladelphus. Piladelphus was known for his devotion to his brother, Eumenes, thus it is quite fittingly that Philadelphia means "brotherly love"!
Philadelphia was located as the gateway to the high central plateau of the Roman province of Asia and was a city of commercial importance. The district, an area of wine production, was also the center for the worship of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.*
"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." (Rev. 3:7b NKJV)
In ancient palaces, the one holding the keys was an important official, the only person controlling access into the king’s presence.* Jesus is identifying Himself here as the only One who can grant access to the presence of the King, His Father.
It is interesting that there is nothing negative at all said about the church of Philadelphia. Only commendations. And what are they commended for?
"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Rev. 3:8 NKJV)
1. Love: Philadelphia means Brotherly Love.
We need to have the Love of God burning so ferociously in my heart that no one can doubt that we serve a God of love. And our deeds need to speak for this love, for "You will know them by their fruits." (Matt 7:16 NKJV)
2. Weakness: "I know that you have little strength…"
Isn't it interesting that one of the primary characteristics of this blessed church is...weakness! Most of us think of weakness as being a negative thing, but in this case, it is considered a very remarkable thing! Why? Remember God's words to Paul when Paul asked to be healed of a problem? "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9 NKJV). Friends, it is in our weakness that God's strength is glorified, and it is only when we are humble enough to admit our weakness that God's Strength can be perfected in us! Instead of praying for strength, we should pray that God's Strength be perfected in our weakness!
And their reward for their faithfulness? "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie -- indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." (Rev. 3:9-11 NKJV)
This beautiful promise is actually two-fold:
1. Their enemies will come to know the Lord, they will worship them at the feet of the faithful church of Philadelphia.
In the near east, falling at someone's feet is an appropriate act of submission. Thus their enemies would submit to the authority of the weak, but faithful church, and acknowledge that God loves them! Talk about heaping coals of fire on someone's head!
2. They would not suffer the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world! This refers to the tribulation, friends, and I don't know about you, but getting to miss out on the tribulation is indeed a worthy reward!
I don't know about you, but of all these churches, this is the one I would want to be numbered amongst!
And Jesus has one piece of advice for the church of Philadelphia: "Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown." (Rev. 3:11 NKJV)
Just what is it that the church of Philadelphia have?
Love and weakness! In other words, we need to show God’s love in every situation while we cling to His strength!
"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of Heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Rev. 3:11-13 NKJV)
When we do hold on to love and weakness, we will be permanent dwellers in God's temple.
All references to the temple in Revelation use the word that designates the temple proper—the place where God's presence dwelled. What this tells us is that by holding on to love and weakness, we are assured of a permanent place in God's presence!
But even more than this, we will be sealed with God's name, the name of the New Jerusalem, and also Jesus' new name. There will be no doubt that we are His children!
So what do you say, friends? Why don't we put aside all of our haughty pride. Let's admit our weaknesses and allow God's strength and love to be perfected in us! When we do, we will be assured a permanent place in His presence, sealed by His very name!
Join us next week for Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation, Part 8: To the Church in Laodicea.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access the entire "Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation" mini-series, please click here.)