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Philadelphia A Faithful Church Revelation 3b

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Revelation 3:7-13

Stephen Caswell © 2004

Holding The Fort

The hymn with chorus, Hold the fort, for I am coming! written by P. P. Bliss, was suggested to him by an incident in the American Civil War. At Altoma Pass the fort being held by General Corse was besieged by the enemy under General Hood, who summoned it to surrender. Corse refused to surrender. Many were the casualties, but in spite of the hopeless situation the defenders remained faithful. Then a white signal flag across the valley, some twenty miles away, waved the message, Hold the fort, for I am coming. General Sherman was marching to the relief of the beleaguered and faithful defenders. So too, Christ sent a message to the faithful Church of Philadelphia, Hold fast what you, don't give up your crown, behold, I am coming quickly.

Last Sunday we saw a Revelation Jesus Christ amongst the Churches. He serves as Prophet, Priest and King. Today, we begin looking at the Lord’s judgment of the 7 Churches. Because today is missions Sunday I am going to jump ahead and look at a Mission centered Church. What makes a Faithful Church? Obedience to Christ and His Word! Today we’ll see 3 things about the Church of Philadelphia: Christ’s Character, Christ's Commendation, Christ's Counsel.

Firstly,    Christ's Character

Revelation 3:7-8a: And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works.

a. He is Holy

Because Jesus Christ is God’s Son He is absolutely holy. He is pure and wants His people to be holy too. In fact He calls us to a life of holiness. Our biggest obstacle to personal holiness is our desire to live for self and not for Christ. The word holy describes something or someone set apart for God. Christians find it much easier to live holy lives when they realize that their lives have been set apart for God. We need to recognize that we belong to Christ lock, stock and barrel.

b. He is Trustworthy

People can speak lies or the truth. However, Jesus Christ is the Truth. Whatever He says is true. Jesus Christ is the true God. There’s nothing false about Him. Therefore the judgments He makes about the 7 Churches are absolutely correct. He cannot lie. So we ought to listen to His Words.

c. He Has Authority

Firstly, Jesus Christ has the keys to David. David was the King of Israel. He possessed the keys to the Royal Treasury. The wealth of the Kingdom was at His disposal. Secondly, Christ has authority to open and close doors. As sovereign David ruled over the land of Israel. He also exercised authority over many of the surrounding nations whom he subdued. His word was final. When Jesus gave the Great Commission He said that He had all authority in heaven and on earth.

The Sovereign of the Universe has commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature. 

d. He Has Familiarity

Jesus Christ knows His people so well. He calls us by name. He knows us intimately. In verse 8 we see that Christ knows the works of the Church at Philadelphia. In fact Christ knows the works of every Church.  He walks amongst the 7 Churches and sees their works.

Secondly,    Christ's Commendation

a. An Open Door

Rev 3:8a I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;

The word Philadelphia Φιλαδέλφεια means brotherly love. The love of Christ constrained them to be ambassadors and share the Gospel. The Lord set before this Church an open door. What did Jesus mean by this? It is not the size or strength of a church that determines its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord. If Jesus Christ gave them an open door, then He would see to it that they were able to walk through it. Philadelphia was on the cross roads of some major roads. Every Church has opportunities around them if they would only lift up their eyes and look at the lost around them. Paul said this to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 16:9 For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. When God opens doors and hearts people respond to the Gospel. Paul knew this when he encouraged the Colossians to pray for him. Colossians 4:3: Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains.

b. Little Strength – Great Faith   Revelation 3:8b for you have a little strength,


In their own human weakness, they had trusted in the Lord. As a result, they had been able to preserve the truth by living it out in their lives. This Church had only a few workers. But the Philadelphian Church didn’t wait till they were stronger or had more people. They stepped out in faith and knowing God would help them. In John 4:35: Jesus said that the fields were white unto harvest. The problem is that the laborers are few. However this is not an excuse to do nothing. Matthew 9:37-38: Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.


We must be faithful because God is faithful. Jesus told us to go out and to pray for more helpers. The Church at Philadelphia was a missionary minded Church. They knew that Christ had commanded them to preach the Gospel to every creature and they obeyed. I am sure they overcame their weaknesses through prayer. 2 Corinthians 12:9: And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


God’s commandments are also His enablements. Since Jesus Christ gave them an open door, then He would see to it that they were able to walk through it! To reach the lost in this world we need everyone’s help. Will you use your gifts? You can help in children’s work, lead a Bible study, by singing, prayer. Kids Club – Bus, helpers, R.E Ministry. A few can accomplish much.

Cook Town Ministry

24 believers went to Cooktown for 10 days. What could so few accomplish? Run a Christian Concert and Film Night. Paint the outside of the new MTQ manse. Run a Kids Ministry. 19 came to Christ. We heard later the locals were talking about it for months.  Little strength a great God.

c. Kept Christ’s Word


Rev 3:8b-9: for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 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.


Firstly, they kept Christ's Word. What word? The Gospel, in fact the entire Word of God. The word keep τηρέω means to obey, to observe, to guard. Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. The word observe in verse 20 is the same word translated keep in Revelation 3:8, 10. As Christ’s disciples they observed all that He had commanded them. This Church had been faithful to the Gospel and the apostles teaching.

Secondly, they didn’t deny God’s Word when they ran into opposition. This opposition came from the Jews in the city. How did these Jews oppose the Church at Philadelphia? Firstly, by excluding Jewish believers from the Synagogue. Secondly, they probably used false accusation against the Church. The Lord calls these false brethren, the Synagogue of Satan. Satan was the one behind them. He also calls them liars and not true Jews at all. These Jews probably claimed to be God's people. But they were relying on their national heritage and not faith in Christ. False religion has always been a formidable antagonist against true Christian faith. It’s not easy to witness for Christ when the leading people in the community or Churches are spreading lies about you. The day will come, however, when all opponents of the faith will have to acknowledge the truth. The Philadelphian’s were discerning believers. They believed and obeyed God’s Word.

d. Persevered


Revelation 3:10: 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.


Finally, they persevered. In Revelation 3:10 Christ commends them for this. Because you have kept My command to persevere. The word persevere, ὑπομονή means patience, endurance under pressure, fortitude, steadfastness. Many Christians are tempted to deny Christ when they are persecuted. Some deny Christ by keeping their faith a secret to avoid ridicule. The Philadelphian Church wouldn't do this. They wouldn’t deny Christ's name even if it meant further hardship.  Let's witness for Christ even though it means persecution. 2 Timothy 1:8: Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.

If we will determine to confess Christ's name always, God will always open up doors for us. The Church at Philadelphia was willing to suffer for the Gospel. They didn't stop witnessing for the Lord when people persecuted them. Paul encouraged the Philippians to suffer for Christ's sake too. Philippians 1:29: For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

Polycarp's Martyrdom 

Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna about the middle of the 2nd century. He was arrested for his faith and threatened with death if he didn't recant. Eighty and six years have I served Him, the saintly Bishop replied, and He never did me any injury. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? I have respect for your age, said the Roman officer. Simply say, Away with the atheists! and be set free. By the atheists he meant the Christians who would not acknowledge that Caesar was lord. The old man pointed to the crowd of Roman pagans surrounding him, and cried, Away with the atheists! He was burned at the stake and in his martyrdom brought glory to the name of Jesus Christ.


The Church At Philadelphia


What happened to the Church at Philadelphia? Through the years, a faithful testimony from the small group of Christians has been known. Ever since those days the Church has continued, it never died. Today the there still exists a town on the ancient site of Philadelphia. This Church even survived Turkish rule. Today the town is called Alasehir, which means, City of God. That Church has maintained its testimony through out history, unlike other Churches that have been wiped off the face of the earth because of their sin.


The Philadelphian Church Age?

William Carey said, Attempt great things for God, expect great things of God. If the Christian Church only attempted what it could do by itself it wouldn't be here today. The Church of Philadelphia corresponds to the Church age between 1750 & 1900. This period was the Church in revival. William Carey started missionary work in India with little support. Hudson Taylor commenced the China Inland Mission by faith. Adoniram Judson ministered in Thailand. These men had little strength but stepped out in faith and saw God wonderfully provide. God blessed their ministry because they were faithful. They kept God's Word and didn't deny Christ's name.



Unbelief sees obstacles, but faith sees the opportunities! Since the Lord holds the keys, He is in control of the outcome! So what do we fear? Nobody can close the doors as long as He keeps them open. Fear, unbelief, and delay have caused the church to miss many Divine opportunities. Are we making the most of our opportunities? Are we sharing the Gospel with the lost? Do we take the sign above our front door seriously? Are we stepping out in faith with the strength we have? Are we asking God to help us? To use us? Do we support missions in prayer, in giving? Has God called you to go? Are we obeying God’s Word? Are we persevering in the Word?

Thirdly, Christ's Counsel        

The Savior gave four wonderful and encouraging promises to this church.

a. Christ's Recompense

Revelation 3:9: 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.

Firstly, He would take care of their enemies. One day, these people will have to acknowledge that the Christians were right! They will admit that the Christians knew God and that they didn't. They will then know that God loves these Philadelphian Christians. If we take care of God’s work, He will take care of our battles.


b. Christ's Rescue  

Revelation 3:10: 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.

Secondly, He would keep them from Tribulation. This is surely a reference to the time of Tribulation that John described in Revelation 6:–19; the time of Jacob’s trouble. Because they had kept God's Word even though it meant suffering, Christ would keep them from the great tribulation. Christ was saying that the Philadelphian church would not enter the future time of trouble; He could not have stated it more explicitly.

c. Christ's Reward  


Thirdly, Christ promised to reward them if they remained faithful to Him.


1. A Crown

3:11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

The believers at Philadelphia were promised a crown for their faithful service. The word crown is στέφανος and was given out as a prize or reward. This was very appropriate to the Church since the city of Philadelphia was well known for its games and festivals. The Lord will crown His faithful saints at the judgment seat of Christ. These Christians may have been despised by the synagogue of Satan but Christ would bestow upon them great honor.

2. A Position

Revelation 3:12a: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.

Ancient cities often honored great leaders by erecting pillars with their names inscribed on them. But the Lord promises overcomers a permanent position in His temple. The word for temple here ναός refers to the holy of holies. Because they had placed Christ in the center of their lives He would give them permanent positions in His heavenly temple, the New Jerusalem. The symbolism in this verse would be especially meaningful to people who lived in constant danger of earthquakes: the stability of the pillar, no need to go out or to flee, a heavenly city that nothing could destroy. God’s pillars are not made of stone. His pillars are faithful people bearing His name for His glory.

3. A Name

Revelation 3:12b: 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

The Philadelphians had not denied Christ's name. They had honored the Lord by openly confessing their faith in Him. Therefore God would honor them by giving them glorious new names. Christ would write on them the name of His God, Himself and the name of the New Jerusalem. All this refers to the fact that they belong to God. Names speak of ownership. These Christians had not been ashamed to own the Lord's name. So He would own them also.


d. Christ's Reminder

1. Hold Fast


Revelation 3:11: Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.


Christ is coming quickly. This is truly a great encouragement. In light of this Christ commands us to hold fast. Christ warned them not to lose their reward. The thought is not simply that of coming soon but coming suddenly or quickly. They were commanded in the light of Christ's sudden coming to continue to hold on to what they have. Could they lose their crown? Yes! 2 John 8 says: Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things which we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Jesus told the Church at Smyrna, to be faithful unto death.  God asks His people to persevere until the end. We can't finish early. We must work till Christ comes back or He calls us home. There is no early retirement in God's work.

2. Hear  My Word


Revelation 3:13: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Believers need to pay attention to what Christ is saying to them. His testimony is true. What Christ promises will certainly come to pass. Therefore we need to heed His warnings. Are you listening to what the Spirit says to the Churches?

I was There Medal

After a certain famous battle, Napoleon once gave all his soldiers a simple medal. It was inscribed with the name of the battlefield and the words, I was there. Everyone, regardless of rank, got the same recognition. Money couldn't buy from these veterans the memorial which honored them for their participation in that great battle. Christ wants us to stay at our post.


In a very real sense, the church today is like the Philadelphian church, for God has set before us many open doors of opportunity. If He opens the doors, we must work; if He shuts the doors, we must wait. Above all, we must be faithful to Him and see the opportunities, not the obstacles. If we miss our opportunities, we lose our rewards or crowns, and this means being ashamed before Him when He comes. Christ is coming quickly. Are you living in the light of His return? Have you been faithful that the Lord might crown you? Are you holding fast to what you earned by persevering in the Gospel? Or have you stopped serving the Lord?  Have you used your gifts and talents for Christ in the past? Are you still using them for Him now?



Today we saw three things as we looked at the Church of Philadelphia: Christ’s Character, Christ's Commendation, Christ's Counsel.


Revelation 22:10-21 He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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