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10 - Philadelphia

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Rev 3:7-13  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;  (8)  I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.  (9)  Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.  (10)  Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.  (11)  Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.  (12)  Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.  (13)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Philadelphia is today a rather prosperous little Turkish town. It is located in a very beautiful valley that is inland a great distance, about 125–150 miles from the coast. The city got its name because of the love that Attalus II had for his brother Eumenes who was king of Pergamum. Attalus had a great love and loyalty for his brother, and because of that it is called “the city of brotherly love.”

·  Geographically –

o        The valley is a very wide one which runs north and south, and the Cogamis River of that valley is a tributary of the Hermus River.

o        The city was built on four or five hills in a picturesque setting. Today it is spread out a great deal, and it is a typical Turkish town.

o        Philadelphia is in a country where erosion is at work; the soil is quite alluvial, but it is very fertile soil.

o        It was particularly celebrated for its excellent wine. Great vineyards covered the surrounding hills, and the head of Bacchus was imprinted on their coins.

o        Philadelphia is in an area that is subject to earthquakes.

o        Actually, In a.d. 17 a great earthquake struck this city and totally destroyed it. The same earthquake totally destroyed Sardis and many other Lydian cities throughout that area. Tiberius, the emperor at that time, allocated a vast sum of money for the rebuilding of these cities, and they were then restored.

·  Historically

o        However, this city has had continuous habitation from its very beginning.

o        The Lydian language was spoken there at first, but by the time of the apostles, the Greek language had taken over, and it was a typical Greek colony.

o        This was the outpost of Greek culture in a truly Asiatic and Anatolian atmosphere. It was called a “little Athens” because of the fact that it was in this area and yet was truly Greek.

·  Militarily

o        It was a fortress city used to waylay the enemy who would come in to destroy the greater cities like Ephesus and Smyrna and Pergamum—those were the three great cities.

o        These other cities were largely fortress cities where garrisons were stationed either to stop the enemy or delay him as he marched toward the western coast.

·  The Church-

o        This is the one church besides Smyrna for which our Lord had no word of condemnation. Why? Because it had turned to the Word of God.

o        It is interesting concerning the two churches which He did not condemn that the places are still in existence, although the churches have disappeared. However, in Philadelphia there is the remains of a Byzantine church, which reveals that Christianity was active there up until the twelfth or thirteenth century.

o        Philadelphia is the place where Christian and Saracen fought during the Crusades, and in 1922 Turkey and Greece fought in Philadelphia.

o        There are apparently a few Christians there today, but they are under cover because they would be severely persecuted.

o        This church was in a very strategic area to be a missionary church, and that is actually what it was. I have labeled it the revived church because it returned to the Word of God and began to teach the Word of God.


Rev 3:7 -  And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia

1.       The Character of the Lord

a.      These things saith he that is holy –

                                                                     i.      This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus.

                                                                   ii.      The appellation holy, or the holy one, is one that befits him, It is not only an appellation appropriate to the Saviour, but well adapted to be employed when he is addressing the churches.

                                                                 iii.      Our impression of what is said to us will often depend much on our idea of the character of him who addresses us, and solemnity and thoughtfulness always become us when we are addressed by a holy Redeemer.

b.      He that is true - Another characteristic of the Saviour well suited to be referred to when he addresses people. It is a characteristic often ascribed to him in the New Testament (Joh_1:9, Joh_1:14, Joh_1:17; Joh_8:40, Joh_8:45; Joh_14:6; Joh_18:37; 1Jo_5:20), and one which is eminently adapted to impress the mind with solemn thought in view of the fact that he is to pronounce on our character, and to determine our destiny.

c.       He that hath the key of David - This expression is manifestly taken from Isa_22:22, “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder.”

                                                                      i.      As used by Isaiah, the meaning here is, that as David is represented as the king of Israel residing in a palace, so he who had the key to that palace had regal authority.

d.      He that openeth, and no man shutteth, ... –

                                                                      i.      He has free and unrestrained access to the house; the power of admitting anyone, or of excluding anyone.

                                                                    ii.      Applied here to the Saviour, as king in Zion, this means that in his kingdom he has the absolute control in regard to tire admission or exclusion of anyone.

                                                                   iii.      He can prescribe the terms; he can invite whom he chooses; he can exclude those whom he judges should not be admitted.

                                                                  iv.      A reference to this absolute control was every way proper when he was addressing a church, and is every way proper for us to reflect on when we think of the subject of our personal salvation.

                                                                    v.      He that openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth;

1.       he opens the Scriptures, which are shut to a natural man, as he did in his own personal ministry, when here on earth, and now by his Spirit; and none can shut them, either men or devils, or hinder the spread of light and knowledge by them:

2.      he opens the door of the Gospel, and gives an opportunity to preach it, and liberty of mind and expression to his ministers, and a door of utterance to them, and of entrance for it into the hearts of men, which none can shut, or hinder:

3.       he opens the door of the church, which is himself, and lets in his sheep into the sheepfold, into a Gospel church state, and the ordinances of it; and

4.      he opens the door of heaven by his blood and righteousness, and gives his people liberty and boldness to enter into the holiest of all, and brings many sons to glory in spite of all the opposition of men and devils: on the other hand,

5.       when he pleases,

6.      he shuts up the Scriptures, and the eyes of men from seeing what is in them;

7.       he shuts up the door of the Gospel, and forbids the preaching of it in this and that place; and

8.      the door of heaven will be shut by him at the last day, when all called to the marriage of the Lamb are entered, and there will be no opening.

9.      This shows the sovereignty, power, and authority of Christ, and which he will exercise in this church state

2.      The Commendation

a.       Rev 3:8 - I know thy works

                                                                      i.      Behold, I have set before thee an open door - Referring to his authority as stated in Rev_3:7. The “open door” here evidently refers to the enjoyment of some privilege or honor; and, so far as the language is concerned, it may refer to any one of the following things - either:

                                                                    ii.      the ability to do good - represented as the “opening of the door.”

                                                                   iii.      the privilege of access to the heavenly palace; that is, that they had an abundant opportunity of securing their salvation, the door being never closed against them by day or by night.

                                                                  iv.      it may mean that they had before them an open way of egress from danger and persecution.

b.      And no man can shut it - No one has the power of preventing this, for he who has control over all things concedes these privileges to you.

c.       For then hast a little strength –

                                                                      i.      The words “little strength” may refer either to the smallness of the number - meaning that they were few; or it may refer to the spiritual life and energy of the church - meaning that, though feeble, their vital energy was not wholly gone.

                                                                    ii.      The Saviour saw among them the evidences of spiritual life; and in view of that he says he had set before them an open door, and there was abundant opportunity to employ all the energy and zeal which they had.

                                                                   iii.      It may be remarked that the same thing is true now; that wherever there is any vitality in a church, the Saviour will furnish ample opportunity that it may be employed in his service.

d.      And hast not denied my name –

                                                                      i.      When Christians were brought before pagan magistrates in times of persecution, they were required to renounce the name of Christ, and to disown him in a public manner.

                                                                    ii.      It is possible that, amidst the persecutions that raged in the early times, the members of the church at Philadelphia had been summoned to such a trial, and they had stood the trial firmly.

                                                                   iii.      It would seem from the following verse, which the efforts which had been made to induce them to renounce the name of Christ had been made by those who professed to be Jews, though they evinced the spirit of Satan.

                                                                  iv.      If so, then the attempt was probably to convince them that Jesus was not the Christ. This attempt would be made in all places where there were Jews.

3.       The Rev 3:9

a.       Behold, I will make - Greek, “I give” that is, I will arrange matters so that this shall occur. The word implies that he had power to do this, and consequently proves that he has power over the heart of man, and Call secure such a result as he chooses.

b.      Them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews - Who profess to be Jews, but are really of the synagogue of Satan. The meaning is, that, though they were of Jewish extraction, and boasted much of being Jews, yet they were really under the influence of Satan, and their assemblages deserved to be called his “synagogue.”

c.       And are not, but do lie - It is a false profession altogether

d.      Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet –

                                                                      i.      The word rendered “worship” here, means, properly, to full prostrate; and then to do homage, or to worship in the proper sense, as this was commonly done by falling prostrate.

                                                                    ii.      They would be constrained to acknowledge that they were the children of God, or that God regarded them with his favor.

                                                                   iii.      It does not mean necessarily that they would themselves be converted to Christ, but that, as they had been accustomed to revile and oppose those who were true Christians, they would be constrained to come and render them the respect due to those who were sincerely endeavoring to serve their Maker.

                                                                  iv.      The truth taught here is, that it is in the power of the Lord Jesus so to turn the hearts of all the enemies of religion that they shall be brought to show respect to it; so to incline the minds of all people that they shall honor the church, or be at least outwardly its friends. Such homage the world shall yet be constrained to pay to it.

e.       If And to know that I have loved thee - This explains what he had just said, and shows that he means that the enemies of his church will yet be constrained to acknowledge that it enjoys the smiles of God, and that instead of being persecuted and reviled, it should be respected and loved.

4.      Rev 3:10 -  

a.       Because thou hast kept the word of my patience –

                                                                      i.      My word commanding or enjoining patience; that is, thou hast manifested the patience which I require.

                                                                    ii.      They had shown this in the trials which they had experienced; he promises now, that in return he will keep them in the future trials that shall come upon the world.

                                                                   iii.      One of the highest rewards of patience in one trial is the grace that God gives us to bear another.

                                                                  iv.      The fact that we have been patient and submis sive may be regarded as proof that he will give us grace that we may be patient and submissive in the trials that are to come.

                                                                    v.      God does not leave those who have shown that they will not leave him.

b.      I also will keep thee –

                                                                      i.      That is, I will so keep you that you shall not sink under the trials which will prove a severe temptation to many.

                                                                    ii.      This does not mean that they would be actually kept from calamity of all kinds, but that they would be kept from the temptation of apostasy in calamity.

                                                                   iii.      He would give them grace to bear up under trials with a Christian spirit, and in such a manner that their salvation should not be endangered.

                                                                  iv.      From the hour of temptation –

1.       The season; the time; the period of temptation. You shall be no kept that what will prove to be a time of temptation to so many, shall not endanger your salvation.

2.      Though others fall, you shall not; though you may be afflicted with others, yet you shall have grace to sustain you.

                                                                    v.      Which shall come upon all the world –

1.       The phrase used here - “all the world” - denote the whole world; so much so as to embrace the world, as the word was understood by those to whom the epistle was addressed.

                                                                  vi.      To try them that dwell upon the earth –

1.       To test their character. It would rather seem from this that the affliction was some form of persecution as adapted to test the fidelity of those who were affected by it.

5.       The Counsel - Rev 3:11 -  

a.       Behold, I come quickly - That is, in the trials referred to.

b.      Hold that fast which thou hast - That is, whatever of truth and piety you now possess.

c.       That no man take thy crown - The crown of life appointed for all who are true believers. The truth which is taught bore is, that by negligence or unfaithfulness in duty we may be deprived of the glory which we might have obtained if we had been faithful to our God and Saviour. We need to be on our constant guard, that, in a world of temptation, where the enemies of truth abound, we may not be robbed of the crown that we might have worn forever.

6.      The Challenge - Rev 3:12

a.       Him that overcometh

b.      Will make a pillar in the temple of my God -  

                                                                      i.      The promised reward of faithfulness here is, that he who was victorious would be honored as if he were a pillar or column in the temple of God.

                                                                    ii.      Such a pillar or column was partly for ornament, and partly for support; and the idea here is, that in that temple he would contribute to its beauty and the justness of its proportions, and would see the same time be honored as if he were a pillar which was necessary for the support of the temple.

c.       And he shall go no more out –

                                                                      i.      The main truth here is, that if we reach heaven, our happiness will be secure forever.

                                                                    ii.      We shall have the most absolute certainty that the welfare of the soul will no more be perilled; that we shall never be in danger of falling into temptation; that no artful foe shall ever have power to alienate our affections from God; that we shall never die.

                                                                   iii.      Though we may change our place, and may roam from world to world until we shall have surveyed all the wonders of creation, yet we shall never “go out of the temple of God.”

                                                                  iv.      When we reach the heavenly world our conflicts will be over, our doubts at an end. As soon as we cross the threshold we shall be greeted with the assurance, “he shall go no more out forever.”

                                                                    v.      That is to be our eternal abode, and whatever of joy, or felicity, or glory, that bright world can furnish, is to be ours.

                                                                  vi.      Happy moment I when, emerging from a world of danger and of doubt, the soul shall settle down into the calmness and peace of that state where there is the assurance of God himself that that world of bliss is to be its eternal abode!

d.      And I will write upon him the name of my God –

                                                                      i.      Considered as a pillar or column in the temple. The name of God would be conspicuously recorded on it to show that he belonged to God.

                                                                    ii.      The allusion is to a public edifice, on the columns of which the names of distinguished and honored persons were recorded; that is, where there is a public testimonial of the respect in which one whose name was thus recorded was held.

                                                                   iii.      The honor thus conferred on him “who should overcome” would be as great as if the name of that God whom he served, and whose favor and friendship he enjoyed, were inscribed on him in some conspicuous manner.

                                                                  iv.      The meaning is, that he would be known and recognized as belonging to God; the God of the Redeemer himself - indicated by the phrase, “the name of my God.”

e.       And the name of the city of my God –

                                                                      i.      That is, indicating that he belongs to that city, or that the New Jerusalem is the city of his habitation.

                                                                    ii.      The idea would seem to be, that in this world, and in. all worlds wherever he goes and wherever he abides, he will be recognized as belonging to that holy city; as enjoying the rights and immunities of such a citizen.

f.        Which is New Jerusalem - Jerusalem was the place where the temple was reared, and where the worship of God was celebrated. It is the dwelling-place of God on earth.

g.      Which cometh down out of heaven from my God -

                                                                      i.      that is, instead of being built here, or having an earthly origin, it has its origin in heaven.

                                                                    ii.      It is as if it had been constructed there, and then sent down to earth ready formed.

                                                                   iii.      The type, the form, the whole structure is heavenly. 

                                                                  iv.      If the passage proves anything on either of these points, it is, that a great and splendid city, such as that described in Rev. 21, will literally come down from heavens.

h.      And I will write upon him my new name –

                                                                      i.      The reward, therefore, promised here is, that he who, by persevering fidelity, showed that he was a real friend of the Saviour, would be honored with a permanent abode in the holy city of his habitation,

                                                                    ii.      In the church redeemed and triumphant he would have a perpetual dwelling; and wherever he should be, there would be given him sure pledges that he belonged to him, and was recognized as a citizen of the heavenly world. To no higher honor could any man aspire; and yet that is an honor to which the most humble and lowly may attain by faith in the Son of God.


[1]McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (5:915-916). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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