Introduction: Continuing our series called “Can you hear Me?”
This series’ subtitle, Letters from God, refers to the messages Jesus sent through John to the 7 churches in Asia Minor, found in Revelation chapters 2-3. (HANDOUTS)
- In these letters, Jesus examined each church, encouraged their strengths, but also pointed out weaknesses that needed improvement to prepare them for coming persecution.
- This message, God’s letter to the Faithful, was addressed to the church at Philadelphia.
- Faithful (Gk. pistŏs) means “trustworthy” or “trustful.”
- It refers to a person who trusts, or believes in God, regardless of circumstances.
- Theme: Matthew 24:13 (NLT)—“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
- We are not saved because we endure; rather, our endurance, our perseverance through trials and troubles, proves our salvation.
- This letter affirms the faithful obedience of Philadelphia in the midst of persecution.
- Only Philadelphia and Smyrna received no rebuke, complaint, or concern from Jesus.
- This message applies to us also, encouraging us to remain faithful throughout our lives, regardless of difficulties that we encounter.
- : Is our church faithful to God? Are you individually? How does it show?
The Message to the Church in Philadelphia: (Revelation 3:7-13)
#1 - Greeting (Revelation 3:7; C/R: Isaiah 43:13; John 6:69; 14:6; Revelation 22:16)
- Revelation 3:7a (NLT)—“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.”
- The word Philadelphia means “brotherly love” in Greek and was named to honor the relationship between Attalus II and his brother, Eumenes, king of Pergamum.
- [MAP] The city of Philadelphia was located about 30 miles from Sardis in the Cogamis River valley, on an 800-foot-high hill overlooking an important road.
- Philadelphia was called “the gateway to the East” because it was located at the junction of several important trade routes, including the imperial road from Rome to the East.
- The city was founded to be a center to spread Greek culture, language and religion.
- The city was located on the edge of a volcanic region whose fertile soil was ideally suited for vineyards; however, the region also suffered from seismic activity.
- In 17 A.D., a powerful earthquake struck Philadelphia, along with Sardis and ten other nearby cities; Philadelphia experienced frequent aftershocks for several years.
- Revelation 3:7b (NLT)—“This is the message from the One who is holy and true, the One who has the key of David.”
- Jesus introduced Himself in every letter with a description reflecting His character.
- In the previous five letters, the descriptions came from the vision recorded at Revelation 1:12-17, but this description is drawn from His character and identity. (Isaiah 6:3)
- “Holy One” is a messianic title for Jesus in the New Testament (Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; John 6:69)
- The word holy (Gk. hagiŏs) literally means, “separation, cut off” or “other,” but it also carries the connotation of pure, sacred, blameless, i.e., “cut off” from anything sinful.
- Jesus’ claim to be holy is a direct assertion of deity, that He fully possesses the separate, pure, sinless, nature of God.
- Jesus also claimed to be true (Gk. alēthinŏs), which means “genuine, authentic, real.”
- He was the only true God in a region that recognized hundreds of false gods and goddesses. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
- In a world filled with false gods, false beliefs and false practices, Jesus is the truth—the only truth—then and now. (John 14:6) [APP.: What are the false gods of our culture?]
- Jesus also identified Himself as One who has the key of David. [Isaiah 22:22a]
- Key represents authority; the name David symbolizes the messianic office.
- As holder of the key of David, Jesus alone has the authority to determine who enters His messianic kingdom; He has the keys to salvation and blessing. (Revelation 5:5; 22:16)
- Revelation 3:7c (NLT)—“What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open:” [Isaiah 22:22b; Isaiah 43:13]
- Jesus is omnipotent (all-powerful); what He does cannot be changed, overturned or reversed, because no one is more powerful.
- : In what area of your life do you need the intervention of One who is all-powerful? Ask Him, believing that He can control the situation you are facing.
In this letter, Jesus offers…
#2 - Affirmation (Revelation 3:8-11; C/R: Romans 2:28-29; James 1:12; 1 John 2:3-5; Revelation 2:10)
- Revelation 3:8a (NLT)—“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” [1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:2-3]
- The door into Christ’s future messianic kingdom was guaranteed because the salvation of the believers in this church, as evidenced in their lives, was secure.
- I think this open door also referred to opportunities to spread the Good News, as it often did in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12).
- Revelation 3:8b (NLT)—“You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me.”
- Though this church was small in number, they obeyed the word of Christ and the teaching of the apostles; they did not deny Jesus, even when facing pressure to do so.
- This church was faithful because they trusted in the call of Jesus to spread Good News in their community, knowing that the call included the ability to carry out the assignment.
- : Has God opened a door for you to reach someone for Him? Are you obeying His calling and stepping through it, depending on Him, acknowledging that He will enable you to complete His plan and purpose for you?
- Revelation 3:9 (NLT)—“Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.” [Philippians 2:10-11]
- Philadelphia apparently faced opposition from Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
- They were Jews racially, culturally, and even ceremonially—but they were not Jews spiritually, so they were a synagogue of Satan, not of God. (Romans 2:28-29)
- Jesus promised that some of the Jews who were persecuting Christians at Philadelphia would bow down at the believer’s feet and would know that they were loved by God.
- The Jews who persecuted these believers thought they were punishing heretics who were dishonoring God, but Jesus would reveal that these Christians were God’s people.
- Revelation 3:10 (NLT)—“Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.”
- Because the believers in Philadelphia had endured oppression by faith, Jesus promised to deliver them from the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 2:10)
- Revelation 3:11a (NLT)—“I am coming soon.…” [Gk. tachus = suddenly or quickly]
- The coming referred to here refers to the time of testing that precedes Jesus’ second coming to establish His kingdom; it can happen at any time, and it will occur swiftly!
- Revelation 3:11b (NLT)—“…Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.” (1 John 2:3-5)
- In preparation for His return, Jesus instructed this church to continue their faithful obedience so they would receive their eternal reward. (James 1:12)
- : Am I holding on to my faith, practicing trust in the God who saved me?
#3 - Rewards (Revelation 3:12: C/ R: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 John 3:2: Revelation 21:1-4,22-27)
- Revelation 3:12a (NLT)—“All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it.”
- The earthquake of 17 B.C. left many buildings unstable, so citizens left the city and remained in the countryside because of continuing aftershocks, so Jesus’ comment that they would never have to leave their home in heaven would have been meaningful.
- Jesus promised that believers will have a permanent place of honor in the Temple of God in heaven, though there would not be an actual Temple in heaven (Revelation 21:22).
- In heaven, we will live in the Presence of God and Jesus, so we will not need to go to a specific place to praise, to worship, to talk (as you don’t now; Acts 17:24; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
- Revelation 3:12b (NLT)—“And I will write on them the name of My God,…”
- God’s name depicts His ownership, signifying that all true Christians belong to Him, but that ownership is a loving, intimate, personal relationship with Him forever.
- Revelation 3:12c (NLT)—“…and they will be citizens in the city of My God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God.” [2 Corinthians 4:16–18]
- Christians have eternal citizenship in heaven’s capital city, the new Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21; this is another promise of security, safety, joy and peace.
- Revelation 3:12d (NLT)—“…And I will also write on them My new name.”
- Finally, Jesus promised that He would provide believers His new name which represents the glory of His person more fully. (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2)
- What we know of Jesus now is incomplete, compared to the reality of seeing Him face to face and knowing Him then.
- : Are you eager to see Jesus as He really is? (1 John 3:12)
This letter presents the same…
#4 - Closing (Revelation 3:13)
- Revelation 3:13 (NLT)—13 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.” (Same closing for all seven letters.)
- Believers must hear and heed the truths found in each letter, since the churches represent churches that have existed throughout history and exist today.
- This letter to the church in Philadelphia reveals that God blesses and protects churches that remain faithfully obedient to Him and His Word, even in the midst of difficulties.