April 3rd, 2013
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
On our journey through Turkey, this week we have come to the little Church of Philadelphia. It is much like the Church of Smyrna in several ways. First both churches are commended. Neither church receives a rebuke from Jesus. In the eyes of the world they appeared to be losing the battle, but in the eyes of Jesus, they were doing well. Both churches were facing persecution by the ‘Synagogue of Satan’, those who say they are Jews but are not. The Jewish influence must have been great in both cities and we can recall from our study of the church of Smyrna that the Jews were behind much of the persecution of the early Christians. They would instigate and incite the Romans against them. They were the ones who would constantly stir up the crowds against the Apostles when they spoke and turn them against them. They would have the Apostles arrested and thrown in prison by the Romans. Because the Jews were large and influential the Romans catered to them as much as the Jews catered to them.
Also like the Church of Smyrna and Thyatira they were a weak church. The church in Smyrna was poor, I know your poverty (but you are rich) Jesus told the Smyrnaeans. Here in verse eight of chapter 3 Jesus will tell the Church of Philadelphia, “I know that you have but little power.” This appears to be a common condition of those churches who follow Christ, tribulation and weakness in poverty and power.
Also both churches were offered a crown as a reward. Smyrna was offered the crown of life and for a church that was facing the constant threat of death, they were promised they would be protected and not hurt from the second death, the death of deaths. The Church of Philadelphia appears to have a crown already, like the church of Thyatira; Jesus tells them to Hold on to what they have, so that no one can seize their crown. The crown is already theirs they just have to hold on for the awards ceremony where it will be placed upon them. And for a church that is facing constant tribulation, they are promised they will be protected from the future tribulation that is coming on to try the world. It is called the hour of trial. All of these things we will look at in more detail as we go through the verses. For now I just want you to see the common attributes of the two churches that Jesus commended.
Philadelphia, whose modern name is Ala?ehir, Turkey. It was the youngest of the seven cities being founded in 189 A.D. by King Eumenes II of Pergamon. Because of his love and loyalty for his brother Attalus II, Eumenes won the nickname Philadelphos which is made up of two Greek words. Phileo which means love which is a lower type of love then the word Agape word for love. And the word adelphos which means “brother.” “Brotherly love” or “he who loves his brother.” As a result, the city name became Philadelphia meaning “(city of) brotherly love.”
Philadelphia also like Smyrna was situated on an important much traveled road, the Imperial Post-Road of the first century. Those traveling from Rome, Pergamum and Sardis would take this road to go to the east. Like Smyrna it was also tasked with guarding the road and was also a military town but not to the same extent that Smyrna was. Unlike Smyrna which was located in a valley and was without natural borders to protect it, Philadelphia was located on the side of a broad hill. It was not nearly as defenseless as Smyrna was. If they defended the lower parts of the hill, then it became a very strong fortress and they were able to win the attacks.
Philadephia’s chief purpose was actually as a missionary city to spread the Greek language and culture to its surrounding cities because it was a border city being located where the borders of three cities met, Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia. It did such a good job that it is said that before AD 19 the Lydian tongue was no longer spoken and Greek became the chief language of the country.
Now the broad hill that Philadelphia was situated on the side of, was actually volcanic at that time and would spew rivers of black lava. Because of this they experienced frequent severe earthquakes. In AD 17 they experienced an unusually severe earthquake which destroyed 12 cities including Sardis and Philadelphia. The citizens of Philadelphia often lived in fear and terror of the earthquakes. It is said that the aftershocks of the earthquakes often raised more fear in the people than the actual earthquakes did. Because of this constant danger and fear many of the citizens of Philadelphia would live outside the city in booths and huts and those who stayed in the city were always strengthening their walls against the reoccurring aftershocks. Like us in Texas they had huge crack issues in their walls.
It is said that the Roman Emperor showed great kindness to Philadelphia and the other cities that were destroyed by the earthquake and because of his favor the city of Philadelphia voluntarily changed their name from Philadelphia to Neokaisareia to show their appreciation. For a few years this was the only name they went by and then in later years they would use their old name alongside their new name and by AD 42-50 they had dropped their new name altogether. The other cities were much too proud of their names and their ancient fame to sacrifice their names as Philadelphia did for the Roman Emperor. In AD 70-79, Philadelphia changed their name again from Philadelphia to Flavia, yet another name it took from the Imperial god.
As the Roman Empire was slowly falling apart and the power of the Turks was slowly growing, Philadelphia showed their heroic nature. All the surrounding country had finally come under the Turkish reign and yet Philadelphia steadfastly held up the banner of Christendom. In the fourteenth century it faced the Turkish power alone, asserting itself as a free Christian city in the middle of the Turkish land. Twice the Turks attempted to lay siege to, bringing the Philadelphians close to starvation but the Philadelphians held up their defense and overcame the Turks. They stood fast that they would have no earthly king or government. In 1379-1390 it finally succumbed to Turkish rule. The Turks never could defeat the Philadelphians outwardly, but when they attacked them inwardly by taking advantage of the division and jealously among the Christians, they were able to divide and conquer. Philadelphia fell to Turkish power, no longer able to stand united.
‘The words of the holy one, the true one,
The letter to the Philadelphians begins with a new description of Jesus that is not found in Revelation Chapter One as the other descriptions were. Here we are given additional information to add to our Portrait of Jesus from chapter one. Here Jesus refers to himself as “The Holy One” and “The True One.”
The description the Holy One is often used in the Old Testament to describe God. For example:
Psalm 89:19 – For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Isaiah 12:6 – Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Yahweh is the Holy One. To be Holy means to be separate, consecrated and pure. R.C. Sproul describes it well when he says, “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”
In his book Knowing God, R.C. Sproul also points out:
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy that the whole earth is full of His glory. – R.C. Sproul, Knowing God
When we say God is Holy, we are saying that he is entirely different from us. Holy is a great adjective for God that describes his character and his way of doing everything. Everything God dos and everything God is, is Holy. His love is a holy love. His patience is a holy patience. His mercy is a holy mercy. It may help you understand it more if you were to spell it w-h-o-l-l-y instead of h-o-l-y. God is wholly love. God is wholly pure. Holy is an expression of his perfection and identity his absoluteness. This idea brings home the meaning of 1 John 1:5 which says:
1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Here in Revelation 3:7, Jesus is taking on the description Himself which is not new. He too was described as the Holy One in the Gospels.
The demons recognize him as the Holy One:
Luke 4:34 – Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
The disciples confess him as the Holy One:
John 6:69 – “and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.””
Not only is Jesus the Holy One, he is also described here as the True One. This is stating that He is truthful. He is genuine and real. There is nothing false about Jesus. He is Truth with a capital “T”. He is the manifestation of Truth. Jesus does not lie. That is an important characteristic about God the Father and Jesus Christ to understand. As God cannot lie, neither can Jesus. Jesus is Holy True and all his words that He says are true or are going to happen are as good as done already.
Psalms 119:160 – All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
who has the key of David,
What is a key a symbol of? It’s a symbol of authority, access and possession. When I give someone a key to my house, I am giving them the right to enter my house. They gain access to all my possessions. They can come and go as they please. When you buy or rent a new house or car, after all the paperwork you are finally given a key, which is a symbol of your ownership. Usually when we own something, we make multiple keys but here there is only one key. It is referred to as the key.
This is not any key, this is the key of David. This is the key to David’s house. To fully unfold this we need to turn to Isaiah 22:22 and read the story of the changing out of the Chief of Staff or palace administrator in King Hezekiah’s courts. King Hezekiah had a palace administrator named Shebna who had a key to the palace so to speak because of his position. However, he was arrogant and thought too highly of himself, making plans to be buried in the royal graveyard. God became angry at him and said he was going to hurl him like a ball to a far off land and appoint a man named Eliakim to be palace administrator. In verse 22, God says:
Isaiah 22:22 – “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
This is the key of authority to the house of David. Here it says this key will be placed on his shoulder. Some commentators speak of a garb they wear and say they actually do and are able to wear the key on their shoulders with this garb. They believe it to be a large key. Large or small the symbol is the same. It’s a symbol of authority and responsibility much like Isaiah 9:6:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This Chief of Staff named Eliakim is a picture or a type of Jesus.
who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
Once again when you have a key, you are able to grant access to whomever you please. When you shut the door to your house you are able to lock it and no one but you can open it, especially if you have the only key. This brings fresh meaning to the following verses.
Luke 11:9-10 – So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
But also a fearful understanding of a closed door:
Luke 13:35 – Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
Matthew 25:10-12 – “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”
Here in Revelation 3 Jesus is reminding us of his authority to give people access to the King. This is pictured not only of him having the key but in him being the door.
John 10:1-2, 7-9 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Just like the Chief of Staff was able to grant or deny others access to the King by the authority given to him, so Jesus is able to grant others access to God the Father and there is no access to God apart from going through Jesus
The Jews missed this. It is a great possibility that those who belonged to the church of Philadelphia were excommunicated by the Jews because the Jews believed that because of their nationality they were the ones you had to go through to gain access to God.
Matthew 23:13 – Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.
To the church of Philadelphia Jesus is setting before them an open door. This is an open door for them themselves to enter into God’s presence, reminding them that He is the one who grants access, not the Jews and also giving them an open door for mission work, to bring others to God. A description of an open door in the New Testament was often used to show that God was granting them access to a city or a people to spread the gospel.
Colossians 4:3 – And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.
1Cor. 16:9 – because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
2 Cor. 2:12 – “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,”
As a missionary city, Philadelphia was being given an open door to spread the gospel. A door which no one can shut. This is the power of the church.
Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Here Jesus looks at what they have to work with. He sees their condition. Their numbers are probably few because they held firmly to his word. They struggled with maintaining the purity of the doctrine of the gospel just like we do. People don’t want to hear it. Instead they turn to the larger seek sensitive churches that preach a softer gospel which is no gospel at all.
The Philadelphian’s stood strong against the false teachers. Unlike those in Thyatira, they put up a good defense and kept the heart of their church pure from false teaching by keeping Jesus’s word even when it hurt. It probably cost their church dearly but they did not deny Jesus’ name.
To deny Jesus name is to deny Jesus himself. They did not contradict him or disown him for their own profit or pleasure. They knew him to be the “True One.”.
9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—
Here we go again with the synagogue of Satan at work. For some reason this reminds me of Westboro Baptist Church. That is nothing but a synagogue of Satan right there, full of spewing hatred people. A brood of vipers looking for a place to strike, literally as they picket funerals.
This text is referring to the Jews just like it was in the Church of Smyrna. The Jews were acting as the instruments of Satan aiding him against the early Christians seeking to destroy them.
John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Here the text says they are not Jews, they may be of Jewish nationality, those who descended physically from Abraham but the true Jew is one who is one inwardly and who is a child of the promise.
Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Romans 4:13, 16 – “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,”
Galatians 3:14, 29 – “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith…. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.
God will make the Jews bow down before their feet. Those who are raised up in pride, claiming they are the only ones God loves and if you want God’s love you must become like them, who were hateful, God would cause to lower themselves in humility acknowledging that they were wrong and vindicate the Christians knowing that those who put their trust in the promise of Jesus, are those who are dearly loved by God and called God’s children.
This could also mean that the Jews who were persecuting them, would they themselves be saved. Either way, the main idea is that those who persecute them will acknowledge one day the great love of God for these Christians. God will vindicate them and make their enemies who rose up against them bow down before them.
Isaiah 60:14 – “The sons of those who afflicted you
shall come bending low to you,
and all who despised you
shall bow down at your feet;
they shall call you the City of the Lord,
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 23:5-6 “You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwellin the house of the Lord
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
Here is the promise of reward to the Faithful found in the church of Philadelphia. Since they have kept Christ’s word, enduring patiently, in return he will keep them from the coming tribulation. This is much like since they have passed the trials and tests that came at them and have done so well that Jesus is going to let them clip out of the Final Exam.
This Final Exam is called the Hour of Trial. Much like telling the church of Smyrna that they are going to suffer persecution for 10 days, a limited amount of time, we see here that this tribulation is also limited to a short time, a season. The hour is a figure of speech for time.
Matt 14:35 – And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
John 12:27 – “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Is this the Great Tribulation? Most Christian scholars believe this is a prophecy about the Great Tribulation because it is an Hour that comes upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. But as with most prophecies in the bible they are two-fold. They have an immediate fulfillment and also a long term future fulfillment. This text would have to have an immediate fulfillment to the Church of Philadelphia. They would be kept from some kind of widespread tribulation that would affect their entire world. Their known world would have been a smaller context then the whole world as we know the whole world now. The world is a much bigger place now and when we read this text in our century we read “the whole world” much broader.
This text is also used to show by many the pre-tribulation rapture because the Greek words for “keep out” are threw ek which means “out of” or I will keep you out of”. There are several different ways Jesus could have said this but did not. He could have said ‘threw en’ which means ‘keep in’. Jesus could have promised to keep them and guard them in the tribulation. Jesus could have said threw dia which means to ‘to keep through which would be another way of watching over us in the tribulation. Or he could have said airew ek which means to take out to show that he would save them out of the midst of the tribulation or in the same line airew apo which means to take from which would also mean being taken out of the tribulation. However, none of these are used. Instead Jesus promises to keep them out altogether. In combination with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and other precepts, we are given hope for a pre-tribulation rapture.
2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment,
As Christians, we know that we are not exempt from suffering or going through tribulations which we must in order to show our faith as genuine. John himself says in chapter one of revelation that he is their partner in tribulation. These early Christians and even martyrs today know tribulation. But we are exempt from experiencing the wrath of God, because of Christ experiencing it for us. The time of the Great Tribulation is a time when the wrath of God is being poured out upon the world. It is also an opportunity as all trials and tribulations are to repent. There will be some who do repent and come to salvation during the Tribulation for it says it will be shortened for the sake of the saints, but the majority of humanity of those who dwell on the earth will not repent but their hearts will only grow harder and harder against God.
Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth
Romans 2:5 – But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Col. 3:6 – On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Romans 5:9 – Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
1 Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
It is the wrath of God that we are saved from.
The earth dweller is a figure of speech for the lost. It is those who dwell on the earth or those who house permanently on the earth. It is those whose entire life is tied and wrapped up in the world and in earthly things and all that the earth has to offer in contrast to those who dwell in Christ and are sojourners looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and the promises it offers. We know the earth is not our home.
Revelation 6:10 – They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Revelation 8:13 – Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
Revelation 11:10 – and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Revelation 17:2 – with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
Revelation 17:8 – The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come
In his book The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer states, “Every man must choose his world.” We must choose which world we are living for and which world we live in. We can set our hearts and minds on the earth or in heaven where Christ is. This is difficult unless we are constantly placing ourselves in God’s word. The influence of the world is always upon us because we must live and walk in it temporarily. But we can turn down the influence of the world and turn up the influence of God by taking specific measures to hold tight to what we have. If you would imagine a sink with two facets, one is full of cold water and turned on full blast. The other is full of hot water and is dribbling. What will be the temperature of the water? It will be cold. If you want it to be hot then you must turn down the cold water and turn up the hot water so that it is over powered. In the same way we must turn down the influence of the world in our daily lives and turn up the influence of Christ. We cannot turn off the world completely since we live in it, but we can turn it down and turn God up so that his word is pouring into our lives more than just a dribble on Sundays. We need to saturate ourselves as much as possible with his word. By being in it every day. By surrounding ourselves with Christian friends and influences. By being careful of the television shows we watch and the music we listen to and the books we read. By listening to sermons, lectures, audio books, bible studies as much as possible and always meditating on something and being in prayer.
11 I am coming soon.
Some texts say, I am coming quickly. This means that the return of Jesus is imminent; it’s close in time and about to occur.
Matthew 24:33 – Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
We do not know the day or the hour the Son of God will return but we know that it could be at any moment. This was the point of the parable of the ten virgins we read about in Matthew 25. The last verse and the point Jesus was making was found in Matthew “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Over and over again he warns us that the Master of the House will return at time we are not expecting if we are not watching for him. Over and over again Jesus told parables of what happened to the wicked servants who thought their master was delayed and would not be returning and went about their own business instead of their Master’s business and were declared wicked and slothful servants.
Mark 13:32-37 – “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Jesus is the Master of the House. He holds the key. This should cause us to ask ourselves, is there any work that I should be about doing but am leaving undone? We do not want to be found like the church in Sardis where Jesus tells them in Revelation 3:2-3, “for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” And “Wake Up!…But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Here again they are told to “hold fast what they have.” This is the same exhortation that Jesus gave to the faithful in Thyatira, “I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’” Revelation 2:24-225
This is a warning that someone is going to try and snatch their faith away. This is what Satan Himself does, he snatches the word of God away from us any opportunity he has.
Matthew 13:19 – When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
We are exhorted to hold fast to God’s word, to keep it; which takes strength to intentionally grip it and retain it because we have an enemy who wishes to snatch it away from us through distractions, business, cares and concerns of this world and forgetfulness. We must take measures to remember and retain God’s word. This is by reading and re-reading, writing things down, reviewing, praying, meditating, memorizing, applying…all of these go a long way to preventing the word of God from being snatched from us.
The crown here is the same word use for the crown of Smyrna. It is the word “Stephanos”. It is a victors crown and here we are warned that someone is trying to seize it or take it away from us. This would be lost rewards that we could have enjoyed eternally but forfeited when we “fell sleep” and our work is labeled as “incomplete in the sight of God”.
12 The one who conquers,
To the one who conquers, overcomes, and prevails there is a reward.
I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it,
A pillar is a prominent, ornament structure that is a mainstay in the temple. It holds the temple up like a support beam. It’s a permanent fixture. In the same way we will be a permanent fixture in the house of God.
For those who lived in Philadelphia this would have held special meaning since they often had to dwell outside of the city because of the great earthquakes. Here is a promise to be an unshaken, unmovable, stable pillar in God’s temple.
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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
Jesus promises to write on them three new names. The city of Philadelphia was all about new names. They were anxious to name themselves after the imperial gods to gain their favor. So this promise of writing on them a new name spoke to this city personally.
The first name Jesus promises to write on them is the name of God. This would show God’s ownership of them as we often write our names on that which we own. The second is the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is to show their citizenship in the new heavenly city that they belong to. And the third is Jesus’ own new name. What that name is remains a mystery. My best guess is that I would say that it would be a new way of knowing Jesus; they would know him in a new way. Because all of God’s names are significant to his character and describes who he is and how we relate to him. Shepherd. Father. Messiah, Savior. The Holy One. Lord of Lords, King of Kings, all of these describes a person’s role and character. In the Old Testament every time they would have an encounter with God, they would often gain a new name for God, The God Who Sees., because they would know him in a new way. I think this is similar. It will be a glorious name whatever it is.
It also coincides with the beginning of this letter, where Jesus introduces himself by a new description, a new name. I am the Holy One, The True One for this particular church.
13 He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Once again we are reminded this message is not just for the church of Philadelphia but for all those who have ears to hear and are willing to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches in plural. This is a letter to us, reminding us to hold on to the word of God and not to deny his name. The time is short. The wrath of God is coming and we still have lots of opportunity to do work and especially pray! Pray! Pray! Pray! It is also a warning to us not to be an earth dweller. To think of God much. To seek him. To know our lives our temporary here and we are to be saving up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. We live on a sinking ship, to spend all our time decorating it and making our lives comfortable on it instead of preparing to abandon and warning others is foolish. It’s insane. We need to wake up! And by faith believe that Jesus is the Truthful One. When he says is going to come true, is coming to come true and we need to be prepared when he returns lest we find ourselves outside the door, knocking after it has already been closed for eternity. Let us not be shut out, not when the door stands open for us now. Why do you delay entering? Why do you delay surrendering your life to God and following Jesus at the sacrifice of the world? Why are you holding on to a sinking ship instead of God’s word? What work is God calling you to complete before Christ returns? What is still incomplete in your life?