I'm Going to take care of my Friends
Prayer: God as we study today about Philadelphia help us to learn from their example of devotion. Help us to be the approachable believers, believers that those in the world are able to seek out to have their honest questions answered. Help us to do this as individuals, as a church body, and in the true Church - the body of believers in the world. Amen!
Today we will be studying the 6th church of the 7 who were specific recipients of letters in the book of Revelation, the church at Philadelphia.
City is located on a main artery, on the imperial post road from Rome & Troas to Pergamos, Sardis & Phrygia - so thus in a prosperous location. It is the youngest of our 7 cities, established in 189 BC. The area was known then & is still known know as being favorable for wine production. Its location is a virtual gateway to the high central plateau of Asia Minor, so it was tasked by Rome to promote Greek culture into that area (a missionary location).
The region in which it is located is called Katakekaumene ("the burned land") and is a heavy volcanic region. A violent earthquake occurred in 17 AD that impacted heavily on several cities in the area (see Sardis), tremors occurred for years afterward, causing economic & civil disruption for several decades.
Because of financial relief from Tiberius the citizens renamed the city Neo-Caesarea ("new city of Caesar"). Later in the time of Vaspasian, the name was changed to his family name of Flavia. These names didn't stick, after a short time the name changed back to Philadelphia. Today the city is named Alasheihir (Allah-Shehu): which means "city of God" in Arabic. Naming or name changes are going to be a theme in this letter.
I was unable to find information about the population in the 1st century, but the city today has a population of around 41,000 people. I don't believe it was a large city, in part because it had not been around very long & also due to the devastation caused by the earthquake in AD 17. Though conquered at one point, the city has been continuously inhabited to this day.
The area is hilly & picturesque, with a river running through, and with very fertile soil resulting in a proliferation of beautiful trees & flowers.
- Most of the architecture of the region dates from the 2nd century and following, again leading me to believe that the population in the 1st century was rather small.
- Dionysius - principal deity - god of wine.
The Letter to Philadelphia: read Revelation 3:7-13
Name of the city: Philadelphia - some say this means City of Brotherly Love, this isn't a bad translation but not necessarily accurate. Phila: friendly toward + Delphia: city = Friendly City. It may be that it became known as the city of brotherly love because of the King (Eumenes) and his younger brother (& successor Attalus) who liked each other very much & were intensely loyal to each other - so much so that they had coins minted with both of their heads on them, with the heads being equally represented.
Title of Christ: "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."
Holy - an attribute of God that should inspire fear/reverence - linked strongly to His justice & judgement.
True - real, genuine - in contrast to falsehood. This is the defining character of Jesus. This links strongly to the faithfulness of this Philadelphia church.
Holds the key of David - what is this "key of David"? Isaiah 22:20-25. The wording here is remarkably similar the wording in Revelation, historically this is occurring when Eliakim is replacing Shebna (unfaithful servant) as the king's treasurer. The message is immediate for Eliakim's sake, but is also prophetic of the Messiah (acknowledged messianic prophecy). The "peg" or "nail" is another messianic title, notice what is prophesied in verse 25 - the peg will be "sheared off", a description of the death & removal of Messiah from the earth - one of the few places in the Old Testament that foretells Jesus death. For Eliakim the "key of David" was a literal key, a heavy key on a loop slung over his shoulder, indicating his power to grant or deny access to the presence of the king. This key also gave Eliakim access to all the treasures of the king - here Christ is indicating that He has access to all the treasures of God & they are at His disposal.
Open Door - a door that only Christ can open, a door to Christian service & ministry in His name.
Commendation: "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. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars - I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth."
I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut - "open door" is used symbolically of a couple different things in scripture: as a mission field, as a door of deliverance. Either of these would be good interpretations in this case.
You have little strength and have kept my word and not denied my name - this is a strong commendation of their pure witness of Christ - keeping His word & not denying His name before the world. It's important for us to remember that their culture was hostile toward believers.
Those of the synagogue of Satan will fall at your feet & acknowledge that I love you - who are the synagogue of Satan? When we studied Smyrna we looked at this, these are false Jews - perhaps those who hold to the idea of replacement theology, i.e. those that teach that Christians have replaced the Jews as far as the promises of the Old Testament are concerned - these don't see the Jews as still a part of God's plan. Replacement Theology is a strong bitter root of Anti-Semitism. Notice by what is being said "they will fall at your feet and acknowledge that I love you", this is a worshipful & humble act - it is possible that these are believers, but believers that have fallen into error.
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth - Jesus asks us to be patient as God works out His will in His world, their patience is rewarded by being kept from the trial that is coming on the whole world (all mankind). Notice they are kept from (in Greek "out of") "the hour" or "the time" of the trial (tribulation), not preserved during the time of trouble, but removed from the time of trouble. The term for "those who live on the earth" or "earth dwellers", in the Greek means those who have identified themselves as belonging to the world, whereas believers are citizens of Heaven. This is a passage that strongly speaks to the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
Exhortation: "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."
Coming soon - better translated "coming quickly", not quickly in days/years, but when He does come it will be a quick event - it will catch people by surprise & they won't have the chance to respond before they are overtaken by it.
Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown - like Smyrna (the other church with no Concerns) they have a crown. They already have their crown, the blessings that they have because of their relationship to and faithfulness in Christ.
In history, during the 14th century the city of Philadelphia stood alone against the entire Turkish empire as a free self-governing Christian city, all the other areas around them were conquered. They continued to hold fast through being besieged & such until the end of the 14th century when they were finally overthrown by the combined Turkish & Byzantine forces - they held fast to the end.
Promise to the Overcomer: "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."
I will make a pillar in the temple of my God - a pillar meant "solidity" especially to those who live in an earthquake prone area.
I will write on him: name of God, name of city of God, my new name - the people of this city that had been renamed would be given permanent & significant names. Where Sardis (last lesson) had a meaningless name, the overcomer of Philadelphia is given numerous significantly meaningful names.
Closing Statement: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"
Historical Church - the Missionary Church or Missionary Age (1800 - 1900 or today):
Early 1800s in the Evangelical church there was a renewal of teaching of Christ's second coming, for many centuries that had not been taught in the church at large. This was a time of doors opening, the rise of Missionary outreach all over the world, this work continues even to this day.
One commentator I read believes that this age is still continuing among evangelical churches & lasts until the 2nd coming when the Church is raptured - he modifies the name of this era to the era of the Revived Church or Bible-Believing Church. I find this a reasonable and agreeable viewpoint, especially in light of the fracturing of the church into so many varied denominations with varying degrees of faithfulness to the pure truths of God, and also with individuals within some of the most unfaithful denominations seeking out truth from the source - the Word (BSF).
How is your life like the life of the church of Philadelphia? Are you holding fast to the word of God? Are you loyal to Christ, faithfully witnessing & declaring Him to the world?
How is our church like the church of Philadelphia? Are we holding fast to the word of God & not allowing the world to influence the teachings in our church? Are we, as a church, being a faithful witness of Christ to the world?
Prayer: God, help us hold fast to your Word, to hold it as a precious treasure. Help us to be faithfully devoted to you, holding fast to the end. Help us to do this as individual believers and as a local body of believers, so that we also may hold onto our crowns of blessings. Amen!