A Letter to the Church in Philadelphia

by Mike Ratliff

7 “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”: Revelation 3:7 (NKJV) 

One of the big errors of our time in the visible Church of the 21st Century is the misguided concept that truth is subjective. In other words, truth is what you want it be. This concept is, of course, simply borrowed from the world, which loves it. While I do not contend that I know when our Lord will return, I do know that it will be at the end of this age prior to the age to come. I know that He has been given a people for Himself from the Father. I know that His blood purchased them at the cross. I know that those whom He saves must live in this sin-sick world in order to be sanctified, to mature in Christ, and for their lives to glorify God. These truths, and so many more from God’s Word, are not subjective.

We do best when we take God’s Word at face value, keep it in context, and use scripture to interpret scripture instead of subjectivism. We should also understand that the Bible is God’s gift to His people to reveal Him and His truth to them for their edification and His glory.

When our Lord Jesus Christ gave John the book of Revelation, He was told to write what he saw in a book and send that to the seven churches, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. He was told specifically what to write.

19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. Revelation 1:19 (NKJV) 

In this post, we will look at the letter to the church in Philadelphia. The first verse in this letter is at the top of this post. Our Lord Jesus Christ is dictating this letter. He is the holy one, the true one, and he has the key of David. He opens and no one will shut. He shuts and no one opens. This is a statement of authority. Our Lord has all authority.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:18 (NKJV) 

Only God can give this authority. It has been given by God to our Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and man. He is both. This authority is given to Him because He completed His mission to live a sinless life as a man then go to the cross willingly so that He could fulfill His role as the Lamb of God. He was the propititiation for the sins of His people, those given to Him by the Father. He rose from the dead on the third day. He won a tremendous victory at the cross. He released the captives. All those who belonged to Him have been given the gift of being free from the power of sin. Because of His obedience, the Father has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth. Our Lord Jesus Christ has the authority to admit to or exclude people from God’s Kingdom and this cannot be reversed.

8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Revelation 3:8 (NKJV) 

Keeping in mind what we learned about our Lord’s authority in v7 let us carefully read what He tells this church. First, our Lord knows their works. He is God and knows everything. He is omniscient. His telling this church that He knows their deeds or works is spoken to make it clear to these people that there are no excuses. They cannot contend that they are doing what they are not doing or not doing what they are doing. No excuses. Then He says “See” This word in Greek simply means, “Look!” What is this “open door?” He had just told these people that it is by His authority that doors are open for those who belong to Him to go through in obedience. That is the sense here. He is calling these people, even though they are weak, they do belong to Him so they are being exhorted to walk in obedience in service to Him. They are being exhorted to walk by faith, not by sight. Our Lord has all authority so they should respond in boldness instead of self-focused fear. This seems so much like many Christians I know personally. They do belong to the Saviour, but they are timid and self-conscious so instead of walking through the door of obedience, they become fixed in non-involvement and self-protection. They have not denied the name of Christ, and they have kept the Word of Christ, but they are spiritually weak.

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. Revelation 3:9 (NKJV) 

The synagogue of Satan is mentioned here and in 2:9.

9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9 (NKJV) 

Much of the persecution of the early Church came from the Jews. The synagogue of Satan refers to religious Jews by birth or genealogy, however, our Lord tell us here that, even though they are Jews by birth, they are not Jews by faith. The children of Abraham are his by faith (Romans 4). Therefore, these references to the synagogue of Satan in these two passages in Revelation are referring to those 1st Century Jews who were not children of Abraham by faith, but were enemies of the Church and all who belonged to our Lord Jesus Christ. This bowing down before these believers by these “Jews” must refer to the age to come when all accounts are settled after the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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.
13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ Revelation 3:10-13 (NKJV) 

What does our Lord mean here about keeping those who have kept our Lord’s command to persevere from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world? Never forget my brethren, God’s Word no where promises to spare believers from suffering or martyrdom, but instead, to shield them from His wrath and to transform martyrdom into triumph (Revelation 6:10-11; Revelation 12:11). This promise to keep those who have kept our Lord’s command to persevere from the hour of trial is God’s promise to safeguard and remain faithful to believers who endure patiently in the midst of “that trial that is coming on the whole world.” In other words, this passage does not imply that God will take believers out of the world at that time, but instead, they will be protected and kept from the outpouring of His wrath upon the wicked.

Never forget my brethren, the one making these promises is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has all authority. No one can stay His hand or open what He shuts or shut what He opens. There is undoubtedly, according to this passage, going to be a trial coming on the whole world. This will probably include a period of intensified persecution for the church along with escalating manifestations of god’s wrath against “those who dwell on the earth.” These trials could be financial and then escalate into ever more terrible things, but throughout it all, our Lord’s people will be persecuted, but will not experience God’s wrath.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “A Letter to the Church in Philadelphia

  1. God, help me to not be spiritually weak! Just wondering, this trial that comes upon the whole world is this the tribulation?


  2. Reblogged this on Rainbow Trout and commented:
    Thanks Mike as the Westminster Catechism starts out it is for His glory….
    Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
    A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

    Btw, some of the best sermons on Revelation I’ve studied are on Sermon Audio by Dr. Steven Dilday, all of them are relevant, but you can find his on Revelation 3:7 beginning here: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1016101815254

    It is noteworthy how John writes down the source of the message he is given:

    Rev 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
    Rev 1:2  Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
    Rev 1:3  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

    And the value of our reading it is confirmed as the book closes:
    Revelation 22:7  Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

    Time to take the book off the shelf, to read and keep. God’s word puts bookends of blessings around the text.


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