Revelation of Hope
In this Session we will continue in Revelation 3 and study the Letter to the Church of Philadelphia. Jesus did not give this church any correction, but gave them promises of deliverance from trials, and 4 eternal spiritual promises that are staggering in scope. The Lord always gives the most lavish gifts and graces to His children.
Below is some background on ancient Philadelphia that will help us see this letter in the context of those who received it.
- Located in Modern Day Turkey about 50 miles inland on a low sloping hill, in the Hermus Valley, Philadelphia was founded in 189BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamum. He named the city in honor of his brother would be his successor, as he had no heir. King Eumenes II was nicknamed “the one who loves his brother” (Philadelphia).
- This city was is very similar in culture to Sardis, as it was located on the same trade route, and was known for being the epicenter of Emperor Worship. The city coins had the inscription NEOKORON – which means “keeper of the temple”. The city suffered significant damage by an earthquake in AD17, and was given aid by Tiberius. In return they honored him with a temple. At the time that Revelation was given to the Church of Philadelphia, it was a prosperous wine grape growing region. The cult of Dionysus revolved around the wine industry.
- There was a sizable Jewish population there in the First Century that persecuted the Church of Philadelphia. Christianity at this time was considered a Jewish Messianic heresy, and was still not entirely distinct or separated from Judaism. It is important to keep in mind that the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing and that the Church and Temple stood side by side for about 40 years, and preached competing messages. The Church was preaching a New Covenant in the Person of Jesus Christ, and the Jewish people who rejected Jesus as Messiah, preached the continuance of the Old Covenant. These were polar opposite understandings of the Scriptures, and were the fuel for persecution. We see these persecutions in Acts 19, Acts 4, Acts 7, Acts 8, Acts 13:50, Acts 14:19, Acts 17:5, Acts 18:6, Acts 21:27, Acts 23, Acts 25:7
- The Church of Philadelphia was prosperous from the First Century to Medieval Times. There are still many Orthodox Christians there today. The city is now called Alaşehir.
- Words of Him who is holy and true – Greek – ALĒTHINOS – that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine – George Eldon Ladd in his Commentary on the Revelation of John, says the corresponding Hebrew thought is “One who keeps Covenant Forever”.
- Jesus holds the Key of David, as He is the prophesied Branch from the root of Jesse, and is the Messianic King promised to David. Jesus’ genealogy is from the Tribe of Judah, and from the House of David. It is important that the genealogy of Jesus was the ONLY genealogy that survived the destruction of the Temple because it was preserved in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The complete genealogy of the Tribes of Israel was destroyed by fire in AD 70 when the Temple was destroyed.
- Jesus quotes Isaiah 22:22. The reference indicates that Jesus possess the authority of David’s Throne as Messiah. Also, in the passage, Eliakim was promoted to be father of the house of Judah over Shebna. The symbolism here is that just as there was a change in the authority to rule, Jesus is the fullness of the change as our Messianic King and High Priest. See Hebrews 7
- Just as Eliakim had the authority to open and shut, Jesus is the ultimate authority in terms of opening and shutting. The door represents the ability to enter new spiritual opportunities and the power of the decrees of Jesus create openings for us to walk into these decrees. The Word of God, Jesus, is the Door, and His divine decrees will stand and not be overcome. This would have been very comforting to a church that was being persecuted and accused of being liars because they professed Jesus as Messiah.
- Jesus offers the Church of Philadelphia the promise of deliverance, as He gives them an open door into His heat for them. We all overcome through our relationship with Jesus in every time and season. This church receives no rebuke, but only promises from Jesus.
- Jesus knows their deeds (ERGON), and understands that they are on the edge of losing strength. This letter to the Philadelphian church was right on time.
- “Little power/strength” – MIKROS DUNAMIS – small – strength, power, ability – In spite of the persecution they did not fall or lapse in faith.
- Kept – Greek – TĒREŌ – to attend to carefully, take care of – to guard – These people were rooted and grounded in the Word of Christ. We are always strengthened by the Word of God, and it is the very thing that is sure, unchanging, and possesses power when it is anchored in faith.
- Deny – ARNEOMAI – Greek – to deny, to act entirely unlike himself – This church lived like Sons, Priests, a Royal Nation; they did not live outside of their identity in the face of trial and persecution.
- The Jewish persecution of Christians in ancient Philadelphia revolved around the accusation that there were not God’s people, and were Covenant Breakers.
- Jesus endured this same persecution from the unbelieving Jews. John 8:42-44 – Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- Romans 2:28-29 – For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
- Jesus was promising the Christians in Philadelphia that He would defend them and prove that were Children of God, and belonged to God because they believed He was Messiah. How wonderful that Jesus is the One who defends our love for Him, and will vindicate all attacks on our faith in Him.
- Fall down and acknowledge “I have loved you”, with the destruction of the Temple in AD70, God confirmed the New Covenant, and put away the Old Covenant (See Hebrews). God loves His Bride, the Church.
- Lastly we see a cultural play on words. Many times in the Old Testament, the Lord promised to humiliate the Gentile nations, see Ezekiel 37:28, and Isaiah 49:23, and Isaiah 60:14 – “The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
- Jesus continues to commend them because they have stayed in faith and have not compromised. Not compromising in our faith is a loud trumpet blast in the spirit realm that shouts triumph and victory over the enemy. This is preaching loudly without words.
- Jesus promises to keep them from the hour of trial – Trial – Greek – PEIRASMOS – the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy –
- Trial coming to the whole world – Greek – OIKOUMENĒ – the civilized world – the whole of the Roman Empire at that time.
- Those who live on the earth – Greek – GE – localized area – usually in connection with the land of Judea – See Matthew 24
- During this era there were any trials that the Church endured. There were 10 persecutions against Christianity, and the greatest trial was the Roman invasion of Judea, and the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
- The practical application that applies to our times, is that there is a level of faith, and endurance that delivers us from mega trials! James 4:7 – Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
- Coming soon – Greek – ERCHOMAI – Verb – to come
- This is not a reference to Jesus’ second coming. He is simply stating He will come to them soon and deliver them from the trial. That is the context of this encouragement from Jesus.
- Jesus Christ will return – Acts 1:11 -They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” See Revelation 21 & Revelation 22
- The church of Philadelphia had been given crowns – Greek – STEPHANOS – a crown or – a mark of royal or (in general) exalted rank – Beloved, we are crowned with His glory, love, grace and blessing because we are a Royal Priesthood – 1 Peter 2:9
- Kingdom kids cannot be paupers or beggars because we bear the mark of Kingdom Royalty! Understanding our identity in Jesus will strength us to receive the promises of God. We can only pray and intercede according to our knowledge of God and the measure of faith we possess.
- To the one who overcomes will receive 4 promises
- Pillar in the Temple of God – 1 Kings 7:21 – Thus he set up the pillars at the porch of the nave; and he set up the right pillar and named it Jachin, and he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz. – Jachin means – He will establish – Boaz means – Fleetness or swift or rapid – to cause or to pass swiftly – to fly
- Name of My God – Yahweh – Those who have been given the Name implies close relationship with the Father. This is the Covenant Name of God
- Name of the City of My God – New Jerusalem – The natural Jerusalem was going to be destroyed soon, as it was a shadow of a greater reality in which God would dwell with mankind first in the Person of the Holy Spirit, and then in full blown manifestation at Jesus Second Coming. See Revelation 21
- Jesus new Name – Revelation 19:16 – KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,
- He who has an ear, let him hear – Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Beloved, the more invest our hearts into His heart we gain the ability to have our spiritual senses heightened!
Michele Murray – Gentile Christians and Judaizing in the First and Second Centuries
- Davis Dean – The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Blue Letter Bible.com
Charles Taylor – Commentary on the Book of Revelation
George Eldon Ladd – Commentary on the Book of Revelation
George Eldon Ladd – The Gospel of the Kingdom
Loraine Boettner – The Millenium
Harold Eberle – Victorious Eschatology
Holman Bible Dictionary
NIV – Interlinear Greek New Testament
NASB – Interlinear Greek New Testament
Jonathan Welton – Raptureless
George Peter Holford – The Destruction of Jerusalem
Rapture Fever – Gary North
The Prophets Dictionary – Price
Early Christian Martyr Stories – Bryan M. Litfin