(3: 7) “And unto the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write; These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;”
Jesus Christ is called the “faithful witness” and the “first-begotten of the dead.” These are Divine titles. But He also personifies common terms of blessedness, such as “holy” and “true.” Jesus Christ is holy. Because of His sinless nature, He alone became the perfect Lamb of God. He is also true; He cannot lie. All that He has said in this book shall come to pass in due season. Man often gets discouraged when he sees apparent delays in the divine program. But from God’s perspective there are no delays. The fulfillment of the predictions of this book has been counseled of old.
Christ has the key of David. This brings us back to Isaiah 22, where the condition of Judah was one that required weeping and mourning (v. 12). Yet the inhabitants of Jerusalem were feasting and making merry (v. 13). In addition, Shebna the treasurer was using his office as a means to his own glorification (v. 16-18). Isaiah prophesied that he would be deposed from his office, and Eliakim put in his stead. “And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit the government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder: so he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22: 21-22).
Eliakim was a prophetic type of Christ. Our Lord received the key of the house of David at His ascension to the right hand of the Father, when He was made “Head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1: 22). During the present dispensation, the Lord is using the key of David to grant those whom the Father has given Him access into His kingdom. When He returns to destroy the wicked, the prophecy shall have its final fulfillment, as the chaff of the visible church is removed, and the wheat gathered into the garner. See Matt. 21: 40-41; Isaiah 65: 13-16. The true Israel will then be completed, and the First Resurrection will ensue.
(3: 8) “I know thy works: behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
This is the only one of the seven epistles that contains no word of reproval. We see this, then, as a sort of model church. It is commended for its works. Of what do these works consist? They consist of– 1): strength in times of trial; 2): faithfulness in keeping Christ’s word; 3): refusal to deny His name during a period of intense persecution. Of course, the strength which the Philadelphian saints possess is “but a little.” However, it is enough to overcome the power of the wicked one. “For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5: 4).
This power to overcome–this strength of which they have little, but enough that they are approved of God–may be attributed to the purity of their teachings. For the faith that withstands the weapons of the adversary is not effectual unless it be that Gospel authorized by Christ. This they have kept, even in the face of an apostasy which has leavened the churches with falsehood.
Today many false teachers stalk abroad, against which the saints must be on their guard. Atheism, skepticism, rationalism, preterism, and a host of other Satan-energized errors, are now being proliferated on the internet at an alarming rate, and are luring souls into hell. The men who teach such doctrines are fulfilling the last days apostasy and sealing themselves for perdition. It is to a church amidst such confusion that Christ addresses this epistle. Keep the word as it has been delivered, and as thou hast received it, and thy reward shall be great.
(3: 9) “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”
This church is also being vexed and harassed by the “Synagogue of Satan.” Here is probably a reference to natural Jews who deny Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Before the second coming and judgment of the habitable world (oikoumene) was postponed during the 1st century (due to the repentance of the Gentiles), many antichrists had arisen, whereby the saints knew that the “last time” had come (1 John 2: 18). This sign will be repeated again, when the “consummation (sunteleia) of the age” re-commences. The rapid spread of atheism on campuses and in classrooms, as well as on the web, is a prognostication that the present dispensation is about to end.
Whoever they may be, these Jews of the “Synagogue of Satan” will be confounded at the coming of the Lord, and will be made to do homage to Jesus Christ and His saints. The promise is an allusion to Isaiah: “The sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow down themselves at the souls of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60: 14). A glance at the context tells us that this promise will be fulfilled during the Millennium.
(3: 10) “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.”
Now Christ gives us a better indication of what the “open door” of v. 8 is. It is escape from an impending period of worldwide trial and “temptation.” We believe this “hour of temptation” to be none other than the Great Tribulation, which will last for a three-and-a-half year period, and commence when Antichrist sets up the “abomination of desolation” in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem (Matt. 24: 15). This will occur in the midst of Daniel’s 70th week. For more information, see my article, Antichrist and The Great Tribulation.
It is important that we understand the worldwide nature of this “hour of temptation.” The tribulation will begin at Jerusalem, and extend throughout all the habitable world. Read Jeremiah 25 (the whole chapter). But especially take note of v. 29: “For lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called on my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of Hosts.” See also Isaiah 51: 22-23 and Zephaniah 3: 8. The early church knew about these things. See Didache, xvi; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. V. xxv. 2; Hippolytus, On Daniel, II. xxii; Lactantius, Div. Inst. VII. xvii; Chrysostom, Hom. III on Thessalonians; John of Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa, IV. xxvi.
The nature of that escape offered to those who keep Christ’s testimony is given in Matthew 24: 16-22. When the saints see the abomination of desolation, the wise ones shall understand (Daniel 12: 10), will flee into the wilderness, and there, like Elijah, be sheltered from the events of the Great Tribulation, and nourished from the face of the serpent. See also Revelation 12: 6, 14, in which the “woman” (the church) is depicted as finding a refuge in the wilderness. This will last for the duration of the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.
(3: 11) “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
Here is the necessity for persevering unto the end. They who fail to maintain their steadfastness, even at the last minute, will not be deemed worthy of entering Jesus Christ’s Millennial kingdom. This great truth is brought out in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19: 11-27), in which the unfaithful servant is pictured as having his pound taken from him and given to one with ten pounds. Paul says, “Know ye not, that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9: 24).
(3: 12) “Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
We’ll recall that after Jacob wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32: 24 ff.), he was given a new name. Said the angel: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed “(Gen. 32: 28). This same promise is held out to all of Christ’s people, who are overcomers. As such they will endure unto the end; and this accords with the old Calvinistic doctrine of “final perseverance.” When the Lord appears to reward His faithful servants, He will make them citizens of the true Israel, the holy nation of kings and priests which will bear rule over the entire earth.
But this special promise applies to those who will be granted a permanent placement in the New Jerusalem. The heavenly city is seen descending in Revelation 21: 2. In Joseph Mede’s sixth “Synchronism,” he lays it down as an axiom that this descent of the New Jerusalem will take place after the pouring out of the vials. Hence we see this promise as being fulfilled in Millennial times. The city will probably not descend to earth, but will rest in the air above the site of Bethel. See Genesis 28: 12, 16-17, and compare with John 1: 51. A rebuilt earthly Jerusalem will be the chief metropolis of the earth until the Millennium is completed, and all things made permanent and eternal in the “new heavens and new earth.” For more info, see Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. V. xxxv. 2; and Lactantius, Epit. lxxii.
(3: 13) “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”
That it requires an ear to properly assimilate these promises is evidenced on all sides. Very few believe the reality of the revelations disclosed in this book. That we be not shaken in our beliefs, but driven toward a more lively faith, the Lord continually says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear.” Yes, let us hear. For without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11: 6). Do Jesus Christ’s words inspire within you a deeper faith? If not, then consider the words of warning given in these epistles. Hell will be found a very uncomfortable place for those who despise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But let the saints rejoice!