To the Church at Philadelphia

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 9, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

This is the sixth post in this series about the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. This is Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia. This is the most positive of all the seven letters. There is not a single negative statement nor warning of darker times coming in this letter. Now, was there any sin that the church in Philadelphia could be caught in? Sure. They weren’t perfect, however Jesus did not have something very specific to address with them. Any sin they had was being dealt with and they were in process of sanctification without resistance. With the exception of the letter to Smyrna, all other letters were dealing with sin issues that had become stagnant and were not being dealt with. Philadelphia did not have a sin issue being left unattended which Jesus needed to address.

So why write this letter? This is a letter of encouragement to keep going, to stay faithful. Jesus opens this letter as being the one who opens and closes doors, which no man can reverse. When Jesus opens a door, no man can shut it. When he closes a door, no man can open it. Here Jesus presents an open door which no man can shut. What is that door? It’s hard to say specifically, but I believe God’s grace and his place of honor for them are part of it.

Jesus praised Philadelphia for their faithfulness, for staying true to God’s Word, and refusing to deny his name. But then he follows with a very interesting statement. In Revelation 3:9, Jesus said that those in the “synagogue of Satan,” (those who claim to be Jews or Christian but are not and lie about it) will be made to come and worship before the feet of the church of Philadelphia, to know that Jesus loved them. What is up with that? Does this not violate the 1st and 2nd commandments regarding other gods and idols? A look at other versions may help clear it up.

I always prefer to cite NKJV in my posts, so unless I specify otherwise, that is what I am using. The NIV states, “I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” So NIV is not talking about worship in the context of treating one like God, but rather coming to a pleading for mercy for their mockery of those who stayed true. ESV says something similar. Holman seems to echo NJKV. The Message describes how God will humble these fakers and force them to acknowledge they were loved by God. So this is not talking about worship of the Philadelphian church instead of God, but rather being made to recognize God was behind them the whole time.

Jesus continues. Because Philadelphia kept the command to persevere, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial which would come to the whole world. What trial is this? I’m not sure it is talking about the Great Tribulation of the end times. I don’t know at all what this particular trial is, but Jesus is not going to put Philadelphia through the intense fires intended to purify the Bride. Why? Because they are putting themselves through the process.

Again, Jesus did not specify any sin that Philadelphia was struggling in or refusing to address. That means God does not need to give them trials which are for the purpose of purification. He does not need to scrub them to get the stuck-on grime off. He just needs to wash them from time to time. Philadelphia had no need to go through the trials because they did not need the intended purpose of those trials. The trials are to test those who dwell on the earth, to prove who is legit and who is not. The trials are there to get the true believers to further recognize their sin and to deal with it, and to separate the fakers from the real thing. Philadelphia did not need such trials because they were actively dealing with their own sin the Biblical way and did not need these harsh trials to do it for them. What a statement to be made! If Jesus could declare to you that he would spare you from the great testing trials because they are unnecessary to cleanse you from sin because you are dealing with it yourself, that is a great honor.

Jesus gave encouragement that he is returning and soon. Now 2000 years doesn’t seem like very soon, but Jesus emphasized on being in a state of urgency and not laid back. If Jesus said he wasn’t coming back for 2500 years, Philadelphia would have had no reason to stay faithful. Jesus told Philadelphia to stay true and hold fast so no one can steal their crown of being a faithful believer.

Jesus then makes another claim. The ones who overcome and stay faithful will be made pillars in the temple of God. Keep in mind that pillars back in those days were symbols of strength, glory, and beauty. The pillars did more than hold the roof of the temple, but they were works of art. The Temple of Diana in Ephesus had 127 marble pillars and this temple was a masterpiece, one of the ancient created wonders of the world. The pillars are part of what made this temple stand out.

God wants to make Philadelphia pillars of his temple. These pillars are the foundation, the strength, and the power of the temple. Believers like those found in Philadelphia are what makes the Body of Christ operate as it should. The pillars of an organization are the ones who make it run. The pillars of God’s temple are the ones who make his body operate.

The last thing Jesus says to this church is that he will put his name on them. That is a powerful statement. I am an author and there is a huge difference between having my published book (working on making that plural) and having a signed book, especially if that signature is personalized. It is easy to produce many copies, but it is rare to have a signed copy. You can get a baseball and toss it away without an issue. But if you had one signed by Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, or Clayton Kershaw, you would put that ball in a trophy case and never let it go. When Jesus puts his name on you, you are an extremely cherished treasure. Jesus held Philadelphia with such esteem because of their faithfulness he will sign his name on them. This church had to be a sight to see.

Next week, we’ll look at the last of these letters: to the church of Laodicea.

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