What Happens Next? Revelation 3:7-13, to the church at Philadelphia

A little background concerning the church at Philadelphia:

  • not a large city, but commercially busy.
  • prone to earthquake disasters.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

  • “the holy one” – “In the Bible “holiness” is the very essence of God, the quality that makes God what he is, different and set apart from human beings. It carries a sense of separateness from sin, of exclusiveness, of uniqueness”(Bratcher). Also a Messianic designation, meaning God’s servant or one who does God’s will. Thus when we combine Jesus’ self description here in this verse we end up with something like “the true, faithful divine Messiah-servant of God”.

  • “who has the key of David” – this a statement highlighting authority taken from Isaiah 22.22. “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Used in Isaiah to refer to Eliakim, the king’s guardian, who had the authority to rule in the king’s palace. As Messiah, he has authority to execute the governing of the kingdom. He has the sole authority to allow or refuse people entrance into the kingdom.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

  • “I have set” – meaning not placed, but I have given you. Grace is implied.
  • 1) “set before you an open door” – although we aren’t told specifically what this refers to, it most likely refers to some sort of evangelistic opportunity for the church. The context suggests this (“the key of David”). Paul also used the term in this particular way, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” – 1 Co 16:8–9.
  • APP: We must remember that it is God who opens and closes doors for the sharing of the gospel. It isn’t any adversary or obstacle or even ourselves.
  • 2) “set before you an open door” – for the members of Philadelphia, the Jewish population may have closed their doors to the Jewish Christians, but Jesus holds open wide the doors of heaven for these believers. No one can block their entrance into Jesus’ kingdom.
  • All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” –  Jn 6:37–40.
  • “little power” – most likely a reference to their influence within the city.
  • “Yet you have kept my word…” – The social pressure faced by the church was most likely intense, especially when the more prominent Jewish population cast such judgment upon the Messianic Jews within the city. Yet the church at Philadelphia did not compromise their walk with Christ for the sake of easier living. Kept my word is a reference to following the teachings of Christ.
  • “have not denied my name” – means, “you haven’t disowned me,” or “you’ve never said you didn’t believe in me.”

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.

  • Evidently, the small group of believers in Philadelphia were facing persecution from the Jewish population there.
  • “synagogue of Satan” – Jews by nationality only, not by faith. The Jewish population at Smyrna was called by the same term (Rev. 2.9).
  • Scholars believe the Jewish population had excommunicated Messianic Jews from their synagogues, thus forcing them to live lives of isolation.
  • “but lie” – to themselves more than any other.
  • “I will make them comebow down before your feet” – in eternity, these Jews would recognize their wrong and acknowledge they were right about Jesus being the Messiah. Interestingly, the word “I will make” is the same word as “I will set” above. Literally meaning, “I will give”.
  • “learn that I have loved you” – meaning to discover, find out, recognize, or understand. The Jewish will realize that Jesus does love his followers at Philadelphia. Perhaps this was part of the criticism the believers received from the Jewish population there.

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

  • “kept my word about patient endurance” – Meaning, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently…” The apparent lack of influence and power had no sway on their willingness to obey Christ.
  • APP: sometimes the most Christian thing we can do is endure, not react.
  • “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” – pre-tribulation rapture proponents argue that the word “keep” here refers to a removal from these times of trial. Others view “keep” more along the lines of protecting through it.

11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

  • Although no correction is given to the church, the church is commanded to “hold fast what you have”.
  • “so that no one may seize your crown” – another call to persevere in faith and hold fast. We do not want to take our eyes off of Christ and somehow not finish our race.

12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

  • “I will make him…I will write on him…” -These statements offer a great comfort from the stability and security found in Jesus, not the floundering faith we often exercise.
  • “a pillar in the temple of my God” – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee”  – 2 Cor. 5.1-5.Jewish worship centered around the physical temple in Jerusalem. In heaven, our worship centers on the actual presence of God. No temple necessary. “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” – Rev. 21:22. Redeemed people will be the “building” in which God will dwell. The emphasis is that as believers, we are important pieces in the “building” of God. 
  • The description emphasizes a permanent citizenship for those who overcome.

13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’