Hello and welcome back to our Seven Churches of Revelation Study Series Part 6.
If you have been following along with this study series thus far, then at this point you probably have a good understanding of the flow of things. So just like our other posts, we will look at the Identification, the Message, and the Prophetic Outcome of this letter. But first, lets look at a bit of history of the city of Philadelphia:
As an ancient city, Philadelphia was not as ancient as many of the other cities of Asia Minor. It was founded in 189 BC along one of the roads that led to the east toward Pisidia. The city has had a number of names through its existence: “Philadelphia”, to honor Attalus II who was honored for his loyalty with the nickname Philadelphos, literally one who loves his brother, by his elder brother, Eumenes II, king of Lydia; “Decapolis”, as it was considered one of the ten cities of the plain of Lydia; “Neo-kaisaria”, during the first century; and “Flavia”, during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian. Its modern name is “Alashehir”. In 133 BC, the city passed into the control of the Romans. It was during the few centuries before Christ that Jewish families settled in the cities of western Asia Minor and among whom the apostles, notably Paul and John, visited, labored, and established the first Christian churches.– Orthodoxwiki
Now lets look at the Identification of this Letter:
Like all the previous letters, this letter begins with the message “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.”
Jesus then begins by identifying Himself as the “He who is holy, who is true and who has the key of David (Rev 3:7).”
So lets tackle these identities. The first one “He who is holy, who is true,” is a title given to Jesus by John in his first epistle (1 John 5:20). For the second reference “who has the key of David” can first be traced back to the book of Isaiah, where the prophet spoke about a servant called Eliakim who was an assistant to King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:18), but was ultimately a prophecy by Isaiah concerning the authority of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 22:20-Isaiah 22:22). Take a look at the following commentary from Enduring Word Bible:
The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder: Because Eliakim is the LORD’s servant, the LORD will give him great authority. In that day, the chief royal steward would have the large master key of the palace fastened to the shoulder of his tunic. The key was a picture and demonstration of the authority of the chief steward. Here, the LORD gives Eliakim the authority to open and shut as the LORD’s representative, which no man can oppose.
i. In this, Eliakim becomes a prophecy of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself: 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) Jesus is the one with the keys of Hades and of Death (Revelation 1:8), who has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Jesus delegates this authority as it pleases Him (Matthew 16:19).
f. He shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut and no one shall open: Eliakim would have this kind of authority from the LORD. Since he is a picture of Jesus, we know that Jesus has the authority to open and shut doors in our lives as He pleases. We need to accept both the open and the shut doors!– Enduring Word Bible
But it doesn’t end there. Revelations 1:18 gives us the real identity of the “key of David” as being the keys of death and of Hades. This establishes Jesus as the final judge who will ultimately decide our fate.
Next lets look at the Message to the Church:
Like most of the other letters, Jesus will usually start off by acknowledging the churches good deeds, but then quickly rebukes them in the following message. But in the letter to Philadelphia, there is no rebuke or condemnation for this church. Jesus explains to the church that because they have had little strength (indicating a small minority) yet have stood firm to the word of God and not denied His name (Rev 3:8), He then gave them an ‘open door’ (opportunity) that only He can shut. This open door or opportunity is referring to the churches ability to be an influence of the gospel message to all the surrounding peoples of this area. It will be so great an influence in fact, that Jesus says only He will be able to shut this door (opportunity) that He has opened.
Not only does Jesus acknowledge their good deeds, but He also gives them a reward in Revelation 3:10. Remember, these seven churches are also a direct representation of the Church (the body of Christ) today. This reward spoken about in Revelation 3:10 is a promise to this physical church and the body of Christ throughout all the ages of the Church, that because we have persevered (trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior), therefore He will keep us from that hour of testing, which is a reference to the Tribulation Period. Here, Jesus is relaying a direct message to the Church, promising that those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus will not have to endure that time of judgement and wrath called the Tribulation Period, but instead will be absent completely (keep you from). This is an indication the Rapture of the Church.
- Note: The term ‘Church’ is used in the book of Revelation 19 times throughout chapters 1, 2, & 3, which are the chapters of the letters to the seven churches. But starting at chapter 4, the term ‘Church’ is not used again until chapter 22, which is the last chapter speaking about eternity future. This is because the book of Revelation takes a dramatic turn starting at Revelation 4:1, when the apostle John was summoned into heaven, which is a depiction of the Rapture of the Church. At this point, the term Church (the body of Christ) is not found again until the last chapter of Revelation, another indication that the body of Christ will be kept from that terrible time of the Tribulation Period.
Last we will look at the Prophetic Outcome of this letter:
Jesus then says “To him who overcomes (see 1 John 5:4 for an overcomer), I will write on him the name of God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12).”
This is a confirmation and promise by Jesus Himself, that those of use who persevered (trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ) will be fully secured in Him and will soon dwell in the new Jerusalem that the Lord will build for us in the coming future (Revelation 21:1-Revelation 21:3).
Jesus finally ends this message with the same phrase as all the other letters, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches“. In the Prelude to this study, I explain the significance of this phrase and how it applies to the rest of the book of Revelations.
This concludes Part 6 of my seven part study series “The Seven Churches of Revelation.” In my next study of this series, we will look at and break down our last letter of this series given to the church of Laodicea.
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And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..