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The Church of Philadelphia

The church of Philadelphia was the church of brotherly love. The church of Philadelphia was situated in the Biblical city of Philadelphia which is now the modern city of Alasehit about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south east of Sardis. It was founded by the Pergamenian king Attalus II (159-138 BC) who named it Philadelphia, meaning brotherly love, in reference to his love for his own brother Eumenes II, who had preceded him on the throne. The city was rebuilt by Tiberius after a serious earthquake in 17 AD.

The previous church was Sardis. Download a PDF chart of the messages to the seven churches of Revelation.

"And to 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;" (Rev 3:7)

Only in this message to the church in Philadelphia is there no obvious connection to the description of Christ given in chapter 1. However, the mention of Him being holy and true can be linked to other parts of Revelation:

"And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:10)

He is also called "the faithful and true witness" in the message to Laodicea. (Rev 3:14)

He That Opens

"He that openeth" in this verse is a reference to Christ.

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy 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." (Isa 22:20-22)

It seems that Eliakim may have been a type of Christ. Eliakim was appointed to have supervision "over the household" of David. Christ having the key may represent His jurisdiction over the church or His authority to open what no one else can.

"And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." (Rev 5:2-5)

"Openeth and shutteth" could be a reference to His authority to do other things in the heavenly system:

  1. A door is opened in heaven to introduce the trumpets (Rev 4:1)
  2. He (alone) is found worthy to open the seals on the sealed book (Rev 5:5)
  3. The temple in heaven is opened (Rev 11:19)
  4. The tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened (Rev 15:5)
  5. Heaven itself is opened for the return of Christ at the Second Coming. (Rev 19:11)

Ultimately, Jesus is given authority over all things:

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church," (Eph 1:22)
"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." (Rev 3:8)

The "open door" set before the church of Philadelphia could indicate an opportunity - we use it that way as Paul did in regard to opportunities he had:

"For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." (1 Cor 16:9)
"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord," (2 Cor 2:12)

These would be references to doors of witnessing opportunities (like we say a window of opportunity). The "door" of access to our Saviour is always open - no appointment needed, no waiting in line:

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:14-16)
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb 7:25)

The phrase "hast not denied my name" may be a reference to steadfastness under persecution among members of the church of Philadelphia. It may also refer to how His followers displayed His character (often synonymous with name) in their own lives.

No Reproofs

The message to the church of Philadelphia was only one of two the other being Smyrna) that was given no reproof or correction.

"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." (Rev 3:9)

"I will make" is better translated "I will give." This could be referring to the conversion of some of the Jews or at least an admission of the truth:

"But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." (1 Cor14:24-25)
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." (Zech 8:23)

Those who are of the synagogue of Satan were also referred to in the message to the church of Smyrna:

"I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." (Rev 2:9)

Revelation 3:9 seems to connect with this verse:

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." (Zech 8:23)
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Rev 3:10)

The word "from" in the phrase "from the hour of temptation" could equally be translated as "out of." God's people will not be secretly raptured away from this earth before the time of trouble but, rather, they will be guarded and kept among tribulations.

Matthew, in his gospel, wrote that the time of trouble would be shortened for the sake of the elect:

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matt 24:21-22)

Later in that same chapter, it very clearly says that there will be a time of trouble after which the saved will be taken to heaven:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt 24:29-31)

Hour of Temptation

The hour (or time) of temptation or trial applies, in a special sense, to the wicked. We have seen, above, that God's people will have at least a degree of protection from this. While it may sound like everyone will be tempted or tested that may not be the case. It comes upon all the world; geographically, every part of the world is involved. However, the ones being tried are described as "them that dwell on the earth." This is actually a reference to the wicked or at least those who have not yet accepted salvation. That is explored more on this page that looks at the meaning of that phrase and explores more about the meaning of tribulation.

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." (Rev 3:11)

The crown is from the Greek word "stephanos." It is the victor's crown, often a simple wreath of leaves such as olive, as distinct from a kingly crown.

"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim 4:8)
"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." (Rev 3:12)

A "pillar" is a key component in holding up a temple or any building. The overcomers are likewise important in the plan of God. There were men called pillars in the apostolic church:

"And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." (Gal 2:9)

The "pillars" here, in the message to the church of Philadelphia, are, of course, metaphorical and so the temple is also.

To "... go no more out ..." does not have to mean that the overcomers are restricted from going out of the temple - like some form of house arrest for all eternity. Rather, it means to not deliberately leave (or forsake) God as Lucifer did when he held a high place by the throne of God.

To "write upon him the name (character) of my God" may signify that the overcomers have received the character of God in their minds. We should ask ourselves if we are reflecting that image. That was the original plan and design.

"And God said, Let us make man in our image ..." (Gen 1:26)

What is written on the overcomer is:

  1. the name of my God
  2. the name of the city of my God
  3. the new name of the Saviour

It seems it is the Savior who is speaking and four times He makes reference to "my God" as, of course, He did in addressing His Father while on the cross.

New Jerusalem

Here is the only other mention of the New Jerusalem by name:

"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Rev 21:2)

It is referred to elsewhere as originating from heaven:

"But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." (Gal 4:26)
"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels," (Heb 12:22)
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev 3:13)

All the messages are, in a sense, for all people; anyone who has an ear.

Following the message to the church in Philadelphia, the last of the messages to the seven churches is to the church at Laodicea.  

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