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18
Assembly of the Faithful. Revelation 3:7-13
March 18, 2018

This weekend, people are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. As a 16-year-old Romanized Briton in 406/7AD, Patrick was sold to a cruel warrior chief whose opponents' heads sat atop sharp poles around his palisade in Northern Ireland. While Patrick minded his master's pigs in the nearby hills, he lived like an animal himself, enduring long bouts of hunger, thirst, and isolation. Patrick fled and ran 200 miles to a southeastern harbor. There he boarded a ship of traders bound for Europe. After a few years on the continent, Patrick returned to his family in Englandonly to be called back to Ireland as an evangelist in 430 AD. Despite his success as a missionary, Patrick was self-conscious, especially about his educational background. "I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open," he wrote in his Confession. "For I am unable to explain my mind to learned people." Nevertheless, he gave thanks to God, "who stirred up me, a fool, from the midst of those who are considered wise and learned in the practice of the law as well as persuasive in their speech and in every other way and ahead of these others, inspired me who is so despised by the world.". Throughout his life, Patrick struggled with his calling and his perceived shortcomings. (www.christianitytoday.com\St. Patrick\Christian History - Patrick - 131 Christians Everyone Should Know)

Churches struggle because all are made up of imperfect, sinning people. The church is not a place for people with no weaknesses; it is a fellowship of those who are aware of their weaknesses and long for the strength and grace of God to fill their lives. It is a kind of hospital for those who know they are sick and needy.

 

Like all churches, the one in Philadelphia had its imperfections. Yet the Lord commended its members for their faithfulness and loyalty. They and the congregation at Smyrna were the only two of the seven that received no rebuke from the Lord of the church. In spite of their fleshly struggles, the Christians at Philadelphia were faithful and obedient, serving and worshiping the Lord. They provide a good model of a loyal church.

 

The Church in Philadelphia from Revelation 3:7-13, can be described as the Assembly of the Faithful. As a helpful model of Godly faithfulness we can learn from this congregation in considering 1) The Church, City, and Correspondent (Revelation 3:7), 2) The Commendation (Revelation 3:8-9), and finally 3) The Command & Counsel(Revelation 3:10-13)

 

1)         The Church, City, and Correspondent (Revelation 3:7)

Revelation 3:7 “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. (ESV)

 

In verse 7, Little is known about the Philadelphia church apart from this passage. Like most of the other seven churches, it was probably founded during Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). A few years after John wrote Revelation, the early church father Ignatius passed through Philadelphia on his way to martyrdom at Rome. He later wrote the church a letter of encouragement and instruction. Some Christians from Philadelphia were martyred with Polycarp at Smyrna. The church lasted for centuries. The Christians in Philadelphia stood firm even after the region was overrun by the Muslims, finally succumbing in the mid-fourteenth century.

 

From the Hermus River valley, where Sardis and Smyrna were located, a smaller valley (that of the Cogamis River) branches off to the southeast. A road through this valley provided the best means of ascending the 2,500 feet from the Hermus valley to the vast central plateau. In this valley, about thirty miles from Sardis, was the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven cities, founded sometime after 189 b.c. either by King Eumenes of Pergamum or his brother, Attalus II, who succeeded him as king. In either case, the city derived its name from Attalus II’s nickname Philadelphus (“brother lover”), which his loyalty to his brother Eumenes had earned him.Though situated on an easily defensible site on an 800-foot-high hill overlooking an important road, Philadelphia was not founded primarily as a military outpost (as Thyatira had been). Its founders intended it to be a center of Greek culture and language, a missionary outpost for spreading Hellenism to the regions of Lydia and Phrygia. Philadelphia succeeded in its mission so well that by a.d. 19 the Lydian language had been completely replaced by Greek. City Slide: The ancient city of Philadelphia was surrounded by fertile fields, shown here, that were good for growing grapes. Dionysus, the god of wine, was the focus of worship. (Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.) The earthquake of a.d.17 that had destroyed Sardis had also been particularly devastating to Philadelphia because the city was near a fault line, and it had suffered many aftershocks. This kept the people worried, causing most of them to live outside the city limits (Barton, B. B. (2000). Revelation. (G. R. Osborne, Ed.) (p. 42). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.).

 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine author or correspondent of the seven letters, always introduces Himself, as He does here in our text, with a description reflecting His character. In the previous five letters, those descriptions had come from the vision recorded in Rev. 1:12–17. But this description here or Him is unique and not drawn from that earlier vision. It has distinctly Old Testament features.

 

That these are “the words of “the holy one” is a reference to His divinity as one who alone possesses absolute holiness. To say that God is holy is to say that He is utterly separate from sin; therefore His character is absolutely unblemished and flawless.The Lord Jesus Christ possesses in undiminished, unaltered essence the holy and sinless nature of God. Because Christ is holy, His church must be as well. “Like the Holy One who called you,” wrote Peter, “be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet. 1:15). That the omniscient Holy One gave no rebuke, warning, or condemnation to the Philadelphia church speaks very well of them indeed.

 

Please turn to John 14 (p.901)

 

Not only is Jesus Christ the Holy One; He also describes Himself as “the true oneTruth is used in combination with holiness to describe God in Revelation 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 11. Alēthinos (true) denotes that which is genuine, authentic, and real. In the midst of the falsehood, perversion, and error that fills the world, the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6). This is how Christ describes himself in John 14:

John 14:1-7“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (ESV)

  • Presenting Himself in another “I am” saying, proclaiming His deity, Jesus shows how, He is the one way to the Father, who fulfills the OT symbols and teachings that show the exclusiveness of God’s claim (cf. Jn. 3:18), such as the curtain (Ex. 26:33) barring access to God’s presence from all except the Levitical high priest (Leviticus 16), and the choice of Aaron alone to represent Israel before God in his sanctuary (Num. 17:5).  thereby rejecting human inventions as means to approach God (Lev. 10:2), Jesus is the only “way” to God (Acts 4:12), and he alone can provide access to God. Secondly, Jesus as the truth fulfills OT wisdom forthtold (John 1:17) as He reveals the true God (cf. 1:14, 17; 5:33; 18:37; also 8:40, 45–46; 14:9). Finally, Jesus alone is the life who fulfills the OT promises of “life” given by God (11:25–26), having life in himself (1:4; 5:26), and he is thus able to confer eternal life to all those who believe in him (e.g., 3:16). (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2052). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.).

 

Third, in Revelation 3:7, Christ describes Himself as the One who has the key of David. As is clear from Revelation 5:5 and 22:16, David symbolizes the messianic office. A key in Scripture represents authority; whoever holds a key has control (cf. 1:18; 9:1; 20:1; Matt. 16:19). The term the key of David also appears in Isaiah 22:22, where it refers to Eliakim, the steward or prime minister to Israel’s king. Because of his office, he controlled access to the monarch. As the holder of the key of David, Jesus alone has the sovereign authority to determine who enters His messianic kingdom (cf. John 10:7, 9; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Revelation 1:18 reveals that Jesus has the keys to death and hell; here He is depicted as having the keys to salvation and blessing. Thus, Eliakim’s temporary control of the kingdom as “prime minister” to the king of Israel was a prophetic historical pattern pointing forward to Jesus Christ’s greater and eternal sovereignty over a greater kingdom (Beale, G. K., & McDonough, S. M. (2007). Revelation. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (pp. 1096–1097). Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos.).

 

Finally, Jesus identifies Himself as He who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens. That description stresses Christ’s omnipotence; what He does cannot be overturned by someone more powerful. “I act and who can reverse it?” declared the Lord in Isaiah 43:13 (cf. Is. 46:9–11; Jer. 18:6; Dan. 4:35). No one can shut the doors to the kingdom or to blessing if He holds them open, and no one can force them open if He holds them shut. In light of the promise in verse 8, Christ could also be referring to opening and shutting doors for service. In either case, the emphasis is on His sovereign control over His church.

 

Illustration:It is Christ Himself who adds to His church, He alone who opens up the way to God, He alone who saves. The hymn-writer Fanny J. Crosby puts it like this: “ To God be the glory! Great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin And opened the life-gate that we may go in. Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! To every believer the promise of God; The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives”. (Brooks, R. (1986). The Lamb Is All the Glory (pp. 46–47). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.).

 

From the Lord to Philadelphia, in understanding how to be an Assembly of the Faithful, we can learn from:

2)      The Commendation (Revelation 3:8-9)

Revelation 3:8-9“ ‘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. 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. (ESV)

 

Finding nothing in their works/deeds that caused Him concern, the Lord Jesus Christ moved on to commend the Christians at Philadelphia in verse 8 for four realities that characterized the congregation. First, the Philadelphia church had little power. That was not a negative comment on their feebleness, but a commendation of their strength; the Philadelphia church was small in numbers (cf. Luke 12:32), but had a powerful impact on its city. Most of its members may have been poor, from the lower classes of society (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26). But with Paul they could say, “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Despite its small size, spiritual power flowed in the Philadelphia church. People were being redeemed, lives were being transformed, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was being proclaimed. The church lacked size and stature in the community and was looked down upon and persecuted. They had “little authority” or influence. “Yet” they were faithful, and that has always been the test of divine blessing rather than (outward) success (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (p. 189). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).

 

The believers at Philadelphia were marked by obedience; they kept Christ’s word. Like Job, they could say, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Like Martin Luther, on trial before the Imperial Diet, they could say, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” They did not deviate from the pattern of obedience, thus proving the genuineness of their love for Christ (John 14:23–24; 15:13–14).

 

Christ further commended the Philadelphia congregation for having not denied His name, despite the pressures they faced to do so. They remained loyal no matter what it cost them. Revelation 14:12 describes the saints experiencing tribulation who refused to take the mark of the beast: “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Like them, the Philadelphia church would not recant its faith.

 

Finally, Christ commended the Philadelphia church because its members had kept His  word. They had kept His commands to endure patiently. The Christians at Philadelphia persevered faithfully through all of their trials and difficulties. The steadfast endurance that marked Jesus’ earthly life (Heb. 12:2–4) is to be a model for all Christians. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thess. 3:5). Both Christ’s command and example should motivate Christians to patient endurance. Indeed, endurance is an essential aspect of saving faith (Matt. 10:22).

 

Please turn to Colossians 4 (p.985)

 

Because of its faithfulness, the Lord Jesus Christ made the Philadelphia church some astounding promises. First, He set/put before them an open door which no one is able/can shut. Their salvation was secure; their entrance both into the blessings of salvation by grace and into Christ’s future messianic kingdom was guaranteed. The picture of Christ’s opening the door also symbolizes His giving the faithful Philadelphia church opportunities for service. Elsewhere in Scripture an open door depicts freedom to proclaim the gospel. (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8-9; 2 Cor. 2:12) Christ also reminds the Christians at Philadelphia who may have been excommunicated from the local synagogue (v. 9) that he has set/put before them an open door into the eternal kingdom which no one is able/can shut (Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 101). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

 

To the Colossians Paul wrote:

Colossians 4:2-6Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (ESV)

  • Paul here is helping us recognize and properly respond to open doors. First, when we  continue steadfastly/devote ourselves in prayer we are more reflective in what we learn from scripture and more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, instead of just asking God when we want something. Second, when we are watchful/keeping alert, we are focusing outward to consider Godly opportunities, instead of just inward desires. Finally, when we are thankful, we are more inclined to be aware of God’s presence, provision, pardon, and promises, instead of just our selfish preferences.
  • The Christian in Philadelphia knew God’s desires, themselves, their city and were thereby best able to respond to opportunities to spread the gospel.

 

Verse 9 records a second promise made by Jesus Christ to the Philadelphia church: Behold, I will make/cause 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/at your feet, and they will learn/make them know that I have loved you. As was the case in Smyrna (cf. 2:9), Christians in Philadelphia faced hostility from unbelieving Jews. Ignatius later debated some hostile Jews during his visit to Philadelphia. Because of their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, they were not at all a synagogue of God, but a synagogue of Satan. Though they claimed that they were Jews, that claim was a lie. Racially, culturally, and ceremonially they were Jews, but spiritually they were not. Paul defines a true Jew in Romans 2:28–29: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (cf. Rom. 9:6–7). The two congregations of Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only two of the seven that make specific reference to the Jewish people, their synagogue, and their master Satan. Yet these are also the only two churches that receive praise without a word of reproof.( Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, p. 160). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)

 

Amazingly, Christ promised that some of the very Jews who were persecuting the Christians at Philadelphia would come and bow down before/at their feet, and they will learn/know that God had loved them. Bowing at someone’s feet depicts abject, total defeat and submission. The Philadelphia church’s enemies would be utterly vanquished, humbled, and defeated. This imagery derives from the Old Testament, which describes the yet future day when unbelieving Gentiles will bow down to the believing remnant of Israel (cf. Isa. 45:14; 49:23; 60:14). The Philadelphia church’s faithfulness would be rewarded by the salvation of some of the very Jews who were persecuting it (Rom. 11:26).

 

Illustration:It is not the size or strength of a church that determines (the effiveness) its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord. “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” (Since)  Jesus Christ gave them an open door, then He would see to it that they were able to walk through it! Martin Luther put it perfectly in his well-known hymn: Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.( Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 578). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

 

Finally, from the Lord to Philadelphia, in understanding how to be an Assembly of the Faithful, we can learn from:

3) The Command & Counsel(Revelation 3:10-13)

Revelation 3:10-1310 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. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 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. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (ESV)

 

Verse 10 contains a final promise to the faithful Philadelphia church: Because you have kept the word about patient endurance/of My perseverance, I will keep you (tēreō ek )from the hour of trial/testing, that is coming on the whole world, to try/test those who dwell on the earth. Because the believers in Philadelphia had successfully passed so many tests, Jesus promised to spare them from the ultimate test. The sweeping nature of that promise extends far beyond the Philadelphia congregation to encompass all faithful churches throughout history. This verse promises that the church will be delivered from the wrath of God. Immediately, it is their preservation in trial that is taught. That the martyrs of 6:9–11 are told to wait for vindication until their full number would be killed indicates that the issue is not physical protection. The spiritual protection of the church is presented elsewhere in Revelation under such figures as sealing (7:1ff.) and flight to the wilderness (12:6).( Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 103). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Christ now specifies several aspects of this trial and His promise. First, the test is yet future. Second, the test is for a definite, limited time; Jesus described it as the hour of trial/testing. Third, it is a trial/test that will expose people for what they really are. Fourth, the trial/test is worldwide in scope, since it is coming on the whole world. Finally, and most significantly, its purpose is to try/test those who dwell on the eartha phrase used as a technical term in the book of Revelation for unbelievers (cf. 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:2, 8). The hour of trial/testing is Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:25–27), the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). The Lord promises to keep His church out of the future time of trial/testing that will come on unbelievers. Unbelievers will either pass the test by repenting, or fail it by refusing to repent. Revelation 6:9–11; 7:9–10, 14; 14:4; and 17:14 describe those who repent during this period who are saved, thus passing the test; Revelation 6:15–17; 9:20; 16:11; and 19:17–18 describe those who refuse to repent, thus failing the test, and are damned.

 

The coming that Christ refers to in verse 11, differs from those promised to others of the seven churches (e.g., 2:5, 16; 3:3). Those earlier promises were warnings of impending temporal judgment on sinning congregations (cf. Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor. 11:28–30). The coming spoken of here, however, is to bring the hour of trial/testing that culminates in our Lord’s second coming. It is Christ’s coming to deliver the church (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1), not to bring judgment to it. That he is coming soon/quickly depicts the imminency of Christ’s coming for His church; it could happen at any time. Every believer’s response should be, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Because of the Lord’s imminent return for His church, believers are now Commanded that they must hold fast what they have. This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE, meaning “continue to hold fast (Utley, R. J. (2001). Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation (Vol. Volume 12, p. 44). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.)

 

Please turn to Colossians 1 (p.983)

 

The members of the Philadelphia church had been faithful and loyal to Christ; He commanded them to remain so. Those who persevere to the end thereby prove the genuineness of their salvation (Matt. 10:22; 24:13). It is true that believers are eternally secure because of the power of God. Yet the means by which He secures them is by providing believers with a persevering faith. Christians are saved by God’s power, which is evidenced in their constant, undying faith.  Paul writes in Colossians 1:

Colossians 1:21–2321 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (ESV)

  • According to 1 John 2:19, those who abandon the faith reveal that they were never truly saved to begin with:They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

 

Christ’s promise to the one who faithfully perseveres at the end of Rev. 3:11, is no one will seize/take your crown (cf. James 1:12). Revelation 2:10 defines this crown as the “crown of life,” or as the Greek text literally reads, “the crown which is life.” In Philadelphia, the crown was the wreath awarded to the winner of an athletic contest (cf. 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8). The metaphor would be especially appropriate in this letter in that Philadelphia was known for its games and festivals.( Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 104). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

  • For the faithful saints, the crown, or reward, was for those who faithfully endure to the end is eternal life with all its attendant rewards (2 John 8). Second Timothy 4:8 describes it as a crown of righteousness, and 1 Peter 5:4 as one of glory. In our glorified state, we will be perfectly righteous, and thus perfectly able to reflect God’s glory. Those whose faithful perseverance marks them as true children of God need never fear losing their salvation.

 

The Counsel, as Christ concludes the letter to the faithful church at Philadelphia beginning in verse 12, promises four eternal blessings to the one who overcomes (another name for a Christian; 1 John 5:5). The first promise is that Christ will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it. A pillar represents stability, permanence, and immovability. Pillars can also represent honor; in pagan temples they were often carved in such a way as to honor a particular deity. The marvelous promise Christ makes to believers is that they will have an eternal place of honor in the temple of God (heaven). To people used to fleeing their city because of earthquakes and enemies, the promise that Never shall he go out of   heaven was understood as security in eternal glory. Pillar slide: The imagery of pillars with inscribed names, which John’s vision uses for the believers of the church in Philadelphia, would not be unknown in the Roman world. In Ephesus the pillars for the civic building known as the Prytaneion were inscribed with the names of the Curetes, priests of Artemis. Shown here are two restored pillars of the Prytaneion in Ephesus.( Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 72). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

Christ’s second promise to the one who overcomes is that He will write on him the name of His God. That depicts ownership, signifying that all true Christians belong to God. It also speaks of the intimate personal relationship we have with Him forever.

 

Third, Christ promises to write on believers the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven. Christians have eternal citizenship in heaven’s capital city, the new Jerusalem, described at length in Revelation 21. That is yet another promise of security, safety, and glory. In the city of Philadelphia that had no settled structure, with buildings that at any moment could be torn apart by further tremors, it must have been tremendously encouraging to know they were citizens of an eternal city.( Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (p. 199). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

 

The fourth and finally, Christ promises believers His new name. Christ’s name represents the fullness of His person. In heaven, believers willsee Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2), and whatever we may have known of Him will pale in the reality in which we will then see Him. The new name by which we will be privileged to call Him will reflect that glorious revelation of His person.

 

The final exhortation He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches closes all seven letters. Believers must heed the truths found in each letter, since the seven churches represent the types of churches that have existed throughout history. The letter to the faithful Philadelphia church reveals that the holy, true, sovereign, omnipotent God pours out His blessings on churches that remain loyal to Him. Ruins slide: Most ancient evidence from New Testament-era Philadelphia is buried under the modern city of Alaşehir. But the church endured into the eleventh century AD, as evidenced by these pillars from a Byzantine church known as the Church of St. John the Theologian. (Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

  • God will bless the faithful with open doors for evangelism, eternal salvation, kingdom blessings, and deliverance from the great time of testing that will come on the earth. He will ultimately bring all those who persevere in their faith to the eternal bliss of heaven, where He will reveal Himself fully to them. The promise of those rich blessings should motivate every church and every Christian to follow the Philadelphia church’s example of faithfulness.

 

Illustration: How often in history has the church been weak, powerless, marginalized, and under tribulation at the hands of its culture? One thinks of the church in Romania under Communist rule: hounded, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred. Yet it was the church that triggered the movement that ultimately brought down the brutal, dictatorial regime in 1989. After the fall of the regime an announcement appeared on the bulletin board of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Timişoara, which had been at the center of the storm: “The Lamb Won!” This church knew what it was to be a Philadelphia-type churchtrue followers of the Lamb that was slain (Colson and Vaughn 2003:246–252). And how often has a faithful group of disciples had to withstand not only the pressures of the state, but also the power of a state church? One thinks of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany during World War II. They, too, knew what it was like to be a Philadelphia-type church. In the words of Kenneth Leech: “Following the leadership of Jesus, his Church needs to stand as a sign of contradiction and of conflict, affecting and, as it were, upsetting through the power of the Gospel, mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration, and models of life which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation” (Mulholland, M. R., Jr. (2011). Revelation. In P. W. Comfort (Ed.), Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: James, 1–2 Peter, Jude, Revelation (pp. 450–451). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.).

(Format Note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 118–129). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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