Faithful in all things
Philadelphia was founded in 140 B.C. by Attalus II. His surname was Philadelphus, and out of love for his brother Eumenes, he called the city Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Jesus told the first century church there that one day everyone will know of His love for them.
Throughout Scripture there is tension; on one hand, this church is commended for their faithfulness. They will be victorious. On the other hand, they are reminded to hold on to this faith. Similarly, as we remain faithful to Jesus, we are promised His protection and reward.
Entrance into God’s Kingdom is secure. (7–8)
Philadelphia was a city with an open door through which trade, commerce and the Greek language and culture traveled. False Jews sought to close the door of the gospel through persecution, but Jesus reassured the church that He holds the key of David, possibly referring to the city of David, the heavenly Jerusalem. What Jesus opens cannot be closed. What He closes cannot be opened. No one can stop entrance into the kingdom of God; it is open and secure for all who place their trust in Christ.
Trusting in Jesus results in evidence of this regeneration. Therefore, Jesus commended the church for keeping His word and remaining true to Him despite persecution.
Trust God’s protection. (9–10)
At this time Christians were suffering greatly at the hands of false Jews, and around A.D. 90 the Jewish leadership formulated Eighteen Benedictions. The 12th benediction pronounces a curse: “For apostates let there be no hope … and let Christians and heretics perish in a moment, let them be blotted out of the book of life and let them not be written with the righteous.”
What must be done when everyone turns against you? Trust God.
Jesus reminded the Church that He will cause these instruments of Satan to fall down and acknowledge Jesus’ love for them. Instead of being filled with fear, they must trust God’s protection.
As with the church in Philadelphia, we can rest assured that Christians will be kept and protected.
Hold to the truth and provision of God. (11–13)
Jesus is coming soon. The church in Philadelphia is told to hold on to the truth. Hold on is a present imperative, meaning to keep on holding with a firm grip.
A pastor friend, being considered for a “dream opportunity,” began to tire of the process and ended up withdrawing his name from consideration right before the search team planned to announce they had decided to call him. He missed out because he gave up too soon.
Jesus’ reminder is far more severe than missing out on a position.
Christ warned that someone may “take your crown.” Obviously, your salvation cannot be stolen, but it can be forfeited like Esau forfeited his inheritance to Jacob, or Saul to David. Jesus gave the command to keep holding on. What is promised to believers who remain faithful until the end? Christ will write on them His new name.
Philadelphia was a model of faithfulness to the Lord. The church remained true to Jesus Christ through the centuries, even when Islam became the dominant religion in the area. In the first part of the 20th century, five Christian congregations were still flourishing in Philadelphia. Of the seven churches in the province of Asia, only Philadelphia spanned the centuries. They held on.
By Rob Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary