CHAPTER 3 - PHILADELPHIA (6)

"...it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs."
-Romans 9:8

Covenant Treaty with Philadelphia:
Preamble:3:7 "...Here is the message of the holy and true One..."
Historical Prologue:3:8 "I know about your activities....."
Ethical Stipulations:3:9 "Look, I am going to make the..."
Sanctions:3:10 "Because you have kept my commandments..."
Succession Arrangements:3:11-13 "I am coming soon..."

You may want to consult the Summary of the 7 Churches in the Charts and Handouts section.

The city of Philadelphia (Greek: philios = love of family or mankind and adelphos = from the womb / brother) was founded c. 140BC by Attalus II Philadelphia, king of Pergamum. The city was called the "gateway to the East" because it was built at the crossroads of the approach to the provinces of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia. The city's prosperity came from its strategic position as a center of trade and because of its grape growing and wine producing industry. The cultural centers of the 1st century practically floated on the wine consumed by its various populations.

As was fitting for a center of wine production, Philadelphia was center of worship of the Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility (and every other kind of excess) but the city also had many other temples devoted to pagan gods. In addition to Philadelphia's location at the crossroads of the Empire, the city was blessed with nearby volcanic hot springs which increase the city's status but the city was also suffered destruction from numerous earthquakes. Twice the city had been rebuilt and given a new name. The earthquake of 17AD severely damaged the city but at the time John's letter was written the city had been completely and magnificently restored with funds provided by the Roman Empire. When the Romans restored the city they gave the city a new name, Neocaesar, but the name fell into disuse. Then later the city was renamed Flavia after the family name of the Roman emperor Vespasian. But as before, the name Philadelphia persisted. In this letter Christ will promise the Christian community at Philadelphia another "new name" that will last throughout all eternity.

The Christian community at Philadelphia was small (verse 8) but faithful. Her enemies evidently came from the outside not the inside of the community because there is no mention of heresy or factions promoting secularism within the church. But like the church at Smyrna, apostate Jews were persecuting the church at Philadelphia. Today modern Alasekir, Turkey occupies the site of ancient Philadelphia.

Read 3:7-13
Verse 7:
"Write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia and say, 'Here is the message of the holy and true One who has the key of David, so that when He opens, no one will close, and when He closes, no one will open.'"
This verse is in the repeated pattern of Chapter 1 and recalls 1:18.
Question: Who is it who greets the church and by what title is He called?
Answer: Jesus Christ: the holy and true. This is a title that will be repeated in Rev. 6:10. The title "holy" is an established Biblical term for God ( Isaiah 40:25 "To whom can you compare Me, or who is my equal? Says the Holy One." ) and is used repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. The word "true" (alethinos in Greek) is a word not often applied in Scripture. That He is "true" tells us that Christ is completely reliable in contrast to the apostate Jews who had rejected the truth.

Jesus the Messiah also "has the key of David."
Question: Who is the David referred to in this passage and what was his connection to Jesus?
Answer: For help read 2Samuel 7:1-16 with special attention to verse 16 ("Your dynasty and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be for ever secure."), Luke 3:23-32, and Matthew 1:1 ("Roll of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.") Jesus is a descendant of the Great King David through both Joseph (His foster father) and through Mary, His mother.

Question: To whom were the king's keys entrusted? Read Isaiah 22: 15-25
Answer: The king's keys were entrusted to the king's chief steward, his vicar or prime minister. Rev. 3:7 is an allusion to Isaiah 22:15-25 in which God accuses a royal prime minister (the chief minister of all the king's ministers) of falsehood and betrayal of trust and replaces him with a faithful vicar in whom the king's authority will now be faithfully exercised.

Question: With this reference to Isaiah 22 what is Jesus' message to the Christians of Philadelphia concerning the apostate Jews?
Answer: Christ is announcing that the Jews who refuse to accept Christ as the Messiah are false, unfaithful servants: they have been deposed of their office and they have been removed from rightful authority as representatives of the One true and holy God. They have instead been replaced.

Question: When the "keys of the kingdom" were taken from those who occupied the "chair of Moses"(Matthew 23:1) to whom did Jesus the Messiah, the son of David and King of kings, give the "keys" and create as His Vicar of the New Covenant Israel? Read Matthew 16:13-20.
Answer: Simon/Peter. With the establishment of the New Covenant Israel, Peter's successors will sit on the "chair of Peter and like Eliakim in Isaiah 22:21 "I shall put a sash round his waist, I shall invest him with your authority; and he will be a father ..." not to Jerusalem which had been the center of the Old Covenant Church but to Rome the center of the New Covenant Israel, the Catholic (worldwide) Church.

He "opens" and "no one will close, and when He closes, no one will open."
Question: What is closed and what is opened?
Answer: If this letter was written circa 96AD Christianity's break with Old Covenant Israel has been established for 30 years. But is this is circa 69AD the wounds of that separation are very fresh. Initially the Messianic Jews (those who accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah) still considered themselves a part of the Old Covenant community. The Roman Empire and the Temple in Jerusalem regarded Christians as a split off sect (even if the Temple authority considered them to be a heretical sect). In the early years of the New Covenant Church, Jewish Christians celebrated Eucharist on Sunday, the Lord's Day, but they still went to the Synagogue on Saturdays and if they were in Jerusalem they attended both the synagogue (where they studied the holy Old Testament Scriptures and the Temple prayers and sacrifices (see Acts 3:1; 13:4 &14; 14:1; 21:26). This deep attachment to the Temple is one reason it had to be destroyed. God, in His mercy, had given the New Covenant Jews 40 years to adjust to the New Covenant celebrated not in Temple sacrifices but in the Eucharistic sacrifice (from Christ's ascension in 30AD to the destruction of the Temple in 70AD is 40 years).

As time and tensions progressed Jews became more hostile to the growing numbers of Jewish converts to Christianity and the disruption Christian apologists caused in the synagogues. But the real split came with the Revolt against Rome in 66AD when Christians refused to join in the insurrection against the Roman Empire. Worse than misguided messiah-zealots, now the Christianized Jews were traitors and the split was final, complete, and painful. Christians were bared excommunicated from the synagogues. In this passage Jesus may be saying to the Christians at Philadelphia that even though the Jews may believe they have shut you out, what Christ opens the Jews cannot reverse. There is also a possible reference in this passage to the admission to, the "opening up" of the city of David, the heavenly Jerusalem and that Christ alone opens or shuts the door of salvation. The next verse supports both these interpretations.

Verse 8: "I know about your activities (deeds or works). Look, I have opened in front of you a door that no one will be able to close'and I know that though you are not very strong, you have kept my commandments and not disowned my name." "I know your works," He assures them, and He has compassion for their lack of strength. The church of Philadelphia is not a large or prosperous church, but they have remained faithful to what they have been given (see Luke 19:26). They have kept His commandments and have not denied His name. Because of their faithfulness Christ the key holder, the Lord of the New Covenant Himself has admitted them to fellowship and has cast out the ones from whom the keys have been taken away: Matt. 23:13 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees...you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in." Christ has transferred the doorkeeper's authority first to Simon/Peter in Matt. 16:16-18 and then to the Apostles in John 20:23. So now Peter, Christ's Prime Minister and his associates have the privilege of first admitting not only Jews, but also Samaritans and Gentiles to permanent membership in the kingdom of God. The faithful Christians have nothing to fear. Question: What is the door that has opened? See Acts 14:27; 1Cor 16:9; 2Cor. 2:12; Col 4:3. Answer: the door of faith; the invitation to salvation.

Read CCC 303.
Verse 9:
Look, I am going to make the synagogue of Satan – those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are liars, because they are no such thing – I will make them come and fall at your feet and recognize that I have loved you." Once again we have Jesus' own testimony that there is no separate means of salvation for the Jews apart from Jesus Christ. Question: As in Rev. 2:9, in the letter to Smyrna, how are the apostate Jews revealed in their true identity? Answer: as liars because they falsely claim to be Jews. Question: Why are the Jews who reject Christ false Jews? If you need help with your answer read: Matt. 3:7-12; John 5:39-47; 8:39-44; Romans 2:28-29; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:7-9, 26-29. Romans 9:6, 8 "It is not that God's promise has failed. Not all born Israelites belong to Israel, and not all the descendants of Abraham count as his children..... That is, it is not be being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs." The true descendants of Abraham are those who accept Jesus as the Messiah. They are the New Israel.

Orthodox Judaism is not biblical; there is no such thing as a genuine belief in the Old Testament that is consistent with a rejection of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Jesus says that the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah comes from Satan. The true Jew, the true Israel, recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and the only path to salvation. When Jews who reject Jesus claim to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, Jesus says, they lie. Jesus' promise to make them (the false Jews) "come and fall down (or bow down) at your feet.." is an ironic reference to Isaiah 60:14-15 where God gives this promise to the Covenant people who have been persecuted by the pagans:

"Your oppressors children will humbly approach you, at your feet all who despise you will fall addressing you as 'City of Yahweh', 'Zion of the Holy One of Israel'. Instead of your being forsaken and hated, avoided by everyone, I will make you an object of eternal pride, a source of joy from age to age."

Apostate Israel has been pruned out of the Tree of Life of the Covenant people while believers in Jesus Christ from all nations of the earth have been grafted in:

Read Romans 11:7-24 (verse 19. "You will say, 'Branches were broken off on purpose for me to be grafted in.' True; they through their unbelief were broken off, and you are established through your faith. .....(23) And they, if they do not persevere in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for it is within the power of God to graft them back again."

Jews who have rejected Christ will remain outside the people of God unless and until they are grafted into the covenant line by God's grace through Christ, Jesus. And then there is Jesus' most intimate assurance, the assurance of His love for his Covenant people.

Verses 10-11: "Because you have kept my commandment to persevere, I will keep you safe in the time of trial which is coming for the whole world, to put the people of the world to the test. I am coming soon: hold firmly to what you already have, and let no one take your victor's crown away from you."
Question: What is Jesus' commandment to each of the 7 churches?
Answer: to persevere. This promise of protection to the church at Philadelphia doesn't make sense if it is a protection from something that would happen thousands of years later. Christ is not promising to "rapture" this church out of an end times tribulation. He is instead promising to preserve them in a time of sever hardship and to keep them from falling (Jude 24). This verse says nothing about the end of the world or the Second Coming as dispensationalist fundamentalist Christians have claimed. The "time of trial" spoken of here is identified as a test for the whole world (known Roman world) and is in the immediate future.

The phrase: "the people of the world" which is perhaps better translated "people of the land," is used 12 times in Revelation: 3:10;6:10; 8:13;11:10 (twice); 13:8,12, 14 (twice); 14:6; 17:2, 8. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament that was the translation at the time Jesus lives and which became the official translation of the early Church) "people of the land" or "those who dwell on the land" in the Books of the Prophets is a common prophetic expression for idolatrous, rebellious Israel about to be destroyed and driven from the Land: Jer.1:14; 10:18; Ezek 7:7; 36:17; Hos 4:1,3; Joel 1:2, 14; 2:1; Zeph. 1:18. However, in the Historical Books of the Old Testament this phrase is used for the idolatrous pagans who were about to be destroyed and driven from the Land: Num. 32:17; 33:52,55; Josh, 7:9; 9:24; Judg. 1:32 2 Sam, 5:6; 1 Chron. 11:4; 22:18; Neh 9:24. The use of this term 12 times in the Book of Revelations calls to mind the 12 tribes of Israel (Jesus had just been speaking of the false Jews).
Question: Do you see any connection between the use of this phrase 12 times in Revelation and the use of this expression in the Old Testament?
Answer: It is possible that Christ saying that Israel has become a nation of pagans, and is about to be destroyed, exiled, and supplanted by a new nation, the New Israel New Covenant Church. If this letter is written in 69AD this is exactly what is about to happen. The entire Roman world is in turmoil. The period of intense Christian persecution has begun. Judea would loose their rebellion against the Roman Empire and the Romans would take their revenge by destroying Judea, Jerusalem, the Temple (70AD), and by enslaving and exiling an entire population.

"...and let no one take your victors crown away from you." Christ has "opened the door" of faith to the Church and has granted the privilege of fellowship with the King of Kings. We serve Him in a royal priesthood and endure and persevere in His comings throughout history as He shakes the kingdoms of the earth. For more biblical references that refer to the "crown of victory" see 1Co. 1:25; Phil 4:1; 1Th 2:19; 2Tim 2:5; 4:8; Am 1:12 and 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10. James 1:12: "Blessed is anyone who perseveres when trials come. Such a person is of proven worth and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love Him." Rev. 2:10b "Even if you have to die, keep faithful, and I will give you the crown of life for your prize."

Verse 12-13: "Anyone who proves victorious I will make into a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and it will stay there for ever; I will inscribe on it the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem which is coming down from My God in heaven, and My own new name as well. The church at Philadelphia is three times sealed: belonging to God, belonging to God's city, and belonging to God's Son. His loving promise to those who are painfully aware of their weakness is that they will finally belong. The expression "I will make into a pillar in the sanctuary of My God.." is related to the complex imagery of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple's architectural structures corresponded to the garments of the priests. The two main pillars of the Temple at the entrance to the Holy Place are called the shoulders, while the lintel which arched over the pillars corresponded to the headdress of the priests which was inscribed with the name of Yahweh. "I will inscribe on it the name of my God" can refer to God's holy Covenant name inscribed on the lintel. The two main pillars of the Temple were also named (1Kings 7:21). The right hand pillar was Yachin (or Jachin which means "He shall establish") and the left hand pillar was Boaz ("In Him is strength" and can correspond to the shoulders of the high priest's ephod which were inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:9-12). All of this Old Covenant Temple symbolism is brought together in Revelation. The faithful overcomer is a firmly established, pillar of strength in God's heavenly Temple. The faithful of the New Covenant have been redeemed from their wandering ("and it will stay forever") and are characterized by permanence and stability (see Jer. 1:18, 1 Tim. 3:15).

"I will inscribe on it the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem which is coming down from My God in heaven, and My own new name as well."
Question: How many times does Jesus refer to Himself in verses 12-13?
Answer: I count 7 "I"s and "My"s. "I will inscribe on it" can also be translated "I shall write on him" and may be connected to Rev. 22:4 "they will see Him face to face, and His name will be written on their foreheads." The name of God inscribed on the forehead symbolizes the restoration of redeemed man to fully restored communion with God. All this symbolism and imagery speaks of the full restoration of God's holy people who through our baptism in Christ are restored to the image of God as man was first created before sin entered creation. Through the sin of Adam we became "dis-graced" and lost our divine sonship (in the image of God). When we were reborn into the family of God through our baptism we experienced the forgiveness of original sin and through our death to this world and our resurrection in Christ we became God's image bearers restored to divine sonship (see Ex. 34:29-35; Num 12:6-8; Psalms 80:3,7,19: 2Cor 3:7;4:6; 1John 3:2). And not just sonship but citizenship in the New Jerusalem which is coming down from heaven. If this is 69AD, the old Jerusalem is about to be destroyed, but Jesus promises a new, heavenly Jerusalem which will be the inheritance of the believer. In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul compares the two Covenants (the Old Sinai Covenant with Israel and the New Covenant Israel/ Catholic Church) by making a comparison between the son of Abraham's slave girl Hagar and the son of Sarah : verse 24-26 "There is an allegory here: these women stand for the two covenants. The one given on Mt. Sinai'that is Hagar, whose children are born into slavery; now Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents Jerusalem in its present state, for she is in slavery together with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and that is the one that is our mother..."

Question: Can you find any connection between the repetition of "new name" in verse 12 and the past history of this city?
Answer As you may remember from my introduction to this letter, twice Philadelphia had been given a "new" name that didn't last. The repetition of "new name" in verse 12 may be drawing on the historical renaming of the city that didn't last in contrast with the new name that the Christians of Philadelphia will receive that will endure forever. It is the name of God and the name (indicating ownership) of the New Jerusalem. Question: What about Jesus' reference to His "new name?" What will be His "new name?" Hint: for your answer see Rev. 19:13. We will talk about this is chapter 21 but for more about the name or names of Christ read Isaiah 62:2; Ezek 48:35; and Rev. 21:2 and see the list at the end of this lesson of the different "Names" of Jesus that are found in the Book of John's Revelation.

Question: Did Christ find any fault with Philadelphia?
Answer: No. Apart from Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only other church with which Christ finds no fault.

Question: What Old Testament references did you notice?
Answer: These O.T. references are a little less obvious than the other letters. There are references to the period of Isaiah, the prophet who prophesied the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians and their 70 year exile in Babylon (Isaiah 22:22 "key of David" & "opens" and "close"). In this letter Jesus also speaks in the imagery of the rebuilding of the Temple after the return from exile and the prophecies of the latter prophets. The Christian community has "little strength" like the returning Jews after the period of the Exile. The synagogue of false Jews could also recall the conflicts with "false Jews (Samaritans) in the book of Ezra ch. 4 and Nehemiah ch. 4,6, and 13. The warning of a coming "hour of testing", which is about to come on the whole world, to "test those who dwell upon the Land" recalls the tribulation suffered by the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel chapters 8 and 11) and the rule of the Greek-Syrian Empire over Judah. The 5 sons of the priest Mattithias, known as the Maccabees, will lead a revolt against the Greek Seleucid kingdom in 168BC. This period in Salvation History completes the Old Testament books and brings up to the next period in Salvation History which will fulfill all the promises and prophecies of the Old Covenant.

Among the images of the Book of John's Revelation there is a large collection of names and titles for Jesus. Each name and title reflects one aspect of Christ's character and His saving work in God's plan of redemption and salvation.

The Names of Jesus in Revelation
1:8 The Alpha and Omega 5:5 Root of David
1:8 Lord God 5:6 Lamb
1:8 The Almighty 7:17 Shepherd
1:13 Son of Man 12:10 Christ (Anointed)
1:17 The First and the Last 19:11 Faithful and True
1:18 The Living One 19:13 Word of God
2:18 Son of God 19:16 King of Kings
3:14 Witness 19:16 Lord of Lords
4:11 Creator 22:16 The Morning Star
5:5 Lion of the Tribe of Judah

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