Those of the church at Philadelphia are keepers — keepers of the Word of Jesus Christ, keepers of the Word of God. Are you a keeper, too?
[SW132] 03/14/2014 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Philadelphia”
Text: Revelation 3:7-13
While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.
The unveiling of Himself:
When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:
Revelation 1:17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”
What is to come:
Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281, in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands that are like candelabra (the churches).
Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.
Background on Philadelphia:
The city of Philadelphia was surrounded by vineyards. Worship of Dionysus/Bacchus, a fertility god and the god of the grape harvest, took place there. Worship involved drunkenness and a sexual free-for-all
Philadelphia had a difficult time recovering from the A.D. 17 earthquake. Dangerous tremors occurred there even 20 years later. It was to be renamed Neocaesarea (nee-oh-kahee-sar’-i-a) because Tiberius provided aid in rebuilding.
Jesus’ words to Philadelphia:
Those of the church at Philadelphia are keepers — keepers of the Word of Jesus Christ, keepers of the Word of God. Of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, this is the only one who has “kept My Word” in the text.
Ephesus toils and perseveres, and is on the lookout for false teachers. But Jesus shows us they do not keep His Word because they have left their first love — Him!
I believe Smyrna keeps His Word, though He doesn’t write that in his letter to them. They are so Christlike that they endure fierce and fatal persecution. That’s the mark of a keeper of His Word.
Pergamum holds fast His name and does not deny His faith, but some do not keep His Word because they heed false teachers, and thus eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality.
Thyatira has love and faith and service and perseverance, and deeds greater than at first. But these are no substitute for keeping His Word. They tolerate and some heed a false prophetess who teaches false doctrine similar to Pergamum, but within the church.
Sardis is dead, except for a very few. They do keep not His Word. If they did, they would have Christ’s abundant life dwelling within them (John 10:10)!
To the church at Philadelphia Jesus identifies Himself as the Holy One, the True One.
— Holy (40 hagios) consecrated, set apart, blameless, pure.
He is the Holy One, deity, consecrated by the Father to be His Messiah, His Christ. He is set apart, blameless.
— True (228 alethinos), concealing nothing, truthful, true. Like His Father, He is faithful to His Word, true to His character, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17), and not capricious like false gods.
I believe there are two reasons He identifies Himself this way:
1. To respond to those in the synagogue of Satan, the ones who refuse to believe He is the Holy One of Israel, God who came in the flesh.
2. To encourage Philadelphia that they have been given His attributes, because they keep His Word!
He has the key of David:
Isaiah 22:22 “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder,
When he opens no one will shut,
When he shuts no one will open.”
It is one of the Old Testament (OT) titles of the Messiah, the Savior, the One to whom God the Father entrusts to rule, the One who is descended, in the natural, from the house of David. He proclaims to those who say they are Jews but are not, “I am the Messiah!”
Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ sent from God to redeem His people, and what He opens, no one will shut, and what He shuts, no one will open! What a promise!
He opens the door for His faithful ones — those who keep and obey and guard and protect His Word — so they may proclaim Him. He shuts the door on those who oppose the church at Philadelphia; that is, Satan and those whom Satan uses.
Jesus fully knows their deeds! They have a little (3398 micros, small, little, least) power (1411 dunamis, used of the miracle-working power of God). They have a mustard seed:
Matthew 17:20b “ . . . for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”
It is the only church of which Jesus says “you have a little power.” A small portion of the power of God is manifested through those in the church at Philadelphia, and it is enough to move mountains!
But miracles by themselves must be accompanied by keeping His Word, and not denying His name. The church at Philadelphia does all three. Because they keep His Word and do not deny His name, they have a little dunamis,
They live according to His character and do not profane His reputation by claiming to be Christian and yet willfully disobeying Him. Doing that would be to deny Him.
Some will work wonders like they do, but if they do not keep His Word — if they disobey Him by sinning against Him — He says:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22 “ Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”
Philadelphia keeps His Word! They obey, they protect and guard His Word! And so they are faithful and true to Him, and they have a little of His power.
Therefore, He says: “Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut . . .” He says this of no other church. He provides an open door to proclaiming the gospel, one that cannot be shut, and an open door to heaven. I believe both are in view here.
Who opposes to the church at Philadelphia? The same as at Smyrna, the only other church that receives no rebuke: those who say they are Jews but are a synagogue of Satan, ones whom Satan uses.
There are in Philadelphia those who call themselves Jews, but because they do not believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, they are sons of their father, the devil (John 8:44). So they are a synagogue of Satan, as Jesus said when He walked the earth:
John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaksfrom his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Just as they did to Jesus Christ when He walked the earth, and as they do to the church at Smyrna, they also do to the church at Philadelphia. The “Jews” accuse them of blasphemy because they believe and confess that Jesus Christ is deity, God the Son, and they call God their Father, just as Jesus did (see John 20:17).
But Jesus will make (a prolonged form of that word) Philadelphia’s persecutors do something: He will make them bow down in a prolonged way before the church at Philadelphia. And when He does it, they will know unequivocally that Jesus has loved and continues to love the church at Philadelphia with His actual love. They are His beloved. They share in the promise from Isaiah:
Isaiah 49:23 “ Kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth
And lick the dust of your feet;
And you will know that I am the LORD;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.
Isaiah 60:14 “The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you,
And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet;
And they will call you the city of the LORD,
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
So, too, those at Philadelphia, because they have kept (5083 preserved, guarded, obeyed, watched over, continued in) His Word steadfastly.
And thus, not only do they have an open door for proclaiming the gospel AND to heaven itself, but He will keep them in the same way they have kept His Word — He will keep them, guard them and watch over them and preserve them from the hour of testing (3986, discipline, adversity) which is about to come on the whole world, to put to the test the earth-dwellers.
As the Book of Revelation unveils in Chapters 6 to 20, a great tribulation of famine, plagues, and death will come upon those who reject Jesus Christ: first, by Christ’s breaking of the seven seals of the scroll the Father hands to Him, then the seven trumpets, and finally, the seven bowls of God’s wrath.
2Peter 2:9 . . . the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment . . .
2Thessalonians 1:7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
Note this, beloved — retribution will be dealt out by Jesus Christ to two groups: 1) those who do not know God; and 2) those who do not obey His gospel.
He is coming quickly, suddenly, unexpectedly. He encourages the church at Philadelphia to hold fast, to cling to what they have, so they do not lose their crown, which I believe is the same crown of life that He promises Smyrna.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!
For today’s church:
The church of Philadelphia is scattered throughout all the churches — it is a remnant. These are keepers, they are keepers of the Word of God.
Beloved, are you a keeper? If you have been unfaithful to Him, repent! He must remain true to His nature.
2Timothy 2:11 It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
He is love, and He has all the grace you need, but He is also just and righteous. If you deny Him, He will deny you:
Matthew 10:32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
In what way do some in the church of today deny Him? If you do not keep His Word, you deny Him, beloved. If you do not keep His Word, and continue in it, you will surely profane His name by sinning against Him.
Die with Him (v. 11)! Ask the Lord to crucify the old nature in you, the one that wants to go astray! That crucifixion happens when you ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
He will give you His nature — you will become holy and true, because the Holy One, the True One lives and reigns in you!
When He reigns in you, He will say of you what He says of Philadelphia:
Revelation 3:8 “‘ I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.'”
And the Enemy, Satan, will be forced to bow before you! And you will be protected from the test that is about to come.
He is coming quickly, suddenly, and unexpectedly.
Be baptized in the Holy Spirit, be clothed with His readiness, have oil in your lamps, so they are lit when He comes (Luke 12:35), cling to what He has given you!
Be ready, O church!