Study Notes

Revelation 3:7-13

3:7 Philadelphia

Jesus is dictating a letter to be read to the church in Philadelphia. If that sounds familiar to us, it is because the famous Quaker William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, naming it after this ancient city of the Bible.

Chapters one and three of the book of Revelation are the only places that the city of Philadelphia is mentioned, but the word Philadelphia actually does show up several other times in Scripture. In those places, it is always translated into its meaning, "brotherly love." For example,

Rom. 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...

Hebr. 13:1 Let love of the brethren continue.

(See also 1Thess 4:9; 1Pet 1:22; and 2Pet 1:7) These verses all use the Greek word "Philadelphia."

You recall last week that I mentioned the proximity of the seven churches in Revelation to the devastating earthquake in Turkey. Philadelphia was where the modern city of Alasehir, Turkey is. In truth, throughout history, most of these cities had endured major earthquakes. However, the city of Philadelphia was the hardest hit victim of a terrible earthquake in 17 A.D. - the entire city was leveled. For years afterward, aftershocks radically rocked the area, and each major tremor resulted in people running out of the city, screaming. Many of its inhabitants ended up living outside the city limits, feeling safer in the open areas.

In spite of the inhabitants' fear, the church of Philadelphia had remained faithful to Jesus Christ. We will see this as we read the letter that Jesus dictates to them.

Holy And True

As with all the letters, Jesus begins with a description of Himself. This letter follows a little different formula, however. In the other letters, He described Himself using the physical descriptions that John saw back in chapter one. But in this case, He takes a different direction.

The first thing He says is that He is holy and true. Only God alone is holy and true.

Rev. 15:4 "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy..."

Rom. 3:4 ...Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar

Jesus Christ, in holiness and truth, is God Himself. Now, because God has come inside of us to live in us, we are called to holiness and truth as well.

Eph. 4:22-24 ...Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and ... be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians tells us to make a choice to walk in God's holiness and truth. We are to be pure, undefiled, set apart in our behavior. Our speech must be sincere, not lying or misrepresenting the truth. Christ is holy and true, so we too must be continually pursuing holiness and truth.

The Key Of David, Opening And Shutting

The next description Jesus uses is,

Rev. 3:7 "...who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens..."

This is actually a reference to the Old Testament.

In the days of Isaiah the prophet and Hezekiah the king, there was a steward in charge of the royal household named, "Sheb-NAW." He was the manager of the king's household, the one who alone could allow admittance in to see the king. But his authority made him prideful. He had a majestic tomb carved out for himself on a high hill, wore expensive clothing, and traveled in ornamented chariots. He really thought that he had become somebody special.

One day, the Lord told Isaiah to prophesy,

Isa. 22:15-22 "Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household, 'What right do you have here, and whom do you have here, that you have hewn a tomb for yourself here, you who hew a tomb on the height, you who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD is about to hurl you headlong, O man. And He is about to grasp you firmly, and roll you tightly like a ball, to be cast into a vast country; There you will die, and there your splendid chariots will be, you shame of your master's house.' And I will depose you from your office, and I will pull you down from your station. Then it will come about in that day, that I will summon My servant El-yaw-KEEM the son of Khil-kee-YAW and I will clothe him with your tunic, and tie your sash securely about him, I will entrust him with your authority, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 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.'"

They key of the house of David was the authority to allow someone in to see the king. This power was given to El-yaw-KEEM by God. God possessed the authority, and dispensed it to El-yaw-KEEM. He alone could open or close the door to meet with the king. When he opened it, it was open, and when it was shut, it was shut.

In the same way, the Father gave Jesus Christ the key to open and shut.

3:8 An Open Door

Jesus has the key to this open door that He has set before the faithful church.

The Bible talks about the Lord opening doors for both deliverance (Acts 5:19; Acts 16:26), and for service (Acts 14:27, 1Cor 16:9; 2Cor 2:12; Col 4:3). This door that is here open before the church is both a door of deliverance and a door of service: it is the very door of heaven, which the church will enter into when she is raptured. It is the same door that we will see standing open in a few more verses, at the beginning of chapter four, when John writes,

Rev. 4:1 ...I looked, and behold, a door open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."

The door to heaven, opened only by Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, He Himself is the door.

John 10:9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved..."

John 14:6 ..."I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me."

The door of heaven was open to this church, and no one could shut it. Why was it open to them? How can we insure that it is open to us? Three reasons: they had a little power, they had kept His Word, and had not denied His name.

A Little Power

The Greek word for power here is "DOO-nam-is," the same Greek word that our English words "dynamite" and "dynamic" come from. The church had a little power. Where did that power come from? Jesus promised,

Acts 1:8 ...You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Sure enough, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit,

Acts 4:33 ...With great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus...

Power comes from the Holy Spirit, and its purpose is that we would be Christ's witnesses. The power can be manifested in signs and wonders (Acts 6:8; Rom 15:19), hope (Rom 15:13), inner strength (Eph 3:16), in preaching (1Thes 1:5), in good works (2Thes 1:11), and godliness (2Pet 1:3), but it is always for the purpose of us being witnesses, representatives, ambassadors of Jesus Christ on this earth.

A lot of people say they have the power of the Holy Spirit moving in them. And they try to prove it by sounding super-spiritual, and being mystical. But I don't look for gifts of prophesy, words of knowledge, or speaking in tongues to prove it. I look to see if they are witnesses of Jesus Christ.

The church in Philadelphia had the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to the wicked world around them.

Kept My Word

The second reason that the door of heaven was open to them was that they had kept His Word. Saints, it is so important that we not just know the Word, but keep it. 1John 2 says,

1John 2:3-6 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

The proof that we really know Christ is that we keep His Word. Jesus said,

John 14:23 ..."If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.

He also said,

John 8:51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."

Saul, a man who was called by God to be the first King of Israel, ruined everything he had by failing to keep the Word of God.

1Chr. 10:13 ...Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep...

This book in our lap represents life or death before us. If we ignore what the Word says, and fail to keep it, we will die. Psalm 119 contrasts the two choices,

Ps. 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping {it} according to Thy word.

Ps. 119:17 Deal bountifully with Thy servant, That I may live and keep Thy word.

Ps. 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word.

Ps. 119:101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Thy word.

To walk in purity, we must keep His Word. If we hope to live, we must keep His word. If we fail to keep His Word, He may bring affliction in order to cause us to keep His Word. To keep His word means to not walk in wickedness.

The church in Philadelphia had kept the Word of Christ.

Not Denied My Name

Thirdly, the church had not denied the name of Christ. In spite of brutal opposition, persecution, and even death at the hands of the Romans and the Jews, the Christians in the church at Philadelphia refused to deny the name of Christ.

Jesus taught,

Matt. 10:32-33 "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

Paul wrote,

2Tim. 2:11-13 It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

John also wrote,

1John 2:23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

We have heard that Romans says,

Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;

And now we know why it is so vital, not only to believe in our hearts, but to confess with our mouths. Because we must confess Christ publicly. To refuse is to deny Him. If everyone at the office makes fun of you, confess Christ. If everyone at school calls you a Jesus Freak, confess Christ. If the government threatens you with imprisonment, confess Christ.

3:9 Bow Down

One day, our enemies, the enemies of God, will be forced to bow down at our feet and they will know that we were right in following after Christ. The Jews who persecuted Christians, claiming to follow God but really following their father the devil, will know that the church was right. The intellectuals who ridiculed us by saying that the Bible was a book of fairy tales will know that we were right to follow Jesus. The wicked who railed on us for proclaiming righteousness will be forced to bow down and admit that Christ is king.

Don't give up, and don't give in. You may be outnumbered, outmanned, outgunned, and outclassed, but one day, it will all be made clear.

Keep in mind, that as we are vindicated of all them that persecuted us, we will not be the objects of worship. Philippians 2 tells us clearly,

Phil. 2:10-11 the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ alone will receive the glory. We will simply receive the vindication.

3:10 The Hour Of Testing

There is a time of testing that is going to come upon the entire earth. Much of the book of Revelation will graphically describe it. God will pour out judgment after judgment upon the human race as a last call for people to repent, to turn to God and away from their wickedness.

Many in the church are terrified that these events will happen in our lifetime. They build bomb shelters, move to the mountains, gather up guns and groceries in preparation for these terrible times. But notice what Jesus says. He promises that the faithful church will be kept from it. Not simply from the testing, but from the HOUR of the testing.

Luke 21:34-36 (KJV) And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

The true church, the church that is taking heed to itself, walking in the Spirit, being a witness, keeping the Word, and not denying the name of Jesus Christ, will be kept from the hour of testing, and will be standing before Jesus while it is all taking place.

1Ths. 5:9-10 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.

Now don't get confused - there will be a church that will enter into the Tribulation. The church in Thyatira (who had lots of service, but no relationship with Christ), is an example of the kind of church that will still be around after the rapture. Pastors and priests who were never born again. Churchgoers that never truly trusted Christ for their salvation. There will be plenty of churches that won't be empty after the rapture. Remember Jesus told the church at Thyatira,

Rev. 2:21-22 'And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

How terrifying it will be for those who today continue to "play church," for those who today trust in their church membership, or good deeds to save them. One day, they will discover that it was not enough. They will be left behind to endure the Great Tribulation.

If this has piqued your interest, don't worry: we will talk in much greater depth about the rapture of the church in two weeks, when we get to chapter four, verse one.

3:11 Hold Fast

Jesus tells them, "I am coming quickly." The word there is literally, "suddenly." The coming of Christ is going to be immediate, lightning-fast.

1Cor. 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...

Because He is coming without warning, we must hold on tightly to those three things: the power of the Spirit, keeping His Word, and not denying His name. We must walking in every moment as if Christ is returning immediately. If we do this, no one will take our crown. What crown? The crown of righteousness.

2Tim. 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

That crown is ours if we long for His appearing, living in expectancy of the soon return of Jesus Christ.

3:12-13 A Pillar

How do we overcome? By faith.

1John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Jesus promises the overcomer - the believer who overcomes the world by faith in Him, that he will be made into a pillar in God's temple. In the temple that King Solomon built for the Lord, there were two pillars.

1Kgs. 7:21 Thus he set up the pillars at the porch of the nave; and he set up the right pillar and named it Yaw-KEEN, and he set up the left pillar and named it BO-az.

These pillars were named Yaw-KEEN, meaning, "He will establish" and BO-az, meaning "in Him is strength." As Hebrew reads right to left, the statement that runs through our head when we see these pillars is Yaw-KEEN BO-az - "He will establish, in Him is strength."

Remember the citizens of Philadelphia. Always afraid, their foundations shaken, constantly being rocked by earthquakes. They would run out of the city during the shaking. When they returned, often the only thing that remained standing were the massive pillars of Roman architecture. Even today, many of the Roman ruins we see continue to have pillars standing tall amid the ancient wreckage.

If you entrust your life to Jesus Christ, when the rest of the world is rocking and reeling under the pressure of the judgment of God, you will be rock solid in heaven, established in His strength, a pillar in the very temple of God.

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