Revelation 3:7-13

Wednesday Night Bible Study

January 29, 1997


How do we interpret the letters?

1) Applied to specific churches.

They are written to real, historical churches that existed in AD 95.

2) Applied to the whole church.

Because there are seven letters, the number of "completion", the letters are applicable to the "complete" church. In a sense, there are the same seven churches in existence today, just as their have been throughout history.

3) Applied to each of us individually.

Each letter applies to each individual church today. Jesus says in each letter: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; - and in this sense, each letter also applies to each of us, as individuals.

4) Prophetic application.

The flow of the church through history is amazingly parallel to the flow of issues from church to church.

The church of Ephesus, being the church of the apostles, up until A.D. 100

The church at Smyrna being the persecuted church, from A.D. 100-300

The church at Pergamum, when the mixing of paganism into the church began, from A.D. 300 to 600, the birth of the Greek Orthodox church.

The church at Thyatira, spiritual immorality and paganism increase, A.D. 600 to 1500, the Roman Catholic church .

The church at Sardis, sounds alive, but really dead, the Reformation Churches, A.D. 1500 to present, started to reform from Catholicism, but didn't go far enough.

We now move on to Philadelphia.

3:7-13 Letter to Philadelphia

:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write

note: The angel could be the "pastor" of the church.


Historical background:

The city was founded in the 2nd century BC by a man named Eumenes, who names it after is beloved brother, Attalus II Philadelphus, king of Pergamum.

The name of the city means "brotherly love".

Geographical background:

The site of the ancient city is occupied by the modern city Alasehir, Turkey.

It is 95 miles southeast of Sardis, in the valley of the Cogamus river, near the pass that carries the main trade route into central Asia Minor.

It was kind of a "cultural frontier outpost".

The original purpose of the city was to spread Greek language, culture, and manners throughout Asia.

It's success was in that the Lydian language ceased to be used by 20 A.D., being replaced by Greek.

:7 These things saith he that is holy, he that is true

We've mentioned that in each letter, Jesus describes Himself in a way that pertains to each church, and in a way that is drawn from some part of the description of Him in Revelation 1.

Yet none of the descriptions given to Philadelphia are exactly found in Revelation 1.

This verse is the first time that the words "holy" and "true" are found in Revelation.

I wonder if these two words are kind of "hidden" in the vision of Revelation 1.

I suggest that they are the robe and belt that Jesus is wearing:

(Rev 1:13 KJV) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

We've talked about how I feel this is a picture of Jesus, as our High Priests, moving among His churches in the Holy Place of heaven, just as the priests ministered in the tabernacle and the temple.

The priests wore linen clothes, robes, that were called "holy garments" (Lev.16:32)

The belt that Jesus is wearing is awfully similar to what Paul describes as part of our spiritual armor:

(Eph 6:14 KJV) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;


Holiness and truth as basis for ministry.

The Philadelphia church is the one that's doing the work of the ministry.

They're the ones taking advantage of the open doors before them.

Jesus is encouraging them in their ministry, to go on in their ministry, but He is the one characterized by holiness and by truth.

It's amazingly parallel to the passage we've been studying on Sunday Morning:

Note the "holiness", the "truth", and then the "ministry" (sending)

(John 17:17-18 KJV) Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. {18} As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

There's a sense of grace in Scripture, that God can use anybody, in any condition.

After all, he worked through a talking donkey!

But there also seems a sense that if we want to see a greater work, a greater effect, then we must learn holiness and truth.

2 Tim 2:20-22 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. {21} If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. {22} Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Greater usefulness comes from cleaning the cup.

We need to be holy in staying away from the evil of the world.

We need to learn the truth by studying God's Word, but also by not playing games, and being real, honest people.

I hate it when I hear a Christian "claim" their healing over a cold, and ... achooo ... claim to be ... achoo ... healed. It's self-deception.

In the same way, I often hear people say that they've forgiven certain people, but their actions tell me that they're still bitter, and still holding a grudge.

:7 he that hath the key of David

Isaiah was the first to use this term.

This prophecy was concerning the changing of chief ministers in Hezekiah's government:

God said that He would remove a man named Shebna, the "treasurer", from his office because of his corruption.

Instead God would put a man named Eliakim in that position.

(Isa 22:21-22) And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. {22} And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

The "key of David" referred to the power that Eliakim would hold.

He was like the president's "chief of staff", who would determine who would get in to see the king, and he would be able to make decisions that only the king would be able to change.

Jesus is referring to Himself as the "chief of staff", as God the Father's "chief of staff".

Nobody gets in to see the boss except with His permission.

(John 14:6 KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

He has the authority to make decisions that must get acted on.

This too is a phrase not found in the original vision of Jesus in chapter 1, though something vaguely similar is:

(Rev 1:18 KJV) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

I believe this is all wrapped up in Jesus' authority.

:7 he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

shutteth - the Greek word is based on the word for "key".

No man can shut what Jesus opens because He's the one with the key!

:8 I know thy works:

Jesus knows what's going on in our lives.

:8 behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it

The idea of "open doors" is basically the idea of "opportunities" in Scripture.


An open door isn't an easy door.

Paul wrote:

(1 Cor 16:5-9 KJV) Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. {6} And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. {7} For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. {8} But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. {9} For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul was planning on visiting the Corinthian church, but for the moment he was going to be staying in Ephesus, because a door was opened there.

He had opportunities to share the gospel.

But did you see that there were also "many adversaries"?

Sometimes we get to thinking that for God to open a door means that everything has to be easy.

When things get difficult, we often say, "Well, I guess God is closing the door..."

Not so!

The door is open because God says "Stay!"

:8 for thou hast a little strength

Kind of an unfortunate translation here.

It sounds as if nobody can shut the door because the Philadelphians have a little strength.

It's better to understand it as a continuation of "I know thy works ... that thou hast a little strength"

little - mikron - (ie - micron, microscope ...) now that's little!!!

Even though they only had a little, teeny-weeny bit of strength, this was a church who went through their open doors.


Try the door!

This is the biggest lesson from the Philadelphians.

They not only had open doors, but they were obviously going through them.

It's having a heart like Jonathan!

Jonathan was the crown prince.

The Philistines were on one side of the valley, the Israelites on the other.

Jonathan got to thinking ...

(1 Sam 14:6 KJV) And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.

In other words, why not just try it?

Why not see what God can do?

As it turned out, God used Jonathan's courage to bring a victory for Israel over the Philistines that day.

It doesn't take much.

We kind of get the idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon us and then we receive the POWER of the Spirit (and it is the same Greek word for power).

But it doesn't take that much power for God to use you.

Don't be too quick to say that you're not big enough or strong enough to do something.

All it took to bring down Goliath was a young kid who trusted God.

:8 and hast kept my word

This is the only church that is committed to the Word of God.

I think it's kind of interesting to see this in the light of history.

In the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, you hear very, very little emphasis on God's Word (Pergamos, Thyatira).

In the Reformation churches (Lutheran, older denominational churches), though there was at one time "life" in them, and though their founders placed great emphasis on the Word, the farther these churches have gotten from God's Word (and some of them have gotten pretty far), the deader they become.

:8 and hast not denied my name.

They haven't given in to Caesar worship.

:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie

Two possible ideas:

1) Jews who are not following the Lord, trying to convert Gentile believers to Judaism.

Paul writes that it's not what you do outwardly that makes you a Jew, like circumcision, it's what goes on in your heart.

(Rom 2:28-29 KJV) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, was taken prisoner by the Roman authorities, and died somewere along the way to Rome, around A.D. 110, only fifteen years after John's writings.

He to the church at Philadelphia concerning "false Jews" (chapter 6):

"If any one preaches the one God of the Law and the prophets, but denies Christ to be the Son of God, he is a liar, even as also is his father the devil, and is a Jew falsely so called, being possessed of mere carnal circumcision."

2) Those that say that the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, but the church has now replaced them.

I don't want to get too dogmatic about this possibility, but the idea sure fits the wording of the text.

This doctrine is at the root of many bad doctrines, as well as misunderstandings concerning the end-times.

Without going into depth (which could take a week to do), let me say simply that it's at the root of teachings like:

"anti-semitism" - the Jews are no longer viewed as God's chosen people, but as "Christ-killers", and then openly hated. This was at the root of the holocaust of WWII.

"amillenialism" - there is no millenial reign of Christ on earth, some see this as the church reigning instead.

"postmillenialism" - Jesus will come back AFTER the thousand years, in which the church reigns. A form of this is behind some of the Christian political movements, when people say that the church must rise up and "take dominian" over the earth.

"post-trib-rapture" - instead of the purpose of the tribulation being for Israel, they see that the whole church must go through the tribulation

Again, I want to be careful that we don't get TOO dogmatic about this possible interpretation and go around bashing people who believe in a "post-trib" rapture.

Those who subscribe to these doctrines need to read Romans 11:

(Rom 11:1 KJV) I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

(Rom 11:28-29 KJV) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. {29} For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

:9 behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet

I don't think the idea is that these people will worship the people in Philadelphia, but they will recognize that true worship is happening where the Philadelphian church is.

Literally, "I will make them to come and worship in the presence of your feet."

:9 and to know that I have loved thee.

This is precious.

Jesus is not one who hides His love for His bride!


Love your wife openly!

Hold her hand!

Hug her openly!

Kiss her in public!

:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience

The Philadelphian church (actually, Jesus is addressing the angel, singular, here) was characterized by it's obedience to God's Word.

It's interesting to note that concerning the "bishop" (pastor) at Philadelphia, Ignatius wrote (chapter 1):

"at whose meekness I am struck with admiration, and who by his silence is able to accomplish more than those who vainly talk. For he is in harmony with the commandments [of God], even as the harp is with its strings. Wherefore my soul declares his mind towards God a happy one, knowing it to be virtuous and perfect, and that his stability as well as freedom from all anger is after the example of the infinite meekness of the living God."

the word of my patience - hupomone - endurance, steadfastness; patience in trials and hard times, "remaining under" the pressure and sticking it out.

:10 I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

temptation - peirasmos - an experiment, attempt, trial, proving; adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one's character, faith, holiness

This is not the word used back in 2:22 for the "great tribulation" (thlipsis), and thus some do not see here any support for a pre-trib rapture.

But just because Jesus uses a different word doesn't mean it isn't the same event.

The description that follows, "which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" clearly can only refer to one period of time, the great tribulation.

Revelation 6-19 are going to describe this very "hour" that's coming on the whole earth!

If it were referring to "trials that we all go through", it wouldn't describe them as "about to come", they're already here.

Jesus is promising the church at Philadelphia that they will escape the tribulation.

Jesus said,

Lu 21:36 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.

:11 Behold, I come quickly


:11 hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

I don't think Jesus is talking about losing your salvation here.

Crowns are often used to describe the rewards we'll receive in heaven.

He's saying that we need to keep walking with the Lord, lest someone else take our reward.


Esther - a young Jewish gal became queen of the Persian empire.

Yet one day evil Haman hatched a plot to get rid of the Jews.

Uncle Mordecai said,

(Est 4:14 KJV) For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

God wants His work done, and He gives us each a chance to do a portion of it. If we obey, we will receive rewards in heaven. If we don't obey, God will use someone else, and we miss out on the rewards.

:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God

The temple being the one in heaven, actually, heaven itself.

A pillar is something that holds the roof up, adding stability and strength to a building.

In Solomon's temple, there were two pillars made of bronze, which were freestanding in front of the temple.

(1 Ki 7:21 KJV) And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.

Jachin means "he establishes," and Boaz means "in him is strength."

Somehow, God's going to make us a part of the strengh of heaven.

Philadelphia appears to have been located on the main fault line that ran through Asia Minor, and was often hit with earthquakes after the major quake of A.D. 17.

Stability would sound very nice to people in Philadelphia. (to us too!)


Philadelphia had a long and valiant history.

In the 14th century, when the Eastern Roman empire had been driven out of Asia Minor by the advancing Moslems, only two areas remained as an island of Christian civilization: A small area opposite Constantinople (Istanbul), and Philadelphia.

The great historian Gibbon paid it eloquent tribute by calling it a "standing pillar", as it withstood Moslem influence, and stood for Christ.

:12 and he shall go no more out

Historical background:

The ancient geographer Strabo, writing in A.D. 20, noted that the city was often shaking and trembling from earthquakes, causing the people in the city to run out into the open country to excape falling walls.

No more running around!

:12 and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

Background history:

When the major earthquake of A.D. 17 destroyed much of the area around Philadelphia, the Roman Senate sent financial aid to the stricken areas, and the historian Tacitus listed Philadelphia as third on the list of cities receiving aid.

In gratitude for the relief, Philadephia briefly changed it's name to "NeoCaesarea" ("New Caesarea", "New Caesar-town").

Perhaps Jesus is saying that they're going to get another new name, but this one is the name of the New Jerusalem.

I'm sure there's lots of real deep insights into this, but I kind of like to look at this in a simple way.

I like to think of how we have our sons' names written inside their sweatshirts and jackets.

We can tell them apart.

If they get lost, somebody can tell who they belong to.

Jesus not only writes God's name on us, and His name, but the address to return us to if we get lost as well!

:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Have you noticed what's missing in this letter?

There is no "rebuke" from the Lord.

He has nothing against them.

The only other church without a rebuke was Smyrna, the suffering church.

Take the open doors.


Hold on to the Word.