Photo (Chris D.) Beautiful Muslim children “awaiting the King of Kings” at the gateway to the ruins of St John’s, a 6th century church in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia means “city of brotherly love”. Modern day Alaşehir (“City of God”) is a prosperous city situated in the valley of the Kuzuçay , at the foot of the Bozdağ Mountain. The town is connected to İzmir by a 105 km railway and is known as the grape capital of Turkey, converting them into sultanas which are exported all over the world. Check out your sultana packet and see if it’s from Turkey. You might have a taste of Philadelphia right in your home!
This city was one of the very last to fall to the Ottoman Turks, in the 14th century, when the conquerors built a new city wall – with the corpses of the vanquished.
At the start of the letter Jesus is presented as “Holy and True” – in itself a commendation to the church – most of the other churches are reprimanded for either a lack of holiness (sexual immorality) or a lack of truth (false doctrines).
Lets keep in mind that as with all of these seven letters, they are to be literally interpreted in the context of the 1st century, but they are also profoundly important prophetic statements, warnings and exhortations to the Christians and their congregations right down through church history. Philadelphia is clearly an end-times church. I think most who are reading this blog would identify most with this particular church among the seven.
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” Revelations 3:7
What is the “key of David”? There are many and varied opinions on this. The following sentence re closing and opening might be related – keys lock doors and open locked doors. Without the correct key there is no opening or closing.
First of all these keys speak of absolute authority. Jesus is the One with absolute authority in heaven and on earth. It is also an almost direct quote from Isaiah:
“I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Isaiah 22:22)
Within the context of Isaiah, these words from the prophet refer to Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim by the Egyptian overlords who placed him on the throne of Judah. As the new King He was given the “keys” of authority to rule and reign over Judah.
Jesus is a descendant of David and He is described in the scriptures as a King. Pilate ordered that a plaque be nailed to the cross written in Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic saying,
“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)
Jesus holds “the key to the house of David”. Not only is He the King of Kings, but He reminds the church that He is King of Israel, is concerned for the Jewish people and that He wields total authority over their destiny.
GOD’S PLAN FOR THE JEWS
3:9 “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”
The Jews were quite a thorn in the flesh for Paul and here we have some very sharp words from Jesus – he refers to them as a “Synagogue of Satan”. You may remember the equally sharp words of Jesus to the Pharisees in the gospels:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.” John 8:44a
But Jesus goes on to say in the Revelation that despite their opposition to Him now, sometime in the future He will make them “fall down at the feet” of these Philadelphian Christians and “acknowledge that Jesus has loved them”.
This remarkable statement ties right in with Paul’s end-times scenario for Israel when he writes in Romans…
“Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” Romans 10:19
There will be a harvest of Jews just prior to the Lord’s return. According to the two scripture above, they will be jealous that Christians worship their Messiah and that God will “make them” acknowledge that Jesus has loved them.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 11:25-27
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:8.
I believe this Philadelphian, end-times church will see a massive reaping of souls for the kingdom of heaven.
The Philadelphian end-times church is a missionary focused church. Her “deeds” are clearly related to the “open door” the Lord has placed before them. The doors to missions have never been as open as they are now and that is due principally to 1) modern communication, 2) modern transportation, 3) global pressure for nations to be open, accountable and tolerant.
Today we are in a position to know who are the unreached and where they are. We have the accessibility to be with them from anywhere on earth within a few days and with few exceptions, the freedom to enter the country and engage with the people. Look at some of the results:
• Just a few days ago, on July 15th, 2012, 2.5M evangelical Protestant believers paraded through Sao Paolo, Brazil in the world’s largest “March for Jesus”. The biggest gathering of Christians in history.
• The number of Christians in Indonesia has grown from 1.3M forty years ago to over 11M today.
• The Jesus Film has been translated into nearly 1000 languages and over 200,000,000 people have indicated decisions for Christ as a result of the film (Campus Crusade).
• No Christian was officially allowed to live in Nepal until 1960. Now there is a church in every one of the 75 districts of Nepal with estimates of over half a million believers (Operation World).
In A.D. 100, there were 360 non-Christians for every true believer. Today the ratio is less than seven to every believer as the Holy Spirit does more than we could ever ask or imagine (Vision 2020).
• About 500 Muslims come to faith in Christ every month in Iran–a country ranked among the top ten persecutors of Christians in the world. Many of the new believers are young, since 70% of Iran is under the age of 30 (Vision 2020).
• Africa was 3% Christian in 1900 and is now over 50% Christian (Vision 2020).
• In 1900 Korea had no Protestant church and the country was deemed impossible to penetrate. Today Korea is 30% Christian with 7000 churches in Seoul alone and several of these churches have over 1,000,000 members (Vision 2020).
• There are currently 80-100 million Christians in China. Most of this growth has occurred in the last 50 years.
Returning now to the text:
“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” Rev. 3:10.
Friends, I am no end-times scholar but this looks like a good “rapture” reference. This letter clearly states that the church that sees and experiences these end-time events I have mentioned, will be “kept” from (not “for”!) the hour of trial. If the text did not go on to say, “that is going to come upon the whole world” I might be persuaded to think it referred to Roman persecution. But it does say “world”. The very next words are,
“I am coming soon.”
For those who live in the age of the Philadelphian church – He is coming soon. This is an end-times context, not a 1st century context.
The final verses of this letter speak about the final chapter of world history as we know it:
“The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” Revelation 3:12
Beloveds, for those who overcome the temptation to “throw in the towel” due to extreme opposition from within or without, remember that God has a good grip on you and He will never let you go because you belong to Him! He has even stamped three names on you – that of the Father, that of the New Jerusalem (what a cool passport!), and Jesus’ new name.
There are two words that I would like to leave with you who believe you are part of the Philadelphian church that I believe truthfully reflect the message of this letter –
1)Missions: Be involved in any way you can in facilitating this end-times harvest especially to the as yet “unreached” people groups of the world.
2) Israel: be aware that God will be pouring out unprecedented grace upon the Jewish people in the days to come which will result in a harvest of souls. Be part of it. As in the past, the Jews are not popular, especially with their current placement in the Middle East. Historically Christians have failed to support them in their trials and tribulations. In fact the church has been incredibly anti-semitic. Let’s be sure those chapters of history do not get repeated on our watch especially as we see the nations of the world increasingly rise up against God’s covenant people. God loves them and is committed to them and so must we. At the very least – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure”". What a nice little promise tacked on the end of this verse!
This is God’s heart, will and word for this church; this season.