Lessons from Philadelphia

 

 

Home

Alex Tang

Publications

Articles

Spiritual writing

 

Nurturing/ Teaching Courses

Engaging Culture

Spiritual Formation Institute

My Notebook

My blogs

Books Recommendation

Bookstore

---------------------

Medical notes

Medical Students /Paediatric notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Lessons from Philadelphia

The church with the open door

 

 

Text: Rev. 3:7-13

Revelation 3:7–13 (NIV84)

To the Church in Philadelphia

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

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. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 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. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him 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 him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

Lessons from the Seven Churches in Revelation

Ephesus the church which was distracted from its first love

Smyrna the church which was persecuted

Pergamum the church which compromised

Thyatira the church which became corrupted

Sardis the church of the living dead

Philadelphia the church with the open door

Laodicea

 

Structure of letter

 

text

 

Destination

7a

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

Description

7b

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.

Commendation

8

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Rebuke

 

 

Exhortation

9-10

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. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

 

Warning

 

 

Promise

12-13

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him 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 him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

 

Destination

3:7a “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

The biblical city was located about 28 miles southeast of the city of Sardis. It was the youngest of the seven cities whose churches are addressed in these letters.

About twenty-five miles southeast of Sardis, along the Hermus River valley, lay the important high plateau city of Philadelphia, modern Alasehir. A main highway that ran through the city connected Smyrna (about a hundred miles due west) to northwest Asia, Phrygia, and the east. Furthermore, the imperial post road of the first century a.d., which came from Rome via Troas, Adramyttium, Pergamum, and Sardis, passed through this valley and Philadelphia on the way to the east. So situated, Philadelphia became a strong fortress city. To the northeast was a great vine-growing district, which, along with textile and leather industries, contributed greatly to the city’s prosperity.[1]

Philadelphia was founded about 150 B.C. by King Attallus of Pergamum, whose nickname was Philadelphus, which means "lover of a brother." The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A. D., along with Sardis and other cities in that locality. Most of the others recovered rather quickly from the disaster, but the after-shocks continued in Philadelphia for quite a number of years, with the result that the people had to flee the city repeatedly. Tiberius Caesar helped Philadelphia to recover from the earthquake, and out of gratitude the city changed its name to Neocaesarea (New Caesar), and for awhile it bore that name.

In 63 B.C. Palestine came under Roman domination. Pompey, the Roman general who conquered the region, reorganized the territory. He established a league of 10 self-governing cities or city-states. Most of these were located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Philadelphia was the southernmost and Damascus the northernmost of the 10. In the Gospels this territory is referred to as “the Decapolis.” (Elwell, W.A. & Beitzel, B.J., 1988. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, p.1673)

Long after all the surrounding country had succumbed to Muslim control under Turkey, Philadelphia held out as a Christian populace till 1392. [2]

 

Description

3: 7b 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.

In all the other letters, our Lord uses symbols to describe himself that come from the vision John had of him, recorded in Chapter 1. In this letter, however, Jesus makes no reference to that vision. He uses other titles to describe himself.

·        He is the holy and true one, the one behind all that really exists

·        He holds the key of David

 

In King Hezekiah’s court, Shebna the steward was caught and Isaiah prophecied that he would be exiled and die in another country (Babylon). He would be replaced Eliakim.

 

Isaiah 22:22–23 (NIV84)

22 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. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.

 

·        He cannot be resisted

Jesus refers back to that passage in Isaiah and applies it to himself: "I am the one who shuts and no one can open, and opens and no one can shut." Resistance is futile. His will cannot be opposed. He governs the events of history on earth. He will open some doors; he will close other doors. What he opens no one can shut, what he shuts, no one can open. No human power can contravene what he determines.

 

Whereas the keys in 1:18b are those of “death and Hades,” here we have instead a quotation from Isa. 22:22: “the one having the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and who shuts and no one opens” (the change from singular “key” to plural “keys” is probably not significant).191 The substitution is meant to amplify the idea of the original phrase in 1:18b by underscoring the sovereignty that Christ holds over the sphere of “death and Hades” (for further support see below).

The point of the quotation is that Jesus holds the power over salvation and judgment. In 1:18 the stress is on his sovereignty over death and judgment, while in 3:7 the emphasis is on his authority over those entering the kingdom. John compares the historical situation of Eliakim in relation to Israel with that of Christ in relation to the church in order to help the readers better understand the position that Christ now holds as head of the true Israel and how this affects them. The quotation could be a polemic against the local synagogue, which claimed that only those worshiping within their doors could be considered God’s true people and which may even have excommunicated Christian Jews.

 

 

Beale, G.K., 1999. The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text, Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

 

 

Commendation

3:8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

 

Rebuke

 

Exhortation

3:9-10 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. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

A “synagogue of Satan” appears to describe a Jewish element that vehemently denied Jesus as the Messiah and that actively persecuted others who made this claim. A true Jew in the view of Jews like John and Paul is one who has found forgiveness and life in Jesus the Messiah, while a false Jew is one who rejects those who believe in Jesus and openly persecutes them; such a one is an antichrist (1 John 2:22).[3]

This verse has been a crux for the modern argument between the Pretribulation and Posttribulation views on when Christ will return. Unfortunately, both sides of the debate have ignored the fact that the promise made here pertains to Philadelphian Christians only and cannot be generalized to include Christians in the other churches of Asia, much less all Christians in all places and times. Furthermore, to be “preserved from the hour of tribulation” means not that they will be physically absent but rather that they will not be touched by that which touches others.[4]

Some commentators have affirmed that the way in which Christ will protect believers from the coming tribulation of 3:10 is by physically “rapturing” them from earth into heaven. This is primarily argued on the basis that this view best accords with the most logical and literal force of τηρέω ἐκ (“keep from”). However, Gundry has shown the improbability of this understanding by demonstrating parallels between Rev. 3:10 and John 17:15, which is the only other NT occurrence of τηρέω with ἐκ: there Christ prays, “I ask not that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from (τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ) the evil one.” Thus Jesus denies a physical removal from tribulation and affirms a spiritual protection from the devil (τηρέω [“to keep”] with ἀπό [“from”] in Prov. 7:5 and Jas. 1:27 has the same idea of protection from evil for those living in the midst of evil)[5]

Warning

 

Promise

 3:12-13 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him 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 him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

·        Christ will make the overcomer a “pillar in the temple of my God.” As has already been noted, the city was constantly threatened with earthquakes. Often the only parts of a city left standing after a severe quake were the huge stone temple columns. Christ promises to set believers in his temple (the future kingdom?) in such a secure fashion that no disturbance can ever force them out.[6]

·        “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem…” The inscribed name signifies identification and ownership. To those who have “little strength” (little influence) because of being ostracized, Christ promises recognition in his kingdom worthy of the most noble hero of any society.

Remembering how in days past the changes of name their city received, the Philadelphians would be impressed that God himself (not the emperor) had chosen to identify himself with them and to insure their citizenship in the New Jerusalem (Ezek 48:35).

·        Christ’s “new name” could be either the unknown name that he alone knows, signifying his absolute power over all other powers (19:12), or the new name of Christ given to the believer, i.e., his possession by Christ through redemption (Isa 62:2; 65:15).[7]

 

Lessons from Philadelphia

(This was preached to Unity Presbyterian Church in Johor Bahru on 25 Jan 2015)

Lessons from Philadelphia
                        
effective witness and the open door

Open door to the Kingdom of God

1.      Be witnesses (empowerment by the Holy Spirit)

2.      Be disciples (The Great Commission)

3.      Be God lovers (The Greatest Commandment)

 

1. Be witnesses

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Marks of Witness

a.      Empowerment by the Holy Spirit

“Church growth in Asia over the past hundred years has resulted, more often than not, from the demonstration of the supernatural power of Christ through healing, prophecy, and deliverance of men and women from demonic spirits. This is indeed true also of the life and ministries of the great Asian Christian leaders such as Bakht Singh, John Sung and Cho Yong-gi.”

b.      Our characters

 

2. Be Disciples

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

Marks of a Disciple

·        Life grounded in the Word

·        Heart fully surrendered to the Lordship of Christ

·        Walk in love

·        Bearing fruit

·        Life of prayer

 

3. Be God lovers

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37–39

·        Marks of a God lover?

·        Worshipful

·        Grateful

·        Obedient

·        Aware of God’s presence

 

Lessons from Philadelphia Summary

Be witnesses (empowerment by the Holy Spirit)

Be disciples (The Great Commission)

Be God lovers (The Greatest Commandment)

 

Other Lessons from Philadelphia

(This was preached to Holy Light Church in Johor Bahru on 19 June 2014)

 

  1. Do not depend on our own strength (empowerment by the Holy Spirit)
  2. Keep his word (knowing and living in obedience to God’s Word)
  3. Do not deny his name (Christlike transformation)

 

1.      Do not depend on our own strength (empowerment by the Holy Spirit)

Acts 1:8

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung of the Methodist Church in Malaysia in an interview with Asia Beacon (August 2013). Apart from his local ministry, he is heavily involved in the work of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and the Lausanne Movement.

“You mentioned in an article — “A 21st Century Reformation: Recovering the Supernatural” — that evangelicals fought tooth and nail to defend the miraculous in the Bible. Such a reformation today will mean that the supernatural be incorporated back into the heart of Christianity. How can this be achieved in the Asian context?

I will go back to what the Bible teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural power of God in healing, prophecy, miracles and deliverance ministries. Drawing from the Bible and elements found in Asian cultures and religious practices, I will also show that many people are still living in bondage to demonic supernatural powers. I will then go on to show that Christ has given us victory over demonic powers. Church growth in Asia over the past hundred years has resulted, more often than not, from the demonstration of the supernatural power of Christ through healing, prophecy, and deliverance of men and women from demonic spirits. This is indeed true also of the life and ministries of the great Asian Christian leaders such as Bakht Singh, John Sung and Cho Yong-gi.”

 

2.      Keep his word (knowing and living in obedience to God’s Word)

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV84)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

 

3.      Do not deny his name (Christlike transformation)

Ephesians 4:11–13 (NIV84)

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 


 

[1] Johnson, A.F., 1981. Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 451.

[2] Johnson, A.F., 1981. Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, pp. 451–452.

[3] Johnson, A.F., 1981. Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 453.

[4] Aune, D.E., 1998. Revelation 1–5, Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[5] Beale, G.K., 1999. The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text, Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

[6] Johnson, A.F., 1981. Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 455.

[7] Johnson, A.F., 1981. Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 455.

 

Download sermon mp3

 

 

Share

               

"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  

 

     
Website Articles Spiritual Writings Nurture/ Courses Engaging Culture Medical Interests Social

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
           

 

  Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is
licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

© 2006-2017 Alex Tang