Lessons From the Churches in Revelation: Philadelphia

Some of the most reassuring and beautiful verses in my opinion come from Romans 8. The entirety of the chapter describes the power that Christ has in our lives, as well as the security and assurances of being in fellowship with Him. Another example of this is found in Revelation 3:7-13, when Jesus addresses the church in Philadelphia. This church is the last of the seven that Jesus has any praise for, and the second church that Jesus only commends. Other than these facts, not much is known about the city other than the earthquakes which plagued the city, as well as this city being home to a Jewish synagogue and later on an imperial cult.

Still, when Jesus delivers His message to them, He begins by showing their usefulness to the kingdom of God as a door that has been set before them which cannot be shut. What this door is referring to is an opportunity for the word to pierce the hearts and convict those in the world. Furthermore, Jesus declares that no one can shut out this opportunity and gives praise to the brethren “for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (v. 8). Jesus is telling them it is because of what they have done. Just like with the church in Smyrna, He is giving the church encouragement that the persecution they endure, and the work they have done is producing fruit, and working towards something greater. Not only is it working towards something greater, but Jesus tells them, “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie — indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (v. 9). How beautiful it is that because of their faith and longsuffering, Jesus was going to make it clear that He loves them, and that the Jews who persecuted them would be humbled.

Unlike the church in Smyrna, however, Jesus does not warn them of a coming trial and ordeal. Rather, He blesses them and gives them peace saying, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (v. 10). This was a church who clearly knew persecution well, and yet they still remained strong. Therefore, they are blessed finally with some peace. In the final few verses Jesus urges them to hold fast, as they have been, and describes the blessings that they will have after this world comes to an end. He speaks wondrously of how they will be a pillar in the temple of God, that they will never more have to go out, how the name of God will be written on them. How amazing and reassuring that is.

These blessings are not just for the church in Philadelphia, but they can be for us as well. We may never face the kind of persecution they did, or the kind of persecution others face throughout the world, but we do and will face some form of persecution and ridicule. However, if we persevere, if we hold fast, scripture tells us that we are of great use to the kingdom of God. Jesus will make it clear that He loves us, if we will continue the work; and we can rest assured that the service we give in this life will pay off in the end. Finally, we can be assured from this letter to the church in Philadelphia that if we hold fast, we will have peace unlike anything this world can give. We can be reassured that there is a place in heaven for us. So I want to leave with one final passage, Jude 3: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write t you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Oren Caskey