“THE THINGS WHICH ARE . . . .” - 

THE PEOPLE OF CHRIST - Revelation 2-3

 THE PERFECT CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA - Revelation 3:7-13

The Church of God is created, sustained, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts is the perfect model of what a church should be. A church without the Spirit is dead as we saw with the church at Sardis. The history of the City of Sardis where its citizens became overconfident in what they felt was an impregnable fortress of a city, is an illustration of an overconfident church which presumes it knows better than God and therefore falls into permissiveness. Jesus’ solution for the dead or near dying church was to remember (i.e. get back to Bible basics) and repent (of relying on supplements to the Bible).

The Bible is the primary tool of the Holy Spirit in the word of church building and church maintenance. The Bible is like no other book because it is inspired (i.e. God-breathed) by God and therefore is inerrant (i.e. without error).

Even though the Church throughout history is very flawed, straying away from the Spirit and His word, there has always been a faithful remnant God uses to perpetuate His truth from generation to generation. For instance, when the Church strayed historically into aberrant traditions and practices, God raised up men like Martin Luther to bring reformation to the church to get it back on track.

For a church to be what God intended it to be it must be a work of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit births it and sustains its life. And the language of the Spirit is the inspired or God-breathed word of God. Without the Holy Spirit the Church is dead. Without the word of God the Church is blind and directionless. For a church to be perfect before God it must have both the Holy Spirit and the word of God.

Of the seven churches Jesus addresses letters to in the book of Revelation, only two are without correction or criticism from Him. We have seen the first in our consideration of the church at Smyrna (the persecuted church). Now we will consider the second, the church at Philadelphia, the perfect church.

Revelation 3:7a - “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,” 

The name “Philadelphia” means brotherly love. This term is found in six other places in the New Testament:

  • Romans 12:10 - “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” 
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9 - “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;” 
  • Hebrews 13:1 - “Let brotherly love continue.” 
  • 1 Peter 1:22 - “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,” 
  • 2 Peter 1:5-7 - “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 

The city of Philadelphia was located 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It is believed that the city was named after Attalus Philadelphus, King of Pergamum (B.C. 159-138) founder of the city. The city of Philadelphia had a history of repeated destruction by earthquakes, the last of which was the great earthquake of A.D. 17 that leveled Philadelphia and Sardis and a number of cities in this area of the world.[1]

This city was situated at the top end of a long valley which led from the seashore up to a plateau that opens to the main area of Asia Minor. Therefore, this city was referred to as a kind of “keeper of the gateway to the plateau.” [2]

The main agricultural produce of the city were grapes which lent themselves to the making of wine. The coins of Philadelphia frequently had the image of the god Bacchus, who was a god of revelry and drunkenness. Philadelphia was frequently referred to in it’s time as “Little Athens” because of it’s many pagan temples. The church was likely confronted with opposition from these pagans as well as from a strong Jewish community hostile to their efforts. [3]

While Philadelphia was not on the same par as Ephesus or Laodicea, historically it outlasted these greater cities. Philadelphia survived the Turkish rule of the fourteenth century and was able to negotiate a settlement that allowed it to continue Christian worship and the use of bells for services as well as public processions. The city exists today as Alasehir (literally “City of God”) and remains about a third part Christian.[4]

Philadelphia, along with Smyrna, are the only two of the seven churches Jesus addresses for which He gives no criticism. Therefore, we can say the church at Philadelphia represents the perfect church.

The Biblical use of the term “perfect” (Greek teleios) does not mean without fault but complete or being what it was intended to be; being what it should be. For instance, when Jesus concludes, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) He is not primarily commanding human beings to rise to a divine perfect standard, as much as He is calling His disciples to be what His Father intended them to be. The idea of completeness or being what you need to be is further conveyed by Jesus words to the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). In other words, even though the rich young ruler claimed to have kept the commandments, the way for him to realize what it took to enter heaven was for him to sacrifice his “god” of riches; the one thing that stood between Him and truly worshipping God. It wasn’t that everyone must take an oath of poverty to enter heaven. It was that for this rich young ruler he needed to relinquish that which stood between him and an uninhibited saving relationship with God, his riches.

The apostle Paul also used this idea of perfection. He spoke of the “perfect will of God” or the complete and full will of God (Romans 12:2). He spoke of the perfecting effect of love in a person’s life (1 Corinthians 13:10). Paul spoke of the “perfect man” or the mature Christian (Ephesians 4:13). He spoke of being “perfect” or complete “in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28; cf. also Colossians 4:12).

James speaks of letting patience in trusting God during trials “have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). He spoke of “every perfect gift” coming from God where we do have a sense of something being just right, or just what is required (James 1:17). He speaks of God’s “perfect law of liberty” and how it brings blessing (James 1:25). And he too speaks of being a ‘perfect man” equating it with controlling the tongue (James 3:2).

Finally, the Apostle John speaks of “perfect love” meaning a mature Godly type of love (1 John 4:18). The importance of love for John is a theme held throughout his inspired writings.

While the word “perfect” is not used in Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia, we can look at this church and see it is measuring up to what Jesus desires His church to be in that Jesus does not correct it. Therefore, when I say that the Philadelphia church is the perfect church I do not mean that it is without fault, but that it is complete, it is what God desires a church to be.  The problem with the church at Sardis was, “I have not found your works perfect before God” (3:2). The same can be said of Ephesus, Pergamos and Thyatira, (and will be true of the church in Laodicea too) their works were lacking what God desired.

What makes the church in Philadelphia perfect? In the letter of Jesus to the church in Philadelphia we see five things which make this church perfectly complete before God. These five things are:

  1. They are pure before God – 3:7b
  2. They are proceeding in the providence and power of God – 3:8
  3. They have a personal relationship with Jesus – 3:9
  4. They have a persevering faith – 3:10-11
  5. They are a pillar of truth – 3:12

Let’s look now at this Philadelphian church to see its pattern of perfecting qualities.

Pure before God

Revelation 3:7b - “. . . ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true,

That Jesus chooses to identify Himself as “holy” and “true” is an expression and emphasis by Him of the importance and nature of holiness and truth. Indeed, the Bible states:

  • 1 Peter 1:15-16 - “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  (See Leviticus 11:44)

If Jesus is “holy” and “true” and God’s desire is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) then it is important that we understand what holiness means.

What is Holiness? In the Old Testament “holy” is a translation of the Hebrew term qadosh. In the New Testament “holy” is a translation of the Greek term hagiŏs and “holiness” is translated from hagiasmos.  In both Testaments, the term “holy” is connected with the idea of purity of heart and life and in a secondary sense separateness; uniqueness.

God is holy, unique, special; there is none like Him. In the Old Testament God describes Himself as “holy.” GOD IS UNIQUE, SPECIAL, THERE IS NONE OTHER LIKE HIM:

  • Isaiah 1:4 - “Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.” 
  • Isaiah 6:3 - “And one cried to another and said: 1 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 

Those who follow a Holy God are to be holy. Because God is holy He calls His people to be a “holy nation.” We evidence of this in the following verses:

  • Exodus 19:6 - “‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
  • Leviticus 20:26 - “‘And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.”
  • Isaiah 58:13-14 -  “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
  • Romans 6:19,22 - “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”

Considering these scriptures God’s desire for His people is clear; they are to be and live holy lives.

Something that is “holy” is something dedicated and devoted to God. Things used in relation to God are not to be common but “holy,” dedicated and devoted to God and His use.  Examples of this are seen in the following verses:

  • Exodus 26:33 - “And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.” 

The things to be used in Tabernacle or Temple worship are described as “holy.” 

1.) Holy garments - Exodus 28:2,4

2.) Holy gifts - Exodus 28:38

3.) Holy crown - Exodus 29:6

4.) Holy altar - Exodus 29:37

5.) Holy anointing oil - Exodus 30:25

What made such instruments “holy” was that they were only to be used in the Tabernacle or Temple service. They were not to be used outside the Tabernacle or Temple in common everyday uses.

To be “holy” means to be cleansed from what interferes with devotion to God. The idea of cleansing is closely connected to the idea of “holy” and “holiness”:

  • Exodus 19:10 - “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.” 
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 - “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
  • Ephesians 5:25-27 - “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” 
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:7 - “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”

When we apply the concept of “holy” or holiness to people it doesn’t mean we are to be isolated from the world. It means we are to be in the world but the world is not to be in us. We are to be washed from the that part or influence of the world which might stain us. God’s word is a cleanser that washes us from worldly dirt and stains. All of this is to be done with a certain “fear of God” or reverence for who we are in respect to God.

To be “holy” means to be sanctified or separated to God for His use. To be holy means that we are separated from that which would pollute, dilute through worldly common standards. It means to be separated to God for His use. We see this in the following verses:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 - “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”17 Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 - “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.”

God wants His people to be holy; He wants us to be unique as having been impacted and influenced by Him, not the world. When we live in the world people should be able to distinguish that we are different from the world. There is a spirit about us that communicates a specialness, a difference, an other-worldly godly distinctiveness. When people look at you what do they see, more of the world or evidence of the influence of a Holy Being on you.

All Christians are called to be “saints” or “holy ones. God’s predetermined plan was that people would be holy. Vine’s states, “Sanctification” is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it. Hence, they are called “saints” (Greek hagios; hagioi).  [5]

We see that “saints” are not a select few chosen by the church who meet a certain specified criterion such as having had miracles done through them, etc. No, all who have been born again by God’s grace through faith in Jesus are “saints,” the chosen of God. We see this is such passages as:  

  • Acts 9:13,32,41 - “Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.32 Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.”
  • Romans 1:7 - “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: 1 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1 - “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 1 To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:” 
  • Ephesians 1:1 - “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, 1 To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:”
  • Philippians 4:21 - “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.” 
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:10 - “when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
  • Jude 14 - “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,” 

Therefore, when we speak of “saints” we are speaking of all Christians, all who have been born again by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. You may not feel like a “saint,” but if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior, God considers you one of His saints.

But how are we made holy? God calls us to be holy and makes us holy through our relationship with Jesus. We see this in the following passages:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 - “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”
  • Hebrews 10:10,14,19-23 - “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

The preposition “in” is used grammatically to convey the idea of relationship. Therefore, according to Paul’s words to the Corinthians, to be “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” means by virtue of our saving relationship with Jesus we are sanctified or set apart to God for His use, which makes us holy. In this passage of Hebrews, we see that “He has perfected forever” those who are in Christ. But we also see that there is a “being sanctified” aspect; there is an ongoing process by which we are being made holy. Holiness and sanctification is a life process; we are growing in holiness.

At the point we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven our sins and God imputes or puts to our account the righteousness of Jesus. This is conveyed with the words, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This imputed righteousness of Jesus to our account expresses positional holiness. This is holiness received by faith. The presence of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer is God’s seal of ownership on us (Ephesians 1:13). This new life in Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit in us (Titus 3:4-7). This is a gift of God’s grace provided through Jesus. 

But there is also an actual imparted or practical holiness in that the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer at that their point of faith begins a holy work in us. This is holiness lived out by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins to produce the fruit of love in us (Galatians 5:22-24). Such love is described with words like, “joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit empowers the believer to witness (Acts 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). The Holy Spirit enables the believer to pray and live a victorious life against temptations and sin (Romans 8). The Holy Spirit washes us and refreshes us (John 7:37-39 and Ephesians 5:18-21). The Holy Spirit teaches us (1 Corinthians 2:13-14). The Holy Spirit in us does a holy work (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:6). The Holy Spirit enables us to “keep” and continue in this holy process of life (e.g. 2 Timothy 1:14).

Therefore, holiness is something God does in us. Read these portions of scripture to see this:

  • Philippians 2:13 - “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
  • Hebrews 13:20-21 - “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Holiness is not a work we do in our own strength to gain God’s favor. We receive God’s favor when we receive His gift of salvation through faith in Jesus. What happens after that is His work in us. What we do is simply cooperate with God’s plan and work and do so as a kind of loving act of appreciation to Him for all His blessing. A holy life is a love offering to God.

Holiness and truth are connected. Holiness is something that is rooted in and based on the truth of God’s word. Jesus asserted this as did His apostles:

  • John 17:17 - “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13 - “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,”

God the Holy Spirit uses His word to sanctify us and make us holy. The word of God is integral to this work. God’s word is His holy scalpel to perform His holy surgery on our heart.

As holy ones we need to look to Jesus. In Hebrews, it states:  

  • Hebrews 3:1 - “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,”

This is why Jesus identifies Himself as “holy” and “true” to the Philadelphian church.

Revelation 3:7c “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” 

Jesus has the resources to make us holy; He has the key of David. This above verse is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 where Eliakim the son of Hilkiah is mentioned. Eliakim had the keys to the king’s treasury so that when he could unlock and open the door to the treasury. He could also close and lock the door to the treasury. Eliakim is a type of Christ which points to Jesus having, “the key to truth and holiness as well as opportunity, service, and testimony.” [6]

Jesus has the key that can open to us positional holiness as well as practical holy living. Jesus in choosing to refer to Himself in this way is commending the church at Philadelphia for their holiness.

Why else was this church perfect?

Proceeding in the providence and power of God

Revelation 3:8 - “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

Again, Jesus states His awareness about the works of the church (2:2,9,19; 3:1; 8, 15). Jesus is aware and takes an active interest in the work of His church. In this verse we see four components which make this church perfect or complete.

First, they proceeded in the providence of God. Jesus set an “open door” before this church and not only was it open, Jesus would not allow anyone to shut it on them. Providence simply means that God has a sovereign hand in all the workings of His universe. He either actively promotes His plan or sovereignly permits activity to occur and uses it for His good. For His children it can be particularly said, “Where God guides He provides.”  We see this throughout the Bible and throughout the history of the church. One particularly vivid example of this is found in the case of Joshua who God chose to succeed Moses and lead the people of God into the Promised Land.

The providential example of Joshua. Joshua must have had some misgivings about succeeding of Moses. But God encouraged him with words that assure him of the providential protection and opportunity of God:

  • Joshua 1:1-9 - “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying:2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel.3 “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.4 “From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.6 “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.7 “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

What Jesus was saying to the Philadelphians was very similar. In a way Jesus was saying, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you. . .” Sometimes we mistakenly see God as putting obstacles in front of us. But more often than not He seeks to use obstacles to prepare us for what lays ahead or to direct or redirect us in some way. Then to He removes obstacles so that we can proceed freely and unhindered in the task He has called us to.

In all of God’s providential work with us we need to remember God is for us! This is what Paul was inspired to write the church in Rome:  

  • Romans 8:31-32 - “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Jesus had placed an open door of opportunity before the church at Philadelphia. An open door to evangelize, to be salt and light in the earth. It is extremely important that the church take advantage of the open doors Jesus places before it.

Someone has said the following:

EVANGELIZE OR FOSSILIZE!

The church at Philadelphia was a church that had an open door before them and they would step through it into the plan of God for their lives. Have you even tried the door of evangelize with those around you? There are few better ways to grow in your faith than to share your faith with others. Holy living has a holy compulsion to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost. Indeed, “the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16).

Second, they proceeded in the power of God. Some have taken Jesus’ remark “for you have a little strength” as being a negative. I don’t believe it is. I believe Jesus is making a positive statement about the Philadelphian church. It’s possible that Jesus is pointing out that the people of this church are aware that they have little strength on their own and are therefore more dependent on Jesus for their strength.

If that is so, then this puts the Philadelphians in a great position to be empowered by God. The apostle Paul conveys this truth when he wrote:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 - “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

This church was perfect because it didn’t rely on its own wisdom or resources, it didn’t devise gimmicks or programs or try to veil its weakness. No, it acknowledged its weakness and relied on the power of God. The power of God is manifested in proportion to our awareness that we need rely on Him. The Bible states, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5b-7). To humble be aware and admit our weakness opens the flood gates of heaven for God to pour out His grace and power upon us.  Are you relying on your own “strength” to get things done; your own wisdom and knowledge and ability? Or are you depending on God’s power to sustain you and bring your victory?

Third, they were keeping the word of God. Jesus commented they,” have kept My word.” This church had a high regard for the word of God and walked the talk of it. They were not merely hearers of the word but doers also.

God’s exhortation to Joshua was:   

  • Joshua 1:8 - “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Joshua kept God’s word and could lead God’s people victoriously into the Promised Land.

James was inspired to write:

  • James 1:22-25 - “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” 

It's one thing to know God’s word, but do you believe it enough to live it out by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit? These Philadelphian Christians were living our Jesus words. Are you?

Fourth, they were confessing the name of Jesus. Jesus said they, “have not denied My name.” They did not deny the name of Jesus. They confessed the name of Jesus in word and conduct. That is what Christians are called to do. Jesus said:

  • Matthew 10:32-33 - “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

When Paul was inspired to write to the church in Rome he explained that confessing Jesus outwardly was an integral indication of someone who had been saved:

  • Romans 10:9 - “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Later in the New Testament the Apostle John reiterated the importance of confessing Jesus when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 John 2:23; 4:2 - 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,”

In our world today there are many in the church who deny the name of Jesus by asserting unscriptural positions. When homosexuality, lesbianism, immorality, abortion, and the like are not only condoned but vigorously supported in the name of Jesus, it denies the nature of Jesus as depicted in the holy word of God. To confess Jesus name is not to simply speak it, it is to speak and live it out according to His word.

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Revelation 3:9 - “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.” 

We have discussed the “synagogue of Satan” mentioned in the letter to Smyrna (2:9) and how those who refuse to bow to the will of God end up being used by the enemy of God, Satan. To add a little to our previous comments. Perhaps in the end times there will be a group who “say they are Jews and are not, but lie” who will rise up. Such a group exists in our day.

There are those in the church who hold to what is called Supersessionism, Dominion, Fulfillment or Replacement Theology. This group believes that God is finished with the nation of Israel and the church now is “Israel.”  Those who hold to this view believe in the church establishing a kingdom now rather than waiting for Jesus to set up His kingdom in the Millennium. Therefore, they are post millennial in that they believe the Church must establish God’s Kingdom on earth before Jesus can or will return. This view is in error based on Pauls’ discussion of the nation of Israel in Romans 9-11. In these chapters, it is clearly taught that God is not finished with Israel but will again use this nation to accomplish His plans.

But an even more important part of this verse is found in the last phrase of Jesus, to know that I have loved you.” One of the most treasured truths of Jesus is that:

THIS CHURCH IS PERFECT BECAUSE IT IS EMERSED IN THE LOVE OF JESUS.

Love is the greatest and without love what we do means nothing (1 Corinthians 13). Jesus here states that He is going to reveal to their enemies that He loves the Philadelphian church. How would He be able to do that unless the Philadelphians were living in the love of Jesus?! Truly the love of God, their love for God, is what makes this and any church perfect.

Love is the greatest. The importance of the love of God in the church and life of the believer is of utmost importance. This is the testimony of the Bible.

The love we are speaking about here is God’s kind of love. The word “love” translated in these verse is from the Greek term agapaō or agape. Agape love is sacrificial love. It is love that does not discriminate. It is love that will even go so far as to love an enemy (Matthew 5:43-44). It is a love that persists and never gives up. It is best described in the following passage:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:4-8,13 - “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

Such love is not something that we can drum up on our own. Such love is a product of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. This is the testimony of scripture which states:

  • Romans 5:5 - “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Such love is to be the compelling force in the Christian’s life:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 - “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
  • 1 John 4:7-21 - “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love [agape] for one another” (John 13:35). Truly without love we are not only imperfect, we are nothing.

A Persevering Faith

Revelation 3:10a - “Because you have kept My command to persevere,

Jesus has commanded believers to persevere:

  • Matthew 24:13 - “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (See also Mark 13:13)
  • Luke 9:62 - “But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

Perseverance is important. The apostles encouraged believers to persevere too:

  • Acts 13:43 - “Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 - “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  
  • Galatians 6:9 - “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” 
  • Ephesians 6:18 - “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— “ 
  • Hebrews 10:23,38 - “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 
  • 2 Peter 3:17-18 - “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 

Now of course when we speak of persevering this isn’t a pulling of oneself up by the bootstraps endurance. Never. It is allowing the Spirit to continue His work in us to help us persevere to the end. With Jesus there is always hope. That encourages us. That fuels our perseverance.

Revelation 3:10b “. . . 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.”

With these words Jesus is pointing to the blessed hope of His coming pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.  That this refers to the Rapture of the church is based on two pieces of evidence:

First, the prepositional evidence. “From” - “From” is translated from the Greek preposition ek. Ek literally means out of, from within.  In Acts 8:39 ek is used in the sentence, “and when they came up OUT OF the water.” [7] So it would be fair to translate Revelation 3:10 “I also will keep you OUT OF the hour of trial . . . .” The doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture of the church teaches that Jesus will return for His church to remove them out of the world before the seven-year period of Tribulation.

Second, the broad applicational evidence. The phrase, the hour of trial which shall come upon the world” is important to note. That this does not simply refer to a local trial but is inclusive of the broader application to a world situation of Tribulation is supported by this phrase. It speaks of a trial that is to come “upon the world.”

Revelation 3:11- “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”

Third, the expectation of an imminent return of Jesus. Further evidence of the Rapture of the church is found in this verse where Jesus’ speaks of coming “quickly.” The word “quickly” (Greek tachu) means shortly, swiftly, without delay, quickly or suddenly. This gives the sense of imminence.  JESUS CAN RETURN AT ANY TIME. (Remember what we said about this Greek term in the opening words of our study in Revelation. The idea is like a tachometer where the frequency and intensity of events builds to the point of an explosion. Similarly, its ‘been a relatively long time for us since Jesus spoke these words, but who can doubt that prophetic events are revving to a climax in our day?!). [8]

A student who is well versed in the Bible may become perplexed at the last part of verse 11 where Jesus refers to “your crown.” The confusion arises over the timing of receiving our crown. The Bible speaks of a number of crowns but they are to be received in heaven (as mentioned in an earlier conversation of our study - 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12). What then is the crown Jesus is referring to when He says, “that no one may take your crown”?

Such a phrase implies we have a crown now. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the crown that comes from winning souls to Christ now. We see this in the following verses:

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 - “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?20 For you are our glory and joy.” 

This is not to imply that we are the ones who win souls. God works through us to win souls. To His glory! But what a great blessing it will be to be surrounded by those whom God has saved by using us as His instrument. What a glorious crown that will be!

Pillars of Truth

Revelation 3:12 - “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”

To be “a pillar in the Temple of My God” is a figurative way of saying they will last and be permanent. John Walvoord states, “The entire heavenly city is considered a temple. In keeping with the symbolism, the Philadelphian Christians will be permanent like a pillar in the temple and, speaking figuratively, they will STAND WHEN ALL ELSE HAS FALLEN. This perhaps had peculiar significance to those who were in Philadelphia because of their historic experiences with earthquakes which frequently had ruined their buildings and left only the pillars standing. They are assured of continuance throughout eternity because of their faith in Christ as the One who enables them to overcome the world.” [9] Jesus spoke of the sturdiness and safety of building one’s life on the application of His word. He said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does the, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did   not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). This could be applied to the church in Philadelphia based on Jesus’ words in His letter to them. Certainly those in the other churches Jesus writes too in this section are in danger of being descriptive of those Jesus described as, “But everyone who hears these sayings fo Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27).

The blessedness of being a pillar in heaven will involve being marked eternally with the name of “My God”; the name of “the New Jerusalem”; and the “new name” of Jesus. Each of these are eternal in the heavens. The mark of eternity will be on the church of Philadelphia and its people.

The perfect nature of this church on earth will have eternal significance. Just as the Philadelphians stood for holiness and truth on earth, they will be pillars of holiness and truth in heaven. Paul exhorted Timothy:

  • 1 Timothy 3:15-16 - “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: 1 God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, Received up in glory.”

The Prophetic Historical Application

Revelation 3:13 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Philadelphian church is representative of the historical age from 1730 to 1900 and beyond. This was a period of tremendous spread of the Gospel throughout the world. The spread of the gospel during this period was ignited by many revivals in the church throughout the world.

In 1761 a boy was born to a poor family. At an early age this boy learned the trade of shoemaking. Accepting Jesus as Savior at a young age this boy grew to manhood and hung a map of the world on the wall of his cobbler’s shop. He began to pray for the people of the world and the spread of the gospel. The more he prayed, the more he was taken with the responsibility of the church to spread the gospel to all the world.

The church in the world at that time unfortunately did not see their responsibility to reach the lost throughout the world.  This young man began to preach and on May 31st, 1792 he preached a sermon from Isaiah 54:2-3 -

  • Isaiah 54:2-3 - “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”

During his message, this young man challenged his hearers by saying,

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

This young man’s message was so Spirit-filled and challenging that twelve ministers formed the first Baptist Missionary Society and began to send foreign missionaries into the world as a result. Because of this young man, William Carey, a great missionary movement was ignited. William Carey is referred to as the Father of Modern Missions.

Carey himself spent 41 years as a missionary to India during which he preached and lived for Jesus.  This common cobbler who was moved by the Spirit from working on the soles of shoes to working to win the souls of men, is evidence that THE MOST IMPORTANT ABILITY IS AVAILABILITY.  

In Carey’s first ten years of service he became fluent in 12 languages of India. He translated the Bible into thirty-five dialects, wrote dictionaries, grammars, established schools and a college, and taught scientific farming, worked tirelessly for social reform. His translation of the Bible into Sanskrit is still used to this day. His reforms led to law changes that did away with the practice of throwing children into the Ganges River as human sacrifices and did away with the “suttee” rite of burning widows on the funeral fires of their husbands (though this still does at times continue to this day).[10]

There were others who sprung up during this time: Adoniram Judson who went to Calcutta, India; Robert Morrison and Hudson Taylor to China; Robert Moffat and David Livingstone to Africa, to name a few.

            WHEN THE CHURCH IS WORKING PERFECTLY, IT IS REACHING OUT TO THE LOST.

AND THAT IS GOOD, BECAUSE IF IT DOES NOT EVANGELIZE IT WILL FOSSILIZE.


[1] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary - Revelation, Macdonald Pub. Co.: Mclean, Virginia, p. 110. Refers to Annals of Tacitus vol. 2 p. 47.

[2] John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press: Chicago, IL, 1966, p. 85. Quotes W.M Ramsey concerning the city of Philadelphia’s location in reference to the “open door” spoken of by Jesus.

[3] A. Plummer, Ibid., p. 110

[4] A. Plummer, Ibid., p. 110

[5]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[6] John Walvoord, Ibid., p. 84

[7] H.E. Dana, and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament he MacMillan Co.: Toronto, Canada, 1955, p. 102-103.

[8] We will study the Rapture in greater detail when we get to Revelation 4:1.

[9] John Walvoord, Ibid., p. 88

[10] Marvin L. Galbreath, 20 Centuries of Christianity, Light and Life Press: Winona Lake, Indiana, 1970, p. 56-58