“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.” Revelation 3:8
Philadelphia was a city located on a major Roman road in Asia minor that suffered from a devastating earthquake in AD 17.
Jesus has no rebuke for the church at Philadelphia, only encouragement to endure persecution. It appears that the Philadelphian Christians were being excluded from the synagogue and enduring other types of persecution from the Judaizers because of their faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus reassures them that He is the one who holds the key of David and alone has the power to grant entrance into the true kingdom of God and to hold on because He is coming soon with their reward.
“To this church Christ addresses Himself as the holy and true one. The pretensions of the false or non-genuine – that is, unbelieving – Jews are not pleasing to Him. Christ alone has ‘the key of David’, that is, the highest power and authority in the kingdom of God. Christ knows that although this church has but little power, being small in number and in wealth, it has remained loyal to the gospel and has not denied the name of its Lord.”43
“That the Christians have little power (3:8) counts in their favor before God; power is easily abused, but weakness often leads to dependence on God’s power.”44
“For believers who have been expelled from the local synagogue, the knowledge that Christ alone holds the power to grant entrance into God’s kingdom is deeply reassuring…Jesus now assures the believers in Philadelphia that he has opened the door of the kingdom to them, and no one – not even the local synagogue rulers or the Roman emperor himself – will be able to keep them from entering.”45
“Notice that divine protection – ‘I will also keep thee’ – and human exertion – ‘hold fast that which thou hast’ – go hand in hand. A fourfold glorious reward is promised to this church which exhibits in such an adequate manner what it means to be a light-bearer. First, over against the Jewish accusers and scoffers it will not only prevail – like Smyrna – but will gain the victory, a victory in which the vanquished, through their conversion, will share! Secondly, it will be kept safe through the hour of trial. Thirdly, the conquerors will be made ‘pillars’ in God’s temple. A pillar is something permanent. They will obtain the one thing which David desired (Ps. 27:4). No earthquake will ever fill them with fear or drive them out of the heavenly city. They will abide there. Finally, Christ will write upon the conqueror the name of His God, and the name of the city of His God, the new Jerusalem…and His own new name. In other words, to the conqueror will be given the assurance that he belongs to God and to the new Jerusalem and to Christ, and that he will everlastingly share in all the blessings and privileges of all three.”46
- What is the significance of the statement “What he opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open” for the Philadelphian Christians who were shut out of the synagogue?
- Where should we find the strength to endure persecution when we have little strength in ourselves like the church in Philadelphia?
- While we may not be forced out of the synagogue for being Christians, what are some other ways that we as Christians are excluded or persecuted for our allegiance to Jesus?
- Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He is coming soon. How does this fact give us strength and courage in the midst of persecution? (Luke 21:27-28)
Think about times when you may have been excluded, or about our Christian brothers and sisters around the world that are persecuted and suffer harm for their faithfulness to Jesus. What encouragement does Jesus have for us?
Ask the Lord for His strength to endure and to fill you with the joy of the hope of His impending return.
43, 46 Hendriksen, William. More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation
44 Keener, Craig S. Revelation
45 Duvall, J. Scott. Revelation