By: A.T. Walker
While on the island of Patmos, John saw the Lord Jesus Christ, who instructed him to “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” In 7 Churches, we will be looking into these letters to see what Jesus has to say to these churches…and what he maybe saying to ours
To the Church in Philadelphia
The sixth letter is addressed to the church in Philadelphia, located about 30 miles southeast of Sardis.
“These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”
Here Jesus identifies Himself by His nature and character. He is holy. He is truth. But what is the “key of David”? The key represents power, authority, or office. In Matthew 1, we can see that Jesus is a direct descendant of David and He is called “Son of David” 17 times in the New Testament. Wait, didn’t David live like a thousand years before Jesus? How can Jesus be his son? The title “Son of David” referred more to the role of Messiah than it did to being simply a descendant of David. In 2 Samuel 7:12-14, the prophet Nathan tells David what God has said about his future “Son”:
“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.”
The One who is holy and true also reigns forever as King. Of “He who has the key of David”, Matthew Henry says “He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; He opens a door of utterance to His ministers; He opens a door of entrance, opens the heart; He opens a door of admission into the visible church, laying down the terms of communion; and He opens the door of admission into the church triumphant, according to the terms of salvation fixed by Him. When He pleases, He shuts the door of opportunity and the door of utterance, and leaves obstinate sinners shut up in the hardness of their hearts; He shuts the door of church-fellowship against unbelievers and profane persons; and He shuts the door of heaven against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be.”
“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.”
“He who has the key of David” opens doors that no one can shut. Isaiah 22:22 says:
“The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open.”
Man cannot shut what Christ has opened. Man cannot open what Christ has shut. It matters not what level of strength the Lord’s faithful have. If Christ has opened the door, He will provide the grace needed to go through it. In our walk, we should hold fast to the Word of God, for it is true and faithful. And if we do not deny the precious name Christ, He has promised that He will not deny us (Matthew 10:32-33).
“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.”
There will be those in the church who profess to be true followers, but really only serve themselves. Jesus is saying that those who do not truly serve Him, serve Satan. There is no middle ground. There is no grey area. No ability to remain in different. As Bob Dylan once so accurately sang “it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Choose this day whom you will serve, because, whether you want to or not, you will serve someone.
Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia that something will change in the hearts of the ones persecuting them, the ones who say they are Jews…and it won’t be their choice. This isn’t some love sick version of Jesus with a handsome face and feathered hair. This is the King of everything exercising His sovereignty over everything…even the hearts of men. He will make them worship Him and they will do it at the feet of those they had been persecuting. They will realize who serves the one true God and who He loves. Paul met this King on the road to Damascus. After being kicked off of his horse and blinded, this vicious persecutor of Christians came to worship the Lord with those he had been persecuting, realizing that they were the ones that were truly serving God.
“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. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
Trials and tribulations are not pleasant but do have beneficial results. Romans 5:3-5 tells us:
“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.”
Tribulation produces perseverance, and the church in Philadelphia had face it’s fair share. James 1:12 tells us that the one who perseveres will receive the crown of life. The Lord has mercy on this church, sparing them from the coming trials. Now the church in Smyrna and Philadelphia were both faithful churches who faced persecution from members of the “synagogue of Satan”. Both were told that trials were coming. Smyrna was told they would be thrown in prison and face the trial head on. Philadelphia gets a pass. Whatever door that Jesus opens or closes for His bride is ultimately for her good (Romans 8:28). The mark of true believers is that they will persevere. False confessions will let the world choke out their perseverance. Do not let anyone or anything keep you from persevering.
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Jesus ends this letter with more glorious promises to His faithful sheep. Jesus says He will turn the church of little strength into everlasting pillars in the temple of God. He will claim them as His own. He will give them a new heavenly home. Isaiah 62:3-4 says:
“You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand,
and a royal diadem in the palm of your God’s hand.
You will no longer be called Deserted,
and your land will not be called Desolate;
instead, you will be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you”
“My Delight is in Her”…
Wow! What could there possibly be in us that our Lord could delight in? Yet He still gives beauty for ashes. And like a bride taking the last name of her husband, we will take on the new name of Jesus. Lord, grant us ears to hear the beauty of your gospel so that our eyes may one day see You in all Your glory.