Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13

Philadelphia is an ancient city southeast from Sardis; it too was a city of commercial importance and was conveniently located as the gateway to the eastern areas of the Asia Minor. Philadelphia means brotherly love; it was named after the loyalty and devotion of two Greek brothers that ruled in 220 BC. The church in Philadelphia stands in stark contrast to the church in Sardis, while Sardis surrendered to the culture Philadelphia remained faithful and true to Christ.

Jesus addresses the church as the “Holy and True One who holds the key to David”. God himself with Christ as the promised Messiah from the house of David, who has the authority to open doors and shut doors to the kingdom of God. The key of David refers to the role of the steward of the household who was given authority to control who was admitted and who was excluded from the king’s presence. This position was second only to the king, a position of prominence and control. Jesus is the one with the key, to open doors to the kingdom of God.

Jesus says “I know you have little strength left, you have obeyed my word and have not denied my name”. Notice the difference between Sardis and Philadelphia; Sardis was active, busy about their plans in their own strength – Philadelphia had little strength left, they were relying on God alone. We are reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Because of Philadelphia’s faithfulness, Jesus says, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” This phrase open door can be understood as either the door of opportunity to spread the gospel or the door into the kingdom – or both together. The context of Jesus, as the holder of the key to David, favors a reference to the door into the kingdom of God – that He holds open and no one can shut. Praise God!

Jesus names the people harassing the church as the synagogue of Satan these were the unbelieving and hostile Jews that were persecuting the church. These words are familiar to us, they remind of the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees, they came asking for signs all the while they were plotting Jesus’ murder. Jesus says they are not Abraham’s descendants but they are the descendants of their Father Satan, the author of lies and a murderer. Satan desires that all creation be separated permanently from God – that results in death, to die in our sins and not able to stand in the presence of the Holy God.

Jesus gives the church in Philadelphia hope to endure, stating that in the end the unbelieving hostile people will bow down before Jesus and acknowledge that the ones they persecuted were right, Jesus claims them as his own and protects them. Jesus assures them that He is coming soon; continue to endure for a little longer, so that you can claim the victor’s crown. Jesus commends the church for their obedience, for remaining true to Jesus’ name and therefore they will have an open door in front of them that no one can shut. To those who overcome, who endure to the end, who continue to in the Truth they will get a new name, a victor’s crown as a reward and will stand with confidence in the presence of God in His Holy Temple.

Revelation 3:1-6 – Sardis

Sardis is an ancient city about 60 miles inland from Ephesus. Sardis was famous for its wealth and commerce, a city of past glories in ancient times ruled by King Croesus famous for his wealth. Sardis had a large Jewish population, yet this church was not suffering persecution like the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum. Sardis was a church confident in their place in the community, they were thriving, active and well regarded.

Jesus, with the eyes blazing like fire and holds the seven spirits in his hand addresses the church. This is the Jesus who sees us as we really are, He sees into our hearts clearly, not as we present ourselves to others. Jesus says, “You have a reputation for being alive, but in reality you are dead”. The world of Sardis saw this church as alive and active, but Jesus sees them as dead.

“I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone dead. “Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there’s life in you yet. But I wouldn’t know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God’s work has been completed. Your condition is desperate”. (The Message)

This church was on life support, they had a flicker of life still in them and there was time to repent. They are sleeping when they should be about their work – Jesus says “Wake Up!” This reminds me of the parable of the ten virgins that Jesus told in Matthew 25. There were 10 virgins who took their lamps out to meet the bridegroom, 5 brought only their lamps and 5 brought their lamps and oil to refill them when needed. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, they all fell asleep, when the loud shout was heard announcing the bridegroom’s arrival they woke up to light their lamps. The 5 unprepared virgins didn’t have any oil for their lamps; they left to buy the oil needed to light their lamps. While they are gone the bridegroom arrives and all those waiting enter into the bridal feast. When the five unprepared virgins arrived the feast has already begun, they are locked out of the bridal feast and they are too late to enter.

The church at Sardis is warned to wake up before it is too late, they are to strengthen what remains of their faith; they are to repent, obey and change the way they are thinking and follow through with actions. Next, Jesus praises the remnant in Sardis, the faithful few who continued to be faithful when all those surrounding them were unfaithful. Those few will be the ones who will walk with Jesus dressed in white because they are worthy. They are the ones who will conquer, they will be dressed in white clothing and Jesus says, I will never erase their name from the Book of Life, I will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. What a beautiful picture we have, Jesus will present us individually by name to the Father.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.              Ephesians 1:3