Revelation 3:7-13 Devotional Commentary

Secure and preserved: Devotional Commentary for October 31-November 6

Revelation 3:7-13 (NASB)

This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.

3:7-8
7"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
8'I know your deeds Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

The letter to Philadelphia was the sixth of seven letters written to the churches in Asia Minor. Philadelphia was located about twenty-five miles South-East of Sardis. Situated along a major East-West thoroughfare, Philadelphia was a prominent military and economic center in Roman Asia. It was a strong fortress city laying on a high plateau along the Hermus River valley. The same devastating earthquake which destroyed Sardis also leveled Philadelphia and was rebuilt by Tiberius.

The city was prosperous because of the vine-growing region to the North-East along with the textile and leather industries in the area. Like most major cities of the Roman Empire, Philadelphia was also inundated by idol worship, cults, and temples for pagan gods. But in spite of the prevailing practices of idol worship, Philadelphia was also home for a small but strong Christian church.

Jesus identified Himself as the Writer of the letter to the church in Philadelphia with three distinctly divine Attributes. He is Holy, True, and has the Key of David. In His Holiness, He is Pure, Undefiled, Divinely Hallowed, Unmixed, and Exclusive. As True, He is Perfect, Absolute, Unfalsifiable, Unsearchable, and Incontestable. And as the holder of the Key of David, He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the One absolutely in control, and Sovereign. He opens and no one can ever shut. He shuts and no one can open at all.

It is Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Holy True and Sovereign God, Who wrote a letter of commendation to the church in Philadelphia for their faith, devotion, and endurance. Like its sister church in Smyrna, the church in Philadelphia received no rebuke or warning from the Lord. They were not perfect, but they were true to God's Living Word. They were totally committed to Christ. They were powerless but they did not deny His Name. They were faithful to the end.

Jesus told the believers in Philadelphia that He had put an open door before them. An open door that no one can shut. An open door from which no one can keep them out. Scholars widely disagree on the meaning of the open door. Most suggest that it could be an open door for mission's work or for entry into the Kingdom of heaven. But the essence of the text strongly implies that the focus should be on the Authority and the Power which opened the door and kept it open before the church in Philadelphia; Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Holy, the True and Sovereign God. Even though the church in Philadelphia was small and had no power of its own, a door was opened before it by the One Who holds the Key. The size and weakness of the church did not matter at all. The Christians in Philadelphia kept the Word of God and were faithful to the Name of Jesus Christ.

Christ knew their labor, their deeds, their commitment, their faith. They were of little power and small. Yet He opened a door before them that no one can shut. They were worthy in Christ: their strength and power.

3:9-10
9'Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.
10'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

As with the church in Smyrna, the Christians in Philadelphia faced persecution from devout Jews who rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Christ referred to such as the "synagogue of satan" because, anyone who rejects Jesus Christ for any reason serves satan's purposes as the enemy of Jesus Christ. Christ promised that He will make those who rejected Him come to the Christians, and bowing down at their feet, will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in them. They will know that Jesus Christ loves His own. They will know that He is the Messiah.

To be liars and the "synagogue of satan" is to be instruments in the hands of satan to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, if it were possible, to destroy the church. Those who persecute the servants of Christ not only rebel against Jesus Christ but, in essence, acknowledge Satan as lord. Therefore, Jesus characterized them as liars because they no longer have the Truth in them.

Jesus also promised the church in Philadelphia that He will keep them safe at the time of intense trouble determined upon the world. Even though no timetable or duration is outlined, many have parted ways due to irreconcilable differences regarding the time and the duration of endtimes troubles and the status of the faithful during the Last Days. Once again, the context of the text calls attention more to the protection and preservation of the faithful by Jesus Christ than the schedule and nature of the judgment to come. Jesus will protect and preserve His own while judging sin justly and in Righteousness.

God always upholds and preserves His faithful both in and out of struggles and trials. Jesus commended the church in Philadelphia for being faithful to His Word and for discerning the significance of His suffering for their sake. Those who keep the Gospel in the time of peace shall be kept and preserved by Christ during the time of trouble. God's divine Grace which made them fruitful in times of peace will also make the church in Philadelphia faithful and strong during the time of suffering and persecution. This is the revealed truth in these verses: God will preserve His own.

3:11-13
11'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
12'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; 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 My new name.
13'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

Jesus alerted the church in Philadelphia that He is coming soon. Failing to consider God's timelessness, many have aimlessly argued to determine the exact moment of Christ's return, inferring immediacy out of the expression "soon." The Lord probably wanted to encourage the struggling believers in Philadelphia by telling them that His return is imminent. It is the next major event they should anticipate and live accordingly by faith. Once again, the issue was not when He might come but that He is coming.

Jesus urged the believers in Philadelphia to persevere in faith, so that in the end they would receive the crown preserved for them. The crown promised to the church in Philadelphia is described as a two-fold reward. First, He would establish them as a pillar in the heavenly Temple, an eternal home from which they would never be removed. Second, the Name of God would be written upon each believer, thus affirming the Lord's ownership. They will be branded Christians, belonging to Christ. The name of the holy city would also be written upon them. Thus: They will be established as permanent citizens of heaven. And their new heavenly address would be the New Jerusalem. These physical marks would be the divine signature which certify and openly testify the heavenly citizenship of those who belong to Christ.

Once again, we are admonished to heed and discern what the Spirit says to the churches. We are told to be faithful to Christ and be strong in Him so that we can resist the devil and effectively ward-off persecution by those who reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. We should not be preoccupied with concerns regarding our weaknesses and shortcomings, because God's Strength and Grace are always perfected in our infirmities. To be small and weak in ourselves is to be sound and strong in Jesus Christ. The believers in Philadelphia were few and powerless. But they were strong and faithful in Jesus Christ. The crown of life is preserved for them.

Notes/Applications

Jesus Christ, the Holy and True Messiah, commended the believers in Philadelphia for their patience, for enduring tribulations and temptations, for keeping His Word, and for remaining faithful to His Name. But the Lord’s letter of commendation included predictions of an ominous future: a time of terrible testing lurking on the horizon to descend upon the world. It was the same Just God and Righteous Judge Who also encouraged the church in Philadelphia to have no fear of what might be coming.

The Lord promised that He will keep them safe from trials and temptations. He said He will preserve them. He will reward them for their fidelity. He will make them as pillars in His Temple. His own Name, His father's Name, and the name of the New Jerusalem will be written upon them. In other words, the trials and tribulations which are determined upon the world will not affect them in any way, as they complete their earthly journey and pass on to their eternal home with Jesus Christ. Their life on earth will be one of victory, and their life in heaven will be one of eternal bliss.

The hymnist John Newton eloquently paraphrased the Lord’s glorious intent for His children in the hymn “Thus saith the Holy One and True”:

A pillar there, no more to move,
Inscribed with all my names of love;
A monument of mighty grace,
Thou shalt forever have a place.
Such is the conqueror’s reward,
Prepared and promised by the Lord.

As believers, we too can count on Jesus’ promise that, whatever the circumstances, trials, and persecutions might be, He will keep His people safe and strong, preserving us from everything that is judged upon the world. He will make us as pillars in His Temple and the bearers of His Name and the glorious testimony of His salvation. Safe and preserved, we stand faithful and obedient to the Lord Who shed His precious Blood to redeem us for Himself. We move, act, and have our being in Christ alone.

Here at Practical Christianity Foundation we believe that God has mercifully extended His Grace toward us and has given us His living and Holy Word to guide us in our journey in this world. We count it privilege to come alongside you and minister to you through prayer and the sharing of God's living and holy Word. Please contact us if you have any questions concerning your faith and journey as a Christian.

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