Preacher: Pastor Uche Emenike

Topic: The Messages to the churches

Text: Revelations 1:9-11; 2:1-7

Letter to Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia is located in the kingdom of Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis. It was named after the man who built the city, Attalus Philadelphus, King of Pergamum. The king was said to have had a very strong love for his brother, hence the name. Philadelphia is a Greek term for “brotherly love and can be found in Rom. 12:10 (Be devoted to one another in brotherly love), Heb. 13:1 (Let brotherly love continue), I Thess. 4:9, I Pet. 1:22 and II Pet. 1:7.

This city is known for a long history of earthquakes, and also known for its chief economic output, Grapes. Like the cities of those days, it is not exempted from idol worship, its chief idol being Dionysus. Over the centuries, a nominal Christian witness has endured in this city.

To this city Jesus sent a message that is devoid of condemnation, and almost entirely of praise. It denotes a church that is in revival. It is the kind of church that the Lord seeks. May we be that church.

  1. In v.7, Jesus identifies Himself as the following:
  • He who is holy – By His holy character, He is qualified to call the church of Philadelphia to a life of holiness – see what Peter wrote in I Pet. 1:15
  • He who is true – He is the author of truth – see Jn. 14:6. God is the only arbiter of truth and this truth can be found in His word. According to Walvoord, right doctrine and holy living go together.
  • He who has the key of David… – He has absolute authority over David’s domain i.e. Jerusalem, the City of David. This means that He is the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant and the ruler of the New Jerusalem that will come down from God out of heaven – Rev. 21:2. There is also the allusion to the Old Testament reference in which Eliakim will replace Shebna as the palace secretary and have the key to the house of David which holds the treasures of the king – Isa. 22:22.
  • The implication here is that Christ has the key to the treasure storehouse of God and also the key to opportunities, and to service in His vineyard. There is no need to look elsewhere.
  1. In v. 8, He declares the following:
  • Know their works – This alludes to their faithfulness in service; evangelism in the midst of a pagan culture; love for the brethren as seen in their name; activities that promote the kingdom of God and draw men to Jesus even if it is of a secular nature.
  • Sets an open door before them – In scripture, open doors reflect an opportunity for ministry. See I Cor. 16:9, II Cor. 2:12, Col. 4:3. As we remain faithful in our service to God, He opens up new avenues for ministry. As a church, if we are not seeing opportunities, we need to reflect on what we are not doing right.
  • You have a little strength – We do not know what this means. Some believe that it is a word of rebuke, but we see Christ recognizing the church as having a measure of power for ministry. The church may not be mighty in performing miracles, but she is serving with the little faith or power that she has. As a believer, you may not raise the dead or heal a cancer patient but your faith can see you through in another area of ministry. Therefore do not give up when the miraculous do not appear yet in your ministry.
  • You kept My word and did not deny my Name – The church guarded the truth of God’s word committed to her and also made a public confession of Christ even when societal pressures demanded otherwise. The church did not mince words in any interview conducted to call sin what it is and did not hesitate to declare that Jesus alone is the way to heaven. It is imperative that we have this same testimony.
  1. In v. 9, there are Jews who opposed the church’s ministry. They are unbelieving Jews that Paul spoke about in Rom. 2:28. Jesus calls them the “synagogue of Satan.” They opposed the gospel witness just as they opposed Paul in the book of Acts. As the brethren in Philadelphia remain faithful to the gospel, Christ will make these unbelievers acknowledge that He is in the midst of the church and they are truly His servants. As you minister the gospel, you will face opposition either from friends or family members. This is normal. From my experience, as you maintain your testimony, over time these same friends and family members may confess Christ themselves or hold you in high esteem for your resilience. You will even become their go-to person.
  2. In v. 10, if the brethren persevere, Christ will keep them from the hour of trial/divine judgment that will come upon the world – This is an allusion to the Great Tribulation which will happen after the church has been taken away from the earth – I Thess. 4:13-18. This is a promise to the church of all ages. We do not know of any other hour of trial that came upon the whole world after this message was given. Perhaps, in our time, we are facing a time of trial with Covid-19, but the Lord’s promise is still there: He will protect His own. Hold on to that promise and do not fear.
  3. In v.11, Christ tells the church that He is coming soon. Everyone should hold fast what they have so that they do not lose their reward. Hold fast your faith, the truth of God’s word, your zeal, your love for the brethren, etc. It is possible to lose your reward even though you are saved.
  4. In v. 12, Christ promises the church rewards for overcoming. Today, our bodies are the Temple of God. When we receive our new bodies, the New Jerusalem will become our heavenly home. It will also become the heavenly Temple of God. We shall become established pillars in that heavenly Temple of God, pillars not of support but a monument of God’s grace in the life of a man. We will be there in our glorified bodies. At that moment, our justification, sanctification, and glorification will be complete. We will no longer be exposed to the temptations and trials of life that take us away from the presence of God. Our spirit, soul, and body will be perfected. Right now, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise and we belong to Christ. Then, we shall permanently become His by identification and possession because the name of His God, the New Jerusalem, and His new name will be inscribed on us forever.
  5. In v. 13, the admonition to hear what the Spirit is saying remains.