The Letter to Philadelphia
The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia
A. Like the letter to Smyrna (and no other), there is no censure---only commendation, encouragement
B. Like the church at Smyrna, Philadelphia was troubled by unbelieving Jews (the synagogue of
Satan), to wit, pseudo-Jews by the measure of God. v. 9.
1. Philadelphia was evidently not of the mind that subsidizing, capitulating to, or showing
partiality to Scripture-rejecting, Christ-denying Jews was the means to curry the love and
favor of God.
2. To the contrary, Christ tells Philadelphia that because “thou...hast kept my word, and hast
not denied my name...” (v. 8), (tests which the pseudo-Jews failed), He will make it known
that the church is the object of His love and favor!
C. Christ presents Himself to this church as “...he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of
David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth;” (v. 7).
1. To the chagrin of the pseudo-Jews, these words are expressive of Christ's deity, His
possession of the Davidic throne and His supreme royal authority over all.
a. Christ is holy.
(1) Only God can rightly claim to be holy.
LEV 20:26; ISA 57:15; REV 15:3-4.
(2) Christ is God's Holy One with authority over men, devils and death.
PSA 89:19-23; LUK 1:35; 4:34; ACT 2:27.
(3) His holiness merits our reverential obedience. 1PE 1:15-16.
b. Christ is true.
(1) By this, He declares Himself to be God. 1JO 5:20.
(2) Holiness accords with truth. If one is unholy, how can his word be trusted
as truth? If one's word is not true, then how can one be holy?
(3) “God hath spoken in his holiness....” (PSA 60:6; 108:7).
c. Christ HATH the key of David.
(1) key: In pregnant sense, with reference to the power of custody, control,
admission of others, etc., implied by the possession of the keys of any place;
hence as a symbol of office, and fig. the office itself.
(2) Christ NOW holds David's office: KING (LUK 1:32-33). He is not
awaiting future acceptance by the pseudo-Jews in order to take David's
(3) Christ attained the throne of David by virtue of His resurrection from the
dead. ACT 2:30-32; 13:32-33.
(4) REV 3:7 is derived from the Messianic prophecy of ISA 22:22.
AA. The key is there noted to be laid upon the shoulder.
BB. Messiah is the Mighty God upon whose shoulder is the
government. ISA 9:6-7.
2. He who rose from the dead to be Head over the church is the mighty God-man, Christ
Jesus: David's promised King over all!
a. What He opens stays open; what He shuts stays shut! c/w JOB 11:10; 12:14.
b. He has shut down an old system of approaching God which shall forever remain
shut. ROM 10:4; EPH 2:14-15.
c. He has opened up a new way of approach (the church) which shall never be shut
down. MAT 16:16-18.
The Letter to Philadelphia Page 1 of 4 (1) The door into the local church is by believer's baptism only. All others are
shut out. ACT 2:41; 8:12, 36-37 et.al.
(2) No amount of academic acrobatics or bible-revisions purging out verses like
ACT 8:37 are ever going to pry the door to the church open beyond Christ's
D. To this faithful church at Philadelphia, Christ says, “...I have set before thee an open door, and no
man can shut it...” (v. 8).
1. This was said to a faithful church with a little strength that had kept Christ's word and not
denied His name.
2. This was not said to:
a. Ephesus, a notable church with a Pauline epistle to its credit but which had made
something other than God its first love.
b. Pergamos, which had assimilated paganism into its Christianity.
c. Thyatira, the “charity church,” which had done like Pergamos and further had a
fornicating, cultic order operating within it.
d. Sardis, which had a sterling reputation in the world.
e. Laodicea, the “prosperity gospel” church of moderates.
3. This was also not said to faithful Smyrna, for God reserves the right to allocate His
blessings as He pleases. MAT 20:15.
4. Evangelistic opportunity is a door that God must open. 1CO 16:9; 2CO 2:12; COL 4:3.
a. God may not open some such doors. ACT 14:27; 16:6-7.
b. God sets the time and circumstances to favor Zion and sets members in the body as
it pleases Him. PSA 102:13; 1CO 12:18.
c. When God opens a door of evangelism, men may oppose it but they cannot shut it.
1TH 2:1-2, 13-14; 2TI 2:9.
d. NOTE: God's idea of an “open door” church tends to differ from man's.
(1) Man's idea of “open door” too often means “all belief systems are welcome
(2) God's idea of “open door” means evangelism to overthrow the “all belief
systems are welcome here” foolishness.
2CO 10:5; JOH 4:24; ROM 16:17-18.
E. Philadelphia had a little strength yet had kept the word of Christ and not denied His name. v. 8.
1. The noting of their little strength was not a censure but a commendation.
2. You can be faithful to Christ with a little strength. PSA 119:141.
3. Let none conclude that since they are not the powerhouse of spiritual strength that they
perceive another to be, that they therefore have not the ability to keep the word!
a. You don't have to be an Abraham or an Elijah, just a little captive maid. 2KI 5:2-3.
b. You don't need an army of 135,000 to win the battle, just Gideon's 300. JDG 7-8.
c. God specializes in strengthening the faithful weak.
ISA 40:28-31; HEB 11:34; 2CO 12:9.
d. (PHIL 4:13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
4. A victorious Christian life is not secured by great strength, but by submissiveness to God.
5. Philadelphia seems to have been the opposite of Sardis which was great in man's eyes but
F. Christ promises to turn the tables on the pseudo-Jews who were troubling the church. v. 9.
1. The pseudo-Jews foolishly arrogate prophecies like ISA 60:14, which Christ (the Jewish
Messiah and Holy One of Israel with the Jewish royal office) applies to the church!
The Letter to Philadelphia Page 2 of 4 2. Christ will make the false Jew to realize whom He truly loves!
3. Christ says, “I will make them to come and worship before thy feet...” How does this
square with REV 19:10; ACT 10:26; MAT 4:10?
a. Nebuchadnezzar worshipped Daniel. DAN 2:46.
b. Abraham bowed before the people of the land. GEN 23:12.
c. The prophet Nathan bowed before David. 1KI 1:23.
d. (PRO 14:19) The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the
e. There is a secondary sense in which worship may be understood.
(1) Jesus describes recognition in terms of being worshipped. LUK 14:10.
(2) God's name is reverend (PSA 111:9), yet the wife is commanded to
reverence her husband and children are to reverence their father.
EPH 5:33; HEB 12:9.
(3) These are forms of worship which acknowledge not deity but superiority.
f. These pseudo-Jews would do what the Egyptians had done when they bowed before
Moses. EXO 11:8.
g. If the fulfilment of this promise occurred in time, then it was a conquest in which
the vanquished, through their conversion, shared!
G. Philadelphia had kept the word of Jesus' patience and so were promised an exemption from a
universal hour of temptation. v. 10.
1. Keeping the word of Jesus' patience is following Christ's example of suffering patiently for
righteousness' sake. 1PE 2:20-23; HEB 12:1-4 c/w REV 14:12.
2. This hour of temptation is not some future tribulation period as is imagined by some
schools of eschatology.
a. This hour of temptation was something that occurred during this local church's
existence from which THEY would be kept (“...I also will keep THEE...”).
b. Saints do not need to be removed from this world in order to be kept from evil.
c. We can be kept from tribulation or temptation as it goes on around us.
PSA 57:1; ISA 43:2; MAT 6:13; 1CO 10:13.
d. Note the emphasis on the time: “...the hour of temptation...” Perhaps Christ was
promising them that they would not live long enough to experience the trial.
c/w ISA 57:1.
H. As Thyatira (REV 2:25), Philadelphia is told to hold fast what they have. v. 11.
1. The same order applies to the faithful in any church condition.
2. They were to hold fast, that no man take their crown.
a. The crown suggests reward. 1CO 9:25.
b. None can spoil the saint's eternal life. JOH 10:28-29.
c. Deceivers can spoil us of our reward. COL 2:8, 18.
d. Knowledge, wisdom and understanding from God's word are a crown.
PRO 14:18, 24.
e. There is GREAT REWARD in keeping God's word. PSA 19:10-11.
f. The spoiled church member loses his riches of wisdom, knowledge and
3. One who does not abide in Christ, but lets seducers spoil him will be ashamed at His
coming. 1JO 2:24-26, 28.
I. Promises are made to the overcomer. v. 12.
1. He will be made a pillar in God's temple and shall no more go out.
The Letter to Philadelphia Page 3 of 4 a. He will become a permanent fixture in the house of God, which was David's one
great desire. PSA 23:6; 27:4.
b. The saint who holds faithful in the pillar of truth on earth (1TI 3:15) will be made a
pillar in the heavenly temple.
2. He will become a monument of God's honor.
a. Upon him will be written:
(1) the name of Christ's God. REV 14:1.
(2) the name of the new Jerusalem. PSA 48:1-2; 50:2.
(3) Christ's new name. REV 22:3-4.
b. All “identity issues” will be resolved!
3. Note that the overcomer is identified with the new Jerusalem from above, not the Jerusalem
a. Those who only have identity with the earthly Jerusalem are not overcomers. They
are in bondage. GAL 4:21-26.
b. Liberation and victory are reserved for the true Jew: the faithful child of grace of
any nation, not for the pseudo-Jew.
4. Some prophetic speculators have suggested that the mark of the beast will be a UPC
symbol placed upon men by a great power.
a. But the overcomer's natural identity is patently overwritten by the grace of the
Greatest Power. 1JO 4:4.
b. The overcomer bears the mark of God, Christ and heaven. No doubt as to whom he
belongs, where he belongs, or what he's worth!