A Message to the Church of Philadelphia – Stay Faithful!

By Pr Ay Nee Ng

When we say the phrase “to stay faithful”, we most properly associate it with a situation in our lives that can cause disruption, hurt, disappointment, frustration, and anger. They are situations in which we need to keep our faith. Our objective is to be like the church of Philadelphia. Let us read Revelations 3:7-13.

7-10 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11-13 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Purposes of the Book of Revelation

  • To show His servants in every age (genuine believers) what must take place (Rev. 1:1) between the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ.
  • The events will occur shortly (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:6-7, 12, 20) meaning they can take place at any time. The entire message is to be revealed. Church, this is key to the understanding of visions, all of which contain symbols pointing to the spiritual realities in and behind our historical experience.

In the book of Revelations, the Apostle John sees Jesus walking in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, which represent the Seven Churches of Revelations. The Seven Churches of Revelations were located in what is now western Turkey. Ephesus, Sardis, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Pergamon, Smyrna, and Laodicea are a mixture of modern cities, villages, and archaeological sites. On the island of Patmos, the Apostle John received an apocalyptic vision about the spiritual situation of seven churches in Asia and the future of the church and the world (Rev. 1:10-11, 19).

The order of the seven churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea) follows a route that a messenger would naturally follow in visiting the cities. During Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, many churches were established in Asia. These seven churches seem to represent many other churches that were in Asia at the time (e.g., Miletos, Troas, Assos, Cyzicus, Magnesia, Tralles, and Metropolis). The style of the seven messages is similar, each focused on commendation and correction and concluding with a promise of victory. The historical and spiritual situation of each church aids in interpreting the details of its message.

The Character of the Seven Churches of Revelations in Asia at That Time and Now

1. Ephesus, the Loveless Church (Rev. 2:1-7). It had left its first love (v. 4). Today the city of Ephesus is called Efes-Selchuk. It is a popular stop of Mediterranean cruise ships. Tours take you to the Basilica of St. John and the Great Theater, where the apostle Paul is said to have preached against the city’s paganism.

2. Smyrna, the Persecuted Church (Rev. 2:8-11). Although it would suffer persecution and poverty (v. 10), it was spiritually wealthy. Today the city of Smyrna is knows as Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey. One of the tour sites is the Agora, an ancient open market, which had an altar of Zeus in the centre, and the Church of Polycarp, named in honour of a martyred convert of the Apostle John, who served as a bishop in Smyrna.

3. Pergamos/Pergamum, the Compromising Church (Rev. 2:12-17). It needed to repent of allowing false teachers (v. 16). The site of ancient Pergamum is north of the modern city of Bergama, about 16 miles from the Aegean Sea. Sites to see are the towering temples, the impressive library of the church of Pergamum, and the ruins of its medical facility called the Asklepion.

4. Thyatira, the Corrupt Church (Rev. 2:18-29). It had a false prophetess (v. 20). Today the city of Thyatira is known as Akhisar. The ruins of Thyatira are not accessible to the public because they lie in a fenced area of the city. Archaeologists found many ancient coins at Thyatira and evidence of the presence of guilds. The members of the guilds hosted banquets with food that had been offered to idols. Also, sexually immoral acts were performed during the banquets. The message in Revelations to this church chastised them for these deeds.

5. Sardis, the Dead Church (Rev. 3:1-6). It had fallen asleep and yet called itself awake (v. 2). An archaeological site marks the ruins of the ancient city of Sardis that lies near a small village named Sart. Ruins of temples are found here.

6. Philadelphia, the Faithful Church (Rev. 3:7-13). It had endured patiently (v. 10). Today the city of Philadelphia is known as Alesehir. There is little left at the site of this church, which was commended for its steadfastness.

7. Laodicea, the Lukewarm Church (Rev. 3:14-22). It was lukewarm and insipid to God (v. 16). Today the city of Laodicea is near town of Denizil. It an archaeological site undergoing restoration since 2012.

Facts about the City and the Church of Philadelphia
Located 28 miles southeast of Sardis, it was once a major centre of Greek culture. It suffered badly in an earthquake in AD 17 and much rebuilding was required. This region experienced many earthquakes. The Church had “little strength” (Rev. 3:8), probably meaning its members were few. Although they were small in numbers, the Lord promised that the believers would be richly rewarded for their faithfulness. Stay faithful!

Understanding the Message to the Church of Philadelphia

  1. “The words of one that holds the key of David” symbolizes authority.
  2. “Have opened a door for you” speaks of service and evangelistic opportunity (1 Cor. 16:9, 2 Cor. 2:12) or of entrance into the consummated kingdom.
  3. They did good deeds.
  4. They were small in numbers (”had little strength”).
  5. They didn’t waiver in their faith amid opposition; they kept God’s Word and didn’t denied His name.
  6. There was false witness in the church and attacks from Satanist groups.
  7. They stayed on track with what God has commanded them to do, persevering on.
  8. God promised to keep them from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world. This is the Lord’s assurance according to John 17:6, 11-12, 15.
  9. The Lord is coming quickly. His second coming is a warning to the oppressors and an encouragement to the oppressed of what will take place. The believers are encouraged to hold on to their crown.
  10. God told them they will be made a pillar in His temple, and He will write on them God’s name and God’s new name. They will be citizens of the New Jerusalem.

Note: A city often honoured a notable citizen by erecting a pillar in a temple with his name inscribed on it. The Lord will honour His faithful ones permanently by inscribing on them the name of God and of Christ, indicating identification with and possession by God as a spiritual citizenship and a reflection of the character of Christ.

Taken from Our Daily Bread “A Faithful Servant” by Keila Ochoa on Dec 7, 2015

Madaleno is a bricklayer. From Monday to Thursday he builds walls and repairs roofs. He is quiet, reliable, and hardworking. Then from Friday to Sunday he goes up to the mountains to teach the Word of God. Madaleno speaks Nahuatl (a Mexican dialect), so he can easily communicate the good news of Jesus to the people in that region. At age 70, he still works with his hands building houses, but he also works to build the family of God.

His life has been threatened several times. He has slept under the stars and faced death from car accidents and falls. He has been kicked out of towns. But he thinks that God has called him to do what he does, and he serves happily. Believing that people need to know the Lord, he relies on God for the strength he needs.

Madaleno’s faithfulness reminds me of the faithfulness of Caleb and Joshua, two of the men Moses sent to explore the Promised Land and report back to the Israelites (Num. 13; Josh. 14:6-13). Their companions were afraid of the people who lived there, but Caleb and Joshua trusted in God and believed He would help them conquer the land.

The work entrusted to us may be different than Madaleno’s or Caleb’s and Joshua’s. But our confidence can be the same. In reaching out to others, we rely not on ourselves but on the strength of our God.

Philadelphia was a faithful church in a small town that was established to be a centre for Greek culture. The town was renowned for its surrounding vineyards but subjected to frequent earthquakes. Although they faced natural disasters, their faith in the Lord never faulted; they continue to proclaim the name of the Lord.

After losing his wife in that summer of 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow felt each Christmas held no joy but inexpressibly sadness and pain. Then in 1863, after having joined the army against his father’s wishes, Longfellow’s son was critically injured in the American Civil War. Longfellow felt the doom and gloom, the bleakness of yet celebrating Christmas, until penning down in his poem that Christmas “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” By the fifth and sixth verses, Longfellow’s desolation is nearly complete.

“It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth stones of a continent,” he wrote.
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

But then, from the depths of that bleak Christmas day, Longfellow heard the irrepressible sound of hope. And he wrote this seventh stanza.

The pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

For Longfellow, the war raged on and so did memories of his personal tragedies, but it couldn’t stop Christmas. The Messiah is born! God said: “I am making everything new!”(Rev. 21:5). Our Saviour is with us–Immanuel—God with us. We face many trials and upsets that are like earthquakes in our lives. Sometimes it takes longer to rebuild our lives after one, but in the end, we all need to rebuild and start afresh. Foundations may have been shaken, but we have a hope–the bells are ringing –God is with us as we look to 2016.

[Song “What Faith Can Do” by Kuthless with Lyrics.]

Let us look to our Saviour. There is something new birthing in each one of us as we come to a close of 2015. Hang in there to receive the crown of glory!