We all want to have a feeling of security. From home alarms to seat belts we want to feel secure in the things we are doing. Christ also wants to give his people a feeling of security. In this message to the church of Philadelphia, Christ tells them about the sure promises they have by being his devoted followers.
As Jesus opens his message to the church in Philadelphia he calls himself the holy one and true one. Further he says that he has the key of David. Whatever he opens no one will shut and whatever he shuts no one will open. This is a curious beginning mainly because this is not how Christ is described in the first chapter. Up to this point Christ’s description has used imagery found in the first chapter of Revelation in each of the letters to the seven churches. This is the first time that Jesus’ self-description does not use a previously used image of Christ in Revelation.
What is Christ saying about himself? The holy one and true one are both messianic titles (Mark 1:24; John 6:69). Christ is the one they are to put their hope and trust in. He is the holy and true Messiah. Christ also says that he has the key of David. This image comes from Isaiah 22:22 where the key represents authority over the kingdom. Christ has complete authority concerning his kingdom. If he opens doors, then those doors stay open. If he closes doors, then those doors stay closed. Jesus holds power over salvation and judgment. This imagery will be important in Christ’s message to the church in Philadelphia.
Christ’s Open Door
Christ begins by noting that he knows their works. In fact, Jesus does not have any condemnation for this church. Everything Christ says is in praise and encouragement of these Christians. Christ says that they have little power. This probably indicates that this is a church that is smaller in number and in impact in the community. Nevertheless, these Christians have kept Christ’s word and had not denied him. These Christians were small in number and presence, looked down on and persecuted, but they were faithful. This point is an important reminder for us in a world that glorifies mega-churches. People today often look merely at the size of a church, assuming the bigger the better. Some even think that something is wrong if you are not a large church. Christ’s message is that physical size is not important. Faithfulness is what is important. The church in Philadelphia apparently is small in its power to make an impact in their city. However, this church does not have any condemnation against them. While every church desires to grow numerically, size does not necessarily define faithfulness.
Christ says that he set before them an open door which no one is able to shut. There are many different ways commentators have viewed what is being told to these Christians. But we need to tie this point to the context of verse 7. Christ has the key of David and what he opens cannot be shut. Christ has opened a door for the Christians in Philadelphia. The key of David refers to Christ’s kingdom. Christ is the holy and true Messiah who has authority as he rules in his kingdom. He has opened the door for entrance into his kingdom which no one can shut.
This is a picture that Jesus repeatedly used while he taught on the earth to help us understand that he was opening the way to salvation and participation in the kingdom.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:7–9 ESV)
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:23–24 ESV)
Christ has established an open door to salvation. Christ is the way to find the grace of God and only through Jesus can people be saved from their sins and from the wrath to come.
Christ is writing to Christians, however. I do not believe that Jesus needs to remind these Christians about the open door of salvation to the world. The point that Jesus is specifically making to these Christians is that their salvation and participation in the kingdom cannot be lost because of the things that happen to them. The intended imagery is seen when we bring in the contrast of verse 9. These Christians have been rejected by the Jewish synagogue. The Jewish synagogue is actually a synagogue of Satan. We have seen Jesus use this image before to the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:9. Just as with the church at Smyrna, these Christians in Philadelphia have been rejected, persecuted, and cast out of the synagogue. But that did not mean that their salvation had changed at all. This did not mean that they were not in God’s kingdom. The door the kingdom of Christ remains open to them even though the doors to the synagogue have closed.
IGNITE: This is such a precious promise given to us by our Lord. It does not matter what people do to us or what may happen to us, we do not lose our salvation or standing in God’s kingdom. It does not matter how fierce the suffering is that we face, our suffering does not mean that we have been rejected by God. Too often people place their eternal security upon what is happening in their lives. People think they are saved in good times and people think God has rejected them during bad times. This is one of God’s great and precious promises. You are saved regardless of what happens to you in this life. Consider the words of Paul who teaches us the same thing.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39 ESV)
Nothing physical can affect our spiritual state before God. When we choose to pursue Christ and devote ourselves to him, there is nothing that can happen to remove us from our salvation. All you must do is choose Christ and choose to never walk away from him.
Verse 10 continues this picture. An hour of trial is coming upon the whole world and those who dwell on it are going to be tried. Christ will keep these faithful followers. It is important to observe that Christ is not saying that they would not also participate in the suffering and hardships. They already are experiencing hardships and it will continue. Looking back at the church at Smyrna which also did not have any condemnation against it, Christ told them the same thing. They were going to experience tribulation and needed to be faithful to death. However, the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. Christ makes the same promise to these Christians in Philadelphia. They will be kept from the hour of trial coming on the whole earth. They will not be kept physically (as we see in Revelation 6 with the souls who have been slain for the word of God and their testimony about Jesus), but they will be kept spiritually. Christ is calling on his followers to serve even though suffering. If your definition of God’s mercy and divine power is that he will not let you suffer, then you do not know the God of the Bible. God does not devote his energy and power to keep you from suffering, contrary to popular religious teaching today. God devotes his energy, divine power, and grace to save you from the second death. We must see that this is the point to the Christians. God will not save you from physical suffering or death. That is not God’s purpose. God’s purpose is to save our souls from eternal punishment. Therefore, hold fast to the word of God and the faith you have in Christ (vs. 11).
To The Conquerors
A pillar in the temple of my God.This pictures security and permanence in the temple of God. A pillar cannot be removed. It is a critical part of the structure. To those who overcome there is no fear of ever being removed from God’s kingdom or his grace.
Write on him a new name.This image carries with it the idea of ownership. These Christians are the true holy people of God. Christ will put his name on them. This shows that his faithful followers are his.
IGNITE: What a blessing to know that we also have these two great blessings working in our lives. Christ takes ownership of us. Christ declares that those who are devoted to him are his true people. We are his and we are never to be removed from his temple. We are part of his kingdom, receiving his blessings, and can never lose our hope regardless of the things that happen to us.