Philadelphia

Jesus' description of Himself:

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 (Rev 3:1).

Describing Himself as sinless and as one whose actions correspond in historical reality with His words, Jesus' possession of the "key of David" is a significant indication that He is the fulfillment of God's covenant with David (2 Sam 7:8-17).

The "key of the house of David" is first mentioned in Isaiah 22:22, and the phrase was used in the figurative sense to mean "the covenant keeping authority." In this passage, Jerusalem was under threat by Sennacherib, and the palace administrator Shebna was involved with negotiating with Sennacherib's representatives (2 Ki 18:17 - 19:2). Judged for his attitude and action behind his elaborate tomb (Isa 22:15-20), Shebna is removed, and God appoints Eliakim who will be "a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah" (Isa 22:21). Eliakim's authority is established with the figurative phrase, "then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open (Isa 22:22).

Jesus' possession of the "key of David" draws a line straight back to David Himself and asserts His kingly right and authority.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

Background: Philadelphia, located twenty five miles southeast of Sardis, was situated on an important trade route that ran straight to Rome. Like other cities of Roman Asia, the religious environment included the Greek pagan culture and the Imperial Cult.

Praise (rebuke is absent!):

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. 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. 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. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (Rev 3:8-11)

Observation:

The church of Philadelphia was recognized for being faithful in keeping Jesus Christ's word and not denying Him despite the pressure of their cultural environment. Scholars debate what the "open door" means, and most see it as a reference to God's kingdom – the church of Philadelphia had an open door to the kingdom of God. Like the praise of Smyrna, the phrase "the synagogue of Satan" was a reference to Jews who denied the Messiah. After the war of 70 A.D., many Jews in the Roman Empire distanced themselves from sects that promoted the Messiah and kingdom. Roman authorities, unofficially exempting Jews from worshipping the Emperor, viewed Christians with suspicion. In this light, Jesus Christ reminds Christians of their Jewishness and, for their perseverance, the church of Philadelphia will be exempt from the coming "hour of testing."

Promise to Believers:

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 (Rev 3:12).


This is an exerpt from: Message to the Churches.

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