“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’"
Big Idea: This is the second letter in which Jesus tells us, “Hold on!” But as we have seen in each of these studies thus far, we are merely called to hold on to Christ who has already taken hold of us. We must hold on to the person who holds us with his message and assures us of our future.
I. The Person (v. 7)
Jesus reminds us that he is “holy and true.” These qualities only occur together twice in the New Testament, once here and once referring to God in Rev. 6:10 (“faithful and true” occur together in 3:14; 21:5; 22:6). Together they assure us who are as vulnerable to Satan’s attacks as these Philadelphians, that we have in the person of Jesus all we need to endure to the end.
A. Holy: Identifying himself as holy is first a claim to divinity. Over 20 times in his prophecy, Isaiah distinguishes the only true God by calling him “holy” (Isa. 40:25; Hab. 3:3). So by calling himself the “holy” one, Jesus equates himself with the godhead. Not only does Jesus claim this for himself, even the demons recognize it to be true (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69). Like God in the Old Testament then, Jesus expects his people to be holy as he is holy and no book in the New Testament surpasses Revelation in conveying that expectation.
B. True: Christ is not only holy, he is true. It is one thing for someone to claim divinity, it is another to assert reliability. Philadelphia was littered with temples to gods that claimed to be real and possessing divine power, but none of them asserted those qualities in order to say effectively, “Do not be afraid. You can trust me.” Like every other attribute of God, his truthfulness is an expression of his goodness.
II. The Message (vv. 8-10)
The second assurance that God holds us securely in Christ is the message of the gospel itself.
A. Welcomed: The first beautiful characteristic of the gospel is its welcome to all nations and races. One reason this group of Jewish people in Philadelphia is called “a synagogue of Satan” is that they were refusing to allow Gentiles into the church.
B. Loved: In fact, Jesus not only calls such an attitude a heresy sponsored by Satan himself, he promises cosmic humiliation. The day will come when he will force all who have asserted such racial superiority to bow at the offended Gentile Christians’ feet and Jesus will publicly prove to the whole world that he loves them.
C. Preserved: Finally, Jesus promises to preserve us through trials. Verse 10 could sound like some will be spared tribulation. But Jesus actually promised that in this world we will have trials (Jn. 17:15). So the only conclusion that we can reach in comparing Scripture to Scripture is that he is promising that we will be preserved through the fiercest of trials and the Judgment itself (Ac. 18:9-10).
III. The Future (vv. 11-13)
Finally, Jesus urges us to hold on because he is “coming soon.” In view of eternity, his coming to judge the world at the last day will be “soon” (2:16, 25; 22:7, 12, 20; cf. Zech. 2:10). For one to whom a “thousand years is as a day,” any date in future human history will be “soon.” But we have also observed that Jesus promises to come for special missions in the intervening time, “like a thief” (3:3). For those who walk with Christ, Jesus’ coming at any time is welcomed, because he comes to bless us and not to curse.
A. Honored: Those who love Christ “love his appearing” because whenever he shows up it is to honor his disciples. No matter how we are humiliated and dismissed in this life, Jesus will “crown” us as his “co-heirs.” Therefore, he urges us to stay close to him when we are being persecuted or tried or reviled lest those spiritual or human forces who oppress us cause us to quit and forfeit our crown of victory.
B. Named: Furthermore, Jesus promises to name us with every title necessary for dignity (cf. 14:1; 22:4). The “name of my God” is the assurance of a lineage because God is now your Father as he is Jesus’ Father. The “name of the city of my God” provides dignified roots and history. And Jesus “new name” is an allusion to that role he will have as Judge of the nations when his redemptive mission is finished. Including us in that new name means that we are destined to rule with him.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Which of the attributes of Jesus most resonates with you and what response does that attribute require from you?
- What part of the message is the best news to you in this season of life? Why?
- How do you see aspects of honor and shame play out in our culture/sub-culture and what good news does this passage have for that?