If the cities or names of the seven churches of Asia addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ have any importance at all as to why He chose them, surely, the church at Philadelphia does as a name. Most commentators translate Philadelphia from the Greek as “brotherly love;” a name given to the city by an ancient king to honor his brother. Consistent with this, the Lord’s message to the church there was to His faithful Christian brothers that included those of His Jewish heritage. This is clear to see in the message that would have excited a Jewish Christian more than any Gentile given its quote of Scripture with Jewish specific application, experiences and prophetic references.
The Lord opens His message: “These things says He who is holy, He who is true....” Though all Christians would (or at least should) perk up with a message from the Lord opening like that, the Jewish Christian with joy immediately understands Him to be authenticating Himself as the promised Holy One of God, His Anointed, Son and Himself true God (Psalm 16:8-11, 20:6-9, 89:19-37; Isaiah 7:10-14, 9:6-7, 10:20, 12:4-6; Luke 1:30-35, 2:8-11; John 1:1-9, 14-18, 17:1-3)! Further, to ensure His identifying credentials were not missed, He quotes from Scripture: “He who has ‘the key of David,’ He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens,” (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7, NKJV).
In quoting from Isaiah’s passage originally spoken about the man that controlled access to king Hezekiah, the Lord instantly affirms its prophetic application to and fulfillment in Himself as the One who exclusively controls access to God His Father (John 14:6). All Christians are supposed to understand why He is the only way to God, but only Jewish saints painfully appreciate how important this is when their own heritage is attempting to block access to God through their common historical and traditional means such as worship at the Temple (destroyed by this time) and the synagogue.5 As in all of the churches, the Lord knew the individual works of those at Philadelphia.
The Lord greatly encourages the individual saints and especially His Jewish kindred of this church by setting “an open door” before them He says, “no one can shut” in applying His quote from Isaiah 22:22. He is doing this He says because they “have a little strength, have kept My Word, and have not denied My name,” (Revelation 3:8, NKJV). As I wrote earlier, historically, the wide river of the Jewish “remnant according to the election of grace” the apostle Paul wrote of (Romans 11:1-5, NKJV) narrowed to a tiny brook with very little influence in Christianity after the 1st century as the Lord here acknowledges and appears to prophetically forecast as their foreseeable future.
The historically oldest of Christians, though tiny, faithful Jewish saints were and would be dogged in displaying spiritual strength, keeping the Lord’s Word and not denying Him through the unimaginable pressure of persecution from family, community and the Gentile nations into which they were scattered with their unbelieving fellow Jews. In what should stagger no one, the Lord lets the Jews that believe in Him know, He sees and is watching them! As a result, His encouragement turns to rewards for faithfulness: future vindication and reversal in the form of former persecutors being forced in the manor of Haman of old to worship His faithful saints (Esther 3, 5:9-6:14; Revelation 3:9).
But His rewards do not end there. The Lord says “Because you have kept (past tense) My command to persevere, I also will keep (future tense) you from the hour of trial (testing) which shall come upon the whole world, to test those (all others) who dwell on the earth,” (Revelation 3:10, NKJV).6 I concur with all that interpret the “hour of trial” the Lord speaks of here as one and the same as “the great tribulation,” (Matthew 24:15-21, NKJV). This being so, His promise of protection cannot be “the rapture” as is taught since Christians are foretold to go through and many suffer martyrdom during it (Revelation 7:9-14).7 In context and consistency with who He is addressing, the Lord’s promise of protection is intended for Jewish Christians primarily living back in Judea at that time!8
Though the Lord’s promise of protection during the hour of trial speaks to the proven Jewish faithful believers in Israel at the time it occurs, this does not preclude Him in sovereignty extending it to select other faithful followers likewise proven throughout the earth. Together they will form the small number who are “alive and remain” at Christ’s Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NKJV). For this reason, the Lord warns He is “coming quickly” and exhorts the faithful to tightly grasp what they have in strength, obedience to His Word and loyalty to Him, so, “no one may take your crown;” unmistakably asserting that even with protection, there will still be persecution pressures (Revelation 3:11, 16:15, NKJV).9 The Lord’s rewards are still not done for those that overcome.
With yet more Jewish significant implications is the Lord’s promise to make him that overcomes “a pillar in the temple” of His God adding, “and he shall go out no more.” Also, He declares, “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem...And I will write on him My new name,” (Psalm 48:1-3, 137:4-6; Isaiah 66:5-11; Revelation 3:12, 21:1-22, NKJV). Contrary to the lying deceit of these latter days, keeping His Word as it is written remains a critical part of the faithfulness Christ rewards! Those who are not doing so, put themselves in grave peril since disobedience is nowhere rewarded in the Bible (Revelation 3:13). The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
5 Jewish persecution had led to those that were Christians being barred from entering or cast out of the Temple in the 1st century and it will be so again briefly when it is
rebuilt (Acts 21:15-30; Revelation 11:1-2).
6 The Lord led me to proclaim a timely six message series, The Hour Of Testing, now available in the Strong Man Store that instructs Christians on God’s biblically
taught purposes behind why He tests His people and fully explores the prophetic implications tied to the coming hour of trial our Lord speaks of in this post. Listen
to the series sample.
7 Faithful to the death as those at Smyrna, having overcome they will not be touched again by death; raised as they will be to eternal life and glory by Christ at the first
resurrection (John 5:28-29; Revelation 2:11, 14:12-13, 20:4-6, 11-15)!
8 What an amazing affirming prophetic disclosure by the Lord to Jewish Christians and all the church at Philadelphia, His faithful! Dispersed to the nations, as the Old
Testament prophets and He foretold, the Jews would one day return to their land and among them would be those that are followers of Him as Messiah (Matthew 24:
15-16; Mark 13:16). This prophecy of a return to the land became reality in 1948 when Israel once again became a nation with Jews from all over the world streaming
home since. Here again is the immutability of God on display to the world before our eyes (Malachi 3:6)! During this period of the return, growth in the number of
Jewish followers of Christ--many calling themselves Messianic--in Israel (still with hostility and persecution) and around the world has exploded though, their numbers
are still relatively small compared to the larger number of all Jews and their professed Gentile Christian brethren (Psalm 118:23-24)! Thank you, my brethren, for
your millennia long perseverance under trial in obedience to your Messiah--longer than any other ethnic group and an example to all in His Body! We who love you
rejoice in His righteousness of rewarding you in every way He will! Stay faithful through all that is yet to shortly come. To learn more about them, type “Messianic
Jews” into your favorite search engine.
9 Those who doubt the Lord can protect and preserve His people during times of persecution as well as His own acts of judgment should again acquaint themselves
with His Word as it is written (Exodus 8:20-24, 10:21-23, 12:21-23; Psalm 5:11-12; Joel 3:16; Matthew 2:7-15; Acts 12:1-11 as samples)!
As the Lord led me to write in the two-part post, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time under the category, Bible Prophecy, starting January 5, 2020, He fully commended only two of those churches whose faithful individual members had stood and would stand to the end. Besides having the Lord’s full commendation, these two churches also share in common persecution stemming from the same source He identifies as “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not,” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9, NKJV). However, one church He urges to “Be faithful until death” to gain a crown while the other is to remain faithful so no one takes theirs (Revelation 2:10, 3:11, NKJV).
In the midst of another growing wave of irrational anti-Semitism around the world, because of love for my Lord Jesus Christ who as I stated in a recent post is Jewish forever (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38; Revelation 5:1-5, 22:16) and His people the Jews,1 I confess some discomfort at the prospect of being lumped in with those who hate them just for the cause of putting this post into its proper historical context and trumpeting the glorious prophetic end that results. Nevertheless, it is in the pure joy of celebrating that near at hand glorious prophetic end that I proceed; trusting that the Lord who has set me on this course will vindicate me in motive and His purpose.
Indeed, as the resurrected Lord Himself presents in messages to His two faithful churches, the Jews were vigorous persecutors of 1st century A.D. Christians. This is as He foretold and warned His Jewish disciples about when He was persecuted and about to be put to death by their religious leaders in Israel (John 15:18-16:4). Though the Gentile Roman Governor, Pilate, gave the order for His crucifixion, it was the Jewish religious leaders that had plotted, instigated and advocated for it (John 11:45-53, 18:1-14, 28-19:22)! Even so, He voiced His love for them all from the cross (Luke 23:34). After His death, Jewish leaders sought to cover up His resurrection (Matthew 27:62-28:15).
In fulfillment of prophecy, the risen Lord commanded His disciples turned apostles to proclaim the Gospel about Him “to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” which He reiterated just before His ascension back to Heaven and after being queried by them about the restoration of Israel’s kingdom (Isaiah 49:5-6; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8). Only a short time after persecuting Christ to the death, the Jewish religious establishment started in on His apostles to root out and destroy the growing number of Jews becoming Christians if at all possible (Acts 4:1-22). The whole rest of the Book of Acts documents the persistent opposition of Jews to the Gospel across the Roman Empire.
By the time of Christ’s end of the 1st century Revelation that gives us the one and only post-ascension description of Him in His glory (Revelation 1:9-18);2 after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and they scattered to the nations in A.D. 70 by the Romans as He foretold (Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:20-24), Jewish opposition and persecution of Christians is still strong as the Lord’s messages to the faithful churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia demonstrate. Part of the reason for their opposition to this day is divine judgment and part is the unbelief common to all mankind until the illumination of grace and salvation through faith (John 6:41-45, 12:37-41; Romans 9:6-11:10).
In declaring that those opposing the Gospel and Christianity “say they are Jews, and are not, but lie,” the Lord is not denying their natural descent from Abraham. He echoes what He spoke while on earth and later taught through the apostle Paul that a Jew God regards for now is one spiritually through new birth by the Holy Spirit of first importance (John 8:37-43; Romans 2:17-29, 4). Labeling them in their opposition to the point of blasphemy at Smyrna and Philadelphia as “a synagogue of Satan,” identifies its ultimate evil source and portrays their base of operations (John 8:44-47; Revelation 2:9, 3:9, NKJV). That opposition would stir up and be joined by Gentile authorities leading to the suffering, arrest, imprisonment and martyrdom of many Jewish and Gentile Christians.3
Dominant in the first generation of Christianity as it was spread by the apostles, Jewish Christians in the centuries that passed thereafter seemed to nearly disappear so small did their numbers become as a minority among Gentile churches.4 Many, of course, tried to maintain ties to their Jewish community to include the synagogue, but to this day continue to endure the hostility and rejection the Lord Jesus apparently addresses in His message to the church at Philadelphia. For while all of what He says is encouraging to any Christian seeking to be faithful under similar circumstances as I have personally experienced, the Lord’s message to the church at Philadelphia I am convinced of Him has special significance to those of His Jewish heritage.
1 See the February 2, 2020 post, Ethnically Diverse Mankind Is Of God, under the categories Black History and God’s Creatures.
2 Not only do we have an amazing description of the glorified Jesus Christ in His Revelation, but an objective reading of it puts more of His Lion Persona on display than
in the Gospels. This is because His first coming as the Lamb (gentle and lowly) was about being approachable and sacrificing Himself to take “away the sin of the
world,” (Matthew 11:28-30; John 1:29, NKJV). Mission accomplished, glorified and reigning seated on His Father’s throne at His right hand, Lord King Jesus is a Lion
(strong and a warrior) firmly in charge; ruling, judging and about to bring the Kingdom of God to earth in power, great glory and divine wrath at His Second Coming
(Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-23, 3:3, 14-19, 6:12-17, 19:11-16)! He is that Lion and Lamb composite (Revelation 5:5-6) the Father wills to make us over to be in Christ’s
image as aspiring strong men and great women of God (Romans 8:29)! Learn more about this in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics. Get a print copy
or digital download at major internet booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com and Apple (digital only). You can also get a print copy in the
Strong Man Store.
3 Severe persecutions by Gentiles would continue until in a few centuries, Christianity became accepted in the Roman Empire and a growing number of Gentile nations
beyond though, they would not cease entirely; continuing somewhere on earth to this very hour to the end and shortly to go global as the Lord Jesus foretells (Matthew
4 To learn more about Jewish Christians after the 1st century read this Wikipedia article. Life in predominantly Gentile churches was difficult for the tiny remnant of Jewish
Christians over the centuries especially when in the arrogance of manmade religion, many of their ostensible Gentile brothers turned on, mistreated and persecuted
them as anti-Semites. Persecution became all the more intense when professed Gentile Christians joined with their wider community of unbelievers such as during
Spain’s inquisitions, Hitler’s ovens and Stalin’s gulags. To the world, a Jew was a Jew whether a Christian or not. Fear of certain reprisal is no doubt why in part Jewish
persecution of Gentile Christians became rare.
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