THE LETTER TO PHILADELPHIA
Lord, if I am ever fed up, help me to turn it around so that I am filled up with a full measure of your love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace.
Read REVELATION 3:7–13
To the Church in Philadelphia
7 “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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 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. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, help those who have ‘little strength’ to faithfully endure to the end.
This is the second letter in which nothing negative is said concerning the community to which it is addressed. The church in Philadelphia was under great pressure, since its members are said to have ‘little strength’ and to have been tempted to deny the ‘name’ of Jesus (v 8). The pressure came from the significant Jewish community in this city. After the destruction of Jerusalem (an event that has been likened to the Holocaust), Jewish survivors faced a crisis of identity which led to a heightened sense of ethnic distinctiveness and a way of life centered on the synagogue and obedience to the Law of Moses. Jesus and his disciples were, of course, Jewish, but by this time the huge influx of Gentile converts into the movement created tensions which resulted in the church and the synagogue growing apart. The letter reflects the serious cultural conflicts of the age in which Revelation was written.1
Jewish followers of Jesus who had been excommunicated from the synagogue are given assurance in three ways: first, they are reminded that it is Christ who ‘holds the key of David’ (v 7). He opens the door to the kingdom of God and no one can exclude them from it. Second, the Jewish leaders had failed to realize that in Jesus the promise given to Abraham that through him ‘all peoples on earth’ would be blessed2 is now coming to pass, but they will one day recognize ‘that I have loved you’ (v 9). Does this anticipate the eventual conversion of the Jewish people as Paul expected?3 Third, those who ‘hold on’ (v 11) and overcome are promised entrance into the new Jerusalem (v 12), which will be described in glorious detail at the end of John’s visions.
‘I have loved you’ (v 9) – a small phrase pregnant with meaning. Meditate on it and let it speak to your heart.
Holy One, as I follow you, may I be attuned to open or closed doors. Open doors of salvation, service, and spiritual growth to be walked through. Closed doors of guidance not to be forced open.
1 Justo Gonzalez, For the Healing of the Nations: The Book of Revelation in an Age of Cultural Conflict, Orbis, 1990 2 Gen 12:3 3 Rom 11:25,26
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