The message to Philadelphia, Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 7-13 (NASB)



Starting in Revelation 3:7, we have the letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is located about 25 miles southeast of Sardis. It is on the main highway from Smyrna (about 100 miles due west) to Phrygia and points east. During the first century A.D. a second highway, the imperial post road of the Roman Empire from Troas to Sardis, crossed the first main highway at Philadelphia. As a result, Philadelphia became a strong fortress city.

Surrounding Philadelphia were vine-growing regions to the northeast and cattle and grain farming along the Hermus River. Thus textile and leather industries flourished there.


The city was established between 159-138BC by King Attalus II, King of Pergamum. King Attalus II had great loyalty to his brother and thus from the king's nickname "Philadephus" - brotherly love, this city received its name.

The city's mission was to spread the Greco-Asiatic culture and language into the eastern part of Lydia and in Phrygia. Success in accomplishing this mission is seen in Lydian ceasing as a language and Greek became the only language around AD19.

A major earthquake leveled the city in AD17. The emperor Tiberius rebuilt the city because of its strategic location.


It is not known who founded the church at Philadelphia. Ammia, a prophetess, led it from AD100-160. The church in its early centuries was vibrant and alive with an open door policy but by AD1392 it had waned until it fell under Muslim control.

 And to the ANGEL of the church in PHILADELPHIA write. He
 * who is HOLY
This is the first church where the "sender" is not described in terms of His attributes in Revelation chapter 1. This One who is HOLY expects us to be holy - Leviticus 19:1-4. Holiness leads us toward perfection - Matthew 5:48. Lastly, holiness wants to dwell where righteousness lives - 2 Peter 3:10-13.
 * who is TRUE
This is one of the great attributes of Christ as explained throughout the New Testament. As Christians, we want to know Him who is true - 1 John 5:20.
 * who has the key of DAVID,
Christ already has the keys of DEATH and HADES (Revelation 1:18) and now He has the key of DAVID. Not only does a key give the ability to open and shut as we will see later in this verse, but it also places a great responsibility on the bearer. In Isaiah 22:15-25, Shebna apparently proved not to be able to bear the keys responsibly, so the keys were given to Eliakim. The keys in Isaiah's days locked up the treasures of the Kings of Judah. Figuratively, it refers to the great responsibilities of government. The keys were on a large ring carried over the shoulder. The future key bearer is none other that Jesus Christ - Isaiah 9:6-7.

To the Philadelphia church, Christ now proclaims to have the keys which control governments (nations) and He will use them to His purposes. We must heed current world events in light of His having the KEY OF DAVID.

 * who opens and noone will shut, and
* who shuts and noone opens,
The keys give you the authority to open or let in whomever the bearer wants. Likewise, He can close or keep out whomever He wills. He has all authority in heaven and earth - Matthew 28:18-20. This includes the church - Ephesians 1:22-23 and all mankind - John 17:1-3. This can be viewed with terror if you feel Jesus will keep the "door" shut because you have not accepted Him as Lord and Savior. To those who have, He will open the door!
 says this: I know your DEEDS;
There is no indication what those deeds are. They must have been OK if the Philadelphians are complemented later in this verse for not denying His NAME. Three "BEHOLD"s follow in this and the next verse.
 1) BEHOLD, I have put before you AN OPEN DOOR which noone can shut,
Jesus says that He is the door (and He has the keys) - John 10:1-18. This may reflect the fact that Philadelphia was on the crossing of two major highways and was strategically located to spread the Word of God throughout Asia.

Our access to God is through the OPEN DOOR - Romans 5:1-2.

We are filled with the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:9-11) which, in turn, becomes our strength (Philippians 4:13).

 because you

* have a little POWER, and
When there is little POWER, then the believer must TRUST God to provide a way (in His time). Paul recognized God's OPEN DOOR and timing in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). Paul always looked for the OPEN DOOR. - Colossians 4:2-4.
 * have kept MY WORD, and
The pressures of daily living are great to dilute, compromise, (or worst) ignore the WORD of God. The Philadelphians KEPT the word .... how can you KEEP what you don't know or even take the time to find out? IT IS CRITICAL TO READ GOD'S WORD! Don't be moved away from the hope of the Gospel - Colossians 1:21-23.
 * have not denied MY NAME.
Jude 3-4 explains that certain persons will creep in unawares who turn the grace of God into licentiousness. You can always tell who these persons are because they deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, himself, says we are to deny ourselves NOT Him, Matthew 16:24-25.

Little self power
|—> Keeping the Word of God
|—> NOT deny Christ's name!

 2) BEHOLD, I will cause those of the synagogue

of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie.
The accusation here is of lying about the authenticity of the Messiah (synagogue of Satan is the symbolic counterpart). Refresh yourself with Smyrna church in Revelation 2:9 where there was outright blasphemy. The Philadelphia church had its Jewish subverters too; only they were more subtle.
 3) BEHOLD, I will make them

a) to come and bow down at your feet and
This is not a reference that unbelievers will reverence believers. That kind of bowing down is reserved for Christ ONLY - Philippians 2:9-11. This reference is more like Joseph in Egypt where his brothers eventually fall down before him (not knowing who Joseph was) and beg for food (Genesis 44:14-17). The subtle Jews causing subversion will come and bow down at the feet of the true believers. It is a form of repentance.
 b) to know that I have LOVED you.
It was this LOVE that caused Jesus to lay down His life for us - John 15:6-13. Am I able to lay down my life for my friends? If I find it difficult to worship God regularly, to study His Word daily, and to "pray ceaselessly", how will I find the spiritual strength to show this "greater LOVE"?

10. 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 on the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.

 Because you have KEPT the word of my perseverance,
The Philadelphian members receive an extra promise (other than the one that goes to the 'overcomers'). The expression "the word of my perseverance" is somewhat difficult to understand. The New International Version translates it as "kept the Word of my patience"; Ladd translates it as "the word enjoining Christ's patient endurance".

In either case, to suffer for Christ and to persevere is one of the greatest tests of our Christian faith. Paul repeatedly endured -- Philippians 1:29-30, encouraged -- 2 Thessalonians 3:5, even as Christ did - Hebrews 12:3. We are to TAKE HEART!

 I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is
about to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the
This, too, is controversial. What is the hour of testing (trial)? What does "keep you from" mean? The phrase 'those who dwell upon the earth' refers to unbelievers as they are the object of God's wrath, i.e. worshippers of the beast. (Revelation 6:10, Revelation 8:13, Revelation 11:10, Revelation 12:12, Revelation 13:8, Revelation 13:12, Revelation 13:14). Furthermore, God will pass judgment on the nations - Isaiah 24 and Jeremiah 13:12-14.

That this is the wrath of God is indicated by 'the hour of testing'.

That is not to say Christians won't have testing...they do. It's called persecution. But they will not suffer this particular kind of God's wrath. It seems that God has different forms of wrath. The one talked about here is for unbelievers, 'those who dwell upon the earth'.

The term "keep you from" is most often interpreted as "to be kept from being present" or as it is sometimes called - The Rapture. John 14:2-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, Philippians 3:20-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 support Christ's coming again and receiving us into the heavenly mansions. However, "keep you from" could also be interpreted as "to be preserved through it" not unlike the 144,000 witnesses of Revelation 7:4 who are "sealed" or protected from harm.

At any rate, the arguing of the meaning of these phrases is not that important. It is important, though, that this promise goes only to whose who have KEPT the Word (read it, know it, believed it, and lived it!) through ALL persecution. (Compare this "keeping" with the promise given to Smyrna church - Revelation 2:10).
This is not a threat of judgment but rather a promise of Christ's second coming. This phrase is used three times in Revelation 22. Find them.

The two previous churches, Thyatira and Sardis, also were given notice of His coming. At Thyatira (Revelation 2:25), they were to hold fast until I COME otherwise a GREAT TRIBULATION waited for them. In Revelation 3:3 He would COME to Sardis as a thief and thus catch them unawares. So, the Philadelphia church, is different. They are watching and waiting so as to be kept from the HOUR of testing.

 HOLD FAST WHAT YOU HAVE in order that noone take your crown.
The crown of Life had been promised to those who were faithful unto death at the Smyrna church (Revelation 2:10). Other crowns are available to the faithful. Here, the Philadelphians are to hold on to their beliefs and faith in God, lest they lose their crown.

There is the possibility to lose one's rewards as taught in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15. Or, if we become weary and quit working for the Lord, we will not reap certain benefits Galatians 6:9 (whether this means not getting a crown is debatable).

However, salvation is NEVER lost if one truly makes a commitment to Christ. John 10:27-30 says Christ gives eternal Life to his sheep who follow Him! THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH!!!
 He who overcomes
These are the ones with little power (verse 8), the rest are DEAD!

* I will make him a pillar in the temple of MY GOD, and

This is a strengthening statement to the Philadelphians since the area where they lived was prone to earthquakes and usually only the strong temple pillars remained standing after a good shaking.

Furthermore, it was common practice back then to honor a VIP, civic or cleric, with their name placed on the pillar. This expression may be interpreted like this.

This should not be so odd to us ... Revelation 21:22 tells us that the new Jerusalem has no temple other than God and the Lamb. We, as the Lamb's bride, will live freely in that temple!

* he will not go out from it anymore and

This is a permanent assignment. As with many things with God, a little power (verse 8) turns into the perfection of power - 2 Corinthians 12:5-10. Trying to do things in our own power is foolishness compared to the POWER of God.

* I will write upon him

a) the NAME of My God, and

What a privilege to have the NAME of God the Father written on us!

b) the NAME of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and

This is my citizenship papers.

c) My new name.

We will be identified forever with the Glory of Jesus because we will bear His new name.

In Old Testament, His name was Jehovah, which is thick and rich with meaning.

In the present, it is JESUS, a sweet sound to our ears.

In the future, it is His new name. It is unknown to us at the moment because it is one of the hidden mysteries of our future - 1 Corinthians 2:9, Isaiah 64:4, and Isaiah 65:17-18.
 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The route of the letters to the churches is amazing. While it appears that the route is through many agents, it really was directly from the Holy Spirit/Lord all the time.
 Holy Spirit
| Lord (Revelation 1:1)
| |
| |—> angel (Revelation 1:1)
| |
| |—> John (Revelation 1:1)
| |
| |—> Church's angel (Revelation 3:7)
| |
|—--------------------|-> Church at Philadelphia
Hearing is a process of living people NOT dead. Therefore, the Spirit is communicating to people who are alive. That is not unusual.... 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 indicates it is the spirit of the prophets who communicate from a God of order and not confusion.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.