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Letter to the Church at Philadelphia


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  • Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

The key of David means that a king would rule who was a descendent of King David as promised to David when he lived. The keys of hell and death were held by Jesus Christ who fulfilled all things and was of the linage of David thus eligible to ascend the throne of David. The rock and foundation of the church is none other than Jesus Christ. Peter and the apostles built upon that foundation.

Peter was not the rock upon which the church was built but Jesus Himself was. Peter was equal to all the other apostles. He was precious and wonderful but He was not any higher than any other believer and was not the first Pope. Actually there is not any proof that Peter was even in Rome, that is only tradition. Upon the foundation of the truth that Peter spoke by acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Christ, is what the church is built upon, not on Peter. 

Those that hold the church age view see this church as about 1750 to 1925 in which there was many revivals and great awakenings.

John Wesley's revivals, DL Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Evan Roberts, and many other preached during this period. Also the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in North Carolina (1896), Kansas,(1901), Azusa Street California (1906) and in other parts of the world, including Armenia even before the one in 1896 but around this same time period around the late 1800 and the early 1900s.

For some reason according to God's divine plan, He brought back the Acts chapter 2 baptism in the Holy Spirit and renewal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These were isolated events and not connected with each other. There were probably others at this time period and even throughout church history that we may not be aware of. Why limit God to our thinking?

The holiness movement started when people started to repent and seek and deeper walk with God during this period. In other words something similar to the great awakening was occurring.

Those that hold the church age view, see this period as beginning at the time of John Wesley’s holiness movement. This time period also is when the many stopped persecuting one another; that I believe is the result of many revivals and great awakenings. They needed the Holy Spirit to get the love back into the church.

The word Philadelphia means the church of brotherly love or love for the elder brother, the elder brother refers to Jesus Christ. They loved the Lord as opposed to the Ephesus Church that was losing their love for the Lord.

This church was a literal church in Asia Minor in John's day but it also could represent many since then and now who live the same and have the same testimony of faithfulness as they had. According to church history we don't see a Philadelphia type of church after the apostolic age until after the reformation; but knowing God, I believe they existed somewhere.

Most of the churches we hear about were apostate and without the word of God during the Middle ages and beyond. Yet God always has a remnant. There was a Philadelphia church somewhere at all times, I am sure of it.

Notice the above verse describes Jesus as holy and true. Holiness and truth must also be in us as His followers. If we represent Him who is holy and true, we are to be holy and have the truth also. 

  • Ephesians 5:27  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

  • Hebrews 12:14  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

The Greeks were highly educated people. Their false gods were statues of men or women rather than animals like other cultures. They worshipped themselves and being great because of their high knowledge and education. Philadelphia was a missionary center. They cared more about souls and the message of the gospel rather than money in contrast to the Laodicea church that cared more for profit.

Here is a quote by Raymond Shockley:
“This is the main difference between Laodicea and Philadelphia.  If you are a Laodicean pastor you realize if you appeal to the highest level of spirituality in your church (self sacrifice) you will not get as much money as you would if you appealed to the lowest level of spirituality (greed).”

  • Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

I believe that Open Door is the promise of being taken out of the world just before the tribulation period as I will discuss in detail later. They had a little strength, they kept the word and did not deny His name. I believe this is a holiness church. 

“ Once you have been saved and delivered from the powers of sin you have a responsibility to use that liberty and walk in a life of holiness.”

If the church age theory is true, this is the church period that had the whole bible so we see they had the whole truth of God’s word. Jesus describes Himself as being “He that is True.” They had the truth.

The King James bible was taken in most part from the work of William Tyndale who translated the bible into English and paid for it with his own life. It is the one translation that came to us by the suffering and blood of many who sacrificed their own lives to give us this translation.

The devil does not like it when the bible was given into the hands of the common man and not shut up in a monastery somewhere. He wants us to return to the days when we look to a man for our religion or our faith. He does not want us to worship God on our own. This is why I do not trust in hierarchy, titles and lording over the flock. When the clergy starts dressing different than the laity, it creeps me out. However, I'm sure there are good pastors that still hold to the clergy dress codes, its just not my thing.

This city was also called the city of the open door. Christ has the power over our salvation and over all the churches. He can shut and no man opens or He can open and no man can shut it. He has the key to the kingdom of heaven, not any man.

These kept the word. In other words they kept sound doctrine and held fast to the truth. When we get into false doctrine and error, we actually deny His name because He is holy and He is true. If we refuse to walk in holiness, we actually are separating ourselves from Him because He is holy.

Perhaps they were a little in strength because they were small in number as compared to larger churches or assemblies. Perhaps they had been persecuted to the point that they were weak in strength but still faithful in all things pertaining to the truth. I personally believe they were strong in the Lord but humble and of small number.

Keeping the word is important today as well as then. This is the key to truth and faithfulness. The word was laid down during the dark ages and not picked back up again until the Protestant Reformation. There is a trend today toward unity and some have laid aside the sound doctrine of the word to bring that about. This would definitely be a false unity and not one that is sanctioned by the spirit of God. How can the Holy Spirit bless something that denies the authority of God's word? Without the word of God, we wouldn't even know about Jesus Christ, the author of our eternal salvation.

If we lay aside the word and the sound doctrine the word teaches, we are asking to be deceived as Jesus warned us about in the gospels.

Denying His name could be denying His authority, denying His right to instruct us in the way we should live, denying His word, commandments and teachings or denying He is the Son of God or the name by which we can be saved.

  • Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
  • 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Many also come in the name of Christ, saying I am of Christ and deceive many. They may not say they are actually the person of Jesus Christ but if they stand in the way and try to be the sole mediator between the people and Christ or in place of Christ, they are deceivers. We have seen them in this past century. Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, Rev Moon and others.

Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Not the pope, not Mary, not any departed saint, not a priest, not a prophet and not a pastor. Pastors are to lead us to Christ, teach us the word and then encourage us to enjoy our own personal relationship and fellowship in Jesus Christ. 

They are never to be a mediator between us and God. This may have been before Christ but not after Christ came. That is another strong reason why He came. He came that all of us who repent and believe in Him can know Him ourselves and be able to pray straight to the Father without any other mediator. Christ was the bridge or the way to God.  

  • Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

Today when Christians are mostly Gentiles although Jews are coming to Christ in these latter days, it is not easy to understand the phrase, "Those that are Jews and are not." Perhaps it would be those who claim to be Christian and are really not. Some Gentiles also have claimed to be the lost tribes of Israel and take the name of being a Jew, whether this would apply to them, I don't know but if we think of what was going on during the early days of the church, it could apply to those Jewish religious leaders who claimed to be spokesmen for God but persecuted believers in Christ. 

Here in modern times those that claim to be Jews and are not could be those that reject both Moses law and Christianity and embrace liberalism to the point of wanting to outlaw anything connected with Christ. This is a subject though that needs further study.

Still I remember the whole book of Galatians is when Paul goes in detail about trying to force new believers in Christ to adhere to the laws and rituals like circumcision in order to complete their salvation. So that may have something to do with being a Jew but are not really a Jew. They were trying to force the Gentile believers into adding to their salvation by keeping the law. We are now saved by grace through Jesus Christ alone. We still turn from sin because Jesus came to save us from sin and we become new creatures in Christ, but we obtain that salvation through faith in Him not rituals, ceremonies and religious works.

The biggest persecutors of those who are walking with the Lord are other religions, even some that name the name of Christ. Holding to a tradition that is manmade is hard to break. Usually those that try to live according to the word and break tradition are going to be persecuted by the old guard.

The same thought could apply to any church leaders in modern times who depart from the word of God, claim to be of God but draw followers after themselves instead of Jesus Christ. They use only parts of scripture taken out of context and substitute the doctrines and commandments of man.

Some established churches that once gained popularity in the past have done this for centuries. The bible was kept from the common people. Some start out good but then depart from scripture and substitute their own doctrines.

I'm reminded of the words of the beloved apostle Paul:

  • Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

I don't' care if we see a vision from an angel; if salvation is not taught that Jesus Christ alone is the way to God and eternal life, then it is false. Any church or organization that claims you must be a member of, baptized into or be part of their church, organization or group in order to be saved and enter eternal life is teaching another gospel. Jesus is the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Him.

Churches are places to have fellowship in the Lord, study the word, and preach the gospel. They are not the way of salvation. They may point the way to Jesus but they cannot save apart from Jesus. No church is exclusive and the only one. God desires all to be saved. Why would He limit Himself to only one particular group? God sent Jesus and Jesus is the only way. Jesus died for sins and Jesus ushered in the perfect way of salvation.

Through Jesus we are "born again" by the Spirit of God. The church can't cause one to be born again. The spirit of God given by Jesus Christ is the only one that can cause us to be born again and receive eternal life.

Jesus will let all the apostate churches and unbelievers from all over the world know that this church is commended. To the world they are the scum but to Christ they are favored. Hold onto the word folks and you will not go wrong. Hold fast to that which is true and holy. What the world accepts, God does not necessarily accept. 

  • Luke 16:15  And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

  • Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

I believe this to be the seven year tribulation or what is called in the book of Daniel, the time of Jacob's trouble. This kept occurring many times throughout history but there is a time in the latter days just before the return of Jesus Christ when the final persecution against the Jewish people will occur. 

Many scholars believe that this refers to the great tribulation showing us that some will escape the tribulation by way of the rapture.

Others deny this saying that there is tribulation now and many are suffering at this present time persecutions for the cause of Christ. However, the bible says that all that live godly will suffer persecution of some kind so I don't believe the end-time seven year tribulation is the same as persecution that comes as a result of the gospel.

It seems to be that the latter day one is more severe and is a time that will trouble the whole earth, especially the Middle East and Jerusalem. Also the tribulation in the book of Revelation is not persecution only but the wrath of God being poured out on those that reject Jesus Christ and those that persecute believers. We may not escape persecution but true believers will not suffer the wrath of God.

  • Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Here Jesus is speaking of the tribulation of Matthew 24 and 25 and Luke 21: 1-19. There must be a way of escape or He would not have asked them to pray for a way of escape.

Jesus was describing the days coming when the earth will experience great trouble just before the Second Coming of the Lord. We are to pray to escape all these things and stand before Jesus.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
  • 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
  • 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

To those that love the Lord's coming, look for His coming and are living for Him faithfully, the day of the Lord should never cause us to be in darkness but aware of all that is going on.

  • 1 Thessalonians 3:13 To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

We see that at the Second coming of Christ, His saints are already with Him indicating that they went to be with Him before His second coming to the earth. Of course those that believe in the post tribulation rapture, believe the Lord gathers them in the air, then returns to set up His kingdom at that time. There are variations to this according to different understanding of scripture but no man knows the day nor hour. It is really exciting to try to figure this out and study it.

What bothers me is when people fight and demonize each other on this topic so that causes many to avoid the book of Revelation because of the controversy. That is a shame. It is something exciting to study if we show respect for each other's views and not get our backs up when someone believes a little different. 

Those that believe in the pre-tribulation rapture receive the most bad mouthing of all other views which makes me more likely to hold on to that view because it gets the most bad rap which is a form of persecution. We never should demonize anyone for their view about the timing of the Lord's coming, whether by rapture or His return to set up His kingdom. 

The day of the Lord is a day of judgment. It is a time to fear. Paul encourages us to not walk in darkness so that day does not overtake us. We are to be spiritually ready.

  • 1Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
  • 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
  • 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
  • 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
  • 18 Wherefore comfort one with these words.

This is proof that we go up and meet Him in the air. Recently I read a book by an author who interprets this to mean we all go up to meet Him as in times past many went out to meet a king that was coming to reign.

That sounds reasonable, but it may not be the way it happens. When the rapture occurs we are to be with Jesus, receive awards, be judged according to our works and have the marriage supper of the lamb. We see after chapter 4 that there are companies of believers in heaven, not on the earth in John's vision. We do return with Christ after the tribulation period according to the pre-tribulation view. Also the Greek word for rapture means to snatch away suddenly. Similar to grabbing a toddler that starts to enter a street with automobiles coming down it at a fast speed. 

  • 2Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
  • 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Why would any Christian who is spiritually ready to meet the Lord, fear His coming. It wasn’t His coming they feared but the day of the Lord or the day of judgment.

  • 2Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

The day of judgment will not come until there is a great falling away from the truth so that God is justified to bring in His judgment.

  • 2Thessalonians 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
  • 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
  • 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
  • 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
  • 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
  • 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
  • 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
  • 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
  • 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Something is hindering the coming of the antichrist and the spirit of lawlessness. He who now lets or hinders will hinder until he be taken out of the way. Something is removed so the lawless one can be revealed and reign for a short period of time.

There are three hinderers of lawlessness. The government, the Holy Spirit and the godly church. We know there will be some type of government, good or bad.

The Holy Spirit can’t leave or else no one could be saved during the tribulation. Many bible teachers believe the He who is taken away is the Holy Spirit but I don’t see how that is possible because we will read later about many tribulation saints who were saved during the tribulation, mostly Jews at that time. 

It has to be the church that is taken away. With that I say, the church that is ready and without spot or wrinkle. Again, this is my understanding and if someone else's understanding is different, that is ok, we do not know these things perfectly yet. We are seeing through a glass darkly until the Lord reveals to us more and more as these days get closer. Why should He reveal this to those churches during the Middle Ages for instance when it was not to happen in their day.

  • Jude 1:14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

When Jesus returns to set up His kingdom, His saints will be with Him. One might ask, I thought the church was the bride of Christ and not referred to as a He. The church is actually the body of Christ and can be referred to as a He.

  • Ephesians 1:22  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
  • 23  Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

So in this sense the church can be referred to by the pronoun, He. The Philadelphia church will be one that preaches about the coming of the Lord and strive to prepare all of us for that coming.  Churches that love this present world will try to establish the Lord’s kingdom here by trying to unite with the state and make everyone Christians thinking that the Lord delays His coming and it is their job to get everyone in the church by any way possible and not by being born again by God’s spirit. 

The use of force is common among those that do not believe in the literal return of Jesus Christ.

It appears that when Jesus returns, the saints who have died previously will be with Him. Some believe these rose from the dead seven years prior to the Tribulation and that the ones returning are those. Also the church is not mentioned in the judgment section of the book of Revelation. There are martyred saints but the church itself is not mentioned as in the first three chapters.

We can decide for ourselves whether there is to be a rapture or not by studying the scriptures but let us not accuse one other. The Lord said that no man knows the day and the hour. I've heard those that do not teach the rapture accuse those that believe in it as being ones who want to escape trouble and live the easy life. That is not so. As one who has been raised among people of pre-trib rapture persuasion, that is not their reasons for believing in the rapture. That is a false assumption at least for those old timers that believed these things. There may be some in modern times that embrace an escapism mentality but I'm old enough to remember the old saints of God warning against persecution.

Actually no matter which way it turns out to be, we need to be spiritually ready. If we have to go through tribulation, we will need to be strong spiritually and not be asleep. If we are asleep spiritually, we would not be ready for the rapture also. I will point out however, that Jesus promised this Philadelphia church that they would escape the hour of temptation which will try them that dwell upon the earth so it does seem as if the church that is spiritually ready at the coming of Jesus will escape the great tribulation.

  • Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Hold onto that which the scripture teaches and that which has brought us salvation. Don't be influenced by men or women who try to draw followers after themselves even performing miracles, claiming revelations or teach false doctrine. The crown may refer to the reward for faithfulness rather than salvation itself. When I say don't follow those that do miracles, have revelations, prophecies etc. I don't mean all that is bad. The opposite is true. Signs should be following those that believe. It should be within all of us that have the Holy Spirit though, not just one person. They are not given to exalt a human person but to bring people to Christ, confirm the word of God and do the work Jesus instructed in Matthew 28. Preach and teach what Jesus commanded.

Pray for discernment. Following man is a form of idolatry. Love your pastors but do not idolize them. Follow Christ and adhere to the word of God so that we are not deceived. All prophecy, revelations and visions are not false, but some are. We are to try the spirits and search the scriptures daily. True prophecy will never contradict the already written word of God.

  • Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
  • 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Let us hear what God says to the churches. Let us be among the overcomers and seek the Lord with all our hearts. God and even the angels are for us, not against us.

  • Matthew 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

  • John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
  • 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
  • 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The rapture of the church is a great mystery that most do not see. It was revealed to Paul. As long as a faithful church exists on the earth it would hinder the power of the wicked one to deceive. So the church has to be gone or else all the church goes deep into apostasy and there is no one to take away. However, we know there will be a few because the dead shall rise first and then those that are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. 

Since the mid-trib theory has some merit, I will discuss their views. There will be a catching away of the man-child and the two witnesses in the middle of the tribulation just before the wrath of God is poured out. This is where the mid tribers get the mid trib rapture theory. They also use the words of the apostle Paul about the last trump and assume that the angel that blows the seventh trumpet is the same trumpet Paul mentions. 

At the rapture there will be a trumpet of God sounding to take up in the twinkling of an eye all those that are spiritually ready at that time. The seventh trumpet of the angel is to herald the events which follow after that particular trumpet sounds. One trumpet is a blessing and the other a sound of judgment. 

One more thing to point out. There has already been two raptures and a resurrection. Enoch was taken to heaven without dying and so was Elijah. Jesus was the first to be resurrected with a new body, the first fruits of the resurrection. There was also saints that arose with Jesus and appeared to many. Some believe they died again but there is nothing in scripture that gives credence to that assumption. To be honest, we just don't know.

We will speak more of this when we get to chapter 4. I will give place to the other two theories to be fair. 

Remember the key to understanding Revelation.

  • Revelation 1:19  Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

The things John had seen was the vision of Christ. The things He was seeing was the seven churches. The things which is to come later from chapter 4 on to the end of Revelation is the things seen after the churches.

A good church will hinder evil.  Only an apostate church will not hinder the antichrist from coming. 

The reason I’m taking so much time talking of the seven churches and explaining them one by one is because I don’t think we are ready for either the rapture or any tribulation no matter which theory proves to be the truth. 

I want us to be ready and be as this church of Philadelphia.

Qualifications of the rapture is this:

  1. Be Christ’s 1 Corinthians 15:23, Galatians 5:24
  2. Love His Appearing 2 Timothy 4:8
  3. Be blessed and holy, Rev 20: 4-6
  4. He that looks for Him  Hebrews 9:28
  5. Be in the way, the truth, and the life, John 14: 1-6
  6. Be “worthy" Luke 21: 34-36
  7. Be in the “body of Christ”  Ephesians 5:27, 1 Corinthians 12:13
  8. Purify himself, even as he is pure, 1 John 3:2,3 2 Corinthians 7:1,
  9. Galatians 5: 16-24 Hebrews 12:14
  10. Be without spot or wrinkle… and without blemish.  Ephesians 5:27

The above list is taken from Dake's reference bible. 

Letter to the Church at Laodicea