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The Message to Philadelphia

7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are 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:

8 “I know your works. Look, 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. 9I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.


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7. Philadelphia—in Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis, built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who died A.D. 138. It was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius [Tacitus, Annals, 2.47]. The connection of this Church with Jews there causes the address to it to have an Old Testament coloring in the images employed. It and Smyrna alone of the seven receive unmixed praise.

he that is holy—as in the Old Testament, "the Holy One of Israel." Thus Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are one. None but God is absolutely holy (Greek, "hagios," separate from evil and perfectly hating it). In contrast to "the synagogue of Satan" (Re 3:9).

trueGreek, "alethinos": "VERY God," as distinguished from the false gods and from all those who say that they are what they are not (Re 3:9): real, genuine. Furthermore, He perfectly realizes all that is involved in the names, God, Light (Joh 1:9; 1Jo 2:8), Bread (Joh 6:32), the Vine (Joh 15:1); as distinguished from all typical, partial, and imperfect realizations of the idea. His nature answers to His name (Joh 17:3; 1Th 1:9). The Greek, "alethes," on the other hand, is "truth-speaking," "truth-loving" (Joh 3:33; Tit 1:2).

he that hath the key of David—the antitype of Eliakim, to whom the "key," the emblem of authority "over the house of David," was transferred from Shebna, who was removed from the office of chamberlain or treasurer, as unworthy of it. Christ, the Heir of the throne of David, shall supplant all the less worthy stewards who have abused their trust in God's spiritual house, and "shall reign over the house of Jacob," literal and spiritual (Lu 1:32, 33), "for ever," "as a Son over His own house" (Heb 3:2-6). It rests with Christ to open or shut the heavenly palace, deciding who is, and who is not, to be admitted: as He also opens, or shuts, the prison, having the keys of hell (the grave) and death (Re 1:18). The power of the keys was given to Peter and the other apostles, only when, and in so far as, Christ made him and them infallible. Whatever degrees of this power may have been committed to ministers, the supreme power belongs to Christ alone. Thus Peter rightly opened the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1-48; 11:17, 18; especially Ac 14:27, end). But he wrongly tried to shut the door in part again (Ga 2:11-18). Eliakim had "the key of the house of David laid upon his shoulder": Christ, as the antitypical David, Himself has the key of the supreme "government upon His shoulder." His attribute here, as in the former addresses, accords with His promise. Though "the synagogue of Satan," false "Jews" (Re 3:9) try to "shut" the "door" which I "set open before thee"; "no man can shut it" (Re 3:8).

shutteth—So Vulgate and Syriac Versions read. But the four oldest manuscripts read, "shall shut"; so Coptic Version and Origen.

and no man openeth—Two oldest manuscripts, B, Aleph, Coptic Version, and Origen read, "shall open." Two oldest manuscripts, A, C, and Vulgate Version support English Version reading.

8. I have setGreek, "given": it is My gracious gift to thee.

open door—for evangelization; a door of spiritual usefulness. The opening of a door by Him to the Philadelphian Church accords with the previous assignation to Him of "the key of David."

and—The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and Origen read, "which no man can shut."


a little—This gives the idea that Christ says, He sets before Philadelphia an open door because she has some little strength; whereas the sense rather is, He does so because she has "but little strength": being consciously weak herself, she is the fitter object for God's power to rest on [so Aquinas], that so the Lord Christ may have all the glory.

and hast keptand so, the littleness of thy strength becoming the source of Almighty power to thee, as leading thee to rest wholly on My great power, thou hast kept My word. Grotius makes "little strength" to mean that she had a Church small in numbers and external resources: "a little flock poor in worldly goods, and of small account in the eyes of men" [Trench]. So Alford. I prefer the view given above. The Greek verbs are in the aorist tense: "Thou didst keep … didst not deny My name": alluding to some particular occasion when her faithfulness was put to the test.

9. I will makeGreek present, "I make," literally, "I give" (see on Re 3:8). The promise to Philadelphia is larger than that to Smyrna. To Smyrna the promise was that "the synagogue of Satan" should not prevail against the faithful in her: to Philadelphia, that she should even win over some of "the synagogue of Satan" to fall on their faces and confess God is in her of a truth. Translate, "(some) of the synagogue." For until Christ shall come, and all Israel then be saved, there is but "a remnant" being gathered out of the Jews "according to the election of grace." This is an instance of how Christ set before her an "open door," some of her greatest adversaries, the Jews, being brought to the obedience of the faith. Their worshipping before her feet expresses the convert's willingness to take the very lowest place in the Church, doing servile honor to those whom once they persecuted, rather than dwell with the ungodly. So the Philippian jailer before Paul.

10. patience—"endurance." "The word of My endurance" is My Gospel word, which teaches patient endurance in expectation of my coming (Re 1:9). My endurance is the endurance which I require, and which I practice. Christ Himself now endures, patiently waiting until the usurper be cast out, and all "His enemies be made His footstool." So, too, His Church, for the joy before her of sharing His coming kingdom, endures patiently. Hence, in Re 3:11, follows, "Behold, I come quickly."

I also—The reward is in kind: "because thou didst keep," &c. "I also (on My side) will keep thee," &c.

fromGreek, "(so as to deliver thee) out of," not to exempt from temptation.

the hour of temptation—the appointed season of affliction and temptation (so in De 4:34 the plagues are called "the temptations of Egypt"), literally, "the temptation": the sore temptation which is coming on: the time of great tribulation before Christ's second coming.

to try them that dwell upon the earth—those who are of earth, earthy (Re 8:13). "Dwell" implies that their home is earth, not heaven. All mankind, except the elect (Re 13:8, 14). The temptation brings out the fidelity of those kept by Christ and hardens the unbelieving reprobates (Re 9:20, 21; 16:11, 21). The particular persecutions which befell Philadelphia shortly after, were the earnest of the great last tribulation before Christ's coming, to which the Church's attention in all ages is directed.

11. Behold—omitted by the three oldest manuscripts and most ancient versions.

I come quickly—the great incentive to persevering faithfulness, and the consolation under present trials.

that … which thou hast—"The word of my patience," or "endurance" (Re 3:10), which He had just commended them for keeping, and which involved with it the attaining of the kingdom; this they would lose if they yielded to the temptation of exchanging consistency and suffering for compromise and ease.

that no man take thy crown—which otherwise thou wouldst receive: that no tempter cause thee to lose it: not that the tempter would thus secure it for himself (Col 2:18).

12. pillar in the temple—In one sense there shall be "no temple" in the heavenly city because there shall be no distinction of things into sacred and secular, for all things and persons shall be holy to the Lord. The city shall be all one great temple, in which the saints shall be not merely stones, as m the spiritual temple now on earth, but all eminent as pillars: immovably firm (unlike Philadelphia, the city which was so often shaken by earthquakes, Strabo [12 and 13]), like the colossal pillars before Solomon's temple, Boaz (that is, "In it is strength") and Jachin ("It shall be established"): only that those pillars were outside, these shall be within the temple.

my God—(See on Re 2:7).

go no more out—The Greek is stronger, never more at all. As the elect angels are beyond the possibility of falling, being now under (as the Schoolmen say) "the blessed necessity of goodness," so shall the saints be. The door shall be once for all shut, as well to shut safely in for ever the elect, as to shut out the lost (Mt 25:10; Joh 8:35; compare Isa 22:23, the type, Eliakim). They shall be priests for ever unto God (Re 1:6). "Who would not yearn for that city out of which no friend departs, and into which no enemy enters?" [Augustine in Trench].

write upon him the name of my God—as belonging to God in a peculiar sense (Re 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; and especially Re 22:4), therefore secure. As the name of Jehovah ("Holiness to the Lord") was on the golden plate on the high priest's forehead (Ex 28:36-38); so the saints in their heavenly royal priesthood shall bear His name openly, as consecrated to Him. Compare the caricature of this in the brand on the forehead of the beast's followers (Re 13:16, 17), and on the harlot (Re 17:5; compare Re 20:4).

name of the city of my God—as one of its citizens (Re 21:2, 3, 10, which is briefly alluded to by anticipation here). The full description of the city forms the appropriate close of the book. The saint's citizenship is now hidden, but then it shall be manifested: he shall have the right to enter in through the gates into the city (Re 22:14). This was the city which Abraham looked for.

newGreek, "kaine." Not the old Jerusalem, once called "the holy city," but having forfeited the name. Greek, "nea," would express that it had recently come into existence; but Greek, "kaine," that which is new and different, superseding the worn-out old Jerusalem and its polity. "John, in the Gospel, applies to the old city the Greek name Hierosolyma. But in the Apocalypse, always, to the heavenly city the Hebrew name, Hierousalem. The Hebrew name is the original and holier one: the Greek, the recent and more secular and political one" [Bengel].

my new name—at present incommunicable and only known to God: to be hereafter revealed and made the believer's own in union with God in Christ. Christ's name written on him denotes he shall be wholly Christ's. New also relates to Christ, who shall assume a new character (answering to His "new name") entering with His saints on a kingdom—not that which He had with the Father before the worlds, but that earned by His humiliation as Son of man. Gibbon, the infidel [Decline and Fall, ch. 64], gives an unwilling testimony to the fulfilment of the prophecy as to Philadelphia from a temporal point of view, Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect,—a column in a scene of ruins—a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same."

13. (See on Re 2:7).