Verse of the Day Devotion: Revelation 3:7
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens, and no one will shut, and who shuts, and no one opens, says this:” – Revelation 3:7
Over seven days, I will be looking at what John wrote, by the inspiration of God, to the seven major churches in Asia Minor. In these seven letters, God gives a message that is specific to each and speaks of issues that could fit the Churches throughout history. It is important to look at these and examine our church and ultimately ourselves to see where we stand regarding these.
Next, Jesus writes to the sixth Church in this list, the Church of Philadelphia. This was located southeast of Sardis. It was founded by Attalos II, the king of Pergamum in the second century B.C. Philadelphia’s population was mixed and included people from Lydia and Mysia, along with Macedonians and Roman businesspeople. During this time, the city was the administrative center for many of the nearby towns, although the judicial center was in nearby Sardis. The soil was very fertile and wine production flourished. Some of the industries were textile and leather goods. The city had a good relationship with Rome, and as Sardis when their city was devastated by the earthquake of 17 C.E., Emperor Tiberius granted tax exemptions along with workers for the following five years while the city was being rebuilt.
The principal deity of Philadelphia was Anaitis, a goddess of Persian origin. Her identity blended with that of the Anatolian mother goddess Meter as well as the Greek god Artemis. Philadelphia had its own local cult of Augustus and Rome by 27–26 B.C. There was also a Jewish community in Philadelphia as in many other Asian cities.
This starts with our focus verse, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens, and no one will shut, and who shuts, and no one opens, says this:” Revelation 3:7. It declares two attributes which Jesus is known by; He who is holy and He who is true. These attributes are essential attributes of God in the Old Testament. “Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.” Isaiah 1:4. And, “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” Exodus 34:6. Also, to have the ‘key of David refers to having control and authority: therefore, having the Key of David would give one control of David’s domain, i.e., Jerusalem, the City of David, and the kingdom of Israel.
Next, we read, “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Revelation 3:8. The open door means access to God. Readers already have access to God through prayer, and in the future, they have the hope of resurrection to life in God’s presence. The idea is that the Church in Philadelphia need access to God’s presence because Christians are being heavily pressured to deny their faith. If Christians at Philadelphia had been questioned by a Roman magistrate, they might have been pressured to deny Jesus’ name to escape punishment. However, they have stayed true to Christ and were unwilling to deny their Lord and Savior.
Then He follows this with, “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” Revelation 3:9. The idea here is like what we see in Isaiah. “And the sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, and all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 60:14. This verse speaks of the adversaries of Christians eventually to bow at their feet. Note, this is not their idea. ‘I will make them to come and bow down at your feet.” They will be forced to bow in subjection before them, in humility before those they despised, those who were followers of the God they hated, and declare them the people of God. And because of this, they will know that the Lord loves them.
Next in verse ten, “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 upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10. This is like a verse found in John’s gospel, and I feel they communicate the same basic idea. “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15-16. The related expression can also mean protection from evil for those living in the middle of evil. And this is promised because they fervently kept His word that was the cause of their suffering and persecution.
He then finishes this letter with words of encouragement. “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” Revelation 3:11-12. The word ‘crown’ comes from the Greek word for ‘laurel wreath’. A laurel wreath was given to those who won a victory in an athletic contest or military battle, as well as those honored for public service. Here, it is given to those who win victory through faithfulness to God and Christ in the face of opposition. It signifies resurrection to life in the New Jerusalem. As for the pillar, this metaphor is based on the image of a temple with pillars in it. Revelation uses pillar imagery to show that the faithful constitute God’s temple and have a permanent place in God’s presence, which was a great blessing in the first century. And as for the writing of His name and the New Jerusalem, this was something done often in this time. Readers would have been familiar with the practice of inscribing pillars and monuments with the names of donors, gods, and cities. For example, a first-century inscription on a column at Ephesus commemorated the building of the imperial temple during Domitian’s reign. It named both the city of Teos and the emperor. Columns in the temples of Artemis at Ephesus and Sardis were inscribed with the names of donors, and similar practices are attested in other cities. This was done in honor of the one who’s name was written.
This Church had no negativity written about them. They stood strong for Christ and did not turn from God. So, those who struggled with weakness Jesus makes everlasting pillars in the house of God. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Jesus’ words of comfort certainly would have been a blessing to the Philadelphians who had faithfully stood for Christ in their pagan culture. His words continue to serve as an encouragement to faithful believers today.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.