The Church of Philadelphia: Words of Praise :: By Donald Whitchard

Matthew 10:12: Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:23,4:15; Revelation 3:7-13

Summary: The sixth church that Jesus addressed received no words of rebuke or chastisement. It was faithful to the Gospel, open to opportunities, and will be delivered from its enemies and the coming hour of trial upon the world.

The seven churches of Revelation 2-3 were literal, authentic, verifiable places of worship in the region of Asia Minor within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. These churches are not the product of allegory, nor are they tales of mystics and sages of ancient days. There is nothing written in the Holy Scriptures that resembles legend, fable, or myth. People who make such claims demonstrate their ignorance of the Bible’s contents or have allowed their pride in the form of pseudo-intellectualism to cloud any honest perception of the Word of God.

Each church and its problems or commendations reflect churches throughout history. When we read about them, do we stop to think that the churches we attend (or should) might be going through the same dilemmas and correct course?

In these last days when apostasy is running rampant, are we becoming content with things as they are and allowing the world and our own apathy to lead us down the broad road and not the narrow as Jesus commanded? Have we abandoned sound doctrine and faithful teaching of the Scriptures in favor of trends, fads, and relevance that mean nothing in terms of eternity?

The churches of Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis were heading down that road, and the Lord Jesus, who is the Chief Shepherd (John 10:14, 27-30; 1 Peter 5:1-4), gave each of them a word of rebuke and caution for their potential slide into uselessness for the Kingdom of God.

Of the seven churches, only two received words of commendation from the Lord Jesus. The first was Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), which was undergoing severe persecution and experiencing material poverty. Jesus told them they were spiritually wealthy for remaining faithful to Him and the Gospel. The second church, given words of commendation, was located in the city of Philadelphia. This church was the smallest of the seven, yet large in its accomplishments for the glory of God, and He did not let that go unrecognized.

Philadelphia was sound, solid, and spiritual. This was a church that took opportunities to spread the Word. The city was located in a narrow pass between two mountain ranges, a literal “doorway” between Asia Minor and Asia proper, used as a military “buffer city.” Enemy armies attempting to go through the narrow pass were delayed from advancing by forces located at Philadelphia.

The city was named for Attalus II Philadelphus, the king of Pergamos. Attalus had a tremendous love for his brother Eumenes. This brotherly affection was known in the Greek language as “PHILADELPHIA” – “all who love their brother.”

Philadelphia was also subject to earthquakes and tremors, and its citizens often had to flee from the area in order to avoid injury or worse. Like the other cities of the Roman Empire, Philadelphia had its share of temples and altars dedicated to the numerous deities of the times. On a historical note, Philadelphia’s Christian influence lasted until around 1000 A.D. during the period of the Byzantine Empire, which was gradually being overrun by Muslim armies seizing the territories of what had at one time been the possessions of Rome.

In Revelation 3:7-13, we read that the Lord Jesus has established His Divine and absolute authority over the church. He is the Head. It is His will and expectations upon which we must focus.

He approached this church as He did the others, showing them His glory, His sinless and perfect nature, and as the One to whom all creation and eternity gives its testimony and truth (Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35). He declares Himself to be the Holy One (1 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 2:22), and because He IS holy, He gives us the desire to walk in His ways as the means of paying homage to Him. He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), and any church worth its existence must focus upon and affirm this fact. When a church keeps its eyes on Jesus, it will do what is pleasing in His eyes and turn from the world’s wicked and worthless opinions and expectations (1 John 2:15-17).

Philadelphia stayed on track, abhorring that which is evil and not afraid to call out those who were false teachers and covert enemies of the Word and sound teaching. They persevered in their faith and had not wavered in their commitment to Jesus. The enemies of Christ would inevitably bow to Him (Hebrews 9:27; Philippians 2:9-11), and there would be a day when the church would be delivered (Greek: TEREO EK) from the coming wrath of God that would fall upon the earth for its rebellion against Him. This promise is noted in verse 10 and is one of the “proof texts,” along with John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to describe the “Rapture,” where true believers in Christ will be “caught up” (Greek: HARPAZO) to meet the LORD in the air at an appointed time in history.

The modern church tends to be content with the fleeting words of fallen and depraved sinners who stubbornly refuse to embrace the eternal riches offered by Jesus. We need to take our eyes off of that which is temporal and fleeting and instead look at what the infallible, inerrant, and all-sufficient Word of God (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21) shows us about the rewards that Philadelphia and every faithful church are to receive from the Lord Jesus for remaining faithful and dedicated to Him.

The Lord Jesus promises His people a place with Him where they will dwell forever, and that He will know all of us by name, indicating eternal fellowship and intimacy with our Creator, Savior, and LORD. This is a call for us to wake from our slumber and to get busy with the things of God and see our work and lives in terms of effectiveness and testimony to the power, glory, and saving grace of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are really serious about our faith and devotion to Him, then we should take every opportunity available to share the Gospel with as many people as possible and use the time we have in service to Him. Let us be imitators not only of Christ but of this faithful church that will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” I would hope that you have the same desire. Stay faithful.