The church at Philadelphia was a small church with “little power” (Revelation 3:8, CSB) but it was a faithful fellowship. Christ said, “you have kept my Word” (Revelation 3:8, CSB) and “you have kept my command to endure and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:10, CSB). They weren’t many, but they were mighty.
Philadelphia, meaning “love for the brethren,” was a small and seemingly insignificant community. It was located on a major geological fault and was prone to frequent earthquakes. Surrounding the community was fertile farmland, especially suited to growing grapes. Philadelphia was primarily an agrarian society with most of the population living outside the town on small farms.
As was common in many towns in eastern Asia minor, there was a significant Jewish population. The conflict between the orthodox Jews and the Christians was hostile. Satan, in every generation, has attempted to cause strife within the church and to infect her with legalism and ritualism. Because of the Jews’ opposition and antagonism, Jesus refers to them as “those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying” (Revelation 3:9, CSB).
Christ had only words of commendation and praise for the church, and no words of criticism.
Christ made three great promises to this rural church. First, he promised to take care of their enemies (Revelation 3:9). “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, CSB).
Second, Jesus promised to keep them from the coming Tribulation. Though there are varying interpretations of these few words, I believe that this teaches the pretribulation rapture of the church. “I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10, CSB). It is true... Jesus is “coming soon!” (Revelation 3:11). I’m relieved to know that Christ’s followers will not face the horrors of the Great Tribulation as described in Revelation 6-19!
And third, Jesus promises to honor His faithful disciples. “The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go out again” (Revelation 3:12, CSB). This must have been very meaningful to one who lived in a place where buildings were regularly destroyed by earthquakes. Jesus promises that in heaven, they would stand forever like great pillars, unshaken and never destroyed. Indeed, they would never have to evacuate the eternal city ... “they would never go out again!”
The American church is comparable to the church at Philadelphia. Jesus says, “Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can close (Revelation 3:8, CSB). We have Great Commission opportunities at home and abroad. The doors have been thrown open! God has been so gracious and kind to us. His promises are so rich. Now ... the lost and dying world lays before us. The door is open! In His power, at His command, we must carry the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond!