Let us be like the Church of Philadelphia, that God may have nothing against us
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
God confirms in the title of this author that it is Jesus Christ Himself who is speaking the words that John wrote and heard. We can be sure that He has a proper grasp of all things, for Jesus is The Truth.
There are two churches that God does not reprimand for something – Smyrna and Philadelphia. However, the church of Smyrna would have to go through the trials that were coming, and the church of Philadelphia would be spared them. The Philadelphia church was the only one that was commended and found worthy. It was highly commended by their Savior. We should be aware of what Jesus had against the other churches so that we can avoid those pitfalls:
- Ephesus: 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
- Smyrna: [Based on the praise of the Philadelphia church, they may have not held to the command to endure patiently, and would have to go through the fiery trials.]
- Pergamum: 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
- Thyatira: 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
- Sardis: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
- Laodicea: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
The church has suffered greatly throughout the last 2000 years or so (read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” for more details). Hebrews 11 tells of some of the sufferings they had to face. The church throughout the world is undergoing trials right now, and even places that were safe for it fifty years ago are hotbeds of hostility. Jesus gave us a warning about this:
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
We are exhorted to be faithful. We can do so, for Jesus, our example and mentor, was faithful, even unto death, and death on a cross! How much more so should we be faithful who only have to suffer a little bit.
It is not my intention to minimize the pain that people experience in their trials – it is very painful. Some people are more able to cope with types of suffering that others find unbearable. So we should be empathetic to the suffering of others. And never discount the suffering of those who have had the trial of unending physical pain through incurable disease. Just because you cannot see someone else’s pain doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing it.
Let us be found faithful so that we may endure patiently and persevere through suffering by leaning on our rock of salvation, experiencing His peace through the trial. It is only then that we are able to overcome. Prolonged suffering, whether physical or emotional without any relief for an extended time (think decades…) can drive a person to become depressed, angry, confused, withdrawn, and if not tended to properly, despondent.
Our reward for obedience and patience through suffering is victory over death in Jesus Christ. No amount of works that we do commends us to God, but God is pleased as we display His character to the world. Remember that the thief on the cross next to Jesus was admitted into the kingdom of heaven. He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Let us rejoice in victory, for Christ has already procured that for us in His victory over death. And it is in Christ that we were crucified and raised from the dead in Him. Therefore, the second death – eternal spiritual separation from God – has been overcome already. That is our light at the end of the tunnel of suffering. Gaze upon it, have your eyes fixed upon Jesus, and regardless of the struggle, He will get you through it.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we keeping God’s command to endure patiently through trial?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to us through the Book of Revelation. I think You Lord for the warnings that You have given me in your letters to the churches. Help me to be like the church in Philadelphia that you would find nothing against me. Forgive me of all my sins, and show me where I am lacking, that I may grow. Provide me with the strength and wisdom to walk in Your ways. Help me to overcome. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.