Allen Raynor Weblog: “Philadelphia: The Faithful Church” (Pt. 2)
(Aug. 28, 2019)
Just like the Smyrna church, Philadelphia also faced hostility from unbelieving Jews, who are referred to in the letters to both churches as a “Synagogue of Satan.” These people “claimed” to be Jews, but their claims were lies. It took more than mere ceremony to be a true Jew, according to the Lord. Paul wrote in Rom. 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” This concept holds true when considering who is a true or false Christian as well.
It is quite amazing that Jesus tells the persecuted Christians at Philadelphia that those who are persecuting them will ultimately come and bow at their feet. “Bowing” at someone’s feet signifies total defeat and submission. What this means is that, in the end, every persecutor of the believing church in Philadelphia would admit that they were wrong. Admitting they were wrong; swallowing their pride would be tough, but that is exactly what the Lord said they would do. Scripture also teaches ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
The believers at Philadelphia had already passed many tests; therefore, the Lord is promising to spare them from the ultimate test. This promise holds true for all faithful Christians throughout history. The specific promise is likely a promise to “rapture” or “remove” them from the period of unparalleled tribulation. Some see this more generally and take it to mean they will simply be “protected.” Christians must be ready for the return of Jesus at any time.
This “hour of trial/testing” in vs. 10 is “Daniel’s seventieth week” (Dan. 9:25-27); “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7); the seven year tribulation period. The Lord promises to keep His church out of the future time of testing that will come on unbelievers. Because the Lord is coming quickly, there is the necessity to “hold fast” to “what they have.” What do they have? They have hope, a reward/crown. Rev. 2:10 defines this crown more specifically as the “crown of life.” It is the reward for those who faithfully endure to the end, trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. Jesus counsels them to be “overcomers” in the continued face of opposition. He promises to make them a “pillar in the temple.” A pillar represents stability and permanence and immovability. Often in ancient ruins, the pillars of a structure would be the only thing left standing after a conquering army had destroyed everything else.
Christ also promises to write on them the “name of God.” This is a sign of ownership. All true Christians belong to God. He says He will write on believers “The name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God.” Christians have eternal citizenship in Heaven’s capital, the new Jerusalem described in Rev. 21. It is ignorance and/or foolishness to live for today only, when all of eternity lies ahead. The things God has promised to those who love Him are so glorious they make the things of this world grow strangely dim.
Finally, the Lord promises believers His “new name.” Jesus’ name represents the fullness of His personhood and in Heaven, all believers will see Him just as He is. Not in part, but wholly and fully. To Him who has ears to hear/receive all this, He again admonishes them to do so.
There are not many churches these days who are faithful like the church at Philadelphia. In order to please man and fit in with the world many churches, denominations, pastors, and individual Christians have compromised. It is easy to stand for biblical truth when most everyone agrees with it, but when they no longer believe it and one church or one Christian has to be that voice of truth it really separates true believers from the crowd. Jesus Christ is saying to the church of the 21st century “be faithful.” It is a simple yet profound challenge.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor