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Lesson Seven • The Church at Philadelphia

Dr. Randy T. Johnson

As most people know, Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” The city was established by king Attalus II (159-138 B.C.) and the name of the city apparently came about as a memorial to the loyalty of the brothers Eumenes and Attalus (Paige Patterson, “The New American Commentary”).

Warren Wiersbe makes some interesting observations, “Philadelphia was situated in a strategic place on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the East, and thus was called ‘the gateway to the East.’ It was also called ‘little Athens’ because of the many temples in the city. The church was certainly located in a place of tremendous opportunity. The only major problem with the location was that the area was prone to earthquakes.”

1. Have you visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Either way, do you have any thoughts about the city?

Revelation 3:7 begins the conversation concerning the church at Philadelphia, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.’”

2. What description is given of the Lord here? What does it mean?

Note: For further insight into “the key,” Isaiah 22:22 and Revelation 1:18 are helpful.

In Revelation 3:8-10, we read of some nice compliments the Lord gives the church at Philadelphia, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”

3. What compliments are listed in these three verses?

In the New Testament, an “open door” speaks of opportunity for ministry. Here are a few clear examples:

• “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27

• “For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Corinthians 16:9

• “When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 2:12

• “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” Colossians 4:3

This Colossians passage really jumps out to me because Paul was in prison and was more interested in the doors opening to share the Gospel than having the doors of the prison open to freedom.

4. In what areas of your life is it possible that God has or is opening doors or opportunities for you to witness?

5. How can difficulties be used to share the Good News?

Unbelief sees the obstacles, but faith sees the opportunities!

The only criticism that might be given of this church would be in the words, “I know that you have but little power.”

6. Is that statement a criticism? Why or Why not?

Revelation 3:11-13 closes the section with the Lord’s command for the church at Philadelphia, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

7. What commands does the Lord give the church at Philadelphia?

8. What images come to mind when you hear “hold fast”?

Warren Wiersbe points out three promises the Lord makes to the church at Philadelphia:

He would take care of their enemies (Revelation 3:9).

He would keep them from the tribulation (Revelation 3:10).

God would honor them. (Revelation 3:12).

9. What images come to mind in being “a pillar in the temple of my God”?

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” 1 Corinthians 6:19