“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” Revelation 3:7-8 NLT
Philadelphia was located about thirty miles southeast of Sardis. The city was founded around 189-190 B.C. by Attalus, king of Pergamum. Attalus had strong love for his brother and was nicknamed Philadelphia. The word "Philadelphia" means "brotherly love", thus the nickname. Philadelphia was a fertile land, agriculturally. There was a noticeable presence of volcanic ash because this city was located in a line of very active volcanos. The city was built on the slope of a hill, overlooking a long valley. In addition to the volcanic activity, the city had been rocked by earthquakes through its history as well. The city was very familiar with devastation and rebuilding. A resilient city it was. The city was a Greco-Roman hub for advancing the Greek language toward the Orient. By 19 A.D., the previous language of the land, Lydian, had been replaced by Greek. The city was a part of the trade route to the east and was also an important part of the Imperial Post Road where the mail ran. Historians tell us, that during the Byzantine era, it was considered the most important trade route in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). In A.D. 17 the city was totally destroyed by an earthquake and had to be completely rebuilt. This city was very familiar with fear and uncertainty, yet they were extremely resilient. There was a whole lot of shaking going on, but the church stood steadfast! The name was most befitting for this church. The church of Philadelphia was a loving, godly church. It is one of the two churches (Smyrna - Revelation 2:8-11 and Philadelphia - Revelation 3:7-13) in the list of the seven of Revelation 2 and 3 that receives no condemnation from Jesus. This church wasn't perfect, but there were no glaring flaws. This church was firm in the faith and unshakable. Jesus is described in today's scripture as Holy and True. Only One is Holy and True! God! Since Jesus is calling Himself Holy and True, we can, with absolute certainty, interpret this to mean that He is identifying Himself as God. Indeed He Is!!! Several Old Testament scriptures refer to God as Holy (here are some: Leviticus 11:45; 19:1-2; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 6:1-3; 40:25; 43:15; Habakkuk 3:3). Several New Testament scriptures refer to Jesus as the Holy One! In Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 the demons cry out and call Him the "Holy One of God". In John 6:69 Peter calls Jesus the Christ, the Son Of the living God, meaning "the Holy One of God" (some manuscripts read "Holy One of God") Peter reminds us to be holy because God is Holy (see I Peter 1:14-16). Holy means "separate". God is separate from sin. He knows no sin! Therefore, we can determine that God is Holy and we are not. The only way to be made holy is through Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God! Today's scripture also says that Jesus is true. True means "right". Revelation 6:10 calls the Lord Holy and True. Revelation 15:3; 16:7; and 19:2,11 also call Him true. Jesus is the author of truth and the revealer of truth. He opens doors that no one can shut and shuts doors that no one can open. He is the One in control of His church! He knows all things about His church! He knew all things about Philadelphia and yet He found them faithful and true. May the Lord Jesus, the One who is in control of His church, help us to be His Holy Church in our time, firm and unshakable in our faith. In spite of the cultural volcanos and earthquakes that socially and politically threaten to destroy us, let us be found true and faithful, by Jesus, in the midst of a perverse generation.
Rev. Curtis Norris