BackgroundPhiladelphia lies 45 kilometers east of Sardis and today the city of Alashehir stands where the ancient city stood. Philadelphia was situated at the foot of the mountains leading to Annatolia and, as such, was the doorway to this region.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth (Revelation 3:7).
The letter to Philadelphia contains no reproof. The time period it represents was to open the door to the Gospel so that it could be spread to the ends of the world. The Word of God was to be restored and truth would triumph.
Philadelphia means "brotherly love." The Philadelphia period is the period of the Great Awakening of the 18th century. It is the period of mission. The words of commendation were, "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name" (Revelation 3:8).
During the Philadelphian era, the great conflict between truth and terror reached its pinnacle. The Millerite movement reaffirmed the truth of the Word and its prophetic importance, and the era of world mission began.
William Carey became the messenger to India in 1793, and Robert Morrison to China in 1807. In 1817, Robert Moffat carried the message to Africa and John Wesley challenged the doctrines of Calvin. Between 1804 and 1834, numerous Bible societies were established, and the door for the Gospel was opened.
As always in an age of spiritual enlightenment, Satan endeavored to destroy the work by the introduction of counterfeit movements. Spiritism in all its forms saw its modern revival at that time. Out of the French Revolution of 1789-1799 came the concepts of humanism and atheism that were to form the foundation stones for communism. The period also saw the rise of many false prophets who would claim special revelations contrary to the Word of God.
Holding to the Truth
The Great Awakening of this time was met with suspicion and even hostility by the established churches of the day as they refused to accept new light on the Scriptures. The age of Philadelphia was an age of brotherly love among those who embraced the truths of the Second Coming of Christ, but they were derided and mocked for their stance.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Revelation 3:9-10).
The word Jews used here is a reference to Jewish Christians (see Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:28-29). The Jew referred to here represents those Christians who would reject the light and ridicule those who believed it.
The promise is also given that the Philadelphian era would not be subjected to the time of trouble prophesied by Daniel that was to precede the coming of Christ. The promise of Christ's soon return given in verse 11 ("Behold I come quickly") is further evidence of the historic continuous nature of the prophetic content of the letters to the seven churches.
To the Church of the Middle Ages (Thyatira) the message was given to "hold fast what you have till I come" (Revelation 2:25), whereas in Philadelphia the Church is given the same admonition but this time in reference to His soon return. The Great Disappointment came as a major blow to many in the Advent movement and the counsel to "Hold fast what you have that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11) is appropriate to this era.
"Not I, but Christ" was the watchword of the Philadelphian Christians, and the same motto should be for all of Christ's followers. Once we lay our selves down in humility, Christ and His love can conquer through us. The Word-based unity and love-based community of the Church of Philadelphia is a shining example of what all who aspire to follow Christ should seek to acquire.
Ahead to A Letter to the Church at Laodicea