Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, was seen standing in the middle of seven golden candlesticks in the miraculous vision which the Holy Spirit showed to the apostle John which is recorded in the book we call The Revelation (Rev. 1:11 – 12). Light is used in the Bible as a description of good and darkness is used as a description of evil. God is, therefore “light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Jesus, who is also deity, said: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Faithful servants of God are described as the “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) inasmuch as they “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (I John 1:7). Christians are to live in accordance with the law of Christ, and in so doing let their light so shine before men, that they see their good works and glorify our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). Consistent with these verses, the seven golden candlesticks are identified as seven churches or congregations (local assemblies of Christians) (Rev. 1:20). Jesus, who is the head of his church (Colossians 1:18), was seen by John in this divine vision as walking in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 2:1). Jesus, therefore, knew from his presence among the congregations what the real condition of each one was. Jesus is deity and so always knows what each person is thinking and doing and what his motive are. Jesus could, therefore, speak with authority to each congregation “I know thy works”. Likewise, today Jesus knows the works of every congregation of his people and is spiritually walking in the middle of his golden candlesticks around the world.
Of the seven congregations addressed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, only two had no words of censure from our Lord. One was the congregation at Smyrna. It was materially poor, but spiritually rich (Rev. 2:9). The second congregation was at Philadelphia. It had a little power which could refer to its having only a few members, or its low economic status compared to other groups in the city, or because of the lowly social order out of which its members had been called.
Text: Revelation 3:10 – 13 (King James Version)
7 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;
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, [which is] new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and [I will write upon him] my new name.
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Faithful Christians are Secure in Christ
The theme of these verses is that Christians are secure in Christ if they remain faithful to him. Christians are to persevere, to remain faithful and never give in to the world around them. They are to overcome the world, even if they must physically die in the process of remaining faithful to Christ.
Despite apparently being small in number, the church at Philadelphia had already patiently endured all kinds of opposition (Rev. 3:8, 10). God promised these brethren that because of their faith and obedience thus far, they would receive providential help from Him in the trials yet to come upon them (Rev. 3:10). This is a promise made to all faithful Christians who remain faithful during times of difficulty.
This theme and promise are stated elsewhere in the New Testament:
• “…If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
• “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)
• “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” (II Peter 2:9).
For this reason, we “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We pray for God’s providential help to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4).
To the individual conquerors, those individuals who overcome these temptations and trials, Christ promised that:
• Each one would a pillar in the temple of my God. This pictures security and permanence in the temple of God. A pillar cannot be removed. It is a critical part of the structure. To those who overcome, there is no fear of ever being removed from God’s kingdom or his grace.
• He (Christ) would write on each one a new name. This image carries with it the idea of ownership. These Christians are the true holy people of God. Christ will put his name on them. This shows that his faithful followers are his.
Christ has Opened the Door to his Kingdom, for now
In Rev. 3: 7 – 8, Christ is said to be the one that “…hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” and then goes on to say: “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.”
This image comes from Isaiah 22:22: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” The key represents authority over the kingdom. Christ has complete authority concerning his kingdom. If he opens doors, then those doors stay open. If he closes doors, then those doors stay closed. Jesus holds power over salvation and judgment.
The key of David refers to Christ’s kingdom. Christ is the holy and true Messiah who has authority as he rules in his kingdom. Christ had opened a door for the Christians in Philadelphia. He had opened the door for entrance into his kingdom which no one can shut. Christ established an open door to salvation.
The point that Jesus specifically made to these Christians was that their salvation and participation in the kingdom could not be lost because of the things that happen to them. Although the Christians in Philadelphia were rejected and persecuted by others, that did not mean that their salvation had changed at all. Their rejection and persecution by others did not mean that they were not in God’s kingdom.
This is such a precious promise given to us as Christians by our Lord. It does not matter what people may do to us or what may happen to us, we do not lose our salvation or standing in God’s kingdom. It does not matter how fierce the suffering is that we face. Our suffering does not mean that we have been rejected by God.
Carefully keep what You have so No One can take It away from You
We can, however, lose our salvation by how we choose to respond to the trials and temptations of life. Christ urged the Christians in Philadelphia to “hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown”. This is the same crown, the crown of eternal life, that Jesus promised to the Christians in the congregation at Smyrna if they would endure the tribulations that they were to face, and be faithful to him unto death (Rev. 2:10).
The brethren in Philadelphia had faith (trust) in God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The just are to live by faith or trusting in God (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:38). They were to hold fast to their trust in God.
The congregation in Philadelphia had love for God which was their motivation for remaining faithful to Him. We love or value God highly (Greek agapaō) because he first loved us (I John 4:19) and demonstrated his great love for us by sending Jesus, his only begotten son, to earth to die as the blood sacrifice for our sins and the sins of all men (John 3:16). Because we so highly value God, we love him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our might (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:36 – 37), and want to do what pleases him. Accordingly, love for God manifests itself in obeying him, that is, keeping his commandments (John 14:15, 23, 15:10; I John 2:5, 5:2 – 3; and II John 6). The brethren in Philadelphia were to hold fast to their love for God.
The brethren in Philadelphia had the hope (i. e., the sure promise) of eternal life, if they remained faithful (Rev. 3:11) to Christ. The joyful and confident expectation of eternal life, which is what hope is, was and would continue to be their source of endurance through these trials. This hope was the anchor of their souls (Hebrews 6:19).
God’s Gracious Salvation is Conditional and is Only in the Church
Salvation is only in Christ’s church. Ephesians 5:26 – 27 teaches that only the saved are in the church, that glorious church that Christ sanctifies and cleanses with the washing of water by the word. Christ will at the end of time present to himself his church that is holy and without blemish, not having any spot or wrinkle, i.e., cleansed of all sin.
Christ has opened the door to salvation, the door to enter into his kingdom, and no man can close it. But man can refuse to enter into that door. The door for each of us is individually closed when we die for we no longer have the opportunity to obey the gospel. If we die having been unfaithful to him as a Christian, we will have lost the opportunity to repent and to come back into fellowship with God. At the end of time, Christ will close that door forever, and no man can open it. The opportunity to be saved will forever be gone. As was the case with Noah and his family, when God closed the door to the ark, “the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16), and all those outside the ark perished. We dare not wait until the door of salvation is closed and be like the millions who found themselves outside the ark and perished.
While salvation cannot be earned by any man and is made available to all men by God’s great grace and love for mankind (Ephesians 2:8), salvation is not unconditional. Faith (belief) in God is a condition for salvation (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 11:6). Repenting of one’s sinful way of life, i.e., deciding to turn to God and abandon a life of sin, is a condition to be saved by God’s grace (Acts 2:38, 17:30). Confessing one’s belief that Christ is deity, that he is the son of God, is a condition of salvation (Romans 10:9 – 10). Being immersed in water (i.e., baptized, see Romans 6:3 – 4) is a condition for being saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:20 – 21). Remaining faithful to Christ, faithfully enduring unto the end of one’s physical life, is a final condition for salvation (Matthew 10:22, 24:13; and Rev. 2:10)
These Principles still Apply in Today’s Troubling Times
Since God is not a respecter of persons (II Chonicles 19:7; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; and I Peter 1:17), the promises that Jesus made to the Christians at Philadelphia in the first century A.D. are promises that apply to all Christians in any century.
As Christians who have entered Christ’s open door by accepting and obeying God’s conditions for salvation, our salvation and participation in the kingdom of Christ cannot be lost because of the things that happen to us.
At the time of this writing in 2020, there is much civil unrest in the United States. Civil order is not being maintained in many cities. The assembling of people to worship God is being severely and arbitrarily restricted compared to other allowed public gatherings or even prevented by local and state officials in many areas under the guise of public health concerns. Some of these cases of restricting assembling to worship have even been upheld by U. S. Supreme Court rulings, despite First Amendment Constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion. God’s word, the Bible, has been burned by mobs in Portland, Oregon. Lawlessness is rampant and increasing day by day as the civil order of the country, and the belief in and worship of God are all being assaulted. The rapid increase in murders and other violent crimes, theft, and the destruction of private and public property are currently unabated in cities, of which Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Portland are a few examples. (References 4 – 13 provide documentation of the preceding assessment of the condition of the nation at the time of this writing). Such actions were not thought possible by many at the beginning of the year 2020. II Timothy 3:13 describes the situation today: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
We need to be mindful today of the example of our faithful brethren in Philadelphia nearly two thousand years ago, and take to heart the encouragement our Savior gave to them. The evil that has overtaken our country may grow worse, but our salvation will not be lost by what the mob, or rioters, or government officials who exceed the constitutional restraints of their power, may do to us.
We can only lose our salvation by what we ourselves do. Although some teach “once saved always saved”, that a Christian cannot fall from grace, this erroneous doctrine is not taught in Rev. 3 or anywhere else in God’s word. Christians can fall from God’s grace (Galatians 5:4). We can lose our salvation by not responding to the trials of our time in a manner that is in harmony with God’s word. We can lose our salvation by not remaining faithful to Christ unto death regardless of how difficult the situation in our country becomes (Rev. 2:10). Giving in to the mob or other organized efforts to discourage us or to physically prevent us from worshipping and serving our God would be inconsistent with the courage and example our brethren in Philadelphia demonstrated centuries ago. These faithful brethren patiently and faithfully endured hardships and persecution much greater than what we have faced thus far as of the time of this writing. We need to have what our brothers and sisters of nearly two millennia ago had: trust in God (faith); love for God; and the confident expectation in our hearts (hope) of an eternal home in heaven if we remain faithful to Christ. Jesus encourages us today to do the same that he exhorted our brethren in Philadelphia to do: “hold that fast what thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).
As discussed in “What the Bible says about Praying for those in Government, and Why”, let us pray for the restoration of a quiet, tranquil existence in our country and the end of the civil unrest for the current condition is not conducive to the spreading of the gospel. Let us also pray for courage and strength to remain faithful to our Lord, even if the violence and hate continues to grow, and becomes more personally directed toward his people, the church. Faithful Christians are secure in Christ. May God help us as his people to be calm with the knowledge of that promise, to remain in Christ at all costs, and to endure in faithful service to him unto the end!
1. Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.
2. Studies in the Revelation, The Third Annual Denton Lectures, Pearl Street Church of Christ, Dub McClish Editor, November 11 – 15, 1984.
3. Revelation, New Testament Commentaries, John T. Hinds, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, TN 37202, 1937.
Written by RT