Revelation 3:7-13: Philadelphia
If I were to say to you that you are a citizen of God’s kingdom, He has set before you an open door that no one can close, unbelievers will bow down before you, you will be kept from the hour of trial and you will receive a crown, a new name and a place in God’s temple and city. How do these statements translate into what our experience of life would look like? Would you based on these words interpret Christ’s meaning to be that you would live a successful life, a blessed life, a life free from suffering, that God would smooth the way for you? My guess is that we in the 21st century and the church at Philadelphia would be hearing these words with very different ears. We would think in terms of our 21st century consumerism and first world comforts, but Philadelphia would hear things differently. The Philadelphians would have realised that the way to the kingdom is not apart from pain but through pain. This was the message that Paul preached to young converts and freshly planted churches in Acts 14:22, ‘strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’
Today we are looking at the letter to the church in Philadelphia, Philadelphia like Sardis had been badly affected by an earthquake. Tiberius helped the town and they made a monument to him and called themselves Neocaesarea (New Caesar’s City). Like Pergamum they are not rebuked for any sins but only commended, and like Pergamum they have endured persecution. The words that Christ speaks are words of comfort and encouragement. He does not promise to remove all their pain but points them to certain promises, realities and responsibilities. He speaks of how we enter the kingdom, how we are to serve in the kingdom, who is a real citizen of the kingdom, the path of endurance we walk to the kingdom and the blessings to those who endure and enter the kingdom.