Revelation 3:7–13. Philadelphia. An Open Door.
Key Notes: Structural words. The key of David. An open door. Pillars. A temple. The city of God. Evidence of Philadelphia's success.
Philadelphia was a small city in the western part of "Asia", a province of western Asia Minor (Turkey). The city was intended to propagate Greek language and culture eastward. It was on the imperial post-road. Now Jesus wants it to be a gateway for the spread of the Gospel.
There are five structural words in the message to Philadelphia:
pillar-- spiritual support,
temple-- where God is worshiped,
city-- where God's people will be.
We will try to connect them into one message.
3:7 Christ has the key of David. The cross- reference is to Isa.22:22, where Shebna, the arrogant steward of the house of Hezekiah, is to be replaced by the secretary, Eliakim. Eliakim will be given the key of David. The Key of David (Isa.22:22) is primarily the key to Hezekiah's place-names to its treasury, servants, food supplies, and armaments.
Since it is the Key of David, however, it also has deeper meaning and as we read of it in Revelation, it refers to the Keys of the Kingdom. Keys to the Kingdom were given to Peter (Matt.16:19), and the other disciples (Jn.20:23) including the opportunity to evangelize the world and offer the forgiveness of sins. Also Christ has the keys to Death and Hades. Rev.1:18
3:8 By the Key, Christ opens a door for the Philadelphians which no one can block. But the Christian community must contend with the hostility of the synagogue.
3:8 An open door is symbolic of access and opportunity. Jesus said "I am the Door" (Jn.10:7,9), the way to God. Paul used the term “open door” in several places to describe his missions. (Acts 14:27; ICor.16:9; IICor.2:12 ). Jesus also spoke two parables of closed doors: the foolish virgins (Matt.25:10), and the unrecognized guests of the householder (Lk.13:25), describing those who lost their opportunity to know God.
3:9 Christ promises that Jewish resistance will collapse, and that their people will come to worship at the feet of the Christians. This is the reverse of the prophecy in Isa.60:14, and 49:22 where God promises that the Gentiles will bow to Israel. But here the true "Israel of God" (Gal.6:16) is the Jewish-Gentile church, Abraham’s children by faith. Eventually, both Jews and Gentiles will kneel before God.
The Philadelphians were able to use their opportunity for missions. Plini complained in a letter to the Emperor that the Christians had infiltrated all ranks of his district of Bithynia, to the north and west of Philadelphia. Iraneus later wrote letters to several churches in Asia Minor. (A History of Christian Missions. S. Neill; Pelican.1964, p.30)
3:11 Christ is coming soon. The Christians should hold fast so that no one will seize their crown. There are about 7 situations in Scripture where the place of eminence was lost to a spiritual rival.
Esau lost to Jacob. Gen.25:34
Reuben and Simeon lost to Judah. Gen.49:4,8
Saul was replaced by David. ISam.22:14–23
Joab lost to Benaiah. IK.2:35
Abiathar lost to Zadok. IK.2:35
Shebna lost to Eliakim. Isa.22:15–21
Judas was replaced by Matthias. Acts1:22–26
3:11 Christ's approach to the churches differs in each case:
Ephesus was threatened with the removal of its lamp-stand unless its love was restored.
Pergamum was threatened with the sword of His mouth to combat false teaching.
Sardis was warned that Christ might come as a thief in the night and they should be prepared.
Philadelphia would experience Christ's coming as the end of their trial.
3:12 The third structural word is "pillar", not a widely used symbol in Scripture. The original pillars of the temple were the massive bronzes at its entrance (IK.7:15,21) called Jachim and Boaz. Peter, James and John were pillars of the early church. (Gal.2:9). In Isa.22:23–25, we recall that Eliakim was not a pillar, but a peg that would eventually fall down. In contrast, the Over-comer will be made a pillar in the House of God, never to be removed.
3:12 The fourth structural word, "Temple" is used in many ways in Scripture.
Primarily, it referred to the temple built by Solomon,
but God used the same word (house = temple) to prophesy the establishment of David's dynasty. (IISam.7:11).
The Christian's body is also a temple. (ICor.6:19; IICor.5:1).
Collectively we are "a holy temple in the Lord". (Eph.2:21).
And finally there is the temple in Heaven .(Rev.15:5). In all of these structures, the Temple is a place where God may dwell.
3;12 The last structural word is City of My God. the New Jerusalem. It is the counterpart of the City of Babel / Babylon. We look for "the City that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb.11:10)
In sum, Christ uses the Key of David to open the door of opportunity for missions. The one who succeeds will be a pillar in the House of God, which will be the New Jerusalem.
The application of the passage begs us to ask whether we also have been given an open door, an opportunity for outreach. The opportunities have never been so abundant. Closed countries need massive relief aid. Every country in turmoil has an opening for the Gospel, much being done by insiders. Radio is a medium which is hard to suppress and has a wide scope in closed countries. "Tent-maker" missionaries can go anywhere to supply technical assistantships, teaching English, doing engineering , providing agricultural assistance, medical missions. And the world has come to our doorstep to study. You could befriend a foreign student.
Let us not miss the doors, the many doors open to us.