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Lessons From Philadelphia

The Calling: Lessons From Philadelphia

Tested By Fire Conference – Day 2 Session 4



In preparing the assembly of believers for the coming trials and tribulations leading to the Day of the Lord, Jesus addressed 7 assemblies encouraging and admonishing them in truth and to strengthen them for the coming difficulty. Here Jesus’ message to Philadelphia is discussed to glean what lessons we can learn from our Messiah in order to be strengthened to stand through trial.

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Lessons From Philadelphia



A. The subject of Gentile Inclusion in the Jewish faith permeates the first section in the book of Revelation. That Jesus would purposely and pointedly take the time to address Gentiles within the Jewish apocalyptic expectation is stunning, and this address is what threads through the seven letters as a main subject.

9I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea,” (Rev. 1:4-11).

B. The risen Jewish Messiah standing among the seven Gentile churches is shocking in itself. But to have the churches pictured as lamp stands (which are dynamic elements relating specifically to the temple and the throne room of God in Scripture) is quite the impacting statement.

C. The inclusion of Gentile churches in John’s apocalyptic vision is also puzzling. If it was not pertinent to the revelation of Jesus at the end of the age, why include it?

D. In the entire Bible these seven letters stand alone as the only direct verbal declaration from the God of Israel to Gentiles. Although this is somewhat troubling, it is also very awesome and a fact we must reckon with to properly understand.

E. We must view everything within this book, as the others in the Bible, through the correct lens of the Gentile Grafting Principle (or, the GGP). It could be a purposed delineation by Jesus to specify what He is saying to Gentiles in the seven letters in order to convey the unique theme of Gentile calling at the end of the age.

F. Through this lens we discern in the Scriptures God’s eschatological plan of magnifying the witness of the Gospel at the end of the age summed up in the righteousness of God found in Christ crucified. This is done by the means of Gentile inclusion into the Jewish faith, and the magnifying of the witness of justification through faith in the atonement made on the Cross.

G. It is interesting and noteworthy that Jesus never once addresses that the Gentile churches need to look more Jewish in their presentation of the Gospel, nor that they need to become circumcised, or that they need to practice Sabbath and not eat certain things. Jesus’ goal is fortified over and over in the words of John as he opens the book, “To Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” It is this declaration that we see Jesus calling His church to hold fast to in perseverance, lest they become deceived or disheartened and lose their reward in the midst of adversity.

H. The message of true Jewish provocation is crystallized in Jesus’ words to Philadelphia, “You have kept the word of my perseverance.” Simply put – you have preached Christ crucified.

I. As we peer into this mystery at the consummation of the ages that is approaching, we must hold fast to the full account of Scripture as the sum total of our reality. God has chosen Israel as the primary conduit to express Himself through. They are the firstborn of God. As Gentiles (ones untimely born!), we honor them in their covenantal calling and seek to lay down our lives for them in confirmation of God’s everlasting covenants with them, confirming our inclusion through becoming like their God, hanging upon the Cross.



A. Deuteronomy 28-32

In these chapters, YHWH speaks through Moses the formula of Covenant. If you keep My commandments and covenant, then you will receive blessing. If you break My commandments and covenant, then you will receive curses.

B. Revelation 2-3

We can see this very same language applied by Jesus when speaking to these churches, but now it is in specific relation to Gentiles, though not excluding Jewish believers.

“‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you (curse). But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and (Then) they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (blessing),’” (Rev. 3:2-6).

C. Gentiles were not present on Mt. Nebo when the Song of Moses was declared as a witness against Israel. In this manner, it is right for the Lord to address with His own mouth the way in which He blesses and curses Gentiles within the New Covenant, after our “grafting in” through the Cross.

D. If we see this clearly, it seems proper to address the magnitude of these letters as being a similar witness against Gentiles from God’s own mouth– that is, a type of Gentilian ‘Song of Moses’, delivered by John the apostle. If this be true, the letters themselves truly bear a divine witness against us and are to be strictly adhered to and given the proper weight.

E. “He who has an ear let Him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches,” truly articulates that these letters were not meant exclusively for the specific church mentioned, but to all those who would heed the message spoken by Christ the risen King of glory. Each church is of course unique – however, the sum total of the churches must be taken as one letter to Gentile churches at the end of the age since this is the context of John’s Apocalypse.

F. The demand for a gentile response from the mouth of Jesus is shaking. Yet again, as in His Gospels, we are confronted with the zealous nature of Christ for true repentance and valid faith to be proven by those who call themselves His own.



Historically, the city of Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven churches established in Asia. It was sandwiched between Sardis (roughly 30 miles north-west) and Laodicea (nearly 30 miles south). Despite its receiving praise from the Lord, the church existed within a reality of literal shaking. The city was located near a fault-line and hence the site of many earthquakes causing frequent damage and near destruction to the entire city upon several occasions. A strong church for many years, there is evidence that a Christian populace remained until 1392, even when most of the country had succumbed to Muslim control. Today, the city of Philadelphia is modern day Alasehir, Turkey, which is situated in the Kuzuçay valley at the foot of the Bozdağ Mountains. It is mostly Muslim populated yet speckled with Christian churches.



7“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: 8‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

He who is proven to be holy, who has never lied and is truth Himself, remaining faithful to His covenants spoken long ago, who holds the Key to the Kingdom of eternal life, and who opens and closes the door of the kingdom to whom He will without challenge, says this. I know everything about you, and I have put an open door before you to enter the Kingdom which no man can shut because you have only a little strength, have remained obedient to my Gospel, and have not denied My name in the face of accusatory adversity. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue near you, the synagogue of satan, who say that they are true Jews, even though they are not, they are lying–I will make them come and see what it means to truly be Jewish, and who the true Seed of Abraham is, and when they see I will force them to bow down and acknowledge that I love you, and that you are My people. Because you have held fast to the testimony of My testing unto death, My crucifixion, I also will preserve you during the hour of your testing and preserve you to stand firm until the end. Surely this hour of testing is going to come upon the whole world, to test all those who dwell on the earth in order to prove My true followers. I am coming quickly; continue in the faith diligently so that you will not be taken captive by empty philosophies of men and lose your crown. He who overcomes, I will make Him a pillar in the Millennial Kingdom of My God and His eternal inheritance will be secure! I will also write on Him the name of the New Jerusalem, the city of My God, which will come down out of heaven from My God, confirming His eternal citizenship in My Father’s city forever. I will also write on Him My new Name (which no one knows except I) signifying the personal ownership I have of you as My bride forever. He who has wisdom to discern what I am saying, let Him take heed and respond! (Authors translation)



A. The first mention of YHWH’s holiness in Scripture is in Leviticus 11:44, “Be holy for I am holy”.

B. The Lord’s identity from Isaiah:

“Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory,” (Is. 6:2-3).

“To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One,” (Is. 40:25).

Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You,” (Is. 49:7).

C. Jesus is clearly saying that He is The Holy One of Israel, her Redeemer, and the One Isaiah saw on the throne. This is truly remarkable.



Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth…” (Ex. 34:6).

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20).

A. Let God be found true and every man a liar. He stands alone as the only One declared in Scripture to be blameless, inherently honest, never having lied, and that every word He has spoken will truly come to pass.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ,” (John 1:17).

B. Jesus pre-confirms the distinct Name that the martyred souls under the altar use when crying out to God for vindication.

“And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev. 6:10)



A. Many commentaries differ on what this actually means. However, when we understand the Gospel to be linear – covenantal and apocalyptic as a result of God’s covenants tracking a single historical line from point A to point B – we can find a simple interpretation. The cohesive nature of Jesus’ declaration of the key of david, an open door, and the rewards are all pointing to the apocalyptic expectation of inheriting the kingdom (eternal life) on the day of Christ Jesus appearing.

1. “Farrer interprets the title in terms of the Isaianic reference that lies behind the rest of the verse. He writes, “In Isaiah’s text an unfaithful key-bearer is deposed and a worthy minister put in his place; so Christ here names himself the holy, the true, in contrast to the elders of the synagogue, who are false pretenders to the authority of David’s house,” (Mounce 3).

B. The Nature of the Key of David

1. Naturally, we assume the Old Testament context here of Isaiah 22:22. However, we must understand the Davidic Covenant if we are to properly exegete this phrase.

“Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.” (Is. 22:22)

“I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name…“Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:14-16).

2. To enter through the door into the Messianic Kingdom of God is to inherit the fullness of the covenantal promises God has made. If God had merely promised an immaterial heaven to people as the inheritance for the next age, Jesus would hold the key of Whispy-Cloudy Man. Jesus holds the key of David however, which is the the key of the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, the eschatological kingdom of God in Israel in which Jesus will reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem with the Israel of God serving Him in faithfulness. It is only in Messiah that the things in this passage come to pass (i.e. not being disturbed, no affliction from the wicked, rest from your enemies) meaning He alone possesses the key.

3. This reference is contrasted with Rev. 1:18, “I have the keys of death and of Hades,” corresponding now to, “I have the keys of eternal life and the Kingdom.”

4. These parables involve the passage through a door into the place where Jesus is:

“And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you,’” (Mt. 25:11).

“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from,” (Lk. 13:25).

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter,” (Mt. 7:21).

C. The power of Christ’s authority given to Him by the Father is asserted as He alone distinctly possesses the KEY to open and shut the door to those He finds worthy to enter the kingdom.

D. In the passover story it is unique that the blood of the Lamb over the doorposts prohibited God from entering through the door of your house on the night of judgment. Ironically, it is the blood of Jesus, our passover Lamb, that is upon our heads and permits us to enter into His house of life on that day.

21“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 25“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26“For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment,” (Jn. 5:21-29).



A. Jesus starts each letter to the churches with the confirmation of His heart-piercing knowledge of man’s deeds.

“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds,” (Jer. 17:10).

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS,” (Mt. 25:31).

“…who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS… on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus,” (Romans 2:6;16).

B. The deeds of Philadelphia are deeds which have gained them approval as the outworking of their faith into the eschatological Messianic Kingdom of which only Jesus opens and closes the door to. These deeds are specifically named by Jesus…



A. A Little Power

B. Kept My Word

C. Not Denied My Name



A. The Party of the Circumcision (Gal. 2:12) inside the city of Philadelphia seems to be Jesus’ reference.

“…there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:7-8).

B. The strong language used by Jesus in identifying His own chosen people as a synagogue of Satan is not toned incorrectly. He is identifying their doctrine as a doctrine of demons that leads to eternal torment, not life. His zeal is not exaggerated because lives are on the line.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,’” (Jn. 14:6).

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God,” (Rom. 2:28-29).

C. Jesus’ next preposition is to spin a familiar passage (most likely used by the false Jews in mockery) with His exegesis.

“The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel,” (Is. 60:14).

“Kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth And lick the dust of your feet; And you will know that I am the LORD; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame,” (Is. 40:23).

D. Jesus allusion to these verses is counterintuitive because in these passages it is the Gentiles groveling before the feet of the Jews. How ironic for Him to flip it on its head by using these passages to describe an end of the age scenario where these non-jews who say they are jews will come and grovel at the feet of those who had no Jewish heritage, yet are found pure Jewish heritage through the Messianic Seed of David as true sons of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” (Mt. 8:11-12).


1. There is a need to discuss the possibility of Christian persecution at the hands of the false brethren (Gal. 2:4) in the future.

“Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception,” (Is. 28:15).

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth,” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying… For in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate actually met together with unbelievers and the people of Israel to oppose your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed…” (Ps. 2:1-2; Acts 4:25-27).

This counsel is presented in Acts 4 as a Jew and Gentile mixture:

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony,” (Lk. 21:12-13).

2. As stated earlier, we must see everything through a lens of the confirmation of the Gospel witness at the end of the age. One of the main goals of this is the gentile provocation of Israel to jealousy and the magnification of the witness to Israel in regards to the Covenant initiated by Messiah. In bringing this to pass, it seems likely that we will see another persecution arise in the likeness of what the early church experienced. We can be sure this will be at the hands of Muslims, however do we naively ignore the possibility of persecution at the hands of our “Older Brother?” Sobriety is needed to endure hardship for the Gospel whatever the case may be.



“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:1-3).

A. KEPT FROM THE TRIAL—Clearly the reason we are gathered here in California is that we agree there is going to be an end-time event orchestrated by the Lord which will include times of great distress all over the earth. We understand Mt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21 to be on the horizon. We do not believe that pre-tribulation rapture is biblical, therefore we must understand this passage to be a Goshen-type protecting. An Elijah with food from ravens principle. Although we will go through the trial, and it will be difficult because the purpose is to test those who dwell on the earth, it will be overcome by His Spirit with the Blessed Hope upon the horizon and the divine provision of God.



A. Dream. The Lord’s concern that I could lose my crown.



A. “The promise to the overcomer is again twofold and related to the experience and memory of the inhabitants of the city. First, Christ will make the overcomer a “pillar in the temple of my God.” As already noted, the city was constantly threatened with earthquakes. Often the only parts of a city left standing after a severe quake were the huge stone temple columns. Christ promises to set believers in his temple (the future kingdom?) in such a secure fashion that no disturbance can ever force them out,” (Johnson 5).



A. The incredible substance of such a reward.



A. He who has discernment to understand that I am explaining the means by which you inherit eternal life and reward as Gentiles, let him take action accordingly.


Stephen Holmes (18 Posts)

Stephen Holmes is a missionary pastor who lives with his wife and three kids in various nations seeking to give a faithful witness of the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile through Bible Teaching, Preaching, Song and Discipleship.

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