By Pastor Randy Elliott
This talk is from a tape transcript dated October 18, 1992

The Holy Spirit Speaks To The Churches

The Spirit today is speaking to those who will listen, but He doesn't speak to just individuals. Revelation 3:13 says, "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Are you listening, Christian? Is your church listening? The Spirit is continually striving with us, prodding us toward truth and righteousness and away from attachment to this dying world.

Today we want to hear what the Spirit is saying to us as individuals and to our church through the church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13).

The City Of Philadelphia
Its Culture And Philosophy

We want to first make note of this churchºs circumstances. The city of Philadelphia was founded in 140 B.C. at the juncture of the approaches to three major provinces of Asia Minor: Mysea, Lydia and Phrygia. It was called the "Gateway to the East." The city was prosperous, partly because of its flourishing grape industry. Dionysus was its patron god, though temples throughout the city were erected in honor of other gods as well. The city was founded as a missionary center for Hellenism, that is, for spreading the pagan culture and though of Greece. Into this city had come the gospel of Jesus Christ, that God had sent His Son as the atonement for our sin, and some had turned away from the pagan culture and philosophy of the Greeks to Jesus Christ.

The Church Of Philadelphia
Faithful But Having Little Power

We need to hear what the Spirit of God wants to say through this church of Philadelphia. This church, and the one in Smyrna, were the only ones of the seven specifically mentioned that the Lord did not rebuke. Some 230 years after the founding of the city, John the Revelator was told by the Lord Jesus to write to this church under these circumstances: "I know your deeds. . . . you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8).

It was a little church. It was a small group of people in the midst of a powerful, prosperous center founded in a strategic location for the sake and purpose of propagating paganism. This church was not great in number. It did not have a lot of power. When this church spoke, no one necessarily listened. They were small, they were insecure, they were threatened. And apparently, they became the object of accusations and attacks from what John calls the synagogue of Satan: "I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan,who said they are Jews, but are not, but lie - behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you" (v. 9). In the midst of it all, they had been faithful to Jesus.

The Church Of Philadelphia
Deteriorating Circumstances With No Increase Of Power

Besides the immediate circumstances, there was something else looming on the horizon that would make them feel smaller still: "the hour of testing, that which is about to come upon those who dwell upon the earth" (v. 10).

Those of you who have studied Revelation know that Revelation 3:10 is probably a reference to the Great Tribulation that is coming upon the whole world. But we also know from our study of Scripture that sometimes a verse has a double application. This verse does apply to the Great Tribulation. But the immediate application to those people in that time was that, in 95 A.D., one of the most severe persecutions of the Roman Empire was about to descend upon the Christians. And as this message was being written to the Philadelphia faithful, and with us in mind as well, they are aware, there is a sense of foreboding, there's a strong feeling that something is about to descend upon them, and they feel little and they feel small, they feel insignificant and they feel insecure.

The Church Of Philadelphia
Comforted Through The Lord's Knowledge Of Them

How wonderful that Jesus says to them in verse 8, "I know your deeds." They're only little, they're small, they're insignificant, but Jesus knows them. What does Jesus know about them? "I know your deeds. You have kept My word, you have not denied My name." That's what Jesus knew about them. Can the same be said of us?

These people loved God's word. These people didn't compromise God's word. These people loved Jesus because of what He did for them on the cross to save them from their sins. And they were not ashamed to bear the name of Jesus in the midst of a negative, hostile environment. Jesus said, "I know your deeds and that you have little power, yet you have kept My word and not denied My name." What a comfort for Christians to know that Jesus knows the pretenders, and He knows those who are taking it on the chin by refusing to deny His name. What comfort that He knows both the compromisers and those who keep His word.

The Church Of Philadelphia
Their Source Of Confidence

Notice this church's confidence. As small as they were, as insignificant as they were, their confidence was in Jesus Himself. Verse 7 says, "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: I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because [I know] you [only] have a little power" (v. 8). This church is saying, "Lord, we've been faithful to you, but things are getting worse. We've been trying to stand for you in the midst of this paganism, in the midst of an environment thatºs hostile to us, but Lord, we're tired. We're tired of standing,we're tired of fighting. We're tired." Have you ever felt like that as a Christian? Have you ever felt tired of the battles like those of the Philadelphian church? "Lord, we're tired. And we see what's coming down the pike. We see this hour of testing, we see the rumblings of it, we see the hints of it out in the world. We see that it's coming, Lord, and we're tired. We don't know if we can stand anymore, we don't know if we can take it anymore. We don't know if we'll be able to take it when the onslaught comes."

Will they stand, only having a little power? Notice that Jesus didn't say to them, "Buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can do it, positive thinking." No. Do you know how Jesus gives these people hope? He talks about who He is - who HE is! We've forgotten who Jesus is. We say too quickly He's the Savior, He's the Lord. We don't even stop to think what these words mean. We don't stop to think when He says, "I am the way and the truth and the life," or when the Apostle Paul says He is "all in all."

Jesus says to the Philadelphians who are tired of fighting: "I am holy and true." What good does that do these people? They are trying to be holy, they are trying to be true. Jesus is saying, "I know My sheep. I know every one of My people in every corner of the earth, even in a small insignificant church in Philadelphia, who are seeking to be holy and true. And they have a special claim upon Me because I am holy and true."

Look again at what He says: "I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." Here's this little church feeling beaten down and defeated and hopeless and despairing and belittled and nullified. Ask yourself: who are WE in the midst of such circumstances today? We have just a little power. But Jesus says, "Look at MY power. I am the One who opens and no one shuts and shuts and no one opens." Do we see a Jesus who is all powerful in these verses? We are too impressed by the power of governments and the power of oppressors and the power of men, and Jesus says, "Turn your eyes upon ME. You only have a little power but I have opened a door for you and no one can shut it." So in the midst of their circumstances, being small and little, things threatening them in their midst and things on the horizon, the Lord says to them, "I am your confidence. You're weak, but I know your heart. I know you're faithful. I will open a door for you that no one can shut, not even the Roman Emperor." Their responsibility, and ours, is to be faithful. Jesus would take care of the rest.

The Church Of Philadelphia
Called To Stand Fast To The End

Then Jesus encourages them by saying, "I am coming quickly." He doesn't necessarily mean, "I am coming immediately.æ What He means is, when He makes His move, events will happen decisively. There will no longer be any hesitation. And as we see more prophecy being fulfilled in our midst, Jesus is saying to us, "When I put My hand on the doorknob of heaven, I will come quickly - it will be decisive - and events will immediately fall into place and there's not anything thatºs going to stop it from happening." So He says to us as He said to the early Philadelphian church: "Hold fast to what you have, in order that no one take your crown" (v. 11).

The Church Of Philadelphia
Powerless, Yet Holding Onto A Promise

Despite their faithfulness, Jesus didn't promise He'd remove the bad circumstances they found themselves in at the moment. But He promised they would be rewarded with what escapes them in this present life - stability, safety, rest, security - when He returned. In verse 12, Jesus promised the Philadelphians, "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 upon 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."

When you think of a pillar, you don't think of something insignificant and insecure. You think of strength and stability and permanence. And here's this little church and Jesus says, "I know you have little power and I know you're threatened on all sides, but to those who overcome, Iºm going to make you pillar in the temple of My God." He's promising them stability and rest if they will remain faithful. And He promises them that God's name and the name of the New Jerusalem and His own new name will be written upon them. If you know the book of Revelation, you know what's coming shortly. Everyone who does not have 666 written upon him will not be able to buy or sell. Everyone else is going to have a name, a number, written on them. But those who are faithful to the Lamb of God are not going to take that number. Jesus is saying to all the beleaguered saints, "The world will have its number, but you will have 'God' written across you. And when they inherit the wrath of God, you will inherit the Kingdom of God."

The Church Of Philadelphia
Then And Now

The message that the Spirit of God spoke to the church at Philadelphia has a special relevance to us today. What is that message? The message is that in many ways people today feel small and insecure and overwhelmed by their adversities. And many who are seeking to be serious disciples of Jesus Christ and live for Him are getting tired in the battle and are feeling like members of the little Philadelphian church - we only have a little power and we can see the darkness descending and the problems continuing and worsening. Many today can identify with the little Philadelphian church.

Some who are trying to be faithful to the word of God and the name of Jesus are feeling like they have little power because of intense personal problems. I am not speaking of those suffering adversity who live selfish, world-centered lives hardly distinguishable from worldlings around them. Such are the Philadelphians. Some are under Satanic attack DESPITE their faithfulness to the Lord. They're not under attack because theyºve been unfaithful, but DESPITE remaining faithful. Yet their future does not seem as secure as it once did. And if our theology says to us that we're never going to have a problem if we're faithful to Jesus, then we've got a bad theology. There's not a verse in the Bible to support that kind of theology. How can we read chapters like Hebrews 11 - the great faith chapter - and believe such things?

Others feel they have only a little power because of what is happening all around us in the churches. Jesus said, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). How many Philadelphians are left today in the Church, people who say they will be faithful to Godºs word and Jesus' name, and who won't compromise either one? Answer that question in your own heart. Are you a Philadelphian, having little power and feeling small, yet remaining faithful to your Lord?

And finally, people today feel small and of little power because of the present onslaught of evil in our nation and around the world. The evil we see in our society today will increase from this point to the end of this decade, making our present pain seem trivial. The problem with America is not economic - it is moral and spiritual because we no longer want God in this country - except for the little Philadelphians. We have not seen the half of it when this juggernaut of evil comes down the pike. Serious believers are going to increasingly sense that they are small with little power when the invited evil invades our entire house and is glorified.

We are even now identifying with the Philadelphians of the first century. The darkness is descending. The party is over. The time will test us and only the spiritual Philadelphians will stand. Today's Philadelphian has to seriously ask the questions: "What shall we do?" and ÑHow shall we live?æ

  1. Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

  2. Realize we now a minority as the people of God.

  3. Focus on the power of Jesus, not on our weaknesses.

  4. Do not lose heart. Know that He has called us to be faithful in our weakness, knowing we canºt totally change or stop what's happening.

  5. Remember, no one can steal your crown, but you can forfeit it through unfaithfulness and the denial of Christ's name.

  6. Help prepare our families and friends and those in the church for the dark times ahead.

Remember, Jesus said, "I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have." Our prayer must be, "Lord, make us like Philadelphia."