The Seven Churches of Asia - Philadelphia (Part 2)

Robert E. Surgenor

Lord’s Day finds us gathering with the Philadelphian saints. The sky is clear and the city is quite busy. Dionysus, the god of wine has attracted many and the revelry of the day, with its dancing and sensual enjoyment has begun. The Christians quietly walk to the gathering center midst the sneers of the Jews, who upon every opportunity persecuted the little assembly of God. There is a godly calmness to the saints. We are impressed that well before the hour was come, they were quietly sitting in the circle, meditating upon the Person of Christ, settling themselves reverently in the conscious presence of God. We are very much impressed with atmosphere. The children are subdued, quietly sitting in the room of the unbeliever, others in the room of the unlearned (1 Cor. 14:16,24). We take it for granted that there are no coloring books, games, or toys to amuse them, for they have been wisely taught by their parents that reverence becomes the house of God. The hour comes and the audible worship commences. Our hearts become strangely warmed as brother after brother rises to present his worship to the Father. How unlike most of the other churches we attended where either coldness, worldliness, wickedness, or deadness seemed to prevail. Philadelphia was to us an oasis in the desert, a springing well of refreshment to our souls. As the worship rises higher and higher, thanks is appropriately given for the bread - we partake, tears are shed. Then briefly, thanks is given for the cup and we partake. A feeling of deep appreciation of Christ prevails. Announcement is made that the offering will go to missionaries laboring faithfully in new places. Every one of them gives of their substance that they have laid by them in store, maidens and married sisters included (1 Cor. 16:2). Announcement is then made that a letter has arrived from the Lord Himself. An intense attentiveness prevails as the announcing brother commences.

The Presentation of Christ

"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" (3:7).

The first truth that the Lord impresses this assembly with is what He is essentially. He is holy, reminding us of 1 Peter 1 :15,16, "But as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all your behavior; Because it is written, Beye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15-16 R.V.). Holy is also translated saints and also conveys the thought of different, or, separate from. The saints in Philadelphia would correspond to this, would they not? They were different than the populace around them in that they were separated from all the city’s ungodly affairs and ways. God who has called us is Holy and it is interesting to notice that in this particular quotation in 1 Peter 1, the word holy is not an adjective, but rather a noun meaning that the One that called us is the Holy One. Thus, " God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1 Thess. 4:7). Let me ask, are you holy in your thoughts, motives, and deeds?

This word holy is a divine title used twenty nine times in the scriptures. Isaiah relates - "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15). These contrite and humble saints in Philadelphia needed a little reviving of their spirit and their heart. Christ the Holy One will do that very thing in this letter! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb.13). He was holy on the throne in His preincarnate state (Isa. 6:3). He was holy at His birth (Lk. 1:35). He was holy in His ministry (Mk. 1:24). He was holy in the offering of Himself on behalf of our sins (Lev. 6:25). He was holy in His resurrection (Acts 2:27), and He is holy in the presentation of Himself to Philadelphia. Paul, Peter and John all relate to this. Paul, the man of intellect writes, "He knew no sin." Peter the man of action confesses, "He did no sin. " John, the man who captured the inward affections of His Lord states, "In Him is no sin. " Let us never lose sight of the fact that our Lord is absolutely holy!

The Lord continues to unfold to them what He is ESSENTIALLY. "He that is true. " True is in contrast to what is an imitation, a substitute. Christ is real as opposed to that which is unreal. In Him is reality! He is not just an outline of truth, but very truth itself. In John’s Gospel our Lord is spoken of as "the true Light, which lighteth every man" (Jn 1:6). All divine illumination comes through Him. He also is the true Bread. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:32,33). He is the source of all divine life. Not only this, Christ states, "1 am the true vine" (John 15:1). Thus indicating that He is the source of all fruit— bearing to us the branches. To this missionary-minded church, Christ is impressing them with the fact that in their outreach they are to bear in mind that as the true light, He alone can illuminate the darkened souls of men, that as the true bread, He alone can impart divine life, and as the true vine, no fruit can be borne apart from their abiding in Him.

The Lord now brings to their attention what He is OFFICIALLY - "He that hath the key of David. " Our minds go immediately back to Isaiah 22:21, 22. Shebna the treasurer was disposed by Eliakim of whom the Lord said, " I will commit thy government into his hand... 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. " Eliakim held the key, thus he was invested with full administrative authority. The door to David’s palace was opened or closed by only one person - the man with the key. That large key was carried on a loop slung over Eliakim’s shoulder, conveying the fact that he alone had the power to grant or deny to others an audience with the king. Christ holds the key to the treasuries of God. He holds the key to truth, holiness, opportunity, service and testimony. May I say, He holds the key to the eternal throne. We enter the holiest through His blood (Heb. 10). He is the Master of the situation! He is the final authority, which no man can question. Luke bears this testimony - "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Lk. 1:32-33). Thus by virtue of His lineage and also by His own worth, the key of David’s house is presently and rightly held by Him.

The Lord then reveals what He is ADMINISTRATIVELY. "He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth. " In the dark shadows of this statement we observe something sinister. The ancient god, Janus, was the god of doors and hinges, the opener and closer. It was believed that he held a key as a sign that he had the power to open the doors of heaven or to shut the gates of peace and war upon earth. The Pope of Rome later assumed this power and his closest advisors became known as cardinals, a word taken from cardo, meaning a hinge. Thus Rome today assumes the power to open or close the doors of heaven to individuals as well as controlling the doors of war and peace. Most of the seeds of this world’s wars can be traced back to Rome and its evil influence over the governments of nations. However, Christ claims a far greater power than either good Eliakim or evil Rome. He alone holds "the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev. 1:18 R.V.). His authority is undisputed! What words of encouragement to this assembly that lacked silver, social status and numerical strength. Brethren, do we realize the awesomeness of the One in our midst? Do we realize His undisputed authority and unlimited power? Do we appreciate what He really is? Are you constantly discouraged? Then the attributes just mentioned you have never fully appreciated, or you would not be discouraged! How could you be with such an One in our midst? How rich! How vast! How uplifting, is the presentation of our Lord, revealing what He is essentially, officially, and administratively, to this little, but faithful assembly in the city named Brotherly Love. Shall we linger with them? Certainly! For what better company could you be in than with the saints here? God willing let us gather together with them next month to learn more of that One presenting Himself in their midst. Thank you once again for coming with us to Philadelphia!