To the church in Philadelphia, Christ had a promise that is to the future. And while I will point it out, I won’t dwell too much on it. Instead, I want to focus on what Christ had to say about the condition of the church in Philadelphia, and what He thought about it. So let’s take a look at the relevant verses.
“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: ‘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. 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. 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. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. – Revelation 3:7-11, NASB
Christ’s introduction of Himself is rather bold. He tells us He is holy. He makes it clear He is true. And He leaves no doubt that He holds the key to a door no one can shut. He calls this the key of David and without reference to the culture and to other Scripture it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So let’s take a minute to look at that. The keys represented the king’s power over his kingdom. It represents the king’s authority, whether held by the king or delegated to another. We see a reference of the keys used in this manner with respect to the kingdom of Judah in Isaiah 22. If that’s not making a lot of sense, a modern analogy would be a power of attorney. It’s not unusual for a military member to give his or her spouse or another family member power of attorney before deploying to a war zone. That allows that person to sign on the behalf of and act in the name of the service member. In other words, the service member has delegated his or her authority to the family member. Think of the key of David in the same way, except the key is rightfully Christ’s, for it is for His kingdom.
Once He has proclaimed His authority, Christ then goes on to talk about the church in Philadelphia and what He has to say is awesome. He had seen that the believers there had been faithful. And though they were small in number and though they didn’t wield a lot of power, the door is open. The door to what? There’s a lot of speculation, and it’s all good: the door to Christ Himself, the door to His Kingdom, or even the door to further service to Christ the King. None of those are bad things. And why was this door open? Because they were faithful. They were faithful despite those who stood against them. Some of those were members of the Jewish faith who denied Christ as Messiah. Christ tells the church in Philadelphia that He will deal with those who denied His claim to Messiah. And that when He does, they will know how much He loved the believers there. Think about that for a second.
One of the best things a parent can say to a child is, “I love you.” Now actions have to follow the words, or the child will eventually see them for what they are: empty. Christ was going to do both. He was going to proclaim to the enemies of the church in Philadelphia how much He loved those believers. And in giving this message we have recorded in Revelation, He was saying, “I love you.” Not only that, but He was going to deal with the enemies of the church. In other words, Christ’s “I love you” was not empty. It would include action to demonstrate that love. Could you imagine the Lord doing that for us? Could you imagine Him standing before our enemies and saying, “I love these. They are mine,” as He comes to our defense? That was the promise to the church in Philadelphia. What garnered such a great reward? Simply, their faithfulness to Christ is all it took. Now saying that belies how difficult that might have been. But it wasn’t about number of people witnessed to or number of folks baptized or the size of the gym that was built. It was simply based on their faithfulness.
After that promise Christ makes another that points to His second coming. As I said at the start of this devotional, I won’t get into the details. However, notice why He was giving the promise: they had persevered and kept the faith. The whole message to the church in Philadelphia is filled with an exhortation of their faithfulness. That’s the lesson for us. Yes, life isn’t fair and sometimes it’s downright difficult. But at the end of the day the one who can deliver the greatest rewards is measuring us by our faithfulness in the face of life. And it doesn’t matter how successful or not we according to our friends, our parents, our enemies, or the world itself. What matters is how faithful we are to Christ. God’s criteria is really that simple. And the rewards He promises for meeting it are out of this world!