26 July 2012

Revelation 3:7-13

"I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (v. 8b)


In the sixth of seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor (contemporary Turkey), the risen Christ addresses the church of Philadelphia with an encouragement to stay faithful. As in all the messages, this one begins with a short description. Here, Jesus is the "holy one, the true one" (v. 7) and "has the key of David" - a reference to his royal role as Messiah. Jesus opens the door that no-one else can shut, most likely here the door of salvation.

The message is one of encouragement, one of only two of the seven letters to the churches where the risen Jesus offers no criticism (Smryna (Revelation 2:8-11) is the other one). Although of little power, the church has stayed faithful to its calling. The reference to the "synagogue of Satan" (v. 9) reflects the hostility between church and synagogue at Philadelphia, where Jewish non-Christians may have excluded Jewish Christians from their assembly. The local Jewish synagogue, however, will learn that those who follow Christ are loved by God.

Since they have remained faithful, the church at Philadelphia will be kept from the "hour of trial" (v. 10) that is coming upon the earth. This probably does not mean that the church will escape suffering, but that it will be strengthened throughout it.

The reward for conquering - standing firm in commitment to Jesus - is being incorporated into the community of God forever. In verse 12, a variety of metaphors communicate this reality: believers will be made a "pillar" in the temple, having the name of God and the heavenly city 'written' on them. Those who remain faithful will be firmly established in God, secure in God's presence like brickwork in a building.

The whole passage also rests on the expectancy that Jesus is coming again. After 2,000 years, it is easy to lose a sense of this eschatological urgency, and yet such a posture is reflected throughout the New Testament.

To Ponder

  • To what extent should the expectation of Jesus' return shape our discipleship?
  • What does 'patient endurance' look like for the Church in twenty first-century Britain? 

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the discipleship development officer for the Methodist Church, a role that involves developing and promoting a range of resources to help Christians grow as followers of Jesus. His previous experience includes working as evangelism, spirituality and discipleship officer at Methodist Church House, lecturing in New Testament Studies at Birmingham Christian College, and working as associate leader of B1, a 'fresh expression' of church in Birmingham.