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Bible verses about Philadelphia
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ezekiel 5:1-4

The hair represents the people of the nations of Israel. Most of the church is in the nations of Israel, primarily the United States and Canada. The church is represented in the "small number"—represented by the hair that he puts into his pocket—taken from the third group, which goes into captivity and is thrown to the "four winds," showing a measure of protection. However, he then takes a part from that group and throws it into the fire. Now hair is the most flammable part of the body, and surely, the fire must indicate death.

This can be connected with the fifth seal of Revelation 6: the martyrdom of the saints. One can also connect it with Revelation 3:10 and the "Philadelphians" who are kept from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole earth. The group that he took out of his pocket and threw into the fire (and are therefore consumed in the fires of tribulation) represents the Laodicean church. It surely seems to indicate that very few, if any, of them will survive through the Tribulation. Five separations are indicated here in Ezekiel 5, but only one very small amount is protected in the fold of his skirt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

Matthew 24:12-13

In recent years, the indicator in verse 12 about "love . . . grow[ing] cold" has often been cited when a grievance toward a particular church organization or group arose. This verse, however, can easily be misapplied, so it behooves us to more fully understand what it means so that we can know if or when it is being fulfilled.

Understanding the word translated "love" is a vital first step. It is the well-known Greek word agape, the love that people have only because God has given it to them (Romans 5:5; II Timothy 1:7; I John 2:5; 4:7-8). The people whose agape love is growing cold must have had it in the first place, so it refers to those whom God has called into a relationship with Him (John 6:44).

It is important to differentiate between this agape love and the other types of love mentioned in the Bible. Phileo love means "to be a friend to" or "to be fond of" a person or object, indicating "having affection for," whereas Strong's Concordance notes that agape "is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety" (emphasis ours). Similarly, philadelphia love means "fraternal affection" or "brotherly love." Agape love, though, is manifested first toward God, because it is a dutiful, submissive, obedient love, one that does what is right regardless of how a person feels about it. In other words, agape love has a moral core rather than an emotional one.

The Bible shows that, in general, we show agape love to the Father through our obedience and submission, especially to His law (John 14:15-23; 15:10; I John 2:5; 5:2-3; II John 6). We show agape love to each other through sacrifice, just as Jesus' example of love—to those around Him and to us—was through sacrifice (John 13:34; 15:12-13; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:2, 25; I John 3:16, 18; 4:9-12).

The meaning of Matthew 24:12, then, is that agape love will grow cold because of lawlessness, even though there may still be brotherly love, kindness, and human affection. Remember, we show agape love to God through obedience—the opposite of lawlessness—so when disobedience increases, agape grows cold. An example of this appears in the letter to the Ephesians, where Jesus says that they had left their first love—their first agape—and He commands them to repent (Revelation 2:4-5), that is, to turn away from their lawlessness. When there is compromise, or the setting aside of God's standard of righteousness and holiness, then the submissive love toward God and the sacrificial love toward man will begin to grow cold. It is a simple cause-and-effect relationship.

In this prophecy, Jesus Christ is describing an ongoing breakdown in the relationship with God. Since that most important relationship is the source of agape love, if it is waning, then it will be evident in other relationships. A symptom may be that sacrificial love toward other people is decreasing, but the real cause is that the relationship with God is cooling off.

A cause of this deterioration is found in the preceding verse: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11). While a true prophet always upholds God's law (Deuteronomy 13:3-4; Isaiah 8:19-20; Romans 8:7), a false prophet is willing to compromise with God's standard of holiness when it suits him. Those following a false teacher will likewise slide into lawlessness, becoming separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-3).

David C. Grabbe
Is the Love of Many Growing Cold?


 

Revelation 2:4

Note that each of these congregations—those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—was located in a Gentile city, and in all probability, each congregation's membership was primarily Gentile. It is quite likely that in each congregation the Jews were a minority.

Recall that the Romans ravaged Jerusalem in AD 70, and its Christians had to flee to Pella to save their lives. It is highly probable that none of these congregations had any communication with any survivor of the first congregation in Jerusalem. All of the apostles except John were dead, and he had been banished to Patmos. This circumstance was far different from the one in which the church was founded.

Were these Gentile congregations still part of the true church? Were they free of flaws and perfect in their character, attitudes, and doctrines? Would such a negative judgment eliminate them from being a true assembly?

Consider these further factors: Revelation 2:4 commends the congregation in Ephesus for doctrinal vigilance but castigates it for leaving its first love. Revelation 2:9-11 shows Christ commending Smyrna for being spiritually rich, but He also admonishes them to overcome. Despite His commendation, they are not a finished product.

Revelation 2:13-15 praises those in Pergamos for not denying their faith, but its members are doctrinally divided, and they permit heresy to continue. Revelation 2:19-20 presents Thyatira as growing in good works, but its members tolerate heresy and are guilty of sexual immorality.

Revelation 3:1, 4 exposes Sardis as spiritually dead, though it contains a few who remain undefiled, indicating that its members have virtually lost their faith and are capable only of dead works. Revelation 3:8, 11-12 reports that those in Philadelphia are faithfully enduring, but Christ admonishes them to hold fast and overcome. Finally, Revelation 3:15, 19 judges Laodicea as spiritually bankrupt and gives it no commendation at all. The congregation is strongly advised to be zealous and repent.

What does a composite picture of these congregations reveal?

1. All seven of them are admonished to repent, hold fast, or remain faithful.

2. Only two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, receive strong commendations and no listing of their sins and other shortcomings.

3. Two of them, Pergamos and Thyatira, receive a lesser commendation and fairly strong rebukes for sexual immorality and allowing deceivers into the congregation.

4. Two of them, Sardis and Laodicea, receive strong rebukes and no commendations.

In terms of a true church in a single corporate body, what do we see? Only sixty years or so following Christ's resurrection, we have a mixed bag as regards overall stability and righteousness.

Even so, is any one of them not a true congregation, an assembly of truly called-out ones? Does Christ in any way say that even one of them was no longer part of His church, His body of people? Not in the least. There are, however, warnings that, if they did not repent, some within their fellowship might not be within the Body of Christ in the future. Two things are sure:

1. Some of these congregations are clearly spiritually better than the others.

2. Some of them are decidedly awful, even though, using carnal judgment, they may outwardly appear good.

Since Revelation is an end-time book, the overview given in Revelation 2 and 3 is especially significant at this time. It is forecasting what things will be like just before Christ returns, and He uses these first-century congregations to illustrate His forecast for our time.

Remember that God is judging us individually within each group. An attitude that we should not allow to grow in us is to think that we are the only ones who retain a true-church identity. The other side of that same concept is that, even if we agree that others are still part of the true church, we are still better than they are—indeed, everybody else is Laodicean by comparison.

This unmistakably holier-than-you attitude is extremely destructive to true brotherhood and proper fellowship and unity. Luke 18:9-14 records this teaching of Christ concerning self-righteousness and its effects on these matters. Those who elevate themselves in their judgment of themselves as compared to their fellow members bring on themselves this condemnation. God does not justify them when they make this kind of judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is There a True Church?


 

Revelation 2:7

The sense is that these messages for each church—for all Christians. This means that the attitudes and conduct described dominate the group accused or complimented by Christ, but they also exist in the other groups as well. Otherwise, the advice to whoever hears would not apply.

In other words, the Ephesian attitude might also be in Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodicea, Philadelphia, etc., but it dominated the church in Ephesus. The attitude that dominated in Smyrna would also describe, though with less accuracy, one or more of the other groups. The same would be true of Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

All the messages apply to all of the churches. All the messages apply to each of us as individuals, and it is a matter of "if the shoes fits, wear it." That is God's approach here. We are to live by every word of God. It is only under this principle that we can apply these messages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:7

The key of David - (See Isaiah 22:22; 9:6; Matthew 28:18) A misunderstanding of this symbol may have fostered abuses of church or ministerial authority. For decades, the church interpreted Revelation 3:7 to mean the church had "God's government," and the ministry too often wielded this club with a heavy hand (Ezekiel 34:1-10; Jeremiah 23:1-3). Revelation 3:7, however, is clear that the key of David belongs, not to the church, but to the One who is holy and true, Jesus Christ. He alone has the authority to govern the church and to open and shut doors before it.

Jeremiah 23:20 predicts that we will fully understand this problem "in the latter days." Having experienced man's misuse of Christ's authority and the church's scattering, we should now see that in its administration the church must be very careful to stay within the bounds of true Christianity and not usurp God's prerogatives.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 3:7-8

Jesus Christ tells the Philadelphians that they have only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They have a small, effective capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, a limited ability to get things done. If they are dynamic, it is only on a small scale. This has some implications about the letter to Philadelphia that we may not have considered before.

There are at least four applications or audiences to the Letters to the Seven Churches: They are written to 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; 2) seven end-time churches; 3) seven historical church eras; and/or 4) individuals Christians. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters can represent attitudes or conditions as well as organizational units and periods. Looking through the lens of the fourth application gives the letter to Philadelphia meaning regardless of the era or corporate organization one may be part of.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphian has only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. The overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive. However, He is giving a statement of fact: Philadelphians have only a small effective capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a small amount.

The Philadelphian, by this accounting, will probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, or the one moving mountains. Nor will He be prophesying of future events or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian will probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is this dunamis lacking? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the lack of dunamis is because of a great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. Perhaps part of the reason, seen in one of Jesus' parables, is that not much natural ability is there for God to enhance. Perhaps also, mighty deeds are lacking because there is no need for such works to be done. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will give the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it is because it is His will that a thing not be accomplished.

The Parable of the Talents adds to the picture:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the effective capability the person already possesses. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!

The two faithful servants double what is given to them. The amounts are not as important as the growth. Both give Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed on them. The unfaithful servant produces nothing at all.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who receives only two talents rather than five. He does not have the same natural ability. However, even though he may have fewer responsibilities, or the scope of what he controls is much smaller, he is just as faithful as the servant who receives more. The Philadelphian may have only a little ability, but with that ability he is able to keep God's word and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8). His power enables him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

We have been given a measure of dunamis. If we have God's Spirit, we have ability, talent, effectiveness, and strength in some measure, in some area. It does not matter how much is given, or in what area our strength resides, but that we remain faithful in what God has given to us and that we make use of the power we have to further God's purpose.

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

Revelation 3:8

There is criticism or maybe it is simply a statement of fact. They are weak. They do have good characteristics, but they are weak. They have "a little strength."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:8

We tend to think of the Philadelphians as being without fault because Christ does not make a pointed and detailed listing of their sins. Notice, however, that they have "a little strength"—they are weak. This is not a put-down but an honest appraisal. He is in fact commending them for doing as well as they have.

We need to consider this in terms of our recent lives in the church. The evidence shows that the Philadelphia group lacks the spiritual strength of the beginning of the Ephesian group. We have not seen many mountains moving out of their places.

We are among the generation addressed by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). A careful scrutiny of these verses shows something is missing that almost all assume is there: They do not say the church at Philadelphia is full of brotherly love. Philadelphia is the name of the city, and we draw an assumption that Christ calls them "Philadelphians" because they exhibit remarkable love for one another. To be honest, we would have to make the same assumption for each of the groups, and no one has been able to make a significant conclusion in this vein for the Ephesian group in regard to the name "Ephesus," or for the Thyatiran group with "Thyatira," or for the others. Perhaps only one name does fit somewhat: Laodicea, which means "judgment of the people."

The Philadelphians have one fine quality—they are faithful. This is what He compliments them for being, meaning they have a commendable measure of obedience. Nevertheless, the Philadelphians, though faithful, are somewhat weak. The Laodiceans are largely derived from a base that came from the Philadelphians, making them weaker still, due to their lackadaisical inattention to their relationships with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 3:8

In Revelation 3:8, the phrase "open door" is being used, not so much as an opportunity, but as a reward. Young's Literal Translation shows this emphasis: "I have known thy works; lo, I have set before thee a door—opened, and no one is able to shut it, because thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name" (emphasis ours). Christ sets before the Philadelphian an "open door" because he has only a little capacity for mighty works, and yet he still keeps God's Word and does not deny God's name by the way he lives his life. He still is able to overcome.

The door Christ opens to the Philadelphian, the door no man can shut, may well be the door to the Kingdom itself! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the door is open to some of the virgins and closed to others (Matthew 25:10-12). In the description of New Jerusalem, the gate is open only to those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; 22:14). Christ opens the door to the Kingdom because of the Philadelphian's faithfulness, just as He promises to keep him from the hour of trial because of his perseverance (Revelation 3:10).

God may have given him only two talents, but He knows that if he is faithful with a small amount of power, in the Kingdom he will faithfully administer all of the responsibility and effectiveness that God bestows upon him. Individually, we may only have a little "power," but if we are faithful with what we have been given, God is pleased, knowing we will also be faithful with great power. As Christ says in Luke 16:10, ". . . faithful also in much. . . ."

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

Revelation 3:10-11

It seems that some of the Philadelphia church will be around at Christ's return. Otherwise, there would be no need to mention the hour of temptation or trial that would come upon the whole earth—this is not some minor tribulation taking place in a corner of Asia Minor but an event happening all over the world. That has not happened yet. However, the message to Philadelphia indicates that elements of the Philadelphia church will be extant when that hour of temptation is occurring.

Compare this example with the message to Pergamos, where a certain individual is named Antipas. His is not a name one would associate with the end time; Antipas is a Greek name from the time this book was written (about AD 95). It is possible that Antipas had died shortly before this was written. Little details like this suggest a movement of time within Revelation 2-3.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 3:10

God promises protection to the Philadelphia brethren—and we can be sure that this is a Rock-solid promise! However, we should be careful not to be complacent about this comforting promise. We should never assume that God considers us Philadelphians. It is likely that we have been in the Laodicean era for quite some time. We have to prove to God that we deserve to be considered Philadelphians in attitude while amidst the Laodicean era.

Although God's promise to this faithful church is sure, it applies only to those who are truly Philadelphian. Jesus identifies them as having kept God's Word, not denied His name, and kept His command to persevere. Those who fail to meet these three criteria cannot count themselves as Philadelphians and cannot claim God's promise of protection through the end-time trials and persecutions. We all need to wake up, listen to, and act upon the frequent and strong warnings against Laodicean attitudes that still exist within the church today!

Staff
No Greater Love


 

Revelation 3:11

True Philadelphians have enough doctrinal truth, devotion, obedience, and the grace of God to attain salvation if they hold fast. As an organization and era, Philadelphia has virtually disappeared, but individual Philadelphians can ensure their salvation by guarding the truth God reveals (I Timothy 4:16; II Timothy 1:13-14; 3:14; Jude 1:3).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 3:12

Because Christ criticizes Philadelphia very little, opens doors before her, and offers protection from the Tribulation, it is easy to think we "have it made" if we were or are part of Philadelphia. Yet Christ admonishes Philadelphia just as He does the other churches: Overcome! A Christian must never rest on his oars, no matter what his situation or era. We all must overcome the world (I John 5:4), our nature, and Satan to be granted salvation, and if we do, entrance to God's Kingdom is an absolute promise!

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Find more Bible verses about Philadelphia:
Philadelphia {Nave's}
 




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