The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia
This is the last article in the series The Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation. In the letter to Philadelphia we will find a peculiar congregation of believers in the Messiah that will be saved from the hour of trial. Who are they? Let us keep on reading.
The heading of the letter to Philadelphia begins thus,
And to the messenger of the assembly in Philadelphia write, ‘He who is set-apart, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens, says this: (Rev 3:7)
Who is the “He” in the opening of the letter to Philadelphia, as it is said, He who has the key of David, because this One is He who opens and no one shuts?
Yochanan (John) saw in the right hand of YHVH who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1), and a messenger proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loosen its seals?” (Rev 5:2) But, no one in the heaven or on the earth was found worthy to open the scroll (Rev 5:3). And the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb of YHVH (Rev 5:8) and sang,
You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals, because You were slain, and have redeemed us to Elohim by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (Rev 5:9)
Having said that, we find the agreement in the verses above to see that this One is none other than Yeshua the Messiah of YHVH.
And indeed, in His capacity as a mediator between Elohim and men, Yeshua was found worthy to loosen the seven seals and unleashed the seven plagues at the sound of the seven trumpets by the virtues of His obedience on the cross. This authority He received from His Father to show to His servants, through His messenger the great scope of the future that would be revealed at the end of times, known to Him from the very beginning of the world.
This is what it means when it was said in the letter to Philadelphia, He who has the key of David. So, the phrase the key of David, David the beloved of YHVH, is a metaphor for authority given to his direct descendant Yeshua.
We find a similar expression in the Gospel of Matthew where Yeshua said to Shimon Kepha (Simon Peter) that on this rock He shall build His assembly, and the gates of She’ol shall not overcome it. (Mat 16:18)
And I shall give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you bind on earth is bound in the heavens, and whatever you loosen on earth is loosened in the heavens. (Mat 16:19)
Here binding and loosening is a Hebrew idiom for exercising authority.
The letter to Philadelphia continues to say,
I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, and no one is able to shut it, that you have little power, yet have guarded My Word, and have not denied My Name. (Rev 3:8)
For those who have little power, but good works before the Lord, He sets a wide open door. This door is set open only for those who have guarded the YHVH’s word (the Torah) and have not denied His Name.
And indeed, the believers in Yeshua in Philadelphia are not able to open the door, since the Messiah is the One who is able, but they can enter it in His Name, because they have guarded His Word (the Torah) and have not denied His Name.
This is in contrast to the door the Laodiceans have shut in the face of the Messiah, and therefore, in the face of the One who has sent Him. They have assumed the authority to open and shut the door, authority given only to Him who through His blood has merited it. The Laodiceans have made Him stand at the door waiting for someone to open it:
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire … As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. So be ardent and repent. Look, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I shall come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:18-20)
This is what the phrase “the church of the Laodiceans” means; it belongs to the Laodiceans, not to the Messiah, the head of the body of believers. They made Him stand at the door and wait, but will someone in Laodicea will hear His voice and open the door?
We keep on reading the letter to Philadelphia.
Look, I am giving up those of the congregation of Satan, who say they are Yehudiyim and are not, but lie. Look, I am making them come and bow down before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. (Rev 3:9)
The believers in Yeshua in Philadelphia were smeared by those who called themselves יְּהוּדִיִים Yehudiyim that they were not loved by the Lord. But, the Lord said they lied and moreover He will make them bow down before the feet of the Philadelphians and will know that He loves them.
As we studied the letter to the assembly in Smyrna, the term Yehudiyim is an adjective meaning “Judaic” and distinct from Yehudim which means descendants of Yehudah (Judah). The term Yehudiyim was understood by the sages to refer to the Ten Lost Tribes who labeled themselves “Judaic” or Yehudiyim.
Again, as we learned from the letter to the assembly in Smyrna, whether the term Yehudiyim is to be taken literally denoting ones of the lost tribes of Israel, we cannot know with certainty. What we know with certainty though is that they were imposters who despised the believers in Smyrna and lied to the Philadelphians that the Lord had not loved them.
There are some today who called themselves “the lost tribes of Israel” but they are not. To believe that one belongs to the Lost tribes of Israel is not a bad thing to say. There are many out there who do not even know they are the lost tribes of Israel. But to despise those who guard the Torah of YHVH and lie that the Lord does not love them, because He has rejected them, is a lie.
But the worst thing is that this verse has been used by some theologians for their anti-Semite and anti-Israel agenda. They read the KJV rendering of it that reads thus,
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Rev 2:9 KJV)
A couple of things need to be cleared here. First, the English text of KJV uses the term “Jews” and although it does say “and are not”, when coupled with another “Jewish” term “synagogue” gives the association that the Jews have been meant, especially in the phrase “the synagogue of Satan.” The intent here is very clear and very well used in the Replacement Theology to denote the rejection of Israel by Elohim.
The problem, however, is that the “Jewish” word “synagogue” is not Jewish, but Greek word which means an assembly. The Hebrew text of Revelation uses the Hebrew word כְּנֶסֶת keneset, which simply means an assembly and the word for “Satan” is הַשָטָן hasatan, the adversary.
In other occasions we studied that the Hebrew word “satan” is not a name of a fallen angel and it means an adversary. It is used in the Bil’am story where the angel of YHVH stood up against the prophet for profit Bil’am. In the Apostolic Writings Yeshua even called His faithful disciple Peter “hasatan” because he stood up against the will of YHVH. For more information on this, the reader may refer to the article “Peter called the Satan.“
In other words, everyone who stands up against something or someone is an adversary, but the Replacement Theology proponents see the letter to Philadelphia in a different way. They “see” those of “the synagogue of Satan” as Jews who are not really Jews, because they have been replaced by the Christians in Philadelphia.
This will be proven false as we advance in out study of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation.
Because you have guarded My Word of endurance, I also shall guard you from the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world, to try those who dwell on the earth. Look, I am coming speedily! Hold what you have that no one take your crown.(Rev 3:10-11)
Yeshua knows everyone’s works and have set before us an open door that no one will be able to shut, because we have guarded YHVH’s Word (the Torah), and have not denied His Name. Holding what we have: faithfulness through endurance, will earn us the Crown of Faithfulness.
For more knowledge what faith means in Hebrew, and therefore, what the Crown of Faithfulness will be given for, the reader may refer to the article “What is faith?“
Let us again recall the rewards that are awaiting those who YHVH calls His remnant:
The Crown of Life for those who endure trials, found in Ya’akov’s (James) letter, as we read,
Blessed is the man who does endure trial, for when he has been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which the Master has promised to those who love Him. (Jas 1:12)
The Crown of Glory for those in humility.
Shepherd the flock of Elohim which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but voluntarily, not out of greed for filthy gain, but eagerly, neither as being masters over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you shall receive the never-fading crown of glory. (1Pe 5:2-4)
The Crown of Righteousness for those who preach the Word (2Ti 4:2), fought the good fight, finished the race, guarded the faith (2Ti 4:7), and have loved, anticipated, and taught prophecy concerning the Messiah’s return.
For the rest, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Master, the righteous Judge, shall give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all those loving His appearing. (2Ti 4:8)
The Crown of Faithfulness for those who guard His Word and His Name in endurance.
I know your works, See, I have set before you an open door, and no one is able to shut it, that you have little power, yet have guarded My Word, and have not denied My Name. (Rev 3:8) Hold what you have that no one take your crown. (Rev 3:11)
These are the ones called in Rev 12:17 the remnant, those who have guarded His Word of endurance and shall also be guarded from the hour of trial:
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to fight with the remnant of her seed, those guarding the commands of Elohim and possessing the witness of Yeshua Messiah. (Rev 12:17)
Note again the two characteristics by which the remnant will be distinguished from the rest: (1) these are those who have guarded the commandments of Elohim (they are Torah Observant) and (2) have the witness of Yeshua (they are believers in Yeshua as the Messiah).
Here is the endurance of the set-apart ones, here are those guarding the commands of Elohim and the faith of Yeshua. (Rev 14:12-13)
Therefore, both guarding the commands in the Torah and in the faith the Messiah, Rev 12:17 and Rev 14:12, not either, is necessary for salvation and those who guard them (the Torah and the witness of Yeshua) will be called the remnant.
Sadly, the Christians have rejected the Torah of YHVH and claim they believe in the Messiah (Christ) who had fulfilled the Law so that they do not have to. For more on this controversial subject, the reader may refer to the article “Has the Messiah abolished the Law of God?”
However, the Torah observant believers in Yeshua know that this is no true. The Messiah of YHVH, the Son of Elohim, did not come to annul the Torah of His Father, but to give substance to it, because it was voided by the teachings of men at His first coming and this is what He will find at His return.
The promise in the letter to Philadelphia
He who overcomes, I shall make him a pillar in the Dwelling Place of My Elohim, and he shall by no means go out. And I shall write on him the Name of My Elohim and the name of the city of My Elohim, the renewed Yerushalayim, which comes down out of the heaven from My Elohim, and My renewed Name. (Rev 3:12)
The righteous men to whom the authority and the keys of David will be given are here called the central post of the Tabernacle of YHVH. In the Dwelling Place, the Tabernacle (Heb. Mishkan), five vertical wooden posts were used. The central pillar was called the yoted. To this pillar Yeshua was referring when He said, He who overcomes, I shall make him a pillar in the Dwelling Place of My Elohim.
As it was prophesied that from Yehudah would come the cornerstone, that is the Messiah, the Messiah promised the believers in Him that those who overcome the tribulation He will make them pillars in the Dwelling Place of His Father in the renewed Jerusalem.
From him (Yehudah) will come the cornerstone, from him the central post (yoted), from him the battle bow, from him every master together. (Zec 10:4)
In conclusion, you should have noted so far a few typical Hebrew traits of the believers in Yeshua in the letter to Philadelphia. Let us again recall them: (1) the key of David, (2) guarded The Word and have not The Name, (3) the commands of Elohim and the faith of Yeshua, (4) a yoted in the Dwelling Place, (5) the Name of YHVH, and (6) the name of the city of YHVH, Jerusalem.
None of these can be found in the letters to the other five assemblies severely reprimanded by the Messiah. Let us again recall that only two (the assemblies in Smyrna and Philadelphia) of the seven assemblies have not be criticized.
Only two of the seven have been promised rewards: the crown of life for the believers in Smyrna and the crown of faithfulness for the believers in Philadelphia.
And one of the two (the believers in Philadelphia) will not go through suffering, but will be preserved from the hour of trial.
Only two of seven!
So, why are we given to know these Hebraic signs in the letter to Philadelphia, but to tell us that these are Torah observant believers in Yeshua the Messiah? And along with those in Smyrna, we can call them Torah observant Messianic believers who guard the testimonies of Yeshua and the commands of YHVH.
This is why the present author is very reluctant to call those congregations “churches.”
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. (Rev 3:13)
But, how many have the ear to hear what YHVH says?
In the next and last article in the series The Seven Letters to the Seven Churches “The Time of Reckoning for the Church” we will try to draw some conclusions as to the identity of the seven churches in the seven letters of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.