Found Faithful

Bible Book: Revelation  3 : 07-13
Subject: Church; Philadelphia, Letter to; Faithfulness
Series: Revelation

I have read, and reread everything Louis LaMour ever wrote. Well, I think there may have been one book we could never find. I have read a lot of Christian fiction, some well written, some not so well written. One of the things I have observed is that some writers over-explain simple things. What Louis LaMour covers in a word or a phrase they cover in a paragraph, or a page. Louis LaMour uses a phrase and lets your imagination fill in the gaps. For example, there is the stranger who rides into town and is challenged by a bad man out to make a reputation for himself. The bad man demands, "Do I know you?"

The stranger, a stranger to the town but not to such want to be tough guys, says, " I have never been here before." The town bully, determined to get his bluff in on the stranger, pushes it: Just who are you?"

The stranger calmly replies, I’m the man you think you are."

Can you imagine what must have gone through the mind of the would-be bad man? Well, on the flip side, we tend to see ourselves as we want to be, or as we want others to see us. When I read the letter to the church at Philadelphia I cannot help but wonder if a lot of Christians read that letter and conclude, "Hey, that is like our church!"

I would imagine that throughout the centuries there have been students of the Book of Revelation who read the letters to the seven churches and conclude, "We are living in the Laodicean age." That is especially true of those dispensationalists who see each church as representing a particular period in the history of the church, but we will save Laodicea for another message. Our focus today will be the letter to the church at Philadelphia. I have no doubt that many people, if they were honest, would look at this letter to a church that receives Jesus’ stamp of approval and conclude, "That is our church. We are faithful. In fact, we are more than just faithful; we are a church that is alive. We have a building that would have been the envy of the church at Philadelphia, we have the best program in the area, we support missions, we are giving a lot of money to Christian causes, we are growing. We have a history and we have a future. In fact, we are more than a faithful church, we are a great church."

Others, who are more perceptive, and possibly more honest, would say, "If we are not like the church at Philadelphia, that is the church we ought to be like." Before going any further with this thought, let us look at the background to this letter.

Philadelphia was one of the newest cities of Asia, founded in 140 B. C. to be a missionary city to the east, with the goal of spreading Greek culture to the people of the eastern provinces. By the way, I am well aware of the fact that the enemies of the Cross would like to drop the B. C., "Before Christ," in favor of the B.C.E., "Before the Common Era," but I am not about to compromise on this. Jesus Christ is the pivotal Person of all history.

Philadelphia commanded the trade along one of the great Roman roads, and at this time they took advantage of their situation to spread Roman culture and religion, including emperor worship, to the regions to the east. They considered the uncivilized people to the east a door of opportunity and they were very successful in their effort to transform those regions into Roman colonies.

Philadelphia was famous for its hot springs. People believed they had the power heal, so people came from all over the empire to bathe in these springs. These hot springs were heated by volcanic activity. The same thing which brought the people fame and wealth also brought them danger and insecurity. The city had been destroyed before and frequent tremors caused anxiety in John’ day. Major tremors sent people fleeing the city for nearby mountains. After each tremor the people had to return to the city to rebuild or make repairs.

Philadelphia had another claim to fame. This was an important religious center and the people tried to compete with other cities of the region for the most gods and temples.

Now, let us look at the one church in Revelation which received undiluted praise from the Lord, the Head of the church. He is the one who is qualified to judge. This is the church that had kept the faith, they had not faltered before the finish. They were faithful from the beginning and they had not compromised.


"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: "The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens says..." (HCSB)

1) The letter is addressed to the pastor of the church in Philadelphia.

This is an historical church, a real church, at a real place, in a real time. What we are reading here is not some myth. The word translated angel is the word which means messenger. There are seven letters and seven pastors. The number seven is the perfect number, so this message will have an application in any age, a challenge to any church anywhere, any time. Furthermore, every pastor should pay close attention to it. Every pastor should read these words and proclaim the message to his church.

2) He is The Holy One.

No one can define God, so we often study His various attributes. God is love. God is omnipotent, all powerful. He is omniscient, all knowing. He is omnipresent, everywhere present at the same time. But, let us not forget this essential attribute - God is holy. If the Father is holy the Son is holy. He is different from ordinary things and from all other persons. Just as there can be but one Creator, there can be but one holy God.

When vile, vicious, evil murderers in Iraq staged, for all the world to see, one of the most vicious murders any one could imagine, they were shouting "Great is Allah." They were behaving in a manner they thought would honor their god and no doubt they thought they were reflecting the character of Allah, a god who is no god. If Christians would reflect the character of Jesus they must love one another, not kill those who disagree with them. That does not mean that we are not to go to war to fight for our country or to defend our way of life. But we do not murder other people to win the approval of our God.

God is holy and He demands holiness of those who follow Him. That which is holy is different from ordinary things. God is different from the false gods of the world. He demands that we be different from other people. Christians in this world may not fully appreciate the holiness of God, but in eternity we will be keenly aware of the fact that He is holy and we will sing of his holiness forever:

"Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming" (Rev 4:8, HCSB).

True believers must appreciate the holiness of Jesus Christ. We should confess with Simon Peter,

"Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 And we have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!"

3) Jesus is the True One.

There are two words for true in the Greek. One word simply denotes that which is not false. The other word means that which is genuine and true. Jesus is the genuine, authentic Son of God. He identifies Himself as "The way, the truth, and the life." In the letter to Laodicea, He is "the faithful and true Witness." He is absolute truth. In the front of my favorite Bible I wrote the words someone spoke at a conference years ago: "It is not enough to say that God said it because it is true, it is true because God says it." When God speaks truth is established and declared.

4) He has the keys of David.

The Jewish people were well aware of the connection between David an the Messiah. The Messiah would be a descendant of both Abraham and David. They knew well God’s promise:

"I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one can close; what he closes, no one can open" (Isaiah 22:22).

5) What He opens no man closes.

We might call the church at Philadelphia "the church of the open door." The city considered itself a missionary city to spread their culture and religion. The church at Philadelphia was indeed a missionary city. Jesus is the One who opens the door that no one can close. God opens doors no one can close, and he closes doors no one can open.

6) What He closes no man opens.

There is something final and shocking in this statement. Jesus says, "Him that commeth unto me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37b). That is His invitation. But for those who reject Him and refuse His invitation, the day will come when the door will be closed - forever. In your life Jesus opens doors no one can close, and He closes doors no one can open. We may think of the open door of salvation, but in this passage the emphasis seems to be on the door to service that He opens or closes. On the Second Missionary Journey when Paul and Silas had been joined by Timothy first, and then when they arrived in Troas, by Luke. Luke was inspired to record what happened:

"Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas" (Acts 16:6-8, NKJV).

Do you see what happened? They sought an open door to Asia, but the Holy Spirit closed that door. They then sought an open door to Bithynia, but He closed that door. If you remember the passage, after they arrived at Troas God opened a door to Europe. Listen to Luke’s account:

"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them" (Acts 16:9-10).


"I know your works."

He knows their works. A commendation is implied here. Jesus has perfect knowledge of every church and every believer. He is the only One who is absolutely qualified to examine each church, the only One who has the authority to make the kind of proclamation we see here. Remember, He is the one with eyes like flames of fire - or today, we would say like lasers. His vision penetrates the heart and mind of each believer.


"Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close."

1) They have a little strength.

This may not have been a mega-church, but it was a faithful church. We live in a day when masses flock to the church of "What’s Happening Now." Some are continually migrating from one church to another, depending on what may be happening at any given time. They are looking for the latest dog and pony show and they can always find someone who is determined to give them what they want.

2) They have kept His Word.

They have been faithful. This is the announcement every church needs. It is the pronouncement every believer desires. Sadly, many who seem to think they would receive this word from the Lord, are indeed unfaithful to Him. They have no idea what it means to be faithful to Him. We tend to be satisfied with statistics today. I know. As a member of the executive board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, I once served as chairman of he Cooperative Program Subcommittee. We spent a lot of time working out a procedure for recognizing church when they reach a certain level of contributions to the Cooperative Program. I was also pastor for fifteen years of a church that was ranked number two or number three in the Louisiana Baptist Convention is percentage giving to the Cooperative Program. Some of our leaders seemed to have very little interest in reaching people in the community - unless someone though they would be an asset to our church.

Pastors are honored and churches recognized for the number of baptisms, the number in Sunday School, the amount of money given, the number of missions, and many other statistics. The denomination can recognized people based on statistics. Only Jesus can truly announce that church is faithful. The church at Philadelphia was faithful - it was the church you may think yours is!

3) They have not denied His name.

The "because" in this verse should not be overlooked. Because they had a little strength, because they have kept His Word, and because they have not denied His name, He is going to give them a greater opportunity. At a time when Christian were being persecuted and slain for the cause of Jesus Christ there were some in various places who did deny His name, but those to whom this letter was addressed had confessed Him in a city that boasted of their commitment to spread pagan religions. Their faith would be put to the test with the spread of emperor worship. Once a year each citizen was required to come before an altar to Caesar and burn a pinch of incense and say, "Caesar is Lord." To do so would be do deny Christ. These people were faithful, regardless of the cost.

4) Now He sets before them an open door.

Here is where the "because" comes in to play. Because they had kept His Word, he would set before them an open door of opportunity. Wow! That will never sell on TV! That is not what the health, wealth, and wisdom prophets proclaim. They are saying that if you send us your money, seed money some call it, and then you will reap the benefits in good health, prosperity, and special insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom. Some confidently proclaim, "God does not want you to be poor!" They offer to pray for people who send in requests along with their contributions. Investigators checked the trash containers at the headquarters of one of the big time televangelists and discovered that they opened the letters, extracted the checks and disposed of the prayer requests.

When have you heard any of these people say that if you keep His Word and do not deny His name He will reward you with missionary opportunities? Yet, that is exactly what these believers are promised. And why not? If they are faithful, if they live to confess their Savior, if they keep His Word, what more could they want that what He wants?

The city of Philadelphia considered itself a missionary city, and the people missionaries of Roman culture and Roman religions. The believers in Philadelphia were the real missionaries. Jesus set before them an open door and they were faithful in their mission for Him. Just what does that mean? When Paul preached in Thessalonica on the Second Missionary Journey he was accused of turning the world upside down for God. When he wrote back to that church he stated that their faithfulness was known throughout the region. I would assume the same thing might be said of the church at Philadelphia.

There is more - and this is not inspired Scripture, but it is certainly scriptural. If you are faithful to the Lord and keep His Word and do not deny His name, He will not only set before you an open door for missions, He will set before you an open door for spiritual growth, for improvement in your Christian life, a door of opportunity for you to bear the fruit of the Spirit. How do I take advantage of this opportunity? We do this through prayer, Bible study, worship, witnessing, and service.

There is still more - and it gets better. The door set before believers is Jesus Himself. In the ancient world there was no door to the sheepfold, so after the shepherd gathered his sheep into some nook in the side of a hill, he would lie down in the opening, thus becoming the door to the sheepfold. In John 10, Jesus draws on this picture to declare Himself the Door to the sheepfold. In the same chapter, in which He declares Himself to be the Good Shepherd, he uses the communal sheep fold to illustrate the fact that when the shepherd calls out his sheep, only those belonging to that shepherd will follow him. In the individual sheepfold, the shepherd finds, or builds a holding pen into which the sheep were gathered at night. When the shepherd lay down in the opening he became the door, and any sheep that sought to escape had to go out over the shepherd. Anyone or any animal that sought to steal or kill one of his sheep had to go in over the shepherd. Jesus is our Door, just as He is our Good Shepherd.


"Take note! I will make those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying——note this——I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come over the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown."

1) He will deal with the synagogue of Satan, vs. 9.

It seems that there were many Jews in Philadelphia, as there were in many other places in that part of the world. They referred to the scattering of the Jews as the Dispersion or the Diaspora. Persecution and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem had caused many Jews to flee from the Holy Land. Many moved to Gentiles lands, migrating on their own. Many of them had become prosperous and some were influential. It seems that Jews who did not receive Jesus as the Messiah had closed the door to the synagogue in the face of Christian Jews. The door of opportunity for jobs, or for business had been closed in the face of Christians in many cases. Jesus offers them comfort in the promise that He can open a door for them that no man can close. Man may shut you out of fellowship with other people but no man can close the door to fellowship with Jesus Christ.

2) Jews were behind the persecution of Christians.

For many years we have heard the term anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism is not only an ugly thing, it is an evil thing. There are Jewish people who have grown up in cities in America hearing children call them Christ killers. I know a cynical Jewish man who heard that taunt when he was growing up in New Orleans. He is not likely to forget it.

Let me give you a little background here. In the first century, when Rome implemented emperor worship, demanding that each citizen and each subject of Rome must go before an altar of Caesar and burn a pinch of incense and say, "Caesar is Lord" once a year, Jews went to the authorities and convinced then the Judaism was a monotheistic religion and that they could not worship another god. They would, however, declare their loyalty to Rome. Judaism was declared a legal religion. When Christians sought the same exemption Jewish leaders went to the authorities and convinced them that Christianity was not a authentic religion but Jewish heresy. Christianity was declared an illegal religion and Christians were mocked, ridiculed, denied work, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith.

This led some Christians to adopt an unChrist-like attitude toward Jewish people. This form of anti-Semitism continued through the Middle Ages and into our present world. Anti-Semitism is wrong, but their treatment of Christians was also sinful. Jesus is the door, and if we enter, we enter through Him or we do not enter. There are not many ways to God, there is one and His name is Jesus.

3) Christians are the true covenant people.

This does not deny any promise God made to Israel, but it does reinforce what Jesus stated very plainly in John 8 that the Jews who rejected Him were not the true children of Abraham, but of their father the devil (John 8:44). Jesus is the Author of a New Covenant, written in His blood, a covenant not written on stone, but in the hearts of believers.

4) He will make the Jews acknowledge that.

"Note this," He says, "I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you." I know this may be shocking to many Jewish people, but many Jews have received Jesus as the Messiah and they are children of the new covenant.

5) They are faithful and He will protect them, vs. 10.

He continues, "Because you have kept My command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come over the whole world to test those who live on the earth." Those believers in Philadelphia would be protected from the coming persecution. Those believers throughout the Roman world would be protected as the persecution escalated. Those who are faithful to the end will be protected. Now let me be clear about one thing - the Lord never promised that you would never face trials and tribulations, even persecution and martyrdom. Well, you might wonder, if I am to be persecuted or possibly killed for the Lord, how can you say He is protecting us? James, Peter, Paul, and John were killed for their commitment to Jesus Christ. Do you really think you are more deserving than they? Jesus died for us, would it not be a privilege to die for Him?

You may say, yes, but how am I being protected? Jesus tells us that we should not fear those who can only destroy the physical body, but that we should fear the One who can cast the soul into hell. Man cannot touch you spirit. God will preserve what means most to Him, and what will mean most to us.

6) He will come quickly, vs. 11.

Jesus continues, "I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown."

The early believers anxiously awaited the Lord’s return. I am glad He did not return when they expected Him! If He had, we would never have had an opportunity to know Him. Jesus is coming again and the word quickly may mean suddenly. Jesus is coming again, and He is coming as a thief in the night. You do not know when He is coming, so you had better be ready at all times.

7) He tells them to hold fast what they have.

Paul wrote, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thes. 5:21, NKJV). Hebrews 4:14 amplifies this: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." In Rev. 2:13, Jesus commended those saints at Pergamos who remained faithful to Him: "And you hold fast to My name."

Eric Liddell was one of England’s greatest athletes. In 1924, when he competed in the Olympic Games, he learned that he was scheduled to run the one hundred meter race on Sunday. He quietly, but definitely said, "I am not running." When the day of the four hundred meter race came, an unknown man came to him at the starting line and handed him a slip of paper. He opened it and read 1 Samuel 2:30, "Them that honor me will I honor." That day Eric Lyddell felt added strength - and he set the world record!

8) He warns them to let no one rob them of their crown.

The crown was a symbol of victorious living. By being faithful to Jesus they would live a victorious life, but if they were not faithful they would forfeit their crown. Let me stress that once you are in Christ, you are in Him forever (John 10:28). You cannot lose your salvation, but you can forfeit the crown of victory, joy, and growth. Just how does that work - and how do we know it is true? I am glad you asked. The Lord knew you would want to know and He inspired Paul to write:

"Each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:13-15).


"The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God——the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God——and My new name."

1) These promises are to those who overcome.

"The victor" ("he who overcomes" in the NKJV) is encouraged by specific promises by Jesus Himself. Let us remember that He is the One who is qualified to evaluate each church, and each individual. If He is qualified to make the diagnosis, He is qualified to offer a prescription, and announce the prognosis. He knows what is needed and He knows how he wants to bless those who are faithful to Him. Furthermore, He has the authority to make promises and the power to fulfill any promise He makes. He will fulfill every promise He has ever made, if it has not already been fulfilled.

When I started out in the ministry it was not uncommon for someone to ask, "Don’t you feel that prophecy is being fulfilled?" That was a loaded question because I never know where the individual was going with the question, or with my answer. Sufficed it to day, I am no longer looking for signs, I am listening for the trumpet! I believer in a literal, pre-millennial, pre-tribulation return of Jesus Christ. I have to apologize, however, for not having all the answers. I loved it when some one tells me that he can explain Revelation, when he shows little understanding of what Jesus tells us we should be doing until He returns. I know quite a bit about end-time events, but there is a lot I do not know. What I do know is that whatever He is up to I am going to be in on it!

2) He will make them a pillar in the temple of God.

According to some students of Revelation, it was the custom in that time and in that region when a priest died in the service of his god, a pillar would be erected in the temple of that god and that priest’s name would be written on it. This was the highest honor they could pay one of their faithful priests.

Here, Jesus says that those who overcome the things of the world will have a pillar erected in the temple of God. The primary purpose of a pillar is to support, or to help support the building. If you are faithful to Jesus Christ He will make you a pillar in His church - you will be given the privilege of supporting His church. I wonder how many of you really think it is a blessing and a privilege to support His church. It seems that many church members see their church as a burden.

One man complained that he had been criticized but, in his words, "I am not going to leave my church. I have put too much money in it!" If you begrudge anything you have put into the Lord’s church, you can be sure you are not a pillar in His church.

3) They will go out no more ( as citizens fleeing earthquakes).

Reflecting on the times these people had been forced to flee from the city of Philadelphia when there was an earthquake, or a tremor, Jesus promised that those who are faithful will not have to go out any more, meaning that He would protect them. He is our security.

Those who live along the coast know what it means to have to flee from hurricanes. I will never forget the impression I had the first time I drove to south Louisiana and saw signs that read EVACUATION ROUTE. I had never seen anything like that in Sledge, Mississippi. We knew about tornadoes and thunderstorms, but we had only heard about hurricanes.

My grandfather had driven into Tupelo, Mississippi right after the highly publicized TUPELO STORM, when a tornado killed something like two hundred and eighty people, the most ever killed by a tornado, or so they said. After that experience when my grandfather saw a really "threatening cloud" he became nervous. Finally, my father built a storm cellar for him. It was a big storm house, complete with concrete floor, concrete block walls, and concrete top. I drove up the driveway one evening and saw cars everywhere. It was a dark night, with thunder and lightening and I would not have been surprised to find that my grandfather was in the storm house, but this was confusing. I stepped into the living room and saw my father sitting there calmly watching TV. I asked him what all the cars were doing in the driveway and he said, "the whole community is down there in the storm house."

They were looking for protection and security. Jesus is our security. He is our protection. Trust Him. He never promised that you would never face trials, He only promised to be with you - always.

4) Jesus will write His name upon them.

To those who are faithful to Him, those who overcome the world, Jesus promises:

"I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God——the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God——and My new name." This is in contrast to the practice in pagan religions of writing the names of their priests on pillars in pagan temples. Let me ask you what has happened to most of those pagan temples? And to those pillars? Many of them fell to earthquakes in that region.

When a new king came to the throne one of the first things he did was to have new coins minted with his name on the coin so that everyone who used the coins would know that it was his. The life of a Christian should be such that everyone will know that you are the property of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus writes on you the name of His God it will be there for ever. It is a sign that you belong to Him. All believers carry the name of Jesus. Those who confess Him and follow Him wear His name wherever they go. They are a living witness for Him.


"Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."

This means that those who hear these words had better pay attention to them. This is serious.


While every church would like to think it is a Philadelphia type of church, most churches have room for improvement. Let me ask you this: do you bear Jesus’ name everywhere you go? Every day? Let’s take that one step further: do you bear in your life the mark of Jesus Christ, the proof of His ownership of you and all you possess? This is the day to confess your sins, and ask Him to restore you so that you will bear His name before the world.