“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches'”
Revelation 1:9-11; 3:22 NKJV
Both the second, and the second to last churches mentioned on Jesus’ list were the ones without fault. They almost serve as rest stops along the way for the reader as John delivers the Lord’s stern warning to the end time Church at large. As we read through them, Philadelphia, like Smyrna stands out as a place that had the same trials and troubles as all the other churches, yet without yielding to the same temptations. So, what was it about them that caused the Lord to express such a favorable opinion of these congregations?
We’ve already seen how the church in Smyrna modeled a willingness to endure persecution to the end. This selfless loyalty is the first thing to note about a church that pleases the Lord. In Philadelphia we find further qualities that specifically cause Jesus to use the “keys” of authority He had earned to help them overcome. He promised to set an “open door” before them and to “keep (them) from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Twice it is stated that the Philadelphians had “kept” the things Jesus had said to them. Once He says they have kept “His word, and have not denied His name.” Then He reiterates that they have kept His “command to persevere.”
We miss a major truth about Christianity when we fail to remember how so much of the New Testament is written to groups of believers. As congregations, these believers were holding on to God’s Word and obeying His commands together. Primarily that is what Jesus is praising them for.
Of course, no group of individuals can do anything together they are not willing to practice separately, but we seem to be easily tempted to presume that our personal obedience will somehow automatically translate into corporate faithfulness. Maybe the most important thing written to this church was their need to keep holding fast to these things Jesus praised them for because He was coming quickly (Revelation 3:11)!
Make sure your church resembles Philadelphia and Smyrna, and not the others. These are the keys to being ready…Surely He is coming sooner now than He was then!