Impact

Seven Church Conditions during the Time of the Gentiles – the “Canceled” and Faithful Congregation

As we study the prophetic messages to the seven congregations in this series, we will quickly see that they follow the same well-defined structure. The Lord begins each message with a greeting that relates back to John’s vision of Jesus, the Son of Man, in the heavenly scene in the first chapter of the Revelation. In other words, Jesus greets each congregation with an aspect of His person or His title that relates who He is to their particular circumstance. Jesus then commends the congregation for the good things He can say to them. Jesus then exhorted the congregations to take the appropriate action with a promise of blessings for obedience. The believers were to overcome must be understood within the context of the struggles and temptations each congregation faced. Furthermore, the Lord connects the congregation’s spiritual condition with the city’s character and reputation in each letter. (4)

Because the believers were being persecuted, the Lord wanted to encourage them as well as challenge them in areas where they were failing to live up to their high calling. He introduced Himself as the exalted Son of Man in a way that related to their individual situations, both physically and spiritually. He gave each congregation a word of promise to the overcomers and a warning of consequences if they did not obey His instructions. It is most important that we realize His words of promise were not to those who failed to repent. The Lord only had harsh words to those who were carnal and lukewarm in their commitment. The Lord did not give any of these congregations a watered-down, seeker-friendly, entertaining message. The very survival of the Lord’s work in the city depended on the believers responding positively to what the Lord told them. He promised blessings to the overcomers but chastening to those who did not heed His message. (4)

This broken archway, now with a mosque in the background, is believed to have supported a church dome in ancient Philadelphia

The Congregation at Philadelphia

With this introduction, let’s get some background information about Philadelphia that will help us understand why the Lord said what He did to the believers in this strategic city. Then we will study this prophetic message with a view of its practical application to our world and lives today. (4)

Background

On his next-to-last stop, the courier with the prophetic messages from God traveled about 28 miles southeast of Sardis to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was located on the main Roman postal road at an important east-west and north-south junction. Situated on a high plateau, the city was about 100 miles inland from Smyrna, making it a gateway city to the east. Other than its important location at the junction, Philadelphia was not a large, influential town like the others where the Lord sent His letters. (4)

The people of Philadelphia believed because of where they were located, and because they had an open door to the East, it was their responsibility to almost behave like missionaries, and take their culture and civilization beyond their borders through the open door into the East. In essence, they were a missionary city that took culture and language into new regions. (7)

It is interesting how Philadelphia got its name. Historians believe this came about at the time the city was founded. Eumenes was the king of Pergamos from 197-159 B.C. His brother who succeeded him was Attalus (1) (159-138 B.C.). The Romans tried to cause a rivalry between the two brothers, but Attalus remained loyal to Eumenes. As a result, Eumenes started referring to his brother by the name Philadelphus, which in Greek means “brotherly love.” When Eumenes and Attalus built the city, they named it as a witness to their relationship. When Attalus died he did not have a successor, so he bequeathed his territory to the Romans (1) in 133 B.C. (2)

Philadelphia changed names several times. When Tiberius helped the city recover from an earthquake, the city elders renamed the town in honor of the emperor and called it Neocaesarea. Later, when Emperor Vespasian aided the city, they renamed it after him and called it Flavia. (4)

Over the next centuries, Philadelphia embraced so many Greek gods and goddesses it was known as “Little Athens.” This is clear evidence that Byzantine Christianity was not able to convert the city from its paganisms. This must have been a real heartache for the believers. In view of these frequent changes, names were important to the small struggling community of believers at Philadelphia. The ancient city is now called Alasehir, and has a population of about 40,000. About the only archaeological remains are those of a Byzantine Basilica. (4)

The most important fact we need to know about the history of Philadelphia is that it was situated in an area where there were frequent and violent earthquakes. Philadelphia was destroyed in the A.D. 17 earthquake that destroyed Sardis, Laodicea, and other cities in the area. These and other cities in the area were destroyed by another earthquake in A.D. 60. Since the pagan temples were the only structures built to withstand earthquakes, the temples would be the most secure structure in the city. In a really severe earthquake, the pillars of the temples would be about the only thing left standing. (4)

People who have lived through an earthquake tell us that the fear of anticipation of aftershocks is as unsettling to their souls as the after-shocks are to the land. The people in Philadelphia lived constantly with this fear. After the earthquakes, the citizens of Philadelphia would leave the rubble of the city and go out into the nearby fields and live in tents. Then, when the tremors stopped and they rebuilt their homes, they would return to the city. So the people were always going in and coming out. We have witnessed this in our own times in places where there have been earthquakes and other natural disasters. (4)

Volcanic soil is great for growing grapes. As a result, vineyards and winemaking was the main source of income for the city. In the chapter about Pergamos, I mentioned that Dionysus was considered the god of wine. He would have been the principal “god” at Philadelphia. Festivals and drunken revelry would have been held in his honor. (4)

Sarcophagi and other antiquities reside in a small city block in Alasehir, Turkey, the ancient city of Philadelphia
Alasehir, Turkey, the ancient city of Philadelphia

Select one of the Seven Cities in the Google Map (below), then select “View in Google Maps” on the left to explore each of the Seven Congregations of The Revelation.

Seven Churches of Revelation

The Greeting

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Holy One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open: (Revelation 3:7 NET)

As just mentioned, Philadelphia in Greek means “brotherly love.” The word is found six additional times in the New Testament. (Romans 12:10; First Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; First Peter 1:22; Second Peter 1:7.) How did the Lord greet His people who were living in the city of “brotherly love”? He makes two statements about Himself. First, He encourages them by reminding them that He is the One who is holy and true. (4)

Unlike the many Greek gods and goddesses and Roman emperors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is holy and true. This means that He is altogether different from His creation and is the ultimate reality. And He is the only one who is perfect in these attributes. The Greek gods and goddesses all had human traits. (4)

Later in the Book of Revelation, the overcomers in Heaven sang:

They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and astounding are your deeds, Lord God, the All-Powerful! Just and true are your ways, King over the nations! Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name, because you alone are holy? All nations will come and worship before you for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3–4 NET)

As the divine Son of God, Jesus has the same attributes as His Father in Heaven. At His first coming, the angel Gabriel said to Mary: (4)

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 NET)

Then, at His second coming, John had a spiritual vision of the Lord and wrote: (4)

Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. (Revelation 19:11 NET)

Yes, Jesus is the perfect, holy, faithful, and true One. He has put His Spirit in His followers to empower us so that we too can live a holy life that is faithful and true to Him. (4)

but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15–16 NET)

In his second letter, Peter reminds us that the world as we know it is going to be purged with fire. Therefore, we should live holy and blameless lives as we draw near to His appearance. (4)

Peter writes:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare.Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness,while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze!But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. (2 Peter 3:10–14 NET)

Jesus also identifies Himself as the One who has the key of David, with which He can open and no person can shut, and He can shut and no person can open. (4)

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Holy One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open: (Revelation 3:7 NET)

So, what did Jesus mean by this statement? He was referencing an incident recorded by Isaiah in regard to the most trusted official to King Hezekiah. Shebna was the chief of staff for King Hezekiah. In this responsibility, he had the keys to the king’s palace. No one could see the king without Shebna’s approval. He was the one who opened and closed the doors to the king. Shebna had great authority, but it was a delegated authority and not his own. Yet he was filled with pride and made a burial vault for himself in the fashion that was reserved for kings. The Lord was not pleased and judged Shebna because of his pride. (4)

Isaiah explains:

This is what the sovereign master, the LORD who commands armies, says: “Go visit this administrator, Shebna, who supervises the palace, and tell him: ‘What right do you have to be here? What relatives do you have buried here? Why do you chisel out a tomb for yourself here? He chisels out his burial site in an elevated place, he carves out his tomb on a cliff. Look, the LORD will throw you far away, you mere man! He will wrap you up tightly. He will wind you up tightly into a ball and throw you into a wide, open land. There you will die, and there with you will be your impressive chariots, which bring disgrace to the house of your master. I will remove you from your office; you will be thrown down from your position. (Isaiah 22:15–19 NET)

The Lord then replaced Shebna with one more worthy. Eliakim took Shebna’s place as Hezekiah’s chief of staff. He was given much glory and honor throughout the kingdom. Eliakim now had the keys to the kingdom of the House of David. He could open any door he wanted and lock any door he chose. He was the chief executive and administrator of the king’s affairs. (4)

As Isaiah explains:

“At that time I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. I will put your robe on him, tie your belt around him, and transfer your authority to him. He will become a protector of the residents of Jerusalem and of the people of Judah. I will place the key to the house of David on his shoulder. When he opens the door, no one can close it; when he closes the door, no one can open it. I will fasten him like a peg into a solid place; he will bring honor and respect to his father’s family. (Isaiah 22:20–23 NET)

The Lord says that the key to the house or kingdom of David will lay on his shoulders. This is an interesting statement. To take in the full meaning of the phrase, we must understand the word picture and symbolism of keys. In Bible times, keys were not small like they are in western culture. They were very large, made of wood, and worked with wooden pegs to fit corresponding holes in the lock which kept the door fastened. Because a key was large, it was difficult to carry in one’s hand. Instead, it was carried on the shoulder and was the sign of official authority. Using Bible language, the person who had the keys of the kingdom on his shoulder was said to have the government upon his shoulder. (4)

Jesus uses this imagery to say that He is the One Isaiah spoke about in another passage: (4)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6–7 NET)

The Commendation

‘I know your deeds. (Look! I have put in front of you an open door that no one can shut.) I know that you have little strength, but you have obeyed my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8 NET)

Like the persecuted believers at Smyrna, the Lord only has good things to say to the congregation at Philadelphia. While the doors of professional advancement and social acceptance may have been closed to them, the Lord promises to open the door of His Kingdom to them. And no local authority can close it. The clear implication is that entrance into the Kingdom of God is much more to be desired than entrance or acceptance into the pagan community at Philadelphia. (4)

This Word is certainly relevant for us today. The time is coming and is even now when godly Bible believers will find the doors of professional advancement and social acceptance closed. We will be shut out by those in power who hate our holy lives, our faithfulness to God’s Word, and our need to speak the truth in love. That is, we will be “canceled” (1) by the “cancel culture.”

Cancel:  to withdraw one’s support for (someone, such as a celebrity, or something, such as a company) publicly and especially on social media (5)

Cancel Culture: the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure (6)

Yet, the Lord promises that if we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will open His Kingdom doors to us and give us all that we need to fulfill our destiny. (4)

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31–34 NET)

The words of the psalmist are so appropriate to our times.

Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is our sovereign protector. The LORD bestows favor and honor; he withholds no good thing from those who have integrity. (Psalm 84:10–11 NET)

Because they have not had much influence on the community, the congregation at Philadelphia apparently felt like a failure. But the Son of Man tells them that He knows their works and He commends them for three things. (4)

Eventually, the church in Philadelphia also assumed a missionary role. Because of where they were located, they had opportunities that other churches in Asia did not have. They could take the Gospel into the lands to the East. Philadelphia had a mission—to take the Gospel of Jesus to neighboring Lydia, Phrygia, and Mysia. That is, the church had an open door because they were nestled in the border city of Philadelphia. (7)

I. He encourages them by recognizing that they have a little strength. While this may not sound like a “glowing report,” the Lord is acknowledging that they do have a measure of spiritual anointing, authority, and power. That is a good thing. Like the believers at Philadelphia, we may sometimes feel as if we do not have much left in our spiritual gas tank. But the Lord is gracious and is always looking for something good in us that He can praise. (4)

Paul said it this way to the believers at Philippi:

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus [Yeshua the Messiah]. (Philippians 1:6 NET)

If you are feeling like you only have a little spiritual strength, do not be discouraged. We do not live by our feelings but by faith in God’s faithfulness to finish the work He has started in us. If you are facing difficult challenges in your life and feel like you are not very spiritual, God will help you and give you the strength you need. (4)

As Paul said to the same believers at Philippi:

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence,for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. (Philippians 2:12–13 NET)

II. The Lord commends them because they have kept or obeyed His Word. God’s Word is not just to be learned for the sake of getting information; it is to be obeyed. Many say that they love the Lord, but they don’t do what He says. They are deceived and blind to their true spiritual condition. (4)

Jesus coupled loving Him with obeying Him. He told His disciples:

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments. (John 14:15 NET)
The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” “Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:21–24 NET)

The believers at Philadelphia were not only learning God’s Word, they were keeping God’s Word. Sometimes believers today confuse knowing God’s Word with keeping or obeying God’s Word. Just because we know something does not mean we are doing it. We must get past the Western idea of learning for the sake of knowledge and learn for the sake of reverencing God and doing His Word. (4)

In times when we may be persecuted for confessing our faith, knowledge without obedience may cause us more harm than good. In hard times we will be challenged to “practice what we preach.” Christianity is much more than a doctrine. It is a way of life. We must have the spiritual resolve to “live the Word” and not just confess the Word. (4)

As James said,

But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. (James 1:22 NET)

As John said,

Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked. Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have already heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness. The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:3–11 NET)

III. The Lord commends the believers at Philadelphia because they have not denied His name. After Jesus was resurrected and sent the Holy Spirit, His disciples did many miracles in and around Jerusalem. Because of this, thousands who witnessed the miracles and heard the name of Jesus proclaimed became His followers. This included a lame man Peter healed at the gate of the Temple. The high priest was infuriated. He had Peter and John brought before him so he could interrogate and intimidate them. He ordered them not to preach, teach, or heal in the name of Jesus. (4)

Acts reads:

And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18 NET)

Peter and John responded,

But Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide, for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19–20 NET)

When the high priest let Peter and John go, they continued their ministry in the name of Jesus. The Lord honored the preaching of His name and His Word and healed many people. Once again, the high priest arrested the disciples and interrogated them. (4)

Acts explains:

When they had brought them, they stood them before the council, and the high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. (Acts 5:27–29 NET)

Before letting them go, the high priest beat the disciples and again commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus. This did not deter the disciples, but made them even more determined, as we read: (4)

So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.And every day both in the temple courts and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42 NET)

As the governments of the world, including America, become more godless, the clash between light and darkness, good and evil, Judeo-Christianity, and the New World Order will become more evident. There will be a repeat of the conflict we read about in the Book of Acts between the establishment and the people of God. We modern believers must be like the early disciples, the believers at Philadelphia, and God’s holy remnant who have been persecuted throughout the ages. In the face of interrogation and intimidation, we must not deny our Lord. We must resolve now that when faced with the choice, we will obey God rather than man. (4)

Jesus said:

But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say.” (Luke 12:11–12 NET)
“Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32–33 NET)

We are blessed if the Lord counts us worthy to suffer for His name. God will give us the conviction, courage, and strength to speak boldly of His name. (2)

As Peter wrote:

But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken.But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14–17 NET)

Exortation Sans Rebuke

Like the persecuted believers at Smyrna, the Lord only has good things to say to the congregation at Philadelphia. He gives them no rebuke. (4)

The Promise

Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan—who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying—Look, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one can take away your crown. The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:9–13 NET)

The Lord gives these faithful, struggling believers four incredible promises.

I. Jesus says that those who have opposed them will ultimately acknowledge that they are the true children of God. The Lord will vindicate them by confessing them before His Father in Heaven. Their tormentors will also make this confession. If people have spoken evil of you because of your life as a believer, the Lord will “get even for you.” It will certainly be a sweet time of acknowledgment, recognition, and vindication for your faithfulness. (4)

Jesus identifies the group that was persecuting the believers as belonging to the same group in Smyrna (1). They were both called the “synagogue of Satan” and they both claimed to be Jews but were not. As previously pointed out (1), there were then, as there are now, groups who claim to be Jews but are not Jews. (4)

‘I know the distress you are suffering and your poverty (but you are rich). I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9 NET)
Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan—who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying—Look, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:9 NET)

While it may be true that these are Jews, we really do not know who Jesus is talking about and cannot assume they are Jews. Whoever they were, they were claiming to be the chosen ones of God and were persecuting the followers of Jesus. It is interesting that archaeologists have never found any evidence of a synagogue in Philadelphia. However, there is an inscription from the third century that was found 10 miles east of the city referencing a “synagogue of the Hebrews.”

II. The Lord promises to keep them from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole earth to test those who dwell on the earth. This statement refers to the return of Jesus (1) at the end of the age of which there has been much confusion.

Not Once, but Twice

Part of the confusion about Jesus’ return is that we interpret the scripture as if He will be coming back once, but it is two different times in reality.

The First Return of Jesus for the Bride of Christ

The First Return of Jesus the Messiah

The first time will be to rapture or “take away“(1) the Church, thus rescuing it from the pouring out of God’s wrath during the Great Tribulation (2). During this return, Jesus will come with all of the Christians that have died, from Adam to the time of His coming, and will not set foot on Earth but rather descend only into the lower atmosphere (3). Realize, to those that are lost (i.e., have not accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord), this return will be as a thief in the night.

Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.(1 Thessalonians 5:1–3 NET)

However, to those that are saved Jesus’ first return will NOT be as a thief in the night.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. So then we must not sleep as the rest, but must stay alert and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:4–6 NET)

The timing of this first return of Jesus is only known by God the Father.

But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father. Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return—whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn—or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly. What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!” (Mark 13:32-37 NET)
But as for that day and hour no one knows it—not even the angels in heaven—except the Father alone. For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left.There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left. “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36–44 NET)

During this first return, He will:

1. Resurrect and transform the decayed bodies of those that have already died into perfect glorified bodies. Then reunite these glorified bodies with the spirits of the saints that have come with Him from Heaven. Saints are those that have a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son, including:

  • all that died in the Lord from the time of the first Adam and went to Paradise in Hades (1) (after the resurrection, Jesus moved Paradise (1) and its occupants to Heaven), and
  • all that have died in the Lord after the resurrection of Jesus and went to Paradise in Heaven.
Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52 NET)
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
(1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 NET)

2. Transform the bodies (i.e., pass them through death to glorification, thus complying with Hebrews 9:27) of the Christians alive on Earth at His appearing.

And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation. (Hebrews 9:27–28 NET)

That is, those who are alive and have a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18 NET)
But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20–21 NET)

3. Draw both groups that now have glorified bodies to Himself and transport them (us) to Heaven.

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure). (1 John 3:2–3 NET)

We Christians will then appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where our works will be judged.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NET)
If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw,each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12–15 NET)

This is a judgment for what we have done (i.e., our works, including our motive for doing them) for the determination of any reward and NOT a judgment of whether we can be with the Lord forever (the latter has already been decided based on our belief or faith in Jesus’ completed work on the cross (1)).

because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9–13 NET)

The Second Return of Jesus the Messiah

I was watching in the night visions, “And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 NET)
“Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet [shofar] blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29–31 NET)
But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63–64 NET)

Jesus is the prophesied “Son of Man,” the God-Man, the Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah coming on the clouds to judge the nations and establish His physical Kingdom on the earth.

The Second Return as the Lord of Hosts

The second time Jesus will come to the Earth to defeat the Antichrist, destroy evil, and establish His millennial or thousand-year kingdom on Earth.

Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain. (Jude 14–16 NET)
Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11–16 NET)

This return is referred to as the Day of the Lord in scripture. But, again, a day with the Lord is a thousand years (1)

Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. (2 Peter 3:8 NET)

That is, the DAY of the Lord encompasses the defeat of the Antichrist and evil and then the THOUSAND YEAR reign of Jesus on Earth! 

Recall that the Scroll of Authority (1) leased to man the rule over Earth for a finite period of time. The man then made a covenant with Satan by sinning, thus giving Satan the right to rule over his world system for the same finite period of time. This period of time is known by both God and Satan.

When he came to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were extremely violent, so that no one was able to pass by that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28–29 NET)
Therefore you heavens rejoice, and all who reside in them! But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to you! He is filled with terrible anger, for he knows that he only has a little time!” (Revelation 12:12 NET)

However, so that some people going through the Great Tribulation period on Earth might remain alive, the lease is interrupted before its time is fulfilled.

For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:21–22 NET)

Satan is then imprisoned in the Abyss during these thousand years of Jesus’ reign on Earth.

Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan—and tied him up for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1–2 NET)

Nevertheless, God being just, will release Satan for the balance of the time of the lease, as specified in the Scroll of Authority, after the thousand-year reign of Jesus. 

The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things, he must be released for a brief period of time.) (Revelation 20:3 NET)

Then Satan and all his evil will be removed forever! Hallelujah!

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10 NET)

III. Jesus will make them a pillar in the temple of God and that they shall go out no more. The Lord is referring to the situation in Philadelphia when the earthquakes destroyed the city and the people had to go out to the fields and live in tents. As I explained earlier, the only structures built to withstand the earthquakes were the pagan temples. And sometimes the pillars of the temples were the only structures to survive. There are many pillars of ancient structures still standing today. Also, the tents were only temporary dwellings. (4)

What the Lord wants them to know is that unlike the physical pillars in pagan temples, the people themselves will be the pillars in God’s temple in His New Jerusalem. Of course, the Lord is using a figure of speech to help them understand His point. The people will not be literal pillars. Since God Himself will be with them, there will be no need for a physical temple in the New Jerusalem. (4)

Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God—the All-Powerful—and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22–23 NET)

By relating to the physical situation of the city, Jesus used terminology that spoke of a sure foundation of permanence. There will be no earthquakes in the city of God. The people won’t have to constantly come in and go out of God’s city and live in temporary shelters. They will be safe and secure forever in God’s presence in His eternal city. (4)

IV. A threefold assurance that the Lord will place God’s name on them, the name of His city on them, and His own new name on them. This is the Lord’s way of saying in terms they would understand that the One True God is their God and that they are His people forever. They belong to Him, are citizens of God’s eternal city, the New Jerusalem, and the Lord will give them a new name that reflects their relationship with Him. This is an ancient way of communicating going all the way back to the Book of Numbers when God said He would put His name on the children of Israel and bless them. (4)

The LORD spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and protect you; The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” ’ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22–27 NET)

It was the custom to write people’s names on the pillars of public buildings and temples. For example, when Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, he called two of the pillars after people’s names. (4)

He set up the pillars on the porch in front of the main hall. He erected one pillar on the right side and called it Jakin; he erected the other pillar on the left side and called it Boaz. (1 Kings 7:21 NET)

Archaeologists have discovered many pillars bearing people’s names, including pillars of temples. Jesus is encouraging the believers in Philadelphia. Because of their faithfulness, they will forever be God’s people, living in His presence in His city that will never change names or be destroyed, and they will bear the likeness of the glorified Son of Man forever. Hallelujah! (4)

Jesus said,

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24 NET)

Paul said,

Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8 NET)

John said,

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure). (1 John 3:2–3 NET)

If the Lord’s message to Philadelphia applies to your organization, your ministry, or your life, find comfort in these words from Peter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5 NET)

The Invitation

Thank God for the believers at Philadelphia. They had some spiritual strength, they had kept God’s Word, and they had not denied His name. No wonder the Lord made such incredible promises to them. Oh, that He would say that about us today. (4)

The faithfulness of this little company of believers should be an example for us to imitate. Just think about their situation. They are living in a city that has so many Greek gods and goddesses it is called “Little Athens.” Dionysus, the god of wine, is the chief deity at Philadelphia. Festivals to Dionysus were drunken orgies filled with every kind of debauchery imaginable. If they wanted, the city leaders could have Mardi Gras every day. (4) They were “canceled” with the doors to professional advancement and social acceptance closed.

Furthermore, the citizens of Philadelphia lived in constant fear of an earthquake. They never knew when the next “big one” would hit. They had to have their camping gear handy just in case. They were always going in and out. Nothing was permanent. The believers at Philadelphia were truly living on shaky ground. (4)

In spite of their many obstacles and challenges, the believers were faithful. This is the message for us today—faithfulness. Western Christians think of salvation by grace through faith. To our modern minds, faith is a noun, that is, it is a state of believing. It is passive, based on a mental agreement with certain religious teachings. In fact, the dictionary defines faith as “belief in God” or “a system of religious beliefs.” (4)

While this is how we normally think about the word faith, the Bible has a fuller meaning of the word. In the Bible, faith is not just a mental agreement or acceptance of certain religious teaching. It is not a passive word; it is an active word. It carries the meaning of steadfastness. The dictionary does include this larger understanding of the word faith, but it is not how we use the word in our everyday thinking and conversation. (4)

In defining the meaning of faith, the dictionary also says that faith is fidelity to one’s promises. In other words, faith is an active word that is a way of life. Faith is not just a state of believing with our minds; it is the steadfast allegiance, loyalty, and unwavering commitment to living our lives in accordance with what we believe. A person who is faithful is a person who is full of faith. They are “faith-full.” (4)

We know this is how the Lord is using the word faith because He commends the congregation at Philadelphia for keeping His command to persevere (Revelations 3:10). Because the believers at Philadelphia were faithful, the Lord promised to open the doors of His Kingdom to them, to rescue them from the great time of testing and tribulation, to avenge them against their enemies, and to give them permanence in His presence and in His holy city forever. May we live our lives in such a way that the Lord could make this promise to us. Amen!

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge. (Revelation 22:16–17 NET)

Application

Perhaps you are being “canceled” in your present location of ministry. Nevertheless, consider where you are! If you look at where you are geographically, you will find you have the opportunity and an open door that people in other places do not have. Walkthrough the open door and seize the unique opportunities that are right before your eyes! An open door was set before the church in Philadelphia, and an open door of opportunity is set before you today! (7)

Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16 NET)

The scripture above admonishes us to make the most of every opportunity. Are you making the most of every door of opportunity to advance the Gospel? Each day, pray and ask God for open doors to lead others to Jesus. Read and act on Matthew 9:37-38, Luke 10:2, James 5:7, Mark 16:15-18, and Isaiah 6:8.

‘I know your deeds. (Look! I have put in front of you an open door that no one can shut.) I know that you have little strength, but you have obeyed my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8 NET)

In writing, define the open door God has set before you.

It is time to walk through the open door before you. Purpose in your heart to walk through it without distraction, detour, or delay. Write out practical steps you can take to go through your open door. (7)

Feasts, Festivals, and Important Occasions of the Biblical Covenants Series:
– The Spring Festivals:
– Seven Church Conditions during the Times of the Gentiles:
– The Fall Festivals:
Biblical Typologies, Metaphors, & Similes Series:


Shalom
(Protection, Wholeness, Success)
Peace

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 
(3 John 1:2 NET)


(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.

(2) The catching away or rapture of the church will occur before the Great Tribulation based on the following: 

  • Traditionally we have called this event “The Rapture,” although this word does not appear in most Bible translations.  The word rapture comes from the Latin, Rapare, which means to “take away” or “snatch out.” The word with the meaning of rapture in the Bible is the Greek word harpozo.  This Greek word harpozo is literally translated as “caught up” and has the following meanings: to carry off by force or rescue from the danger of destruction.  Jesus will carry us off by force when He removes us through the territory of the Prince of the Power of the Air (lower denser atmosphere(3)) who will apparently attempt to interfere with our leaving Earth (Ephesians 2:2). Jesus will rescue us from the danger of destruction by taking us to Heaven before the Great Tribulation.
  • The last church age listed in Revelations 3 is the Laodicean age. The genuine Christians in this church will be kept from “the hour of testing that comes upon the whole world.” (Revelation 3:10. 1 Thessalonians 1:10. 1 Thessalonians 5:9)
  • The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is broken up into the three parts (Revelation 1:19):
  1. The things that you have seen – the Patmos Vision of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1).
  2. The things which are – the Church age (Revelation 2 and Revelation 3).
  3. The things that will take place after this – events taking place after the Church age (i.e., after the church leaves the Earth) (Revelation 4-22).

(3) The Greek word used here for air is “aer,” which refers to the lower denser atmosphere. This is in contrast with the Greek work “aither,” speaking of the upper thinner atmosphere. For example, a Greek would stand on Mount Olympus (6,403 feet high) and point up to “aither” and down to “are.”

(4) Booker, R. (2011). The overcomers: series- understanding the book of Revelation. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

(5) Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Cancel. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cancel

(6) Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Cancel culture. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cancel%20culture

(7) Renner, R. (2019). Companion study guide: Christ’s message to Philidelphia Rick Renner Ministries. www.renner.org

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Presently, He desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.

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