THE PHILADELPHIA LETTER
Time melts like molten gold on the Aegean Sea where we first met a few days ago with John of Patmos with plans to visit seven churches of Asia Minor, and to explore seven letters which John was invited in a vision to deliver to them. These Turkish churches appeared to John in his dream like ‘seven candlesticks’.(See Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3). The vision of the churches as ‘candlesticks’ may remind us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16, where he spoke of people being ‘lights’ in the world. We launched our mission with much excitement, starting out at Ephesus along the sea, then moving north to Smyrna and Pergamon, and then heading southeast and inland to Thyatira and Sardis. However, along the way, our pilgrimage has somehow left us with mixed feelings.
At first, we were encouraged by the large and active church at Ephesus, but we soon felt sad that in spite of their many good efforts, this church had lost its love for God. Next, we met the suffering Smyrna Church, a church facing serious hardship and poverty. Our hearts broke to hear about their situation, but we were soon comforted by their stalwart faith and courage, endurance and love. Next we stopped at three impressive churches, Pergamon, Thyatira and Sardis, who seemed to have it all together…at first…But we got a rude awakening. We found out about compromises of faith, including sex sin and immorality and were appalled to realize how blind these churches were to their spiritual condition. And now, our expedition moves on…to the ancient city of Philadelphia, ‘The City of Brotherly Love’, so named by Eumenes II, a king of Pergamon, in honour of his brother and successor, Attalus II. As we read this letter to Philadelphia we breathe a sigh of relief to hear the love and commendation of the Lord for this group of believers:
While it seems from our review of this letter that the Philadelphia Christians knew and experienced persecution (including from some who claimed to be ‘believers’ but were not), we also realize ‘it’s okay’. Amazingly and incredibly we can see that NOTHING seems to be able to shake this church’s faith. Jesus commends the Philadelphia Church for holding on to what is good, (even though they are not ‘strong’, and it seems incredible that they are able to hold on!) And Jesus also promises to protect and rescue this church from a time of ‘Great Tribulation’ “…which will come upon the whole world to test everyone alive.” These strangely prophetic words seem to imply that a terrible time of unprecedented global turmoil or a ‘time of the end’ will one day arrive. This is the second reference about an ‘end time’ in John’s vision, for the angel had spoken earlier, “Write down everything you see and hear…for the time is near when these things will all come true…” (Revelation 1:3).
Read through this letter in Revelation 3: 7-14. Although this church isn’t strong, what has led Jesus to commend this group of believers so highly? What do you think is ‘the secret’ to this church’s faith that has helped them to ‘hold on’ to faith in spite of lacking personal strength? What ‘door’ do you think God will open for this church which no one can shut?
Collect #6 of 7 clues here, and discover more of your heavenly riches and inheritance. (Hint: This part of your inheritance may remind you of John 14:2: In my Father’s house are many mansions…)
(Next up…our final letter – No. 7 The Laodicea Letter)
© 2011 S. Michaels