And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David…
I. THE INTRODUCTION. Philadelphia was a city not far from Sardis, founded by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, a few centuries before the Christian era. Its situation was upon the side of a mountain, which had a commanding view of a fertile and extensive country. It was a place of considerable importance in the time of the apostles. It is still populous, but in a mean condition. The character which Christ assumes to this church is, "He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth." It was needful that the church in Philadelphia should know that He was "the Holy One," and consequently that a low degree of piety was not sufficient in His esteem. It was further needful to remember, that He was "the True One," that is, "the Truth," or the God of Truth, and consequently that sincerity of motive was required, as well as purity of conduct. Truth and holiness are inseparably allied. Every deviation from rectitude is a lie. The more specific aspect in which Christ appears before the church in Philadelphia is, "He that hath the key of David," etc. This alludes to part of the representation of His person in the first chapter. The imagery, however, is more extended in its present application, and has a more extensive signification. He now represents Himself as having the key of the kingdom of heaven, upon the earth as well as in the invisible state.
II. THE DECLARATION. "I know thy works." This is the usual commencement of these addresses. The declaration is, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." The Christians in Philadelphia are comforted with the assurance that the design of their enemies would not be permitted to succeed; that their cause would survive; and that many from that city would continue to enter into the Redeemer's fold. That there are certain places and seasons in which the way is open for the spread of gospel truth, and others in which it is closed, the history of the church and daily observation and. experience abundantly prove. Nor is it less evident that this depends not upon any peculiarity of circumstances in relation either to the church or to the world, but to causes uncontrollable by human agency and design. As a general rule, indeed, where means are most used, and the prayers of the churches are most directed, the door is eventually thrown open; but occasionally all such efforts become ineffectual, and a door unexpectedly and unsolicited is opened in another direction. Sometimes a wide door is suddenly closed, and at other times a narrow door is opened wide. The prosperity which attends the preaching of the word in some places, and the discouragement in others, are not to be attributed to the different gifts and graces of men, so much as to the sovereign pleasure of Him who has the key of David, who openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. Usefulness often depends upon a wise and prayerful observation of times and seasons, as much as upon actual labour. Many have succeeded by a readiness to discern and avail themselves of an opened door; and many, with greater energy and zeal, have failed, from striving to keep open a door which He has closed.
III. THE COMMENDATION, "For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name." The strength of this church was small, but it was strength of the right kind. The strength of a church does not consist in worldly wealth, or wisdom, or power, but in its fidelity to the word and profession of the name of Christ. This strength is termed "little," not with an intention to censure, so much as to show what a little strength of this kind can effect against the united powers of earth and hell, and how greatly a little of such strength is prized by "Him that is holy and true." Nevertheless, it may be designed by this epithet to teach us, that even such strength, under such circumstances, is small in comparison of that which from the full exercise of faith and prayer might and ought to be attained.
IV. THE THREATENING. This is addressed, through the church, to a party which professed to be the true church, and the only objects of Divine favour. "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not," etc. The Jews, here referred to, opposed Judaism to Christianity. The name of Jew was far greater, in their esteem, than that of Christian.
V. THE PROMISE. This is to the whole church, "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience," etc.
VI. THE ADMONITION. "Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
VII. THE APPLICATION. A pillar is a needful as well as an ornamental part of a spacious building. It was so in the Jewish temple. It is the symbol therefore of a secure and prominent place in the temple of the new Jerusalem. It is not improbable that names were given to the pillars of the temple, and inscribed upon them. In 1 Kings 7. we are told, that when Solomon set up the two main pillars of the porch, he called the name of one Jachin, and the other Boaz, both of which chiefly denoted stability.
Parallel VersesKJV: And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
WEB: "To the angel of the assembly in Philadelphia write: "He who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David, he who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says these things: