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Revelation 3:7-13

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you ...

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have …”

(verses 7-9, 11)


The churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna are the only ones of the seven addressed by the Lord who do not receive words of correction and rebuke – they only receive encouragement and praise. Both are experiencing some degree of opposition, both are told the source is satanic, and both are promised a crown of victory if they persevere.

The Lord introduces his message to the church at Philadelphia with the imagery of open and closed doors. As the one “who holds the key of David” he gives access to the Kingdom – and no one can close what he opens or open what he shuts. It’s a strong word of affirmation for anyone who is in Christ. If Christ is for us, who can be against us? If he’s welcomed us into his Kingdom, how could we ever doubt our right to be there?

I wonder if this particular church had a need for such strong affirmation. The Lord says to them, “I know that you have little strength.” Did “little strength” include being somewhat timid and insecure? They seem to have been oppressed by those outside the church who “claim(ed) to be Jews though they are not.” Were they being hammered with accusations (lies from these “liars”) that they were outside the covenant community, outside the circle of God’s love and acceptance? Was the oppression wearing on them? The Lord’s specific promise is that he will make these oppressors “acknowledge that I have loved you.” Perhaps that truth was specially needing reinforcement within the Philadelphian church itself.

Certainly “the love of Christ” was a key element of Paul’s ongoing prayer for his friends in the church at Ephesus. He prayed that they might have power to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19) – in other words, to be able to grasp what is ungraspable in one’s own strength. It’s a cause for prayer, and for the Lord’s own affirmation.

The magnitude of Christ’s love is something Paul also affirms to the Roman church. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”, he asks, and then answers by listing many possibilities, none of which have the power. He concludes by saying that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

All of this affirms a remarkable statement that Jesus himself made on the night before he went to the cross. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). How can we even get our minds around the magnitude of the Father’s love for the Son? But this is how much Jesus (together with the Father and Spirit) has loved us. Beyond all that we could ask or even imagine.

So, the Lord unhesitatingly affirms that the door to his Kingdom is opened before the church at Philadelphia – no one can shut it. They have sure access. And then he couples it with an affirmation of the unfathomable depth of his love.

All of this is enough. Even for those who “have little strength.”


Lord Jesus, you are the one who grants access to the Kingdom. You open and you close, and no one can reverse your actions. You have welcomed me into your Kingdom, by faith in your name – thank you for the all-encompassing dimensions of your love. Help me to “hold on to what (I) have” till you come – for your honour and glory.



Take time to bring the message home. Imagine before you the open door into the Kingdom. See the keys in Jesus’ own hands. Know that nothing can separate you from his love. Put your thankfulness into words.


Photo by valérie faiola on Unsplash

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