“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’.”
– Rev 3.7-13
In His address to the seven churches in His revelation to John, there is only one church which Jesus does not chastise and warn of coming judgment – and that is the Church at Philadelphia. Jesus does not have something “against” them. He still identifies Himself, and it is still relevant to the exhortation He makes, as in His message to the first five churches. Jesus is self-declared as “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.” We know that Jesus is Holy: He is God, He never sinned, and He is set aside with a special role and purpose as Savior. He is also true: He created everything, He wrote the moral law, He defines truth and gave us truth by which we can be saved. He also has the key of David: this is a bit more obscure, a reference from Isaiah:
“Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder,
When he opens no one will shut,
When he shuts no one will open.”
– Is 22.22
A key, throughout Scripture, represents authority. We see it in reference to Hades, Hell, and death and also the house of David. David was the second and arguably the greatest king of Israel, and thus for one to have the key to David’s house would be the key to David’s domain: Jerusalem and Israel. He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and the ruler over the New Jerusalem and the Earth. He is sovereign, and thus what He opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open. This is important because we must understand Jesus as the one who controls and guards entrance into eternity – either into eternal rest in the presence of Jesus on the New Earth, or in Hell.
But the Church at Philadelphia has an open door in front of them leading to eternal rest, and Jesus has opened it. No one can close it. Why? Why is Philadelphia set to meet Jesus and the others are not? Because they have kept Jesus’ word and they have not denied His name. There are many who claim to follow Jesus, but truly do not. They have either deceived themselves or they are deceiving others intentionally, and Jesus calls them of the “synagogue of Satan”. Jesus will humble them before true believers. He also promises the church to keep them from the hour of testing. This is a tricky promise, as some have interpreted it to mean that the Church will be kept from the final tribulation. In light of the full teaching of the New Testament, however, I believe it to mean the hour of judgment. We will go through two judgments as believers, and the first is the separation of the sheep and goats – the believers and non believers. At that moment, those who did not repent of their sins and turn to Jesus for salvation will be cast into Hell.
Regardless of your interpretation of that Scripture, the point is simple and true that Jesus will save us. We know that our deeds will be judged and we will be rewarded according to what we have done while on the Earth, and ultimately Jesus has opened a door into eternity for those who trust Him and obey Him, and He will protect us until we enter through that door.
Jesus them promises to come quickly and exhorts the Church to hold fast to their beliefs and their disciplines. He paints a beautiful picture of the reward awaiting them, provided they continue in the faith: they will be forever in the presence of God, they will be branded as His, and rewarded with life in the New Jerusalem. Why does Jesus put in that small caveat? Reward and consequence greatly affects everyone’s behavior. If we had no judicial system and no police, people would be much more quick to do those things that we have forbidden by the law. Our motivation should not only be the consequence, but we must also be aware of the consequence as we go about our decision making.
This is the Church we should seek to emulate. It is balanced, they know and love Jesus and they apply that knowledge and love of Him into their daily lives by obedience to Him. They are functioning well as a Church and they are standing up against the false prophets who would infiltrate them and lead others astray. And they are fighting the good fight of faith which Jesus promises to reward. Jesus Himself has no critique. Let us seek to obey to the point that Jesus has no critique other than, “keep on what you are doing!”