The name Philadelphia means brotherly love. The city was given its name from the brotherly love displayed by Attalus II towards his brother Eugene which won him the moniker of Philadelphus. Philadelphia is known to have been a missionary city though the term is probably not the same as what we would think of as a missionary endeavor today.
The city was founded as a launch point for the spread of Greek culture and language into the regions of Lydia and Phrygia. In that sense from its conception, it was a missionary city focussed on promoting the unity of spirit, customs, and loyalty within the empire. In this sense, the city was a devoted Grecian missionary and was successful in its endeavors.
In the early part of the new millennium, the Lydian tongue had become obsolete and Greek had become the only spoken language in the country. The city itself was located at the gateway of the fertile Valley of Hermus and was sometimes referred to as Little Athens.
Jesus commends the church of Philadephia for its steadfast faithfulness. It’s especially interesting that he tells that that they have remained faithful despite the fact that they have only a little strength. They have kept his word and not denied His name and Jesus promises not only to place before them an open door which no man can shut but also to demonstrate to those who have opposed them His love for His church.
Jesus offers no words of reproof to the church of Philadelphia. That is significant but it also signifies two things. The first is that it is possible for God’s people to walk before Him so uprightly that they please Him in all things. This is not only heartening and reassuring but also a direct challenge for those of us who profess to be Christians.
Secondly, it is an indication of the deep and abiding relationship that existed between Jesus and His church. Such an experience is not limited to the Philadelphian church alone. It is something we can all attain.
Philadelphia covers the period of church history that covers the preaching of men like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and others. These were men who loved God with their whole hearts and wanted to serve him with everything they had in them.
It was during this era that evangelical preaching and aggressive soul-winning began to flourish. The birth of modern missions swept over the globe in the wake of this with the dawn of the 18th century, It’s a significant development when you consider Jesus’ words to the church at Philadelphia “I have set before you an open door”
God opened the door to global mission during this time and countless missionaries set sail for parts unknown to take the gospel to the world. It was during this time that David Livingston went to Africa, William Caret to India and Hudson Taylor sailed to China.
The birth of the British Bible Society in 1804 ensured that the Bible could be translated and placed in the hands of as many people as wanted to read it. It was a time when the gospel seemed to bleed through the very fabric of the globe, spanning the earth in a single bound and bringing hope and comfort to thousands.
The climactic focal point of the book of Revelation is the second coming. Every verse and chapter points towards it as the final conclusion to the great controversy between the lamb and the beast that is seen playing out in the book.
It is fitting then that the second coming is the focal point of the promises that Jesus gives to the church of Philadelphia. This period of church history saw the church as fully engaged in mission as the early church was only this church is closer to the second coming of Jesus.
The devastating earthquake of 17 AD that struck Philadelphia decimated most things but a lone pillar withstood the impact, standing as a tribute to the power of fortitude in the crisis. Jesus promises the Philadelphians that he would make them a pillar in the temple of God.
Those who have withstood the shaking blasts of the great conflict between good and evil and have managed to hold on to their faith in Jesus will stand as sentries testifying to the fortitude and resilience of the overcomer.
Jesus counsels the Philadelphians to hold fast to what they have, their spiritual experience, that is deep and abiding. He promises them that if they hold fast to it no man will be able to take their crown.