Troublesome Topic: The Possible Symbolism of Philadelphia

Revelation 3:7


Write this to the angel of the church

at Philadelphia. The one who is holy and true, the one who holds the key of

DAVID, when He opens something no one can shut it, when He closes something no one can open it, He says this:


Write this to the church that is fully known and understood by God, and is feeling overwhelmed and vastly outnumbered.

The one who is holy and true, the one who holds the evidence of the authority granted to

THE BELOVED Messiah, the one whose actions in granting or refusing opportunities are irrevocable, says this:

The Possible Symbolism of Philadelphia

What the city was known for: It appears that in Philadelphia there was strong competition between Christianity and other religions, with the Christians feeling they were heavily outnumbered. This was not just a matter of a small number compared to a larger number. Here the vast majority were standing in rigid opposition to the small number of believers. This was not simple, innocent competition where everyone plays by the same rules and the most attractive religion wins the most converts. Here there were no rules. Any trick or deception was considered an option. Here there was pressure, propaganda, black-balling, mud-slinging, lying and fraud.

Philadelphia was founded on the edge of the Greek civilization with the idea of spreading Greek culture. It was a trading post and had significant wealth. There were so many temples it reminds us of Paul’s comments about Athens, hence the competition among religions.

The believers there may have been suffering from an identity crisis, or a lack of confidence, hence the comment about “little strength.” Jesus tells them He has opened doors for them that no one can shut; He tells them this because they don’t see many open doors. What is most obvious to them is the opposition, and how they seem to have been blocked at every turn. The Christians there had been pressured to deny Christ but they had not done so Revelation 3:8. They had been accused of not being the true church of God Revelation 3:9, but, in the end, Jesus will prove to the world that His followers were right.

What the city’s name meant: “love of a brother” or “brotherly love.” The irony here is that the followers of Jesus did not feel loved and accepted by the general population. They may have sensed that all the other religions were tolerated, but Christianity was not. Tolerance was a one-way street; it did not apply equally to all. Those of any other religion experienced the acceptance of the tolerance movement, but those who were believers in Jesus experience the intolerance of “tolerance.”

The next lesson is: The Possible Symbolism of Laodicea