Messianic Community in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, a very small city in the former Lydian empire in Asia Minor, was located on a hill in the Cogamus River valley. It was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis and 105 miles from Smyrna. Philadelphia was situated along the road known as the doorway to central Asia Minor and its trade routes. It was subject to large earthquakes that made the city walls unsafe so many of the residents lived outside the walls. In 17 AD, an earthquake nearly destroyed many of the seven ancient cities including much of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia was known for its grapes and its production of the finest wines that were used throughout the Roman empire. Because of this, its chief god was Dionysus, the Greek god of wine or the Roman god Bacchus.
Two stories describe how Philadelphia was named. One suggests the city was founded by the king of Pergamum who had an incestuous relationship for his sister whom he married. He was nicknamed ‘brother lover,’ hence the ‘city of brotherly love.’ The other says that it was named for the relationship between the king and his brother whom he loved and who would succeed him as king.
Philadelphia was the last of the ancient cities to fall to the Ottomans and Turks in 1337 and was renamed Alashehir meaning ‘the city of Allah’. In 1922 a fire destroyed the entire city killing 3,000 people. There are few remains left of the ancient city: a part of Byzantine walls, a theater, an unexcavated stadium, and three massive pillars from the Basilica of St. John that was in the center of the town.
“To the angel of the Messianic Community in Philadelphia, write: ‘Here is the message of HaKadosh, the True One, the one who has the key of David, who, if he opens something, no one else can shut it, and if he closes something, no one else can open it. “I know what you are doing. Look, I have put in front of you an open door, and no one can shut it. I know that you have but little power, yet you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me. Here, I will give you some from the synagogue of the Adversary, those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are lying — see, I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. Because you did obey my message about persevering, I will keep you from the time of trial coming upon the whole world to put the people living on earth to the test. I am coming soon; hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. I will make him who wins the victory a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. Also I will write on him the name of my God and the name of my God’s city, the new Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities'” (Revelation 3:7-13).
Yeshua sends the sixth messenger to the community of Philadelphia where he reveals himself as “the message of the HaKodesh [the Holy Spirit], the True One, the one who has the key of David.”
Yeshua’s message to Philadelphia is from the Ruach HaKodesh, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth which empowers his people to be overcomers. It is apparent the Messianic believers in Philadelphia have the Spirit of Elohim and walk in the Ruach, but are struggling. Even so, Philadelphia is given a message different from any of the other communities.
The Ruach haKodesh imparts gifts to Elohim’s people so they can minister, comfort, and speak Truth to one another as “iron sharpens iron”. From the Ruach haKodesh flows the spiritual gifts of love, joy, shalom, perseverance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These unique gifts set the people of Adonai apart from the world’s humanistic love that never brings shalom.
The True One
Yeshua is the ‘True One’ because he speaks the Truth; no lie ever leaves his mouth. He is also called the True and Faithful witness of the El Elyon (Most High God) (Revelation 19:11). He speaks only what he hears his Father tells him to say, even to these communities of faith (John 12:49). His truthful words convict them of sin and unrighteousness.
“The true Torah was in his [Yeshua’s) mouth, and no dishonesty was found on his lips; he walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many away from sin” (Malachi 2:6).
Key of David
“I will place the key of David’s house on his [Yeshua’s] shoulder; no one will shut what he opens; no one will open what he shuts” (Isaiah 22:22).
David’s ‘house’ represents the lineage of Judah and King David and the Messianic promises made to him. A ‘key’ has been placed on his shoulder. This ancient custom of placing a ‘key’ on the shoulder of a king’s official formally acknowledges his authority over the king’s treasures and palace gates.
Yeshua descended from Judah and King David as the “root and offspring of David.” It is Yeshua who will build a ‘house’ for the Name of Adonai. He is given the ‘key of David’ and he will sit with authority on his throne and reign over his kingdom forever. Yeshua has the key to the treasures in the Kingdom promised to King David, and only he can open or shut the door (2 Samuel 7:12-14).
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9, NASB)
Both Isaiah and Yeshua speak of a ‘door’ that will be opened or shut by the “key of David.” In Hebrew the word ‘door’ is dalet. Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet with a letter picture that means ‘pathway’. Yeshua uses the example of a door to a pathway; one must choose which ‘path’ to walk and that choice determines their destination: eternal life or eternal loss.
A ‘door’ – opened or closed – can symbolize multiple things in Scripture. An ‘open door’ can be an invitation from Yeshua to ‘enter’ the Kingdom and enjoy fellowship with him. A ‘closed door’ may suggest the invitation is no longer available or rescinded.
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the bridegroom ‘shuts the ‘door’ after taking the wise virgins into the wedding chamber. The foolish virgins are left outside with no access to the bridegroom. The wise bridesmaids enter the bridal chamber; the foolish ones miss the opportunity (Matthew 25).
In Revelation 3:20, Yeshua ‘stands at the door’ and knocks hoping someone will ‘open the door’ so he may fellowship with those inside. The ‘door is closed’ and those on the other side, who don’t open it, miss an important event. Feasting with Yeshua is an allusion to the Feasts of Adonai, the ‘appointed times’ that are prophetic to Yeshua’s life, death, resurrection, sanctification, return, judgment, and redemption of all things (Leviticus 23).
Yeshua “stands at the door and knocks” because he desires to fellowship with his brothers and sisters through his Father’s holy convocations, just like he desired to celebrate the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15). ‘Holy convocation’ in Hebrew is mikra and means ‘rehearsal’. In order to be ready for the actual event of a wedding, there is a ‘rehearsal dinner’ for the bride and groom and their groomsmen and bridesmaids. Yeshua is the Bridegroom and he desires his Bride to prepare herself by rehearsing for Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This is the meaning behind Yeshua’s words that he would not “drink this ‘fruit of the vine’ until the day I drink new wine with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:28-29).
‘New wine’ is an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. The prophetic vision of this ‘appointed time’ is the dwelling presence of Yeshua in Jerusalem as King of Kings. It is the time of the Messianic Era when Yeshua rules and reigns over the earth with his resurrected saints for one thousand years. During the one-thousand-year Feast of Tabernacles, “new wine will be put into new wine skins” (Luke 5:37-38, Zechariah 9:16-17, Job 32:18-19).
A ‘closed door’ may also symbolize the time for repentance has ended. For those who refused to open the door of salvation and feast with Yeshua, they will find judgment instead of reward, eternal death instead of eternal life (James 5:9).
The community in Philadelphia has an ‘open door’ that no one can shut. As Yochanan’s vision progresses, he is shown an ‘open door’ into the heavenly realm that leads to the Throne of Elohim (Revelation 4:1). As he enters through that ‘open door’ he is given the full revealing of Messiah Yeshua, the coming King.
Little Strength in the World
The community in Philadelphia continues its works despite having little strength. The Greek word for ‘strength’ in Revelation 3:8 is dunamis and means ‘miraculous power, ‘energy’ or ‘ability.’ It appears that this congregation of Messianic believers has little energy for whatever they are facing in the world; they persevere by trusting in the ‘miraculous power’ of Elohim to get them through (Zechariah 4:6).
This community of believers ‘obeys the gospel’. For many, the gospel is something to believe with their mind, not obey with their heart and soul. Yet, the believers in Philadelphia are commended for ‘obeying the gospel.’
After Yeshua came out of the wilderness, he left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. At this time he began to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He began to preach the good news of the Kingdom. According to his own words, there is action or obedience attached to the gospel: turning from sin.
“From that time on, Yeshua began proclaiming, “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” (John 4:17).
‘Turning from sin’ is called repentance. In Hebrew, ‘repentance’ is the word teshuvah and means ‘to return.’ Teshuvah has the idea of making a 180-degree turn in your life that returns you back to the ways of Adonai. Repenting from sin and turning back to Elohim is an action that takes faithful commitment.
‘Sin’ is defined by Yochanan as breaking the commandments of Adonai, being lawless (1 John 3:4-6). Lawlessness or removing Torah from the believer’s life is the way of the ‘man of lawlessness’ who glorifies the Adversary. This is not the way of life for those in Philadelphia. When they obeyed the good news, they repented from sinful acts and stopped breaking Torah. They obeyed Adonai’s instructions as taught by His Son. Their obedient lives become the evidence of this community’s faithfulness to Yeshua; they have not disowned him. They stand firm for him in the pagan world and remain connected to him and are strengthened.
“Therefore, repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be erased; so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’s presence” (Acts 3:19-20)
Hebrew Word Pictures
Repent – teshuvah – תשובה
ת Tav – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign’ or ‘covenant.’
ש Shin – A Tooth means ‘consume’ or ‘destroy.’
ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’
ב Bet – A House means ‘house’ or ‘family.’
ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for teshuvah: sign of the covenant destroying the binding of the house revealed.
Like Smyrna, Philadelphia has some people in their congregation who call themselves Jews, but are not. These ‘fake Jews’ tell the Messianic believers in Philadelphia that Yeshua does not love them. The ‘city of brotherly love’ appears to have a love problem between so-called brothers. These liars will eventually prostrate themselves at the feet of the ‘true Jews’ admitting that Yeshua does love them (Romans 2:28-29).
There is a teaching known as Two-House that focuses solely on the two houses of Isra’el –– Judah and Ephraim. The followers of Two-House take on an exterior facade of being Jewish while separating themselves from anything and everything Jewish. They claim that because Elohim divorced Judah, the Jewish people have lost any share in the Kingdom and Ephraim now receives the promises. Apart from being deeply antisemitic and complete replacement theology, this movement has created a group of ‘false Jews’ who claim that Yeshua doesn’t love the Jewish people. This is a lie from the pit of the Adversary who hates the Jewish people and the lie continues today in many churches around the world.
The new covenant is predicated on the words of the prophet Jeremiah and is promised to the House of Judah and the House of Isra’el (Jeremiah 31:30-32). Yeshua instituted the new covenant at his Passover seder with his Jewish disciples (Luke 22:20). Salvation comes from the Jews, and no one in the Body of Messiah should ever believe a doctrine that would separate Yeshua’s brothers and sisters from their Jewish redeemer (John 4:22).
Power of Perseverance
Perseverance will keep the congregation of Philadelphia from the time of trial coming on the whole world. This time of trial is known as the Great Tribulation or the ‘Time of Jacob’s Trouble.’ The Greek word for ‘keep’ in Revelation 3:10 is tereso and means ‘to watch, to guard over.’ How Elohim will guard or watch over His people during this time of trial remains a divine mystery, but these faithful Messianic believers will be kept safe during the Day of Adonai’s vengeance because they have patiently endured. With their little strength, they have remained faithful to Yeshua and obey his commands (Revelation 14:12).
The Greek word for ‘endure’ is hupomone and means ‘remaining behind’. Though many followers of Yeshua may be martyred, the faithful in Philadelphia will ‘remain behind’. For those who adhere to a pretribulation rapture, those ‘left behind’ are not the lost, but followers of the Jewish Messiah. In the Day of Adonai, their faithful endurance will be the only testimony of Yeshua the lawless world will have to see.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Persevere – hatmadah – התמדה
ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’
ת Tav – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign’ or ‘covenant.’
מ Mem – Water means ‘chaos’ or ‘mighty.’
ד Dalet – A Door means ‘pathway.’
ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for hatmadah: reveal the sign of the covenent of the mighty pathway, behold.
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Yeshua tells this community to hold on to what they have and no one will take away their crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Their eternal reward, however, includes more than this crown. They will become a pillar in the Millennial Temple of Adonai. The Hebrew word for ‘pillar’ is netzab and means ‘to guard or protect.’ One reward for those in Philadelphia will be to ‘guard and protect’ the Millennial Temple.
Pillars are used as imagery to describe the earth’s foundation. When it quakes, Elohim holds the pillars firm for all the people on the earth (Psalm 75:4). The first reference to a pillar is in Genesis 35:14 when Ya’akov (Jacob) sets up a standing stone or pillar at Beit-el. While the Israelites wandered through the wilderness, the glory of Adonai led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. His pillar shaded them from the heat of the day and kept them warm at night. His pillar protected them from their enemies and moved with them for 40 years. His pillar lived above the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle; His pillar was their sukkah of covering for 40 years. When Moshe read the words of Adonai and the people responded they would obey everything they heard, he set up 12 pillars for the 12 Tribes of Isra’el. Jeremiah was made an ‘iron pillar’ with whom the kings, princes, and priests of Judah would fight against. He would not be overcome, but rescued (Jeremiah 1:18-19).
Yeshua’s words are similar to Philadelphia who will ‘remain behind’ and not be overcome. They will be as King David wrote: “Our sons in their youth will be like full-grown saplings, our daughters will be like sculptured pillars fit for the corner of a palace” (Psalm 144:12). As evidence to this promise, massive pillars remain to this day in the ancient ruins of Philadelphia.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Pillar – netzab
Nun – A Fish means ‘life.’
Tzakik – A Fishhook means ‘draw near.’
Yod – A Closed Hand means ‘finished work.’
Bet – A House means ‘house’ or ‘family.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for netzab: life draws near to finished work of the house.
In Hebrew, the word for ‘endure’ is amad and means ‘to take one’s stand in the covenant.’ It suggests an ‘attitude of standing.’ To become a pillar in the Millennial Temple suggests the believers of Philadelphia are strong in their covenant relationship with Yeshua and they will continue to stand strong during his one-thousand-year reign.
The Messianic believers in Philadelphia have prepared themselves as wise virgins with oil in their lamps. They have matured in faith and have not faltered in their first love. Their clothes are not soiled. They have repented and fruits of righteousness follow them. They have stood firm like a pillar when faced with trials. They have not fallen into sexual immorality or eaten foods sacrificed to idols. They have blessed Isra’el and the Jewish people. They have not learned the deep secrets of the Adversary and have nothing to do with Jezebel. They remain behind, enduring patiently the days of tribulation, and are welcomed into the Kingdom by Yeshua who holds the key to the House of David.
This is highest reward given to any of the seven communities. The believers in Philadelphia are not just invited guests to the wedding feast; they become the pure and spotless Bride of Messiah. They receive the Kingdom family name, the name of their Father –– yod-hey-vav-hey. They receive a new home in the heavenly New Jerusalem. They also receive the highest name of all –– the name of their Bridegroom, Yeshua, the King of Kings.
“Those [in Philadelphia] who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit, Ruach haKodesh [the holy wind] is saying to the Messianic community.”
Yeshua uses these same words in the gospels when he speaks in parables, however, he doesn’t include the words, “what the Spirit says to the communities.” One reason that he taught in parables was so people could ‘look but not see, and listen but not understand’ the message of the Kingdom (Isaiah 6:9-10, Luke 8:10). Because he wanted his disciples to have a deeper understanding of the coming Kingdom, he explained the hidden meaning away from the crowds.
Yeshua spoke all of his parables before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua are given new hearts and a renewed spirit. The Ruach haKodesh within them gives them ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying’ so they can obey His voice.
Yeshua doesn’t want Philadelphia to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be heard through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd (Psalm 95:7-8, John 10:27-28) His sheep were to ‘listen’ to the message and ‘obey’ so they would be overcomers –– Isra’el –– and receive their eternal reward.
But you [Philadelphia], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Matthew 13:14-16).
Revelation 3 – Messianic Congregation of Laodicea
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