“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.” Revelation 3:7-8
Jesus’ introduction of Himself as holy and true was a cultural assurance to the Philadelphians rooted in their current events and political climate. Following an earthquake, the city was neglected by the Roman Empire, they didn’t send help to rebuild. Then Domitian ordered them to tear out their vineyards so that the Italian ones would be the frontrunners, breaking the Philadelphian economy. The Christians themselves faced neglect and opposition from the local authorities.
But Jesus tells the Christians that He is apart from all of the betrayals of this world. That He will do them no wrong and be faithful to them.
Now Christianity, though having begun as a sect of Judaism, began to be excluded from the synagogues as well. Literal doors were closed in their faces when they came to teach and hear the teachings with family that may not have converted yet from Judaism, segregating them further. Not only that, but Judaism was protected under Roman rule at this time. So anyone who wasn’t included on the religious rosters was subject to Imperial worship and punishment for noncompliance.
It was a big problem that the Christians were being shut out of the synagogues. It could mean their very lives were at stake.
Despite all this, the Church at Philadelphia faithfully persevered. Though they were weak, they remained strong in Him. So Jesus encourages them that He holds the key of David–an allusion to His authority over the Nation of Israel. And He would open a door for them that no one would be able to shut.
As Christians today, we have plenty of cultural pressures that segregate and alienate us from the world. Just as Jesus holds the key of David, so He holds the key to the whole world and every nation therein. We can hold to the promise that He made the Philadelphians, He will hold open the door to eternity for us if we, like them, keep His word and boldly proclaim His name in our lives.
In your weakness, do you allow Christ to show Himself strong [2 Corinthians 12:10]? Despite being excluded by the world, do hold fast to your faith in Him?