As with each of the letters to the churches, Jesus describes Himself in a way significant to the church and what they are facing. For the church in Philadelphia he describes Himself in verse 7 this way,
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
He is the Holy One. He is set apart by God and for God. The word hágios means different, it means like the Lord and special to Him because it is different from the world. He is the True One. He is perfect. The word aléthinos mean genuine and authentically exactly like its source. This means Jesus is exactly and perfectly like the Father. He is God, (John 1:1) He is from God, (John 6:29) He is set apart by God, (1 Peter 1:15-16) and He is the exact image of God. (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus has the key of David. What is the key of David? In Isaiah 22 The LORD punished Shebna, the steward of King Hezekiah for extreme pride. He was replaced by Eliakim in a foreshadowing of the Beast and Jesus. Isaiah 22:17-25 describes what the Lord did to Shebna and the honor He gave to Eliakim.
“Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall beyour glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house. 24 And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. 25 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”
Verse 22 of that passage reads, “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” The key of the house of David is the burden of government, the stewardship of authority, and care for the people of Israel and the Children of God. Isaiah 9:6 tells us the government shall be upon his shoulder. Hebrews 3:3-5 describes Jesus faithful stewardship to us.
“For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Of course Jesus faithfully carries the burden of Israel and the church, He created us. He is the author of salvation. Hebrews 2:9-11 puts it this way,
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,”
What Jesus opens, no one will shut, what He shuts, no one can open. Jesus work is permanent. He gave up His life to save us from sin. He did it once and for all. No one can undo that. The devil will try and tell you your sins are not forgiven or cannot be forgiven, but he is lying! Romans 6:5-11 says,
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Whatever Jesus does remains done. And Believer, He gave you those keys too! He gave us authority like that. In Matthew 16-18-19 Jesus told Peter what He would do for us who believe He is Christ.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Peter is not the only one with the keys, Jesus gives those keys to every person who confesses He is Christ. When He taught us to pray, He taught us to ask for God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10).
When Jesus spoke to the church in Philadelphia, He reminded them of His great power and His deep care and love for them. Verse 8 reads,
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.”
Philadelphia was built 900 feet above sea level on a volcano. The city suffered earthquakes often, but the soil was rich. Philadepia made great wine. The god of the city was Bacchus the god of wine. And apparently there were those who Jesus called the synagogue of Satan in their midst, probably trying to lead them away from the Gospel by telling them they had to follow laws, be circumcised, abstain from this and do that in order to be saved. But Jesus promised this church of little power that no one could take their salvation from them. No one could undo what He had done for them. He had set the open door before them and no one could shut it. Jesus promised the church that those who tried to lead them away with lies would find out the truth. The truth is that Jesus loves us, not because of what we do, but because of who we are. He knows us completely because He made us, and He loves us. As believers we experience that love on a deeper level than others do, because we know His grace. The lost don’t know that grace. They think we’re nuts to believe we don’t have to earn salvation. One day they will know the truth and they will face judgement. They’ll bow before our feet and beg for mercy, for some it will be too late. But until the time either of their salvation or their judgment they will persecute us. The followers of Satan, blind to who they obey or not, hate us because their prince hates us. They will do whatever they can to cause us suffering. But the church in Philadelphia didn’t give in and deny Jesus’ grace and name. They endured the persecution. And Jesus had a promise for them and for us. Verses 10-11 say,
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”
Because we endure tribulation and persecution, we will not suffer the wrath of God when He judges the world. While Jesus brings wrath on the ones who rejected Him and followed Satan, we will be spared. He is coming for us and it is soon. No one can take our salvation, no one can take our reward. Verses 12-13 continue the promise.
“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
A pillar is essential to upholding and stabilizing a building. In a city that suffered earthquakes on a regular basis, the church understood the implication and magnitude of a pillar. Jesus said that those like the Philadelphian church, who overcome the enemy and endure persecution faithfully without denying Christ would be pillars in the temple of New Jerusalem. The temple of New Jerusalem is not a building, it is Jesus Christ. We are upholders of His name, we are supporters of the faith, and emissaries of His salvation. And no one can make us leave the Temple, who is Jesus. We are the church, we are not in the church. And the promise is reiterated in His name, His seal or authority written directly on us. It is His stamp saying we are His, what we do is in His name as if He were doing it. We will be so united with Him in New Jerusalem that we will be a part of Him.
Believer, you may not have much power, but Jesus does. Jesus holds the keys. He cares for you faithfully. What He does cannot be undone. He saved you and no one can take that away. He forgave all your sins, not some. He died once and He rose from the dead forever. You died once and Jesus brought you back to life. You can’t die again. Hold on to that promise. The open door is before you and none can shut it. You are a pillar in the Temple and no one can make you leave.