Philadelphia was about 40 miles (50 kilometres) east of Sardis. The name ‘Philadelphia’ is interesting; it means ‘love for a brother’.
In his letter to the church there, Christ first describes himself by reference to his character. He is holy and true.
The word ‘holy’ reminds us that Christ is God (Isaiah 6:3). He is perfect, and his character is pure. In other words, he is wholly good; there is nothing bad or evil in his character.
The word ‘true’ reminds us that Christ never lies. His word is the truth; his promises are certain. John wrote that Christ is full of grace (kindness) and truth (John 1:14).
However, Christ does not just say that he is holy and true. He declares that he is the holy and true one. He is God. Everything that is holy and true comes from him. Nothing can be holy or true except by relationship to him.
Christ then says that he holds ‘the key of David’. Previously, he said that he had ‘the keys of death and hell’ (1:18); this seems different. Keys are a word-picture for authority. Therefore, the keys of death and hell mean authority over death and hell. The key of David means the authority that David had.
David was the great king of Israel; Christ was born into his family. David was the first king of Israel who ruled Jerusalem. Christ is the last king of Israel who will always rule in the New Jerusalem. God made promises to David that are about the rule of Christ (2 Samuel 7:16). Christ has authority to rule.
Christ’s authority is not just for the future. As David ruled God’s people in Israel, so Christ rules the lives of his people now. He guides and directs their lives. He creates opportunities for them to declare his good news. When he gives such an opportunity to his people, no enemy can prevent it. Nobody can force Christ to act in a different way, because he has the authority (Matthew 28:18).
Next part: Philadelphia: an open door (Revelation 3:8)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.