“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Holy One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open: 8 ‘I know your deeds. (Look! I have put in front of you an open door that no one can shut.) I know that you have little strength, but you have obeyed my word and have not denied my name. 9 Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan – who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying – Look, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one can take away your crown.’”
The Church at Philadelphia
Have you ever stood at your front door only to realize you do not have the key? That is not a good feeling! Jesus has opened the door to God’s kingdom and heaven beyond. Since he alone has the key, you must do whatever he says is necessary to get through that door!
While there are some subtleties in 3:7–8, it is plain that these verses are all about access. Further, it is Jesus who has complete control over that access, as symbolized by the “key of David” (3:7). After pointing out that this text looks back to Isaiah 22:22, Grant Osborne says, “In this context this describes Jesus as the Davidic Messiah who controls the entrance to God’s kingdom, the ‘New Jerusalem’ (3:12).”
It appears likely that the Jews in the city had expelled the believers in Jesus from the synagogue, thus putting them in doubt about their spiritual destiny. Greg Beale explains: “Ethnic Israel, which was claiming to be the divine agent wielding the power of salvation and judgment, no longer held this position. Christ’s followers could be assured that the doors of the true synagogue were open to them, whereas the doors remained shut to those who rejected Christ.”
The synagogue of Satan has made many errors, foremost the rejection of Jesus as Messiah. Even other Jews were critical of this synagogue. This fits with Jesus’ words: “[they] say they are Jews but are not” (3:9).
Considerable controversy has surrounded the interpretation of the clause “I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (3:10). The question is whether Christ will protect the church during the hour of testing or keep them from it altogether by removing them first. The answer to that question relates to the doctrine of the rapture, a word derived from the Latin Vulgate’s translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
The argument hinges on the combination of two Greek words whose combination the standard lexicon presents as “keep someone from . . . something.” But does that mean preserving the believers by removing them so that they do not experience the hour of testing, or does it mean protecting them “out from within” the trial as argued by Robert Gundry. Wallace argues against Gundry’s view in an article on Rev. 3:10 [web reference deleted due to malware report].
So, I agree with Robert Thomas when he says, “The most natural understanding of the expression ‘kept from the hour’ is not to be preserved through it, but to be kept safe in a place away from where it occurs.” Another example of this type of protection occurs in 12:6.
However glorious our deliverance, we are responsible to “hold on to what you have” (3:11). By doing so we gain identification with the name that is above all names and a permanent spot in the dwelling place of God (3:12).
The Secret: Enduring
We should take great encouragement from Jesus saying “I know your deeds” (3:8). Jesus overlooks nothing done in his name, and he expects us to keep it up all the way to the finish. Even these believers in Philadelphia who had little strength (3:8) were on track to receive an incredible reward. Enduring is what it takes to get through the door!
Remember Paul’s words to keep your focus: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them” (Eph. 2:9).
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 187.
 G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 284.
 W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Revised and edited by F. W. Danker, translated by W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000), t?re?, preserve, q.v.
 Robert Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973) 55.
 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992) 288.