The Philadelphia Factor
John fell at Christ’s feet, unable to move, when he heard, then saw, the glorified Christ as priest, king and judge (Revelation 1:17). In the next two chapters Christ gives additional fascinating self-declarations of who He is, unique to each church. They instruct each “congregation” how He wants them to recognize Him. In the first fives churches, He:
- Is seen in a pastoral role, walking among those churches and holding/protecting the seven stars or leaders of each group in His right hand. (Ephesus)
- Is the first and the last (the One spanning redemptive history), who was dead and rose to life. This living Savior provides hope for the persecuted and even those facing martyrdom. Death is not the end. (Smyrna)
- Has a sword (revealed as coming out of His mouth in chapter one) that suggests He not only is a revealer of truth but executes judgment honorably. (Pergamos)
- Has eyes and feet, which reveal that nothing escapes His notice and He will bring whatever trials necessary to cleanse and purify His people. (Thyatira)
- Is represented by the full expression of the Spirit (the seven Spirits of God) to all those who claim Him as a Savior. (Sardis)
The student of Revelation is early on moved into an amazing Christological view that is high and elevated. Everything collectively, in turn, is how Jesus wants to be seen as John’s apocalyptic narrative is progressively studied.
Another special picture comes to view as Jesus describes Himself in the beginning of the narrative of the Philadelphia church:
To the leader or “star” of this church, Christ is identified as:
- “Holy and true”
- Having the “key of David”
“Holy and true” – Christ is called the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34). There, His deity is introduced. In Revelation 6:10, He is addressed as “sovereign Lord” (NIV). The word here for “true” is alethinos, meaning genuine, faithful to His promise. Together: “I’m a divine being who keeps His promises!” He is actually about to give this people a profound promise!
“Key of David”: David’s kingdom became a symbol of Christ’s kingdom (Ezekiel 21:27, Isaiah 16:5). The key to that kingdom was represented at the time of Hezekiah as one of authority. That key to the “house of David” was taken from Shebna (representing Satan) and given to Eliakim (symbolic of Christ) (Isaiah 22:21-22). Eliakim then had the key to the “kingdom.”
- Christ, here, states that He has assumed authority over David’s (God’s) kingdom.
- Jesus is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, root of David, the offspring of David who came from his tribe (Revelation 5:5, 22; Luke 1:32).
- He now has the key to the kingdom door. He controls who enters. No one can change His decisions.
God’s authority is sacred and irrevocable. His control of the door is His divine judicial responsibility! Beautiful and awesome is what He now says:
Through His judicial eyes (1:14b) He announces, “I know all about you.” Amazing – one would think that Christ would follow this up with penetrating details! But rather comes this statement of wondering awe.
- “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” That’s the promise!
- The door to His kingdom has been opened to the people of this church! Something holy and sanctifying must be going on with this group!
Part of what God appreciates comes from His “in spite of” statement: In spite of weakness, they:
- Continued to obey His Word
- Didn’t deny His name
- Were patient (vs 10)
Of the four characteristics, “little strength” (weakness) seems to stand out as a negative. This, however, turns out to be an uplifting quality!
- They may be weak – but the information from Paul echoes and reverberates when observing this church is:
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27; cf. II Corinthians 12:9).
- Stunning! Though weak, their witness was strong. Their missionary zeal later influenced the Christian church to expand beyond the European frontier, even to Africa and, later, to the Americas!
This group is unique among the seven churches! It will later be shown that they have characteristics similar to the 144,000 in the 14:1-5 discourse!
Within the Philadelphia community were a group of dishonest Jews from which Christ disassociated Himself. This was so profound that He called them the “synagogue of Satan” (as He did a group in Smyrna – 2:9).
- They were ethnic Jews who claimed to be the true Israel. But Christ’s words are pointed – they aren’t His.
- They denied that Jesus was the Messiah and persecuted those who believed that He was.
This reflects the ever-widening gap between Judaism and Christianity. The latter anticipates that “every knee will bow” (Philippians 2:10-11; cf. Isaiah 60:14) in humiliation, acknowledging Christ as the Messiah! These Jews represent those who vehemently oppose Him as Savior.
To that ancient church – and to the end-time persecuted church – comes the assurance:
“I know who is hurting you; I know the ones who are really in apostasy and bringing in discord.”
- In Nebuchadnezzar’s day the three worthies were to bow down to that great golden image (Daniel 3:6, 11).
- In the wilderness Satan offered rewards to Jesus if He would bow down and worship him (Luke 4:7).
- Here, the Jews wanted the Christians to bow down to their traditions. However, Jesus said that they will bow at the feet of those saints at the end. This has profound future implications. At the end there will be those claiming to be His who try to force a non-Biblical “tradition” on God’s people. Finally those apostates will see that they were wrong.
Christ promises in this mini-prophecy that the saints will be at last acknowledged and vindicated – even by their oppressors! In turn, God’s character will be vindicated!
“The Philadelphia Factor” is now addressed!
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
This is another promise that will come to pass because of their patience (later associated with the saints (14:12) and echoing those who traverse to and through the 1335 days at the end (Daniel 12:12).
The “hour of temptation” references a very important period of testing, during which Christ protects his people! This is “The Philadelphia Factor”! This trial or testing is globally focused on the wicked, which is implicated by the phrase “them that dwell upon the earth.”
- It precedes the “great tribulation” (Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:21) – and
- It is referenced elsewhere as will be seen as this study unfolds.
This stressful hour begs Christ’s prayer for the saints: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15).
There is a broad and divergent understanding of the meaning of this “hour of temptation.” Among scholars there are many explanatory assumptions.
The word for “temptation” is peirasmos. It is a period that judges humanity’s final reaction to the enticement of sin. It is the last “testing time” to see where everyone’s loyalty lies. The wicked world will even put God to the test during this time.
- With this fascinating insight, one can conclude that this occurs as time is running out.
- Probation is about to close. It’s a very end-time issue.
- This is “the” separation experience when the world is divided into two parts forever!
What, then, might this “test” – “temptation” – “enticement” – be? The “abomination that leads to desolation” is presented by Christ and Daniel as a defining issue (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, Daniel 12:11, 11:31). In turn, that is related to the mark of the beast (Revelation 13), where terminus ad quen issues are given.
Here we penetrate deeper by appealing to the insights of expositor White. She used this phrase in many of her narratives. One can grasp a profound meaning in this “Philadelphia factor” when corroborating several quotations.
“Just before us is the ‘hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.’ All whose faith is not firmly established upon the Word of God will be deceived and overcome.” Claiming a loyalty to Christ will not be enough. Faith indelibly fixed on Biblical truth is then required.
Regarding the third angel’s message: “This message was designed to put the children of God upon their guard, by showing them the hour of temptation and anguish that was before them. As Babylon falls (during “the hour of trial”), God’s wrath against those with the mark of the beast will soon burst on the world scene. This is further refined in:
The third angel “proclaimed a fearful warning, the most terrible threatening ever borne to man. This message was designed to put the children of God upon their guard, and show them the hour of temptation and anguish that was before them. Said the angel, They will be brought into close combat with the beast and his image. Their only hope of eternal life is to remain steadfast. Although their lives are at stake, yet they must hold fast the truth.”
Following E. G. White’s counsel, one must study and know about this hour!
To this point we conclude:
The imagery suggests the time discussed in Revelation 13:7a, 13-17.
- “And he [earth beast] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Revelation 13:15).
This can be refined even further:
“The papal power has thought to change the law of God by substituting a spurious Sabbath for that of Jehovah; and all through the religious world the false Sabbath is revered, while the true one is trampled beneath unholy feet. But will the Lord degrade his law to meet the standard of finite man? Will he accept a day possessing no sanctity, in the place of his own Sabbath, which he has hallowed and blessed? No; it is on the law of God that the last great struggle of the controversy between Christ and his angels and Satan and his angels will come, and it will be decisive for all the world. This is the hour of temptation to God’s people; but Daniel saw them delivered out of it, every one whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Daniel 12:1).
“The work of this angel [fourth angel] comes in at the right time, and joins in the last great work of the third angel's message, as it swells into a loud cry. And the people of God are fitted up every where to stand in the hour of temptation which they are soon to meet. I saw a great light resting upon them, and they united in the message, and fearlessly proclaimed with great power the third angel’s message.”
We can now expand the graph:
What severe time comes to the “whole world” (when the saints are protected) before God finally steps in with the seven Vials?
- There is one area that matches what is described here. It is the fifth Trumpet – the “first woe.”
- During a five-month period Satan has full reign to evangelize evil (just as God’s people will have full reign to witness under the Latter Rain) (Revelation 11:5-6).
- This is the “final standoff” between good and evil.
- This is apparently when the decree will go out to kill all the saints at a predetermined time (just as it happened in Esther’s day)!
- Important to recall that by then the first four Trumpets have begun their destructive work.
“Probationary time will not continue much longer. Now God is withdrawing His restraining hand from the earth. Long has He been speaking to men and women through the agency of His Holy Spirit; but they have not heeded the call. Now He is speaking to His people, and to the world, by His judgments. The time of these judgments is a time of mercy for those who have not yet had opportunity to learn what is truth. Tenderly will the Lord look upon them. His heart of mercy is touched; His hand is still stretched out to save. Large numbers will be admitted to the fold of safety who in these last days will hear the truth for the first time.”
Riveting this is another thought from E. G. White, addressing this time as one of deception – the hallmark of the fifth Trumpet.
“Just before us is the ‘hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.’ [Revelation 3:10.] All whose faith is not firmly established upon the Word of God will be deceived and overcome. Satan ‘works with all deceivableness of unrighteousness’ to gain control of the children of men; and his deceptions will continually increase. But he can gain his object only as men voluntarily yield to his temptations. Those who are earnestly seeking a knowledge of the truth, and are striving to purify their souls through obedience, thus doing what they can to prepare for the conflict, will find, in the God of truth, a sure defense. ‘Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee,’ [Revelation 3:10.] is the Saviour’s promise. He would sooner send every angel out of Heaven to protect his people [keeping them from the hour of temptation!], than leave one soul that trusts in him to be overcome by Satan.”
Wonderful is the thought that through this difficult time comes the comforting power of the Latter Rain to the saints.
The wording in verse 10 does not imply that God’s people will be protected from any kind of trials, but within the trials God provides special strength. In its deepest sense, it is an assurance of spiritual protection through the strength God provides.
From the time the law which God calls an abomination is set up, those dramatic time periods of Daniel 12 will have been inaugurated. Daniel 12:7 clearly reveals within that time that a period of persecution for God’s people will occur. That abomination, which is called in Revelation the “mark of the beast,” is copied and promoted by the “false prophet.” It makes an image to the papal beast. (A Revelation 13 study
- The false prophet, which best applies to the United States, reaches a point where it lashes out at God’s true people through oppressive laws (Daniel 11:31, 12:11).
- “The decree is to go forth that all who will not receive the mark of the beast shall neither buy nor sell and, finally, that they shall be put to death [a decree].”
- “I saw our people in great distress, weeping, and praying, pleading the sure promises of God, while the wicked were all around us, mocking us, and threatening to destroy us. They ridiculed our feebleness, they mocked at the smallness of our numbers, and taunted us with words calculated to cut deep. They charged us with taking an independent position from all the rest of the world. They had cut off our resources so that we could not buy nor sell, and referred to our abject poverty and stricken condition. They could not see how we could live without the world; we were dependent upon the world, and we must concede to the customs, practices, and laws of the world, or go out of it. If we were the only people in the world whom the Lord favored the appearances were awfully against us. They declared that they had the truth, that miracles were among them, that angels from heaven talked with them, and walked with them, that great power, and signs and wonders were performed among them, and this was the Temporal Millennium, which they had been expecting so long. The whole world was converted and in harmony with the Sunday law, and this little feeble people stood out in defiance of the laws of the land, and the laws of God, and claimed to be the only ones right on the earth.”
Virtually everything noted in expositor White’s thoughts above are an affirmation of Biblical prophecy!
Our graphic picture can expand further:
Lest there be any question as to what time this Philadelphia era refers to, Christ again draws on this as an eschatological theme.
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11).
This links with Revelation 22:7, 12 and 20:
- Why was this church promised a rapid return of Jesus? The whole message is end time.
- Even more, referring to the whole book, a similar appeal and setting are noted in Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7 collectively!
Here is the key: In the context of this prophecy (even the Book of Revelation) being fulfilled, Christ’s coming is expected.
The “crown to hold fast” is not a kingly one but a crown of victory.
“Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that if they are faithful unto death, He will give them a crown of life. Here the Philadelphians already either possess the crowns [figuratively] or already have one ‘reserved’ in heaven. At the end of his life, Paul told Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [in the future] there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.’ 2 Tim 4:7-8. In either event, it is clear that they have already overcome the beast and his image. However, they are cautioned to hold on to their faith and their relationship with Jesus, implying that they could still lose salvation.” Probation still lingers.
How might one lose his/her crown?
- “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third message, but have not been sanctified through it, abandon their position, and take refuge under the banner of the powers of darkness. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath-keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.”
- Many will fall by the way – never to return.
One wonders and marvels at Christ’s love at this time of stress and trial when He speaks these words:
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12).
The word for “pillar” means a prop or support.
- Some of the disciples were pillars (Galatians 2:9).
- The implication here is that these individuals will be special representatives in support of that heavenly kingdom.
- These individuals, the church, will remain forever a part of the “temple of God” – the very spiritual center of the universe! Amazing!
Christ now gives special promises to this church. This is like a marriage vow, becoming unified with the heavenly family with “seals” of belonging on their foreheads.
- God the Father’s name – permanent impress of His character
- Name of the New Jerusalem – forever members of this kingdom family (the bride)
- Christ’s new name – a mystery in waiting. This will be the name of the groom!
“And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads (Revelation 22:3-4).
Who are those saints?
- “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).
- It will be all those translated at His coming.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:13).
Jesus concludes: Hear, listen, know, what God’s Spirit teaches regarding this church. What a privilege to comply. When “delivered,” that “Philadelphia factor” will be history!
Philadelphia – the 144,000 plus (another deeper study).
Prophecy Research Initiative – non-profit 501(c)3 © 2017
EndTime Issues…, Number 204, August 3, 2017
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