Small magnitude earthquakes can happen hundreds of times each day around the world. Major earthquakes take place about once a month. The ancient city of Philadelphia was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis, in a region where earthquakes often took place. The city had nearly been destroyed by a large quake in A.D. 17.
The church too had been shaken by conflicts with those who opposed the gospel. Jesus characterized them as weakened with “little strength,” but despite this they had not denied Him (v. 8). In contrast, Jesus described Himself in terms that emphasize authority and power. He is the one who holds “the key of David” (v. 7). This allusion to Isaiah 22:22 highlights Christ’s ruling authority. When Christ opens a door, none can shut it. The open door that He had placed before this church was the opportunity to bear witness despite continued opposition. Though rejected by some who claimed to have a relationship with God, a day was coming when Christ would show their persecutors that the Philadelphian believers were accepted by Him.
Jesus also promised to spare the church “from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (v. 10). The sweeping nature of this trial makes it unlikely that it is a merely local event. Some see this as a promise of the church’s protection from the tribulation described in the later chapters. Whether or not it refers to the Great Tribulation, this is a clear promise of future security.
Though weak now, the one who holds on will be a “pillar” in God’s temple (v. 12). This image speaks of immovability. Although shaken by their present troubles, the believer has a fixed and permanent place in God’s presence.
Sound doctrine is foundational for the life of every believer. Our Theology department faculty—Kevin Zuber, Bryan Litfin, David Rim, Gregg Quiggle, and Michael McDuffee—build this basis for our students’ ministry. Please pray for them today.