Philadelphia, certainly not the city of ‘brotherly
love’, was not as ancient as most of the other cities in Asia Minor. Started sometime after 200 BC, it went by
several names. Decapolis, Neo-kaisaria, and Ala-shehir were the
three other names it has had.
It grew wealthy as one of ten cities on the plains
where it sits, but was totally destroyed by an earthquake at one time. In the early 1400’s it was captured and a
wall of corpses was built around the city.
So you could say the city had its good times and when the times were
bad, well, they were really bad.
It promoted its prosperity and commercial
interactions and this is perhaps where the brotherly love came from. Either that or the many
temples where various sex rituals were performed.
But Christ addresses this church from yet another
title of His. From He
who is holy, true, and possessor of the key of David.
Since this letter to the Church of Philadelphia is
a little more complex, we will spend a bit more time on this single verse. Philadelphia is the second of the two
churches that received no complaint.
Nothing in life can be designated as holy unless
God designates it as such. And anything
designated as holy, has to possess the character or resources of God. No city has this ability. Economics cannot make a city or anyone
individual holy. Mental ability cannot
make anyone holy. Physical ability
cannot make anyone holy. Government,
politics, military power cannot make anyone or any group holy. And Christ addresses all of these.
A city of commerce and civil interactions, none of
the activities of the city can solve the problems of mankind. Thus God, Jesus Christ, points out the truth
of life. God is holy,
the possessor of true righteousness (lack of sin), and true justice
(application for fair practice, honor and solutions to problems). These two things,
righteousness and justice, combine together to make and form Holiness. Only God can possess this,
and only God can assign it to others, and He does but in a specifically
prescribed manner, salvation.
The world tries to define holiness in its own short
sighted way. Religion in the world has
bastardized the term into meaning just about anything that is convenient to
mankind. There are two major categories
in theology – Religion and Christianity.
Religion is not Christianity, and Christianity is not a religion.
Religion is broadly defined as man seeking the
approbation of God by mans own efforts.
Religion leaves God out of the picture except for superficial
observations approving mankind as man advances in his own humanity and
eventually achieves the level acceptable by God.
Religion is an invention of Satan to dilute the
gospel and the principles taught by the Bible.
Religion is set to confuse people as to what is right and what is
wrong. Religion’s goal is to distract
people away from Bible study and impress and entertain them with its own
definition of spirituality, holiness, righteousness and so forth. As a distracter of true Biblical principles,
religion is then evil.
Christianity, on the other hand, is not a
religion. Christianity is a
relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Christianity recognizes mans worthlessness and
inability to do anything about his predicament is sin and death. Christianity recognizes that God does all the
work, that God gets all the credit, that God alone receives the Glory, and that
our relationship with God is a gift from Him to us which we receive in exchange
for only our belief in what God teaches us and tells us that is true.
Faith is non-meritorious thought. We gain no credit for thinking. Most people can’t think anyway! If the wind blows and your ears whistle a
little bit, well there you have it, and an empty head will emit sounds in a
breeze. That is all that the world is
capable of, making noise, empty noise.
God is truth, truth is doctrine. Life is not truth, mathematics evidence of
truth, science is evidence truth, however philosophy
is not truth. These are merely mans discoveries
or interpretations, sometimes wrong, of what God has invented. None of them can solve mans problem of sin
and death, however.
They can define new technology and make mans life ‘temporarily’ more convenient from the work that
goes along with our presence in this world, but death overtakes us all
eventually and nothing in this universe can prevent that. Truth provides the answer to the stumbling
blocks of life, which is sin and death.
The previous five letters drew from the vision
described in Rev. 1:12-17, however this letter does
not draw from that vision.
The Old Testament describes God as the Holy, 2
Kings 19:22; Job 6:10; Ps 71:22; 78:41; Isa 43:15; 54:5; Hab
3:3, Isa 6:3, Rev 4.Saying that God is
holy means that He is separate from sin, and therefore His is absolutely
unblemished and flawless and perfect.
Jesus Christ is referred to (by demons no less), as
the Holy One, Mk 1:24.
Announcing His birth to Mary, the angel described
Jesus as ‘the holy Child,’ Luke 1:35.
Peter said of Jesus, ‘We have believed and have
come to know that You are the Holy One of God,’ John
Later Peter rebuked the unbelieving Jews because
they ‘disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer,’ Acts 3:14.
Thus, only God is holy. Jesus Christ is called
holy. This reaffirms yet again that
Jesus Christ is God. And since holiness
must be a state of perfection, man cannot become holy unless God makes him so. No one else can bring something unholy into a
state of holiness.