Philadelphia—Little Power, Great Endurance
Philadelphia—Little Power, Great Endurance7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write . . . 8 ‘I know your works . . . I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.”Revelation 3:7-9 (ESV)After repeated threats and attacks, the church in Wadduwa, Sri Lanka, was forced to close in December 2003. Three months later, in spite of warnings from police that further attacks were likely, they reopened for services on Good Friday. The attack came on the third day, as the congregation assembled to remember Christ’s resurrection. The Easter Sunday mob threw stones through the windows and beat the Christians, including women and children, with sticks.1Addressing the church in Philadelphia, in what is now Turkey, the exalted Lord Jesus called attention to their status, which could be perceived in two very different ways. From the world’s perspective they were unimpressive and lowly, but from God’s perspective they enjoyed enormous privilege.The church had little power (v. 8), especially when compared with Philadelphia’s pagan and Jewish communities. The gospel had made no great inroads into the surrounding society, and Christians were marginalized. Moreover, they appear to have been experiencing persecution. Jesus described the Jews in Smyrna as a “synagogue of Satan”—synagogue of the false accuser (2:9). They imitated Satan in his hatred of Christ and His people (cf., John 8:39-44; 15:18-21). In Philadelphia there was also a “synagogue of Satan,” full of people who claimed to be Jews, but who lied (pseudontai in Greek): because they rejected Jesus their Messiah, they were mere pseudo-Jews.Yet in spite of this opposition, the church had not given up; they endured patiently (v. 10). Even as those around them slandered the gospel, and denied the Messiah, they kept Jesus’ Word, and refused to deny His name (v. 8). The Lord loved His Philadelphian brothers. He promised that even Satan’s synagogue would eventually acknowledge that love (v. 9), and that the church would receive a place in the glorious new Jerusalem, at the end of the ages (v. 12) when Jesus returned. All they needed was to continue holding fast to what they had (v. 11).Sri Lanka has recently seen an appalling increase in anti-Christian attacks. Believers have been threatened and killed, and church buildings have been destroyed; often the police do nothing to help. For the unbelieving eye, it would be hard to regard the Sri Lankan Church as in any way glorious. Yet, Christ’s words to the church in Philadelphia encourage every congregation to hold fast to His Word and to be honored to own His name.| Footnotes:
1 | “Closed Church Reopens for Easter to Face Attack,” Voice of the Martyrs Website, April 21, 2004, http://www.persecution.net/pnp.htm#4 (accessed April 24, 2004).
GracePointe Baptist Church
2209 N Post Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73141
Phone: (405) 769-5050