In these 7 letters, Jesus typically describes Himself using images that come from the description given of Him in chapter 1. But not always. This is one of those times when He uses a descriptor not found in the first chapter. This should cause us to ask “why?”
Every self-description Jesus uses is important to the people in the church to which the letter was addressed. In this letter to the believers in the church in Philadelphia, Jesus describes Himself as “he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens.”
“The key of David” is a phrase from Isaiah 22. Why?
In Isaiah 22:12-13, God called for humble repentance. Instead, Israel, trusted in their own defenses & partied with an attitude of “lets eat & drink for tomorrow we die” – sort of like Western culture today.
In Isaiah 22:15-25, we read about Shebna. Shebna, was the guy “over the house” – the steward entrusted with the “key to the house of David.”
In that day, the chief royal steward would have the large master key of the palace fastened to the shoulder of his tunic. Shebna wore the keys to David’s kingdom on his shoulder – the keys to the treasuries of the kings of Judah. This also refers to the responsibilities of government held by a man in that position. The government, like the heavy key chain hanging from his shoulder, was said to be metaphorically “upon” him.
But Shebna misused the money, building for himself a grave [v.16 “sepulcher”] & buying chariots. He was busted. The keys were taken from him & given to a faithful man whose name was Eliakim.
The same prophetic promise was made about the coming Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder”
Isaiah 22:20, starts by speaking of Eliakim, but moves ahead in time to speak of Messiah.
The key was a picture & demonstration of the authority of the chief steward. Here, the LORD gives Eliakim the authority to open & shut as God’s representative, which no man can oppose. The name “Eliakim” means ‘God raises up; God establishes.’
In this, Eliakim becomes a “type” or symbol of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself:
“I have the key of David. I open and no man can shut. I shut and no man can open.”
Jesus already has the keys to hell & death [Rev 1:18]. Here we see that He has taken up the keys to the authority of all Earthly governments. This authority was given to Him in the past [see Matt 28:18, where the word “power” is the Greek word exousia, meaning ‘delegated authority.’
Jesus has the authority to open & shut doors in our lives as He pleases.
Job 11:10 “If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?”
Job 12:14 “Behold, he breaks down, and it cannot be built again: he shuts up a man, and there can be no opening.”
Jesus’ self-description tells me that regardless of what our eyes see in the last days, it is He, Christ, Who is in control.
HE is holy
HE is true
HE controls the world’s governments & finances
HE opens & shuts & no man can change the choices HE makes
In Rev 3:8, Jesus says, “you have a little strength…” He opens & closes doors for us – then keeps then open because we don’t have the strength to do so for ourselves.
Believers in all ages are characterized by a great desire to be holy & true in their lives. Yet they fail like every human does. Believers in every age fail. We must always keep in mind that it is upon HIS holiness & the truth that comes from HIM that we rely, not in or of our own selves – not even in our newly regenerate selves.
But this is comforting! In these last days we believers sometimes live with guilt that we aren’t as strong or as faithful or as effective movers-&-shakers (spiritually speaking) as believers in past ages. We think the reason for this is a lack in us.
It may well be that we are lacking in ways that render us spiritually ineffective. So we work to create better spiritual habits so our flesh isn’t a hindrance to our spiritual effectiveness. But once that’s done, once we’ve committed & made all the earthly changes possible for us to be better servants of the Lord, we might still find that we are lacking.
What are we to do?
Believers in every this age must rely on HIS holiness; HIS words of truth; HIS authority; HIS ability to open & close doors, trusting that no man can shut or open doors that HE lays in front of us.
Yes, to me this is comforting.
The believers in ancient Philly only had “a little strength.” But Jesus gave them an open door because of that strength!
“I have set before you an open door…FOR you have a little strength” (caps & italics mine).
What was their strength?
1- they kept His Word – the word “kept” is translated from a Greek word that means both ‘to observe’ & ‘to guard’
God’s Word is critically important. It is so important that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write: Ps 138:2 “You has magnified Your Word above all Your Name”
Philadelphia represents the church that has returned to the Word of God.
2- they had not denied Jesus’ Name
Acts 4:12 “no o/er name under heaven whereby we must be saved”
There is power in Jesus’ Name.
Did you ever wonder why people don’t shout out the names of other religious figures when they smash their thumbs with hammers? As they hop around in pain, you don’t hear them yell “Oh, Allah/Buddha/Krishna” or any other name. But they DO yell out the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Name is crucial. The name”Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Joshua & Jehoshua are the same in Hebrew. Both names mean ‘Jehovah is salvation.’
Yes, Jesus’ Name is very important!
Self Evaluation Time
Do you diligently guard God’s Word?
Do you not deny the name of Jesus, including what His Name means?
Sometimes the pressure put on us by our societies, jobs & friends make it difficult to guard the Word of God & to be bold in our belief in the Name of Jesus. Some circumstances can shake us to our core. Hold on when that happens. If you fall, get up & hold on again.
The historian, Strabo, who lived between 64 BC & AD 21, said that the ancient city of Philadelphia was “full of earthquakes.” He may have been there in AD 17 – the year of the great earthquake that destroyed the city. Unfortunately that was only one of a series of quakes which kept the citizens in a state of fearful expectancy.
Strabo wrote: “Philadelphia has no trustworthy walls, but daily in one direction or another they keep tottering and falling apart. The inhabitants, however, pursue their original purpose, ever keeping in mind the writhing pangs of the ground, and building with a view to counteracting them.”
He was amazed that a city would ever have been founded in such a place & questioned the sanity of the people for re-entering the ruined city & planning to rebuild. He felt when people were driven from a city by earthquakes they should be wise enough to not return. He wrote that the walls of the houses were continually opening. Sometimes one & sometimes another part of the city was experiencing damage, so the citizens lived in constant dread of quaking earth & falling buildings.
Because of this situation the people often fled to the open country living in tents or booths. This kept them out of range of disaster during earthquake season.
This constant fear of the day of trial when the citizens had to run for their lives gives us some insight into Jesus’ statement in v.12 – “I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” Jesus encouraged His people with the promise that if they were faithful they would one day enter the New Jerusalem – the city of God, where they could dwell safely and “go no more out.”
That day is soon approaching. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
In His Hands, Pastor Fran