Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
II. Churches Addressed (1:9-3:22) pp. 77-217.
B. Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22) pp. 104-217.
“6. Letter to Philadelphia (3:7-13)” pp. 184-200.
Osborne orients his reader to the city of Philadelphia, which is not Alasehir. The city was in a strategic location for trade and transportation, as well as having very fertile soil. However, Philadelphia was prone to earthquakes, which often damaged the city walls and other buildings (Osborne 2002, 184). The city had been very loyal to Rome early in the first century, but by the end of the century a Roman move to encourage growing grain rather than grapes caused economic disruption and a decline in popular opinion (Osborne 2002, 185). Osborne finds relatively little information about the religious history of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, with Smyrna, receives no rebuke in the letter (Osborne 2002, 186). As the text addresses the people of Philadelphia, the Lord is introduced in decidedly Old Testament terms. He is the holy one, the true one. Osborne notes that the persecuted Christians are being encouraged by the Christ, who is the true Messiah (Osborne 2002, 187). Jesus is also the one holding the key of David (v. 7). Osborne concludes that this reminds the Christians at Philadelphia that the Messiah, not their Jewish opponents, is the heir of David’s kingdom (Osborne 2002, 187). Although the Church has been excluded from Judaism, God is giving her an open door, which is salvation in Christ (Osborne 2002, 188). The church is commended for being faithful and for perseverance (Osborne 2002, 189). They have held to Christ’s word. The church has not denied Christ’s word. They have been faithful.
Osborne observes another parallel between Philadelphia and Sardis. Neither was criticized. Now, in verse 9, there is a promised reward. However, in Sardis there would be a “few” rewarded but in Philadelphia it will be the whole church (Osborne 2002, 190). The church will receive vindication. The accusing Jews will come and fall at the feet of the Church. Osborne grants the difficulty of the statement. It could indicate either coming to worship Christ with the church or possibly coming to a point of submission as defeated enemies (Osborne 2002, 191). One way or another, the Jews will know that God has loved those trusting Jesus as the Messiah.
The promise of verse 9 continues with God’s pledge of protection in verse 10 (Osborne 2002, 192). The protection of God is promised as a parallel to the Philadelphians’ faithful guarding of God’s Word. Osborne notes briefly a debate between taking God’s promise as “protecting” them “from” or “keeping” them “out of” trials. Both are valid readings but with rather different outcomes. Central to the discussion is the meaning of the direct object, “the hour of trial” (Osborne 2002, 193). Osborne considers whether the trial refers to a brief and local persecution or to a longer term end of the world. His conclusion is that the context points more to the end of the world. Therefore, the church at Philadelphia will not be exempted from the trial, but will be protected (Osborne 2002, 194).
Verse 11 speaks of Christ’s return and calls the Christians to persevere. Osborne notes that in all the previous mentions of Christ coming o a church it has been negative. However, in Philadelphia it is a coming to be hoped for. Jesus will come and vindicate His people (Osborne 2002, 194). Though they are victors, they are to hold fast and be sure they keep the victor’s crown (Osborne 2002, 195). Osborne does not indicate what the loss of the crown would indicate, simply that it is a negative consequence. However, in verse 12 the overcomer is promised a new status and a new name. Christ will give stability and a special identity. Osborne lists a number of possible customs related to a name being inscribed or to a pillar being set up. Yet it is unclear which, if any, is implied here (Osborne 2002, 196). All can hold rich symbolic meaning. The idea of security and the comment indicating permanent residence inside God’s temple likely is a promise that the people would not become homeless, as they were prone to be in the past due to frequent earthquakes (Osborne 2002, 197). The sense of the name to be permanently applied to the church could well be a reference to eternal patronage, unlike the temporary patronage indicted by the fact that the city’s name had been changed in the past based on a potential patron (Osborne 2002, 198).
The letter of Philadelphia concludes in verse 13 with a call for all to hear and obey. This is the summary of what it means to hold fast to God’s Word (Osborne 2002, 199).