Philadelphia shines brightly against a backdrop of dark and dismal failure. It would be impossible to predict that unadulterated commendation of the church at Philadelphia would have followed after the preceding failures of Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis. When God's Grace is operative it is impossible to predict the end from the beginning. Let us be encouraged, we may come from humble circumstances, we may have had an unpromising start in life, in the estimation of the world we may not amount to very much but when the grace of God is operative the outcomes and end point are consistent not with our limitations but with the immeasurable Glory of God's Grace in Christ. The unqualified commendation of this church after so much correction and condemnation in the other churches of Revelation, comes as a striking and refreshing surprise. It does not follow the pattern of past failure. As is so often the case, when God's grace blows afresh on glowing embers it is impossible to predict how high these glorious flames will rise.
Perhaps we have scratched our heads over the details of 1 Samuel chapter 17. Why the details of David's errand to deliver bread and cheeses to his brothers in the valley of Elah? The answer of course is very simple. 1 Samuel chapter 17 is actually all about David's errand to bring the bread, cheeses and parched corn to his brothers and their captain in the valley of Elah. David was sent on a simple errand of delivering bread and cheese to his brothers. The rest of chapter 17, the details of David's fight with Goliath, his victory over the Philistines, his gaining of a bride and his ascent to the throne of Israel is really an add on, an extra to what he had been sent to do; deliver bread, cheese and parched corn!
When the Grace of God and the power of the God of Israel is operative it is utterly impossible to predict the outcome from the beginning! It may have been a simple task David embarked upon, perhaps even a task like the foot washing of John chapter 13 that the disciples thought beneath them, but this led to David's first and greatest, that of the slaying of Goliath and the path to the throne.
The key to the success of Philadelphia lay ultimately in their likeness to Christ. They kept His word and honoured His name; a path of truth and holiness (3:7). When the door was opened they were ready and waiting to go through that door.
The door was undoubtedly one to mission and ministry, service and success in evangelism. As with all service, which can at times be onerous, involving sacrifice and commitment, service was the direction and not the ultimate destiny. The end point of this journey, through the open door, a door which was opened by David's anointed (Isaiah 22:22), was the heavenly Jerusalem and God's eternal presence (Rev 3:12) just as the keys held by the typical Eliakim in Isaiah chapter 22 were keys to house of David, and to the temple; the "Father's house" (Isaiah 22:24). They too were to become pillars in the place of holiness.
From a series of bible teaching messages on the seven churches of Revelation
Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie