WISDOM FOR MARRIAGE FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION – Part 7: Lessons from the Letter to the Philadelphia Church

Staying faithful to the Lord is a challenge in this world filled with sin. How can we grow stronger in our marriage and keep faithful to the end?

Wisdom for marriage is found throughout the Bible–from the first book to the last. This Couple’s Bible Study series looks at the last book–Revelation–and gathers wisdom from the letters to the seven churches in Asia. Each letter is full of truths that will help us strengthen our marriage as we grow closer to each other and to the Lord.

So far in this series, we have seen what God teaches us from His message to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, PergamumThyatira and Sardis. This week we will learn how God uses His message to the church at Philadelphia to speak to our marriages.

We read Jesus’ message to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13:

Revelation 3:7-13

A Little Background

The city of Philadelphia mentioned in the Bible was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17. There were tremors that shook the city for years afterward, and kept the people in a constant state of fear.

The historian Strabo wrote that it was “ever subject to earthquakes. Incessantly the walls of the houses are cracked.”He also wrote that “for this reason but few people live in the city, and most of them spend their lives in the country, since they have a fertile soil” (Strabo, Geography, 6:181).

A church had been established in Philadelphia. However, the Christians there lived in constant fear of the earthquakes and of the Jews who lived there and harassed them.

It is to these believers that Jesus speaks in these verses. The reassurances and message He has for them speaks to us and our marriages as well. Especially as we live in a culture and world that is ever increasing in its hostility toward us as believers in Christ who seek to faithfully follow His Word.

Jesus Reassures Us

Jesus first reassures us that He is “holy and true” (Revelation 3:7). This once again indicates that all He is about to say is completely trustworthy.

Jesus also says that he “holds the key of David” (Revelation 3:7). At the time John wrote this book, if one held the key of a leader, it meant he represented and spoke for him. It was as if he were that leader himself. We see this, for example, in Isaiah 22:20-25 where God says He will give “the key to the house of David” to Eliakim. He would be God’s representative when God brought His judgment on Israel for their sins.

In the same way, Jesus is our access to the Father. It is only through Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection that we have access to the Father when we place our faith in Jesus. He is “the key” that opens that way to Him. Jesus said in John 14:6: “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

(If you want to know more about how to make Jesus your Savior and have this access to the Father, please read Meet Jesus.)

This salvation we receive when we place our faith in Christ is certain. “What he opens no one can shut” (Revelation 3:7).  Jesus assures us in John 10:28-30: “‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.’”    

Jesus again reassures the church at Philadelphia and us that He knows all about us and our situation. He knows that the Christians in Philadelphia have little strength. They were small in number, yet they stood up strongly for Christ (Revelation 3:8).

They stood up against “the synagogue of Satan,” who are those who claim to be Jews, but really are not (Revelation 3:9). These Jewish worshipers were not really Jewish because they had given in to the pressure of their culture and had become emperor worshippers. This situation is much like what we find in our culture today.

While there are many who claim to be Christians, a good number do not follow the teachings of Jesus but live according to popular ideas of our Godless culture. Therefore they are not truly Christ-followers, “but are liars” (Revelation 3:9). Jesus said in Matthew 7:16: “‘By their fruit you will recognize them.’”

Are you and your marriage producing fruit that says you follow Christ? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your relationship with each other (see Galatians 5:22-25)?

To have the marriage that God intends for us, we must not succumb to the lies of Satan we are inundated with in our culture. We must do as the Christians in Philadelphia and keep His Word. We must not “deny His name” (Revelation 3:8) or His truth that it stands for.

We must believe that Jesus will take care of us as we live for Him. Galatians 6:9 says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This is exactly what Jesus promises the Philadelphia Christians–and us–when He says that He will give them “‘an open door that no one can shut’” (Revelation 3:8).

This “open door” is the privilege for the Christians in Philadelphia of becoming God’s instruments to take His Gospel to those around them. It is used often this way in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). And we have this same privilege given to us in our marriages.

Faithful |Simply One in Marriage

If we are faithful to God’s Word, He will use us as His instruments to take His truth to those around us. Our marriages will be the instruments for His glory that He intends, and that we should desire.

Therefore, as a couple, we must encourage each other as Hebrews 10:23-24 says: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Faithfully Serving Him Together Brings Great Blessing

The results of us faithfully serving God together are great.

First, God will make those who do not follow Him to “come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9). Many unbelievers will finally acknowledge who God really is and come to Christ as Savior. But even if they do not, they will recognize the truth of what we stand for in the final judgment.

The second result is that God “will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). This is not a promise that we will have an easy life or marriage. For we are told by Jesus in John 16:33: “‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’”             

It is a promise that Jesus will be with us no matter what we face. He says in Matthew 28:20: “‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” He has given us as husband and wife to help each other through whatever we face as we stand for Him and serve Him.

Staying Faithful to the End

Jesus concludes His message to the church in Philadelphia with several promises. The promises to these believers are also promises to us and our marriages.

First, He says “I am coming soon.” The early Christians in Philadelphia probably thought He meant that He would come back to earth very shortly. But we now know that this is not the case.

It does mean that Jesus’ return is certain, and that it could be at any time. So we need to always be ready for His return whenever it is. This is what Jesus taught throughout His earthly ministry. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36: “‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’”

Jesus then went on to teach in Matthew 24:42-44: “‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’”

So as a couple, we must serve God faithfully together, so that we will be ready whenever Jesus may return or call us home, whichever comes first. We must hold to what we have (Revelation 3:11) as long as we are here on earth. This means we must be faithful to Christ and each other together, no matter what comes our way. If we do this we will have the promise of a blessed marriage, and an incredible reward when this life ends.

The pictures in Revelation 3:12 of the pillar, as well as the names of God and name of the city of God being written on us is an assurance to us from God Himself that these promises will occur. Thus we gladly “hear what the Spirit says” (Revelation 3:13), and we obey it. We hold on to God and the truth of His Word (Revelation 3:11) as He holds onto us (Revelation 3:12) for all eternity.

It is a great privilege to serve our Lord together as husband and wife. And He promises to be with us every step of the way. He will not only bless us through our faithfulness to Him but  also bless others as they see a marriage that glorifies God.

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God says to each of you, and how it impacts your life together.

♦   We discussed in this teaching about the need that the Christians at Philadelphia had for encouragement. We saw how we need that encouragement also as we face the wickedness of our world. Discuss ways you can encourage each other. That is one of the reasons God brings us together in marriage. How will you put those means of encouragement into practice this week?

♦   Discuss some of the “open doors” for service to God that He has placed around you. How can you work together to walk through those open doors? They may be in your community, your church, or any number of other areas.

♦   Pray together and ask God to help you to put into practice what He has revealed to you through this week’s study.
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Next week we will see what Jesus has to say to us through His message to the last of the seven churches–Laodicea.

Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

Part 1: Can This Book Really Teach Us About Marriage?
Part 2: Lessons from the Letter to the Ephesus Church
Part 3: Lessons from the Letter to the Smyrna Church
Part 4: Lessons from the Letter to the Pergamum Church
Part 5: Lessons from the Letter to the Thyatira Church
Part 6: Lessons from the Letter to the Sardis Church
Part 8: Lessons from the Letter to the Laodicea Church
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Staying faithful to the Lord is a challenge in this world filled with sin. How can we grow stronger in our marriage and keep faithful to the end? This Couple's Bible Study looks at the letter to the Philadelphia church in Revelation to find the answer. | Simply One in Marriage.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.