The Philadelphia Church
Philadelphia is obviously a special church. There are only two churches of the seven that receive no condemnation from Jesus, and Philadelphia is one of them. Being the sixth church, this special church must come into existence sometime after the Protestant Reformation Churches lose momentum and before the appearance of the last church.
God’s kingdom is not a static entity that stalls and falters. God’s kingdom is like a plant that continues to grow until it reaches maturity (see Mk. 4:26-29). If the branches that appear on the plant do not produce the right fruit they are cut off and replaced with those that will (see Jn. 15:1-6). Sometimes even more radical pruning is required and the whole trunk is cut down and others are grafted into the stump (see Matt. 1:7-10; Rom. 11:15-21). Therefore, God’s rejection of the Reformation Churches is consistent with His dealings in the past.
To carry on where the fifth church has flattered and fallen, God therefore, calls the sixth church to take up the torch and carry the kingdom forward. There is only one church that this can apply to. Historically there is only one church that comes out of the Reformation Churches and carries on the work that they courageously began. That church is the Advent movement – and the beginning of the Philadelphia era, heralds the rise of the Advent movement – the Advent movement is the Philadelphia Church.
If this assertion is disputed, then one has to identify another movement that is carrying on the work of the Reformation in the world today. Furthermore, if another religious movement is identified as being the Philadelphia church, then that religious movement’s experience would have to fit the description given in the contents of the Philadelphia church in Revelation. However, the facts are: that the description given of the Philadelphia church in Revelation describes accurately, the experience of the Advent movement and none other. To begin with, the sixth church must incorporate the use of the ‘key of David’ in its experience.
The Advent Movement and the Key of David
In His message to the Philadelphia Church, Jesus says, that He has, been given the key of David. What does Jesus do with this key? Jesus replies that it is He: “that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Rev. 3:7). This authority over doors that open and shut is repeated again in the next verse, “behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8). Such an obvious repetition implies importance, and compels investigation.
It is evident that “the key of David” is what gives Christ the authority to open and shut doors. So, what is this “key of David?” Because we know that the book of Revelation is largely a mosaic of images and illustrations taken from the Old Testament, we should expect to find a type for which the ‘key of David’ in Revelation is the antitype. We find it in Isaiah – Jesus is quoting from Isa. 22:22.
The context in Isaiah concerns the unfaithfulness of the king’s servant Shebna. Shebna’s official position is described as being “over the house” (Isa. 22:15). This position of “over the house” is described elsewhere, as including the office of regent (see 2 Kings 15:5). It is therefore a high position and in the case of Shebna, included the office of treasurer.
However, Shebna is more concerned about self-aggrandizement, than the welfare of the nation and Isaiah prophesizes that the Lord will replace him with faithful Eliakim. Isaiah continues to prophesy about Eliakim’s faithfulness, his duties and the effect he will have upon the nation:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. Isa. 22:20-23.
This assertion, that Jesus is in charge of the heavenly tabernacle (the government), is further reinforced when we take note of the fact, that the key of David is “laid upon his shoulder.” This reference to “his shoulder” should alert us to a similar statement in Isaiah:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6.
The key of David is placed upon the shoulder of Christ and the government is placed upon the shoulder of Christ – they are the same thing. This is why Jesus went to Heaven after His resurrection, and then returned saying to His disciples: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt: 28:18) – the key of David and the government had been placed upon His shoulder.
Therefore, the reason why the key of David is mentioned, in this particular context should now be obvious – as the ‘Key Holder,’ Jesus is about to open a door in heaven and close another one – and the opening and closure of these doors, must take place during the historical period of the Philadelphia Church.
Eliakim’s name means, ‘God is setting up’ and he is a type of Christ. Because of his faithfulness he is appointed to the position of having control over the king’s house. This is the position that Jesus occupies in heaven. Because of His faithfulness, Jesus occupies the same position in heaven that faithful Eliakim occupied on earth. Just as Eliakim was ‘set up’ or in charge of the earthly king’s house on earth – Christ has been ‘set up’ or put in charge of the heavenly King’s ‘house’ in heaven.
The Philadelphia Church follows Christ into the Most Holy Place
Jesus says to the Philadelphia Church, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8). To understand what these doors are, once again, we need to observe the rules of interpretation and try to locate the opening and shutting of doors in the Old Testament. We find these doors in the sanctuary – the sanctuary that was made according to a pattern (see Ex. 25:8, 9). Which Adventists have always understood to be an earthly representation of the sanctuary in Heaven.
Once a year the ‘door’ into the most holy place was opened, and the high priest went in to make atonement for the people’s sins, that had accumulated over the year. It was a time of judgment, and if the people had faithfully confessed their sins, they were considered ‘clean,’ and they were able to participate in the next festival, the festival of tabernacles, which is symbolic of entering into heaven.
Thus, the opening of this door is a necessary and vital step in the process of salvation. Therefore, it was necessary for God’s people on earth, to be informed about this event. Knowledge of this event is necessary and vital because the event heralds changes that were taking place in God’s kingdom, and God’s people have to adjust and change with them. Therefore, it was necessary to call and establish a new church at this time. The fifth church, having lost its vitality and direction is incapable of performing God’s will at this time. Therefore, it is given to the sixth church to inform the world that the door into the most holy place has been opened, with everything that this implies.
The opening of the door into the most holy place, on earth, is therefore a type, which was fulfilled in heaven on October 22, 1844 (see Appendix 2). It was at this time that both the Father and the Son rose up from the throne in the holy place and entered into the most holy place. It was at this time that the antitypical judgment began, as symbolized by the type on earth.
Ellen White clearly places the transition, from the holy place to the most holy place, in 1844. She also clearly indicates, that this transition ushers in, the era of the Philadelphia Church. This connection between 1844 and the Philadelphia Church and the transition, from the holy place, to the most holy place, is brought forward, when Ellen White recounts the events, that occurred in the aftermath of the ‘great disappointment.’ She tells us, that the Advent believers, found the solution to their disappointment, in the message to the Philadelphia Church:
Clearer light came with the investigation of the sanctuary question. They now saw that they were correct in believing that the end of the 2300 days in 1844 marked an important crisis. But while it was true that the door of hope and mercy by which men had for eighteen hundred years found access to God, was closed, another door was opened…Now was seen the application of those words of Christ in the Revelation, addressed to the church at this very time: “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Revelation 3:7, 8. GC 429, 430.
Ellen White states, that the words concerning the opening and closing of doors in heaven, found in the message to the Philadelphia Church are “addressed to the church at this very time.” Elsewhere she clearly explains, that the opening and the shutting of the doors in heaven, took place in 1844, and again she places these events within the context of the Philadelphia Church, by quoting from the message to the Philadelphia Church:
This door [the most holy place] was not opened until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the holy place of the sanctuary in 1844. Then Jesus rose up and shut the door into the most holy, and passed within the second veil, where He now stands by the ark, and where the faith of Israel now reaches. I saw that Jesus had shut the door of the holy place, and no man can open it; and that He had opened the door into the most holy, and no man can shut it (Rev. 3:7,8); and that since Jesus has opened the door into the most holy place, which contains the ark, the commandments have been shining out to God’s people, and they are being tested on the Sabbath question. EW 42. cf. GC 435.
There can be no doubt that Ellen White places the events recorded in the message to the Philadelphia Church in 1844. Therefore, it can be concluded that Ellen White teaches that the Philadelphia Church is the spiritual representation of the Advent movement, just as Thyatira is the spiritual representation of the Roman Catholic Church, and Sardis the spiritual representation of the Protestant Churches. This conclusion, as radical as it may seem, will be proven again and again as we discover this truth repeated and enlarged upon as we continue in the book of Revelation.
The Philadelphia Church and the SDA Pioneers
Most Seventh-day Adventists are ignorant of the fact, that the founders of their church [including Ellen White], believed that they were the Philadelphia Church. Those who cannot ‘see’ or ‘hear’ this most important Truth will never understand the Book of Revelation, and if they already belong to the Advent movement, they will never understand the role and purpose, of what they belong to.
The reason why many Adventists refuse to see and hear, on this issue is because, they have never been presented with all the evidence. They have never heard it preached and never seen it taught. The prophet truly said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). Ellen White said there would be a revival among God’s people if we were to understand the Book of Revelation. We need to patiently and prayerfully examine the evidence. We need to heed the counsel of Solomon, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13). If we do finally accept the fact that the Philadelphia Church is the same as the Advent movement, we may be able to see and understand the enormous privilege [and responsibility] it is to be a member of the Advent movement – and if we do not manage to see a revival in the Adventist Church, we may at least be refreshed in our own spiritual lives.
The Advent movement preached the imminent second coming of Christ, and eventually settled on the date of 22 October 1844. This day has been recorded in history as the ‘great disappointment.’ When the Adventists went through this experience in 1844, those who survived, with their faith intact, searched their Bibles, to find answers to their questions and to discover their mistake. They found the solution in the sanctuary service. They saw that Jesus had taken the role of High Priest in heaven as typified by the day of atonement on earth. As they studied the Scriptures, they recognized that the Philadelphian experience, described by Jesus, was exactly the experience that they had lived through, and they understood that the Philadelphia Church applied to them. We have already seen that Ellen White understood that the Philadelphian message applied to the Advent movement. Others who lived through that time and later became founders and pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, shared the same opinion. James White wrote: “…the Philadelphia Church is the true church of the last days…” (RH May 9, 1854). He also wrote that it was God who, reached forth His hand at this time, to establish the Philadelphia Church:
In mercy He reached forth his hand and enabled the Advent people in 1844 to break the cords of sectarianism that bound them, that they, (the Philadelphia Church) might be disciplined and guided into the kingdom by the order and pure doctrines of the gospel. RH Dec. 6, 1853. [Brackets are those of James White].
Joseph Bates wrote:
The true church are to be found with those that… entered into the Philadelphia Church in the fall of 1844, and became a church at that time… RH Aug 19, 1851.
W.S. Ingraham wrote:
According to our faith in 1844, which I believe to be correct, the Church of Philadelphia, or brotherly love, was in its glory about the 10th day of the 7th month, after we had left the nominal churches, and had become united under the influence of truth… we can fix the chronology of the open and shut door here brought to view by John – nowhere but in 1844. RH June 9, 1853.
The spiritual forefathers of the Advent movement were well justified in claiming membership in the Philadelphia Church. They were well-versed Bible scholars and they understood that they were at the forefront of unfolding ‘present truth.’ They saw the harmony between the Old Testament sanctuary service and the ministry and movement of Christ in heaven. They understood that the sanctuary service and the festivals associated with it, were a prophecy about Christ, and that these prophecies were being fulfilled in their day.
We need to travel the same road that our spiritual forefathers took. So that we too, can be equally convinced, that the message to the Philadelphia Church, does in fact herald the beginning of and represents the experience of the Advent movement. We will only be ‘spiritually anchored’ – as Adventists when we recognize that the Advent movement has been a movement led by God. And the greatest evidence for those of us, who live in the 21st century, is the fact that this movement appears so clearly ‘prophetically presented’ in the Book of Revelation – for those who have ‘ears to hear.’
You Have Not Denied My Name
It has been estimated, that at its height, the Advent movement [prior to the great disappointment], in America alone, had a minimum of 50,000 believers. After the ‘great disappointment’ it has been estimated, that in the year 1846, there were no more than 50 believers, that coalesced into the group, that were seeking answers based on a new understanding of the sanctuary service [see Early Writings, the Historical Prologue, p. xvii].This group of believers, refused to accept, that God had not genuinely led in the experience they had just been through. Meanwhile the majority formed another association of advent believers numbering approximately 30,000 members. The remainder either gave up their advent hopes, went back to their original churches, or gave up their faith in Christianity completely. This is why Jesus says of this little group of 50 believers:
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Rev. 3:8.
Out of the 50,000 who accepted the Advent message, only very small groups were searching the Scriptures for answers, therefore Jesus says, “for thou hast a little strength.” They have not given up believing in the Bible, they have faith that the answers can be found there, therefore Jesus says, “you have kept my word”. And they certainly have not given up trusting in Christ, therefore Jesus says, “and hast not denied my name” – as many other participants in the Advent movement had done.
The Philadelphia Church goes through the Time of Trouble
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Rev. 3:10, 11.
The ‘hour of temptation’ is the ‘time of trouble’ (see below). This time of trouble, which comes upon all those who live on the earth, is clearly future. It is clearly future, because it comes upon all those who live on the earth. Such a worldwide time of trouble has not happened yet. When it does come, it will be the last trial that God’s people have to endure before the second coming of Christ. Therefore, the Philadelphia Church must come into existence sometime after the Protestant Churches, and continues on into the future, right up to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. The promise to the Philadelphia Church is that Christ will protect and sustain it through this time of trouble. Jeremiah foretold this “hour of temptation.” He called it ‘Jacob’s trouble’ (see Jer. 30:5-7).
Jacob was on his way home, after being a “stranger in a strange land”. But before he could arrive safely home, he had to go through a night of terror and anguish. This experience of Jacob’s is a type of the experience that God’s people will go through, in the last days. Just as Jacob had to suffer a time of trouble before he was safely home, so too, do God’s people have to go through a time of trouble before they are safely ‘home’.
Ellen White clearly confirms, that the ‘hour of temptation’ is the same as ‘Jacob’s trouble’ and that this experience belongs to the Philadelphia Church. The following are two excerpts taken from the Great Controversy, chapter 39, ‘The Time of Trouble.’ The context is the issuing of the death decree against those who honor and keep the seventh-day Sabbath:
The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress described by the prophet as the time of Jacob’s trouble…Though God’s people will be surrounded by enemies who are bent upon their destruction, yet the anguish which they suffer is not a dread of persecution for the truth’s sake; they fear that every sin has not been repented of, and that through some fault in themselves they will fail to realize the fulfillment of the of the Saviour’s promise: I “will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world.” Revelation 3:10. GC 616, 619.
This promise of Christ’s protection was given to the Philadelphian Church – Ellen White says the promise applies to God’s protection during the time of trouble – therefore it must be the Philadelphian Church that goes through the time of trouble.
The Philadelphia Church are Commandment Keepers
If the death decree is issued, against those who are honoring and keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, it should not be a surprise, to discover that the Philadelphia Church, is described as a commandment keeping church. But God’s promises are always conditional (see Hermeneutics – Biblical Principles of Interpretation). Jesus said:
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Rev. 3:10. cf. Rev. 14:12.
The Philadelphia Church is not called ‘the church of brotherly love’ without reason. It is precisely because they are keeping the law of God, that they are called the church of brotherly love. This is because ‘love is the fulfillment of the law’ (Rom. 13:8). This is further proved by the fact that the Philadelphia Church receives no condemnation from Jesus. There is no condemnation because this church practices love. The grace of God has achieved its full potential in the Philadelphia Church – grace + Law = Love.
The Philadelphia Church enters Heaven
Because the Philadelphia Church, goes through the time of trouble, this must mean, that the Philadelphia Church remains in existence, until the end of time. It is the church that sees the second coming of Christ and passes into eternity – the Philadelphia Church does not have a use by date. It is the Philadelphia Church, that has all the insignia written on it, that entitles it for entry into heaven.
Ellen White indicates, that it is indeed the Philadelphia Church, that stands triumphantly at the end of time. Commenting on the intensity of Satan’s deceptions just before the time of trouble, she quotes twice from the message to the Philadelphia Church:
Just before us is “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10. All whose faith is not firmly established upon the word of God will be deceived and overcome. Satan “works with all deceivableness of unrighteousness” to gain control of the children of men, and his deceptions will continually increase. But he can gain his object only as men voluntarily yield to his temptations. Those who are earnestly seeking a knowledge of the truth and are striving to purify their souls through obedience, thus doing what they can to prepare for the conflict, will find, in the God of truth, a sure defence. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I will also keep thee,” is the Saviour’s promise. He would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan. GC 560.
“The hour of temptation” and “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience” – are both quotations from the description of the Philadelphia Church. Therefore, Ellen White is referencing the Philadelphia Church, as being the church, that is about to enter the time of trouble. And if the Philadelphia Church, is indeed the church, that is delivered at the second coming of Christ, then it follows, that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 must be one and the same.
The Philadelphia Church and the 144,000
When we understand and appreciate, how extensively the principle of repeat and enlarge, is employed in prophecy, it is not difficult to recognize that the Philadelphia Church and the 144,000 are the same people. Or to put it more accurately, the 144,000 are the last generation of the Philadelphia Church – the church that witnesses and takes part in the second coming of Christ. Jesus said to the Philadelphians:
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Rev. 3:12.
Once we recognize the working of the repeat and enlarge principle, it is relatively easy to see that the description of the 144,000 is a repetion and enlargement of verse Rev. 3:12. Therefore the Philadelphia Church and the 144, 000 are the same. [Note: this connection will be dealt with in greater detail in chapters 9 – 12].
The Philadelphia Church, the Remnant and the 144,000
As we progress further into the prophetic picture as delineated in the Book of Revelation, it becomes very obvious that the Philadelphia Church is extensively repeated and enlarged upon, throughout the rest of the book. For example, Philadelphia appears again, not just as the 144,000, but also as the Remnant.
We have already noted that the Philadelphia Church is described as a commandment keeping church. The remnant and the 144,000 are also described as being commandment keepers:
|Philadelphia||The Remnant||The 144,000|
|Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Rev. 3:10.||And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 12:17||Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Rev. 14:12.|
The people of God, in the last days, are also standing on the boundary of the Promised Land and about to enter in. Just like the literal Israelites, these spiritual Israelites must also be tested. And they are tested over the same issue – whether they will keep the law of God – and the specific law that they are tested on is the same – the seventh day Sabbath. However, this time God’s people do not fail – this is why they are consistently described as commandment keepers.
Just before the Israelites were to enter the Promised Land, God said to Moses, that He was going to prove them: “whether they will walk in my law or no” (Ex. 16:4). The specific commandment that God chose to test them on was the Sabbath. When the candidates for the Promised Land failed the test, God enquired of Moses: “How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws” (Ex. 16:28). This experience before entry into the earthly Promised Land is a type, which will be repeated before entry into the heavenly Promised Land.
The Philadelphia Church and The Three Angel’s Messages
Immediately, after the third angel’s message, the people of God are described as:
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Rev. 14:12
This verse is structured in the classic Hebrew language manner of repeat and enlarge. “The patience of the saints” is explained and defined by the second half of the verse. In other words, “The patience of the saints” is the same as, “they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The similarity with “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience” from the message to the Philadelphia Church should be obvious. The “patience of the saints” is simply repeating and enlarging on what has already been introduced as “the word of my patience.” Both of these ‘patiences’ are referring to the same thing – the commandment-keeping people of God.
Once again, we can confirm this conclusion from the writings of Ellen White. She was given a vision to explain the significance of the “open and shut doors” in the message to the Philadelphia Church. The very first thing she is told, is how these ‘doors’ are intimately related to the commandments of God, especially the Sabbath commandment:
I was taken off in the Spirit to the city of the living God. Then I was shown that the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ relating to the shut door could not be separated, and that the time for the commandments of God to shine out with all their importance, and for God’s people to be tried on the Sabbath truth, was when the door was opened in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, where the ark is, in which are contained the ten commandments. This door was not opened until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the holy place of the sanctuary in 1844. EW 42.
Therefore, as we progress through Revelation we will begin to understand that the Philadelphia Church is the Church that preaches the third angel’s message in the last days. All advent historians agree that the Millerite movement preached the first and second angel’s messages – but they did not preach the third angel’s message. Thus, the ‘present truth’ message for the last days was not completed. The Philadelphia Church will finish what the Advent movement began – it is the Philadelphia Church that will finish the work of the three angel’s messages.
When we understand Adventist history, it is not difficult to see, the Advent experience prophesied in the message to the Philadelphian Church – as indeed some of those, who lived through this experience did. Recognizing this fact, gave great comfort and hope, to the pioneers of the emerging Seventh-day Adventist Church and greatly increased their faith. Recognizing this same Truth should also anchor and sustain our own faith. And acknowledging this truth is the minimal requirement for a full and accurate understanding of Revelation.
If we recognize and accept, that repeating and enlarging, is the foundational structure of the Book of Revelation, we should also be able to recognize, that the Philadelphia Church, the Remnant and the 144,000 are one and the same. The descriptions of commandment keepers in the Book of Revelation are all describing the same people – the people of God in the last days. They first enter the prophetic picture as the Philadelphia Church, and later they are described as the Remnant and the 144,000. When these facts are recognized, it should become obvious that the Philadelphia Church, the 144,000 and the Remnant, all perform the same tasks and reap the same rewards.
In the message to the Philadelphia Church we are introduced to the church that was established in 1844, and we are told, that it goes through the time of trouble. Later in Revelation, we will be given additional information about its rise, the message that it will preach, and the opposition that it will arouse, and ultimately, it will be this church that Jesus redeems from the earth at His second coming.