The Church of Philadelphia
America is a political byproduct of the Protestant Reformation. John Calvin's experiment in Switzerland, where he put into practice the principles of Christian government in the city of Geneva, taught people the basic principles of how to establish a Christian Nation. And so, in 1776 we come to an event that took place in Philadelphia in the New World that was the climax of Protestant thinking in the time of the Sardis Church. It was the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
This year was also important because it was 2,520 years after the beginning of Israel's captivity and deportations by the Assyrians in 745 B.C. As we pointed out in Chapter 15 of Secrets of Time, this was when the history of the House of Israel began to be repeated in a great historical parable. It was definitely a major turning point in biblical history.
Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love
Philadelphia means “City of Brotherly Love.” In the Greek language there were three main types of love: eros, phileo, and agape. The love in the name of Philadelphia comes from phileo.
Eros is the most selfish and immature form of love. It is best defined as NEED. Babies need their mothers, and their demands are based solely upon those needs. If people mature physically without learning to mature in love, their relationships are based upon mere physical attraction and self-gratification. They care little or nothing about other people and will violate the rights of others whenever it suits them.
Phileo is the kind of love a child learns in relating to their siblings. If parents do their job correctly, their children are taught to respect each other's property and space. They are taught basic principles of justice and fairness. It is very much a judicial (legal) type of love. With children of this stage of development, parents spend most of their time as referees to settle thousands of disputes and violations of individual rights. By the judicial decisions of the parents, the children learn to define basic human rights and responsibilities.
No child can bypass this stage of development without having a distorted view of others. If one were to bypass this phileo stage and go directly to agape, he would practice a lawless form of love, which, at his heart, would only be a free expression of his needs and desires. Such is the “free love” philosophy, where sexual relationships are based upon love, rather than upon marriage.
Homosexual love is also the result of bypassing the phileo stage of development, and there are today entire “gay” church congregations who profess to love God and follow Jesus Christ, but they utterly reject the Law of God (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). They are, in fact, more Manichean than Christian, thinking the God of the Old Testament to be evil for making homosexual acts punishable by death. It is their view that homosexual relationships are pleasing to the New Testament God so long as they practice it with a loving attitude. Yet Paul calls such people “fools” who “change the truth of God into a lie.” Romans 1:26, 27 says,
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
In 1 Cor. 6:9-11 Paul gives a listing of the kinds of people who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Among them are those who are “effeminate” [Greek: malakos, lit. “softs” or “homosexuals”]. In the Greek “democratic” society, homosexual relationships were openly accepted. In verse 11 Paul goes on to say of the Christians in Corinth, “and such were some of you” before they became believers in Christ.
Thus, while Paul does not condone homosexual relations, he does show that homosexuals may be converted and become sanctified, or set apart for Christ, ceasing from that life style. The problem is not so much being a homosexual as it is putting it into practice. Likewise, a heterosexual has a natural God-given passion for the opposite sex, but it turns into sin when that passion is put into practice outside the bounds of lawful marriage.
The third type of love is agape. Agape is the unconditional love that characterizes mature people. It is the term used most by John to describe the love of God toward us. When applied to people, it describes a mature love that is unselfish, forgiving, understanding, and unconditional. It is not free of discipline, for even God knows that He must deal with men who are yet His immature children. He always relates to people according to their level of love. It is the kind of love parents must have in order to bring up their children to maturity in Christ.
Philadelphia in America
The Church of Philadelphia (1776-1914) is well seen in the great American experiment. Its founders believed in liberty in law. It sought to bring the Church into a phileo relationship among its citizens and among all the nations. Prior to the Protestant Reformation the world saw few benevolent civil rulers or religious leaders. The only example most of them knew was of men with selfish interests who had not learned the basic principles of phileo. Such rulers, both religious and civil, knew only eros, the need to be served by others.
The establishment of America in the city of Philadelphia was an attempt by the people to establish a phileo -Christian government. This was not bad, but it was imperfect, as subsequent history has proven. Regardless of how good our Constitution was in its beginning, and regardless of how just our laws were, there is no way for any nation to maintain its righteousness apart from having godly administrators. We see this in the story of Israel, a nation with a perfect system of law given by the mouth of God Himself—but a nation that degenerated into utter apostasy because of ungodly leaders and immoral people demanding freedom to sin.
There were many in early America who had a vision of building the Kingdom of God in the earth. But apart from the manifestation of the sons of God, which would bring forth perfect administrators of the divine law, how can any nation do anything but degenerate as even the House of Israel degenerated during biblical times?
Even so, America 's founding was a very important date in the history of the Kingdom of God, simply because it gave Christians a new vision for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God upon the earth as it already is in heaven. The main problem was that this began in the days of the Church of Philadelphia, the sixth church era. The 40 Jubilees of “Saul” had not yet run its course. And for this reason, the vision came too early to become a physical reality.
1776 to 1800 AD was a very important time in the history of the House of Israel. God had established in His law that if Israel continued in sin, they would be judged “seven times more” (Lev. 26:18). Prophetically speaking, comparing Dan. 7:25 with Rev. 13:5, a “time” is 360 days or years. Three-and-a-half “times” is 1,260 days or years. Thus, seven “times” is 2,520 days or years.
The House of Israel began to go into the Assyrian captivity in 745 B.C. This captivity was completed in 721 B.C. with the capture and destruction of Israel 's capital, Samaria. These, then, are the two main dates for the beginning of Israel 's “seven times” of judgment. It is significant that 2,520 years later is 1776 to 1800 A.D.
The year 1776 is 2,520 years after 745 B.C. The year 1800, when the American government moved to its newly-built capital in Washington D.C., was precisely 2,520 years from 721 B.C. when Israel 's capital, Samaria, was destroyed.
In other words, the timing of history itself shows that America is following the prophetic history of the House of Israel and the tribes of Joseph. America was founded at the end of a long-term judgment that had destroyed the House of Israel. Hosea's prophecy of the regathering of Israel in “the wilderness” (Hos. 2:14) was being fulfilled in America. Of course, this is not the whole story. A more complete account of this in the context of the meaning of the name Israel may be found by reading my book, Who is an Israelite?
It was the American Dream to fulfill the prophecies regarding the House of Israel, that this new nation would be a light to the nations (Is. 49:6), and that from the shores of this New World the Gospel of Jesus Christ would go forth into all the world. Countless sermons preached in the early American churches attest to this. They believed that they were establishing the fifth kingdom of Daniel 2, the great Stone Kingdom cut out of the mountain without hands, that was to smash the image on its feet—that is, the old corrupted world order in Europe that had been dominated by the Roman Church.
The early Americans believed that this new nation was to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 2:2 & 3, which says,
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain [i.e., kingdom] of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills [lesser kingdoms]; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach of His ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
It was the intention of the Pilgrims and Puritans to set up a political and social order that would be an example of righteous laws that would bring liberty under God to all nations. But the point to be noted here is that America was founded upon the principle of phileo love. This in itself was an improvement upon the usual, self-centered eros principle of most other governments. Yet it was not a high enough level of love capable of manifesting the Kingdom of God or to see His glory cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The New Door
The beginning of the end of Israel 's judgment in 1776-1800 coincided precisely with the beginning of the era of the Church of Philadelphia and the new “door” that God opened. Rev. 3:7, 8 says,
7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: 8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
The “key of David” has much to do with the concept of love. The name David means “love” in the Hebrew language. David was a type of Christ, and Christ's ministry was one of love. So we are being taught here that love is the key that opens this new door. Yet as we have shown, that love was still imperfect as a whole, because the Church of Philadelphia was in an era of phileo love, not agape. Even so, the new door being opened by love in the late 1700's has to do with the rise of the great missionary societies, who brought the Gospel and the written Word to other nations.
This coincided with the decline of the temporal power of the Roman Church, brought about by the French Revolution and then the rise of Napoleon. As we said earlier, the great upheaval of the French Revolution took place from 1789 to 1793, paving the way for the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796.
Meanwhile, God opened a great “Door,” an opportunity for the Church of Philadelphia. Many great missionary societies were established in the 1790's and into the 1800's. In 1792 the Baptist Missionary Society was established. Three years later the London Missionary Society was founded. In 1797 came the Wesleyan Missionary Society. In 1800 came the Anglican Church Missionary Society. In 1804 came the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1806 came the Hibernian Bible Society of Ireland. In 1816 came the American Bible Society. In 1861 came the National Bible Society of Scotland.
This began the great missionary movements of the next 200 years, which spread the Protestant brands of Christianity into all parts of the world. This fulfilled the Word to the Church of Philadelphia, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8). He that had the key of David had opened a new door (Rev. 3:7), giving Christians of all denominations the opportunity to spread the Gospel to all parts of the world. Up to that time, only Roman Catholicism had had such opportunity, but they had spread their message primarily through conquest, rather than by love.
The prophecy of the “key of David” (Rev. 3:7) opening this door refers us to Isaiah 22:15-25, where Eliakim was given the key of David to be the keeper of the house, replacing Shebna, the Scribe. This occurred during the time of King Hezekiah. The keys of David were taken from Shebna and given to Eliakim. Applied to the Church of Philadelphia, we see the Roman Catholic Shebna being replaced by the Protestant Eliakim. The keys to the Kingdom claimed by Rome are now being given to others whose motives are more consistent with “brotherly love” than the ones who conceived the Inquisition and the conquests of Cortez.
And so the Bible began to be translated into many of the common languages of the people, and the people were thus empowered to see for themselves whether the words of the priests and the bulls of the popes were indeed based upon scripture. The popes ranted in vain against this new development, for Rev. 3:8 had promised an open door that “ no one will shut.” And so the attempts of Pope Leo XII (1823-1835) to stop the spread of Scripture were in vain. His words are recorded in Cormenin's History of the Popes, Vol. II, pp. 426-427,
“There is a sect, my brethren, who arrogating wrongfully to themselves the name of philosophy, have rekindled from their ashes the dispersed phalanxes of errors. This sect, covered externally by the flattering appearances of piety and liberality, professes toleration, or rather indifference, and interferes not only with civil affairs, but even with those of religion; teaching that God has given entire freedom to every man, so that each one can, without endangering his safety, embrace and adopt the sect or opinion which suits his private judgment.... This doctrine, though seducing and sensible in appearance, is profoundly absurd; and I cannot warn you too much against the impiety of these maniacs...
“What shall I say more? The iniquity of the enemies of the Holy See is so increased, that besides the deluge of pernicious books with which they inundate Europe, it goes so far as to turn the religion of the holy scriptures to detriment. A society, commonly called the Bible Society, spreads itself audaciously over the whole earth, and in contempt of the traditions of the holy fathers, in opposition to the celebrated decree of the council of Trent, which prohibits the holy scriptures from being made common, it publishes translations of them in all the languages of the world. Several of our predecessors have made laws to turn aside this scourge; and we also, in order to acquit ourselves of our pastoral duty, urge the shepherds to remove their flocks carefully from these mortal pasturages.... Let God arise: let him repress, confound, annihilate this unbridled license of speaking, writings, and publishing—.”
Men had begun to translate the Bible into common languages as early as the 1400's, and many, like John Wycliff had been burned at the stake for their work. By the late 1500's there were so many common translations in print, the Roman Church was forced to bring forth its own English translation of the Bible in 1582-1609 called the Douay-Rheims Bible. It was revised by Bishop Richard Challoner from 1749-1752. Rome claimed this Bible to be a better translation than all others, even though it was basically an English translation of the Latin Vulgate, rather than from the earlier Greek text itself. According to the Douay-Rheims Bible Online (1989 preface),
“Sometimes the question is raised: Why translate from a translation (the Latin Vulgate) rather than from the original Greek and Hebrew? This question was also raised in the 16 th century when the Douay-Rheims translators (Fr Gregory Martin and his assistants) first published the Rheims New Testament. They gave ten reasons, ending up by stating that the Latin Vulgate ‘is not only better than all other Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they disagree.' (Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582). They state that the Vulgate is ‘more pure than the Hebrew or Greek now extant' and that ‘the same Latin hath bene barre better conserved from corruption' (Preface to the Douay Old Testament, 1609).”
In other words, they say that where the Greek or Hebrew text disagrees with the Latin version, the Greek and Hebrew text is incorrect, and the fifth-century Latin Vulgate is correct. We, of course, disagree with that premise. No translation is perfect.
This ban on Bible translations remained in effect at least until the Roman Church officially gave up trying to suppress the Scriptures in the 1890's. Even so, it was not until Vatican II in the early 1960's that the Roman Church completely stopped trying to prevent Catholics from reading the Bible. The Church then simply stopped talking about those earlier “infallible” decrees banning the Scriptures. The Roman Church could not close this open door that God had opened, so they joined the crowd and pretended that previously-locked door never existed.
A Little Strength
Remember that the Church of Philadelphia parallels the Hezekiah Church of the Old Testament. (See page 4.) The name Hezekiah means “strength.” And so in Rev. 3:8 God describes the Philadelphia Church as having “a little strength.” Then in Rev. 3:9 we read,
9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
In the days of Hezekiah, Shebna was the representative of “the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9), a man who may have been a tribal Judahite (“Jew”), but did not have the heart circumcision that God requires to be a “Jew” in God's eyes (Rom. 2:29). See my book, Who is a Jew? for further details on that subject. Thus, Shebna was replaced by Eliakim (“whom God sets up”). Rev. 3:10, 11 says,
10 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. 11 Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
In Hezekiah's day, the Assyrian armies came to take the crown from Hezekiah. But God smote their army and saved Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). Thus, Hezekiah was spared from that “hour of temptation” (or trial).
In another way Hezekiah was spared again, for we read in 2 Kings 20 that the king was deathly ill and ready to die. However, God spared him and gave him another 15 years of life. The 15 years is significant in that it represents one hour in Biblical prophetic reckoning. A prophetic day or year often can also represent 360 years in long-term prophecy. By this reckoning, a prophetic “hour” is 1/24 of a year, or 15 years.
Thus, Hezekiah was given a 15-year extension of life, because God spared him from the hour of trial in his day.
The parallel to the Church of Philadelphia is clear. All of these details show us that the Church of Philadelphia is the Hezekiah Church. The only difference is that the manner of fulfillment in modern times is on a much larger scale than in Hezekiah's day.
Hezekiah had a little strength, but that also implies that he had a little weakness. Scripture is not silent about Hezekiah's weakness. When he received letters from the king of Babylon, Hezekiah made a fatal mistake. 2 Kings 20:13 says,
13 And Hezekiah hearkened unto them and showed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures; there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah showed them not.
Isaiah then told him that the Babylonians were going to confiscate all of it some day. To his credit, he humbly submitted to this Word.
When the Philadelphia Church—particularly in America—focused too much upon building religious empires to the glory of God, the new accumulation of wealth caught the attention of Babylon's covetous servants. The rise of Protestant denominations and their accumulation of property, expensive buildings, and healthy bank accounts made it worthwhile for unscrupulous men to seek to control those organizations and their members.
As a consequence, the servants of economic Babylon recognized that if they could just take over the seminaries, they could eventually control purse strings of the whole Church and change its teachings to conform to Babylonian ideas. Instead of destroying the churches outright, they could use the churches to maintain control and propagate Biblical ignorance until the people, out of sheer boredom, would fall away from the irrelevant god being preached in the name of Christianity. Those who remained could be induced through guilt and fear to support the empty shell of religion out of sheer religious duty. The plan succeeded.
And so, like the time of Hezekiah, the Philadelphia era (1776-1914) was an interim era leading to the great Babylonian captivity of the 20 th century. During this time, the Church had a little strength in its Great Commission work to spread the Gospel to all parts of the world. At first, the Church made great progress, because it believed itself to be the Israel of God, fulfilling Isaiah 42:6-8,
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, 7 to open blind eyes, to bring prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 8 I am the Lord, that is my name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.
The true Jews and true Israelites were called to be the light to the nations. The great missionary movements rose to the challenge in the time of the Philadelphia Church for over a century. But then there arose a new movement called Zionism, which argued that the Jews were Israel and were responsible to be this light to the world. By the late 1800's and early 1900's much of the Church began to be influenced by this, and soon they sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. It was not long before many were teaching a new idea called the “rapture,” in which Christ would soon come and remove the Church, leaving world evangelism to the remaining 144,000 Jews. It was as if Eliakim gave the key of David back to Shebna.
And so the word of warning is given to the Church in Rev. 3:11,
11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown.
The crown in this verse is from the Greek word, stephanos. It is a victor's wreath given when one wins a race. Wreaths were given in recognition of the victor's accomplishment, even as was done at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. What would a man do if he won a race, but another took his place on the victory stand, pretending that he was the winner? This is the picture being presented in Rev. 3:11.
The clear implication in this warning is that the Church in general would allow another to take its wreath. In fact, many did just that, because they were tricked into believing that the Jews were Israel and were supposed to fulfill the prophecies spoken of the House of Israel. Not knowing history, and being blinded to the distinction between Judah and Israel, the Church allowed the Jews to claim the birthright. This subject is fully discussed in my two books, Who is a Jew? and Who is an Israelite? as well as in the larger book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
Worse yet, as time passed, Christians began to believe that the old Jerusalem was to be the capital of the coming Kingdom of God, that Jesus would rule from a rebuilt temple on the old site, that the Jews would rule the world directly under Him, and that Levites would re-institute a sacrificial system once again. This view not only tramples on the blood of Christ, but it also makes “Hagar” the one who brings forth the promised seed.
Paul makes it clear in Gal. 4:25 that the old Jerusalem is Hagar, not Sarah. When the Jews rejected Jesus as the Mediator of the New Covenant, they chose to remain under the Old Covenant from Sinai. But Sinai is in Arabia, as Paul says, and Arabia is the inheritance of Hagar and Ishmael. Thus, in choosing to remain under the Old Covenant, the Jews who rejected Jesus put the old Jerusalem under the legal jurisdiction of Hagar and Ishmael.
This is how Paul could call Jerusalem “Hagar.”
Furthermore, in Jeremiah 7:12-15 the prophet states clearly that God would forsake the old Jerusalem and the old temple site, even as He had earlier forsaken Shiloh—the place where God had first put His name. God never returned to Shiloh. Neither will He return to the old Jerusalem. The “ Jerusalem ” where Christ will place His feet and His name will not be the old city, but the New Jerusalem.
This is then made plain in the next verses in Revelation 3.
Being a Pillar in the Temple of God
Rev. 3:12, 13 says,
12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Overcomers are those with the New Jerusalem written upon them. This is in contrast to the old Jerusalem, which has steadily gained ground since the time of the Church of Philadelphia. Those who place their hopes the modern Zionist movement—even Christian Zionism— may well have the name of the old Jerusalem written in their foreheads, marking them as Ishmael, rather than as Isaac.
The overcomers, on the other hand, have placed their hope in the New Jerusalem and the new Mount Zion of Hebrews 12:22,
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels.
Thus, if we look at the message to the Church of Philadelphia as a whole, we see that it has to do with the Great Commission calling that Jesus gave to His disciples—the true Jews. God then issues a veiled warning against those “who say they are Jews, and are not, but lie.” These are the false Jews who rejected Christ and were cut off from the tribe of Judah according to biblical law. A segment of these false Jews began a movement called Zionism in the late 1800's, which convinced the Philadelphia Church to give up its calling (birthright, or “crown”) to these unbelievers.
This served to reinstate the old Jerusalem as the mother of both Judaism and a large segment of the Church, for these two religious systems became united by a Zionism based upon the Old Covenant and the old Jerusalem. The bottom line is that Zionism attempts to make Hagar the chosen one to replace Sarah and to replace the New Jerusalem with the old Jerusalem as the capital of the Kingdom.
We tend to resemble our mother. The Christian Zionists support Hagar as the bride chosen to bring forth the promised Sons; the overcomers support Sarah. Time will prove all things, but at the moment Hagar has the greatest amount of support from the Church. But God has no intention of marrying a Hagar-bride in the New Covenant. He already did that in the days of Moses, and the marriage was not a happy one, as the prophets tell us.
But most importantly, the Spirit says to the Church that those believers who overcome will have the New Jerusalem written on their foreheads. The implication is that those who do NOT overcome will have the old Jerusalem written on their foreheads. So we must all ask ourselves, Who is my mother? Am I an Isaac or an Ishmael?
He who has ears, let him hear.
The Spirit of Strength (Might)
On page 9 we showed that the Church of Philadelphia was given the Spirit of Might, or Strength. It is the “Hezekiah” Church, for his name means “strengthened by Yahweh.” Even so, there was a problem appropriating this divine strength, and so Philadelphia is described as having only “ a little strength.” Their strength was sapped by Christian Zionism, which ultimately contributed toward the captivity of the Church of Laodicea in 1914.
On December 23, 1913 A.D. the Federal Reserve Act was passed while most of the legislators were home for Christmas, and President Wilson signed it without reading it in February 1914. He admitted later that this was the greatest mistake of his career, but nothing was done about it. So ended the Hezekiah Church. So began the final Church of the Captivity, the Laodicean era, which thought itself to be rich and did not even know it had been taken to Babylon.