The Church of Philadelphia

One of the seven churches of Asia mentioned by John in the Apocalypse, Philadelphia was a Lydian city founded by Attalus II Philadelphus (159-138 BC). An outpost of Hellenism in native Anatolia, it still stands, located 25 miles SE of Sardis. It is on a broad, low, easily defended hill. Philadelphia is situated in a region that had volcanic activity and it was destroyed several times by earthquakes, the great earthquake of AD 17 ruined it completely. Placed right above the fault, the city was tormented by 20 years of recurrent quakes after. In spite of these calamities, it survived well. The name of Philadelphia means brotherly love in Greek.

The district of Philadelphia was vine growing, the most influencial cult of the city had to do with the worship of the god of wine, Dionysus. The Christian church of the first century was enthusiastic in its missionary activity and won many Jews of the city. This resulted in violent opposition of the Jewish people there. Jesus is designated as the holy one, the true one, titles usually reserved for God alone. This, possibly, is to refute the Jews of Philadelphia, who may have ridiculed Christ as a false Messiah; more probably it is designed to show that as holy and true he will keep his promises. But it was Jews who were defiant in their rejection of the religion of Christ that made a particular problem for the church of Philadelphia. The living Christ speaks to the church as the one who has full authority, coming out of and transcending the ancient religious life of Israel. He has the key of David. He is the fulfillment of that holiness and truth which had come to have so deep a place in the consciousness of Israel..
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