A Faithful Remnant
Some believe that Philadelphia not only means “brotherly love” but also “faithful remnant.” The Philadelphians constitute the faithful remnant of the universal church, 9 who will be translated when Jesus comes. The statement ‘ ‘For thou has a little strength,” has been rather difficult to explain. It seems that the open door of missionary opportunity was set before them because they had a little strength, the only spiritual strength left in Christendom. The Sardians were wholly dead and powerless. Now God had found a people with a little strength for missionary endeavor. They had responded to the appeal to “be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain.” They were doubtless also conscious of their weakness, and therefore qualified to do service for Christ. They were not overconfident, like the Sardians, or self satisfied, like the Laodiceans. Their “little strength” led them to rely on the Word and power of God. Others take the position that the reference has to do with their small numbers and material weakness. Trench declares that they were “a little flock, poor in worldly goods, and of small account in the eyes of men.” (Page 187.) The former seems the more probable explanation. The first qualification for service in the cause of Christ is a recognition of our spiritual poverty.
The promise that those who claimed to be Jews but were rather of the synagogue of Satan would be made to worship at the feet of the true Israelites and to know that God had loved them, was an even better promise than a similar one made to Smyrna. In the Smyrnean letter an assurance was given that the enemies of Christ would not prevail against the church. But here the promise is that the church would prevail against her enemies who made hypocritical pretensions of being God’s chosen people. It is a solemn warning against apostasy.
The Jews bitterly persecuted those of their nation who became Christians, and treated them as the outcasts of Israel. They were put out of the synagogue and excluded from the temple and its services and even from the city of Jerusalem, which had long been the city of God. Now the true Messiah, who has the authority to open and close the door into the fold of the true Israel, admits genuine Christians as the only true Jews, and excludes their opponents. He promises the persecuted Christians an entrance into the New Jerusalem, which He calls “the city of My God,” and from which they will “go no more out.” All will someday acknowledge that the love of Christ is centered on those who are Israelites indeed, the faithful of all nations.
Verse 10 pictures a world crisis: “Because in spite of suffering you have guarded My word, I in turn will guard you from the hour of trial which is soon coming upon the whole world, to put to the test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Weymouth.) It is evident that this is still future, which fact is proof that the Philadelphian condition will be revived and continue to the very end. It seems that the last four of the seven churches continue in some respects till the coming of Christ. Just before the end the church and the world must pass through the crucible so as to separate the dross from the gold. Before Christ returns there must be a clear distinction between the church and the world, and this is made possible by a great crisis.
The distinction between true and false professors of religion is not always apparent at the present time. Malachi 3:2, 3 pictures Christ as a silversmith refining and testing His people. The fiery trials of the furnace burn out the dross till He can see in them the reflection of His own image. “The word of My patience” doubtless includes the whole gospel, which is the teaching which finds its central truth in the patience of Christ. True Christians will be kept from falling, because they have kept His word. In Deuteronomy 4:34 the plagues of Egypt are called “temptations.” Those who keep the Word of Christ’s patience during the last crisis will be kept from the seven last plagues. The language indicates that pressure will be used to compel God’s faithful remnant to let go their hold on His truth. It is to this time that Revelation 12:17 applies.
http://www.temcat.com/L-2-Prophecy-Library/MISC-AUTHORS/THE-SEVEN-EPISTLES-OF-CHRIST.pdf (pages 69-70)