“Keep On Holding Fast What You Have”
1. Jesus’ sixth message was directed to the congregation in what city, and what does that city’s name mean?
BROTHERLY AFFECTION—what a desirable quality! No doubt Jesus has this in mind when he presents his sixth message, which is directed to the congregation in Philadelphia, for that name means “Brotherly Affection.” The aged John still recalls the occasion, more than 60 years earlier, when Peter insisted three times to Jesus that he, Peter, had warm affection for his Lord. (John 21:15-17) Are the Christians in Philadelphia, on their part, showing brotherly affection? Apparently they are!
2. What kind of city was Philadelphia, what kind of congregation was located there, and what does Jesus say to the angel of this congregation?
2 Located about 30 miles southeast of Sardis (at the site of the modern Turkish city of Alasehir), the Philadelphia of John’s day is a fairly prosperous city. More noteworthy, however, is the prosperity of the Christian congregation there. With what joy they must have received the minister that came traveling to them, likely by way of Sardis! The message he carries has stirring counsel for them. But first it refers to the authority of its illustrious Sender. He says: “And to the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia write: These are the things he says who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens so that no one will shut, and shuts so that no one opens.”—Revelation 3:7.
3. Why is it fitting that Jesus should be called “holy,” and how can it be said that he “is true”?
3 John had heard Peter say to the man Jesus Christ: “You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68, 69) Since Jehovah God is the very essence of holiness, his only-begotten Son must also be “holy.” (Revelation 4:8) Jesus is also “true.” The Greek word used here (a·le·thi·nosʹ) implies genuineness. In this sense, Jesus is the true light and the true bread that came down out of heaven. (John 1:9; 6:32) He is the true vine. (John 15:1) Jesus is true also in the sense that he is trustworthy. He always speaks the truth. (See John 8:14, 17, 26.) This Son of God is indeed worthy to serve as King and Judge.—Revelation 19:11, 16.
“The Key of David”
4, 5. With what covenant was “the key of David” associated?
4 Jesus has “the key of David.” Using it, he “opens so that no one will shut, and shuts so that no one opens.” What is this “key of David”?
5 It was with King David of Israel that Jehovah made a covenant for an everlasting kingdom. (Psalm 89:1-4, 34-37) David’s house ruled from Jehovah’s throne in Jerusalem from 1070 to 607 B.C.E., but then God’s judgment was executed upon that kingdom because it turned to wickedness. Thus Jehovah began to fulfill his prophecy at Ezekiel 21:27: “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it [earthly Jerusalem]. As for this also, it [the scepter of kingship in David’s line] will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.”
6, 7. When and how was the one with “the legal right” to appear?
6 When and how would this one with “the legal right” appear? How would the scepter of David’s kingdom be given to him?
7 About 600 years later, a descendant of King David, the Jewish maiden Mary, became pregnant by holy spirit. God sent the angel Gabriel to inform Mary that she would have a son, to be named Jesus. Gabriel added: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”—Luke 1:31-33.
8. How did Jesus prove himself qualified to inherit the Davidic kingship?
8 When, in 29 C.E., Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and anointed with holy spirit, he became King-Designate in the line of David. He showed exemplary zeal in preaching the good news of the Kingdom and commissioned his disciples likewise to preach. (Matthew 4:23; 10:7, 11) Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a torture stake, thus proving himself fully qualified to inherit the Davidic kingship. Jehovah resurrected Jesus as an immortal spirit and exalted him to His own right hand in the heavens. There he inherited all the rights of the Davidic kingdom. In due time Jesus would exercise his right to “go subduing in the midst of [his] enemies.”—Psalm 110:1, 2; Philippians 2:8, 9; Hebrews 10:13, 14.
9. How is it that Jesus uses the key of David to open and to shut?
9 In the meantime Jesus would have use of the key of David, opening up opportunities and privileges related to the Kingdom of God. Through Jesus, Jehovah would now deliver anointed Christians on earth “from the authority of the darkness,” transferring them “into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” (Colossians 1:13, 14) The key would also be used to bar such privileges to any who proved unfaithful. (2 Timothy 2:12, 13) Since this permanent heir of David’s kingdom has Jehovah’s backing, no creature can prevent him from fulfilling such duties.—Compare Matthew 28:18-20.
10. What encouragement does Jesus give the congregation in Philadelphia?
10 Coming from such an authoritative source, Jesus’ words to the Christians in Philadelphia must be especially comforting! He commends them, saying: “I know your deeds—look! I have set before you an opened door, which no one can shut—that you have a little power, and you kept my word and did not prove false to my name.” (Revelation 3:8) The congregation has been active, and a door has opened before it—doubtless a door of opportunity for ministerial service. (Compare 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12.) Therefore, Jesus encourages the congregation to take full advantage of the opportunity to preach. They have endured and shown that they have enough power, with help from God’s spirit, to continue doing further “deeds” in Jehovah’s service. (2 Corinthians 12:10; Zechariah 4:6) They have obeyed Jesus’ commands and have not denied Christ, either by word or by action.
“They Will Bow Down to You”
11. What blessing does Jesus promise the Christians, and how was this realized?
11 Hence, Jesus promises them fruitage: “Look! I will give those from the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews, and yet they are not but are lying—look! I will make them come and do obeisance before your feet and make them know I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9) Perhaps, as in Smyrna, the congregation has had problems with the local Jews. Jesus designates these as “the synagogue of Satan.” Nevertheless, at least some of those Jews are about to realize that what the Christians have been preaching about Jesus is the truth. Their ‘doing obeisance’ will likely be in the manner described by Paul at 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25, so that they actually repent and become Christians, fully appreciating Jesus’ great love in surrendering even his soul in behalf of his disciples.—John 15:12, 13.
12. Why would members of the Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia likely be startled to learn that some of them would “bow down” to the local Christian community?
12 Members of the Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia would likely be startled to learn that some of them were to “do obeisance” to the local Christian community. In view of the fact that there are doubtless many non-Jews in that congregation, they would expect the very opposite to take place. Why? Because Isaiah foretold: “[Non-Jewish] kings must become caretakers for you [the people of Israel], and their princesses nursing women for you. With faces to the earth they will bow down to you.” (Isaiah 49:23; 45:14; 60:14) In a similar vein, Zechariah was inspired to write: “It will be in those days that ten men [non-Jews] out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will actually take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew, saying: ‘We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.’” (Zechariah 8:23) Yes, non-Jews were to bow down to Jews, not the other way around!
13. Who were the Jews that would experience a fulfillment of prophecies addressed to ancient Israel?
13 Those prophecies were addressed to God’s chosen nation. When they were uttered, fleshly Israel occupied that honored position. But when the Jewish nation rejected the Messiah, Jehovah cast them off. (Matthew 15:3-9; 21:42, 43; Luke 12:32; John 1:10, 11) At Pentecost 33 C.E., he chose in their stead the true Israel of God, the Christian congregation. Its members are the spiritual Jews with the real circumcision of the heart. (Acts 2:1-4, 41, 42; Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 6:16) Thereafter, the only way that individual fleshly Jews could come back to a favored relationship with Jehovah would be by putting their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. (Matthew 23:37-39) Evidently, this was about to happen with some individuals in Philadelphia.a
14 In modern times, prophecies such as Isaiah 49:23 and Zechariah 8:23 have had a very significant fulfillment. As a result of the preaching of the John class, huge numbers of people have entered through the opened door into Kingdom service.b Most of these have come out of Christendom, whose religions falsely claim to be spiritual Israel. (Compare Romans 9:6.) These, as a great crowd, wash their robes and make them white by exercising faith in Jesus’ sacrificial blood. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14) Obeying Christ’s Kingdom rule, they hope to inherit its blessings here on earth. They come to Jesus’ anointed brothers and “bow down” to them, spiritually speaking, because ‘they have heard that God is with them.’ They minister to these anointed ones, with whom they themselves become united in a worldwide association of brothers.—Matthew 25:34-40; 1 Peter 5:9.
“The Hour of Test”
15. (a) What did Jesus promise the Christians in Philadelphia, and what were they encouraged to do? (b) What “crown” were the Christians looking forward to receiving?
15 Jesus goes on to say: “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to put a test upon those dwelling on the earth. I am coming quickly. Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:10, 11) Although the Christians of John’s day would not survive to the Lord’s day (beginning in 1914), their confidence that Jesus was coming would give them power to keep on preaching. (Revelation 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:2) The “crown,” or prize of everlasting life, awaited them in heaven. (James 1:12; Revelation 11:18) If they were faithful to death, no one could deprive them of that reward.—Revelation 2:10.
16, 17. (a) What is “the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth”? (b) What was the condition of the anointed ones at the beginning of “the hour of test”?
16 What, though, is “the hour of test”? No doubt, those Christians in Asia had to cope with a further wave of terrible persecution from imperial Rome.c Nevertheless, the major fulfillment is the hour of sifting and judging that finally arrived during the Lord’s day, climaxing from 1918 onward. The test has been to determine whether one is for God’s established Kingdom or for Satan’s world. It is for a comparatively short period, an “hour,” but it is not over yet. Until it is, we must never forget that we are living in “the hour of test.”—Luke 21:34-36.
17 In 1918 the John class of anointed Christians—like that staunch congregation in Philadelphia—had to face opposition from the modern-day “synagogue of Satan.” Religious leaders of Christendom, who claimed to be spiritual Jews, slyly maneuvered the rulers to suppress true Christians. Nevertheless, these tried hard to ‘keep the word of Jesus’ endurance’; hence, with spiritual help, a significant “little power,” they survived and were aroused to enter the door that now opened before them. In what way?
“An Opened Door”
18. What appointment did Jesus make in 1919, and how did the appointee thus become like Hezekiah’s faithful steward?
18 In 1919 Jesus fulfilled his promise and recognized the small band of genuine anointed Christians as his “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) These entered into a privilege similar to that enjoyed by the faithful steward Eliakim in the time of King Hezekiah.d Jehovah said of Eliakim: “I will put the key of the house of David upon his shoulder, and he must open without anyone’s shutting, and he must shut without anyone’s opening.” Eliakim shouldered heavy responsibilities for Hezekiah, the royal son of David. Similarly today, the anointed John class has had “the key of the house of David” put upon its shoulder in that it has been entrusted with the earthly interests of the Messianic Kingdom. Jehovah has strengthened his servants for this privilege, boosting their little power into dynamic energy sufficient for a gigantic global witness.—Isaiah 22:20, 22; 40:29.
19. How did the John class handle the responsibilities that Jesus gave it in 1919, and with what result?
19 From 1919 onward the anointed remnant, following Jesus’ example, launched into a vigorous campaign of declaring abroad the good news of the Kingdom. (Matthew 4:17; Romans 10:18) As a result, some of the modern synagogue of Satan, Christendom, came to this anointed remnant, repented and ‘bowed down,’ acknowledging the slave’s authority. They too came to serve Jehovah in union with the older ones of the John class. This continued until the full number of Jesus’ anointed brothers was gathered. Following this, “a great crowd . . . out of all nations” has come to “bow down” to the anointed slave. (Revelation 7:3, 4, 9) Together, the slave and this great crowd serve as the one flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
20. Why must Jehovah’s Witnesses today be especially strong in faith and active in God’s service?
20 United like the Christians in Philadelphia in a bond of genuine brotherly affection, Jehovah’s Witnesses today appreciate that their work of preaching must be done urgently. Soon, the great tribulation will ring down the curtain on Satan’s wicked world. At that time, may each of us be found strong in faith and active in God’s service, so that our names will not be blotted out of Jehovah’s book of life. (Revelation 7:14) Let us take very seriously Jesus’ admonition to the congregation in Philadelphia so that we may hold fast to our service privileges and attain to the reward of everlasting life.
The Conquerors’ Blessings
21. How have anointed Christians today ‘kept the word about Jesus’ endurance,’ and what prospect awaits them?
21 The John class today have ‘kept the word about Jesus’ endurance,’ that is, they have followed his example and endured. (Hebrews 12:2, 3; 1 Peter 2:21) They have thus been greatly encouraged by Jesus’ further words to the congregation in Philadelphia: “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out from it anymore.”—Revelation 3:12a.
22. (a) What is the temple of Jesus’ God? (b) How will the anointed Christians that conquer become pillars in this temple?
22 What a privilege it is for one to be a pillar in the temple of Jehovah! In ancient Jerusalem, the literal temple was the center of Jehovah’s worship. Within the temple, the high priest offered the blood of sacrificial animals, one day each year, before the miraculous light that represented Jehovah’s presence in “the Most Holy.” (Hebrews 9:1-7) At Jesus’ baptism, there came into existence another temple, a great spiritual, templelike arrangement for worshipping Jehovah. The holy of holies of this temple is in heaven, where Jesus duly appeared “before the person of God.” (Hebrews 9:24) Jesus is the High Priest, and there is only one sacrifice offered for the complete covering of sins: the shed blood of the perfect man Jesus. (Hebrews 7:26, 27; 9:25-28; 10:1-5, 12-14) As long as they remain faithful, anointed Christians on earth serve as underpriests in the earthly courtyards of this temple. (1 Peter 2:9) But once they have conquered, they too enter that heavenly holy of holies and become immovable supports, like pillars, of the templelike arrangement for worship. (Hebrews 10:19; Revelation 20:6) There is no danger that they will “go out from it anymore.”
23. (a) What promise does Jesus next make to the anointed Christians that conquer? (b) What results from the writing of Jehovah’s name and the name of the new Jerusalem on Christian conquerors?
23 Jesus continues, saying: “And I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.” (Revelation 3:12b) Yes, these conquerors have written on them the name of Jehovah—their God and Jesus’ God. This shows clearly that Jehovah and Jesus are two separate persons and not two parts of a triune God, or Trinity. (John 14:28; 20:17) All creation must come to see that these anointed ones belong to Jehovah. They are his witnesses. They also have written on them the name of the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city that descends out of heaven in the sense that it extends its benevolent rule over all faithful mankind. (Revelation 21:9-14) All the earthly Christian sheep will thus also know that these anointed conquerors are citizens of the Kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem.—Psalm 87:5, 6; Matthew 25:33, 34; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:22.
24. What is represented by Jesus’ new name, and how is it written on faithful anointed Christians?
24 Finally, anointed overcomers have written on them Jesus’ new name. This refers to Jesus’ new office and the unique privileges granted to him by Jehovah. (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:12) No one else gets to know that name, in the sense that no one else has those experiences or is entrusted with those privileges. However, when Jesus writes his name on his faithful brothers, they come into an intimate relationship with him in that heavenly realm and even share in his privileges. (Luke 22:29, 30) It is no wonder that Jesus concludes his message to such anointed ones by repeating the exhortation: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—Revelation 3:13.
25. How can each individual Christian today apply the principle behind the counsel Jesus gave to the congregation in Philadelphia?
25 What grand encouragement that message must have been to the faithful Christians in Philadelphia! And it certainly has a powerful lesson for the John class now, during the Lord’s day. But its principles are important for each individual Christian, whether of the anointed or of the other sheep. (John 10:16) Each of us would do well to keep producing Kingdom fruitage as did those Christians in Philadelphia. All of us have at least a little power. All of us can do something in Jehovah’s service. Let us use this power! With regard to increased Kingdom privileges, let us be alert to enter any door that opens for us. We can even pray for Jehovah to open such a door. (Colossians 4:2, 3) As we follow Jesus’ pattern of endurance and prove true to his name, we will show that we, too, have an ear to hear what God’s holy spirit says to the congregations.
b The Watchtower magazine, published by the John class, has continued to highlight the urgency of seizing this opportunity and sharing as fully as possible in the preaching work; for example, see the articles “Let All Declare the Glory of Jehovah” and “Into All the Earth Their Sound Went Out” in the January 1, 2004, issue of The Watchtower. In the June 1, 2004, issue, in the article “Blessed Are Those Who Give Glory to God,” emphasis was placed on entering an “opened door” into full-time service. There was a peak of 1,093,552 pioneers reporting such service during one month in 2005.
c McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia (Volume X, page 519) reports: “Christianity was forced upon the notice of the emperors by the tumults excited among the populace by heathen priests, who observed the remarkable progress of that faith with alarm, and Trajan [98-117 C.E.] was accordingly led to issue edicts for the gradual suppression of the new teaching which transformed men into haters of the gods. The administration of the younger Pliny as governor of Bithynia [bordering the Roman province of Asia on the north] was complicated with matters growing out of the rapid extension of Christianity and the consequent rage of the heathen population within his province.”
[Box on page 63]
Helping Many to Bow Down
Of the 144,000 anointed ones that are to inherit the heavenly Kingdom, it appears that a remnant, the John class, of less than 9,000 have yet to complete their course on earth. At the same time, the great crowd has expanded into a multitude of 6,600,000 and more. (Revelation 7:4, 9) What has helped to bring about this vast increase? The various schools operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses have made a big contribution. Far different from the seminaries of Christendom that teach worldly philosophies and downgrade the Bible, these Witness schools inculcate deep faith in God’s Word. They show its practical application as to clean, moral living and dedicated service to God. Worldwide since 1943, each congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses conducts in its Kingdom Hall a local Theocratic Ministry School. Millions attend this school each week, following a unified program of Bible education.
Since 1959 Jehovah’s Witnesses have also conducted Kingdom Ministry Schools for the training of congregation elders and ministerial servants. And since 1977, the Pioneer Service Schools have trained hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters, who, with a true Philadelphian spirit, serve Jehovah full-time in the preaching work. In 1987 the Ministerial Training School was started for training male Witnesses for special assignments in the world field.
Outstanding among the schools operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Since 1943 this missionary school, located in New York State, has graduated two groups of students almost every year. Altogether, it has trained more than 7,000 ministers of Jehovah for foreign missionary service. The graduates of this school have served in more than a hundred lands, in many of which they were instrumental in opening up the Kingdom work. After about 60 years, some of the early missionaries are still on the job, sharing with newer missionaries in advancing the global expansion of Jehovah’s organization. What a marvelous expansion this has been!
[Chart on page 64]
In 1919 the reigning King Jesus opened a door of opportunity for Christian service. An increasing number of devoted Christians have taken advantage of that opportunity.
1918 14 3,868 591
1928 32 23,988 1,883
1938 52 47,143 4,112
1948 96 230,532 8,994
1958 175 717,088 23,772
1968 200 1,155,826 63,871
1978 205 2,086,698 115,389
1988 212 3,430,926 455,561
1998 233 5,544,059 698,781
2005 235 6,390,022 843,234
e The above figures are monthly averages.
f The above figures are monthly averages.
[Chart on page 65]
The activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses is wholehearted. Consider, for example, the hours they have spent in preaching and teaching and the huge number of free Bible studies they have conducted in people’s homes.
Hours Spent Bible Studies
Year (Annual Total) (Monthly Average)
1918 19,116 Not Recorded
1928 2,866,164 Not Recorded
1938 10,572,086 Not Recorded
1948 49,832,205 130,281
1958 110,390,944 508,320
1968 208,666,762 977,503
1978 307,272,262 1,257,084
1988 785,521,697 3,237,160
1998 1,186,666,708 4,302,852
2005 1,278,235,504 6,061,534
[Picture on page 59]
A Roman key of the first century