The Church in Philadelphia, Life-Study of Revelation, Message Fifteen, pp. 181-186


In this message we come to the church in Philadelphia, the church in recovery (3:7-13). In Greek, Philadelphia means brotherly love. As a sign, the church in Philadelphia prefigures the proper church life recovered by the brothers who were raised up by the Lord in England in the early part of the nineteenth century. Just as the reformed church, prefigured by the church in Sardis, was a reaction to the apostate Catholic Church, prefigured by the church in Thyatira, so the church of brotherly love is a reaction to the dead reformed church. This reaction will continue as an anti-testimony to both apostate Catholicism and degraded Protestantism until the Lord comes back.


A. The Holy One, the True One

Verse 7 says, "These things says the holy One, the true One." To the church of brotherly love, the Lord is "the holy One, the true One" by whom and with whom the recovered church can be holy, separated from the world, and true, faithful, to God.

B. He Who Has the Key of David

To the recovered church, the Lord is also the One who has "the key of David" (v. 7), the key of the kingdom, with authority to open and to shut. Not many know the meaning of the term "the key of David." According to Genesis 1, when God created man, He gave him dominion over all creatures. This indicates that, in God's intention, man is to be the power representing God on earth. Due to the fall, however, man lost this power and has never fully recovered it. Man has not regained dominion on earth to represent God. In the lives of Adam, Abel, Enosh, Enoch, and Noah we do not see this power. Neither do we see it in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We do not see this power until God's chosen people, the children of Israel, entered into the good land and built the temple. Apparently, the temple was built by Solomon; actually, it was built by David, for he was behind the building of the temple. Remember what is revealed in Genesis 1:26. God made man in His own image that he might express Him and with His dominion that he might represent Him. The temple is related to God's image because, being God's house, it is His expression. The temple was built in the city. The temple signifies God's expression, and the city signifies God's dominion. The image and dominion revealed in Genesis 1 are, to some extent at least, fulfilled in the temple and the city. In the temple we have God's presence for His expression, and in the city we have God's dominion. God's king is in the city representing Him as he rules on earth.

This is a necessary background for understanding what the key of David is. The key held by David is the key of God's entire dominion. God's dominion includes the whole universe, especially mankind. This dominion has a key which is possessed by the person who fought the battle for the kingdom and who made preparations for the temple. The name of this person is David. David represented God in establishing God's kingdom on earth. Hence, he has the key of God's dominion in the universe. David, however, was just a type, not the reality. The real David is Christ, the greater David. He is the One who built God's temple, the church, and established God's kingdom. Therefore, in the church today, which is both a house and a kingdom, we have God's expression and representation. As the greater David, Christ has built up the house of God, the real temple, and He has set up the kingdom of God, the dominion in which He exercises full authority to represent God. Thus, He holds the key of David. The key of David is something representing God to open the whole universe for God. This is the key of David held by Christ. This term signifies that Christ is the center of God's economy. He is the One who expresses and represents God, the One who holds the key to open everything in God's dominion.

C. He Who Opens and Shuts

Verse 7 also says that Christ is the One who "opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open." Because the universal key, the key of God's economy, is in His hand, He opens and shuts.

As we have pointed out, nearly everything found in the book of Revelation is not new but a fulfillment of things revealed in the Old Testament. This is also true of the key of David. Isaiah 22:22-24 is a prophecy concerning Christ as the One who holds the key of David. The deep thought in Christ's holding the key of David is found there. In Isaiah 22 it was prophesied that Christ would not only be the One holding the key of David, but that He would also be a nail or peg. Very few Christians have heard that Christ is a nail. If you consider the context of Isaiah 22 and if you read the context of the word regarding Christ as the One holding the key of David in Revelation 3, you will realize that Christ's holding the key of David is for God's house, for God's building. The crucial subject in Isaiah 22 is the house of God. And the epistle to the church in Philadelphia eventually speaks of the New Jerusalem. The overcomers in Philadelphia will be pillars in the temple of God, and the temple of God will ultimately be enlarged into the New Jerusalem. According to Revelation 21:22, there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, for, in eternity, the temple will be enlarged into a city, which, having three equal dimensions (21:16), will be the enlargement of the Holy of Holies. This is the ultimate consummation of God's house. Christ's holding the key of David, fighting the battle for God, and building the temple and establishing the kingdom of God are all for God's building.

Christ holds the key of David and He opens and shuts, not that we might be holy or spiritual, but that we might be built up. He does not care for so-called holiness or spirituality. During the past two centuries, certain people claimed to be holy and spiritual. Although they saw something, they were rather short-sighted. Holiness is not for holiness, and spirituality is not for spirituality. Both holiness and spirituality are to enable us to be pillars in the temple of God. Eventually, we shall not bear the name of holiness or spirituality but of the New Jerusalem. In 3:12 the Lord did not say, "I will write holiness upon you," or, "I will write spirituality upon you"; He said, "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 My new name." What we have here is neither holiness nor spirituality but God and the New Jerusalem. God's purpose is not to make us holy or spiritual; it is to make us part of the New Jerusalem. God already has all the holiness He needs, but He does not yet have the New Jerusalem. God's desire is not for more spirituality. He is seeking the New Jerusalem. God desires a builded church. He wants today's Bethel, the house of God which will consummate in the New Jerusalem. Are you willing to see this?

When I saw this light eighteen years ago, I made a strong declaration in my message that God does not want spirituality. Some opposers took this sentence out of context and said, "Listen, Witness Lee says that we don't need spirituality and that God does not want spirituality." In that message I said again and again that any spirituality which is not for God's building is not genuine. Our spirituality must be tested by the church life. If our spirituality does not fit into the church life, it is an abnormal spirituality. It does not supply the Body; rather, it is a cancer. Many so-called spiritual persons are cancers. Cancer is a disease of the cells in the body. Unlike germs, cells are constituents of the body, and there is nothing wrong with them. But if the cells are not properly balanced and become too concentrated, they will develop into a cancer. The so-called spirituality that cannot be tested, adjusted, or balanced and that cannot fit into the building of the church is a cancer.

The Speaker to the church in Philadelphia holds the key of David, not to make us holy or spiritual, but to deal with us that we might be transformed and built up. Once we have been built up, He will become a nail to us, and we shall be the vessels hanging on Him. Firstly, Christ holds the key of David and eventually He holds us. Christ used the key to open the door of our prison. Before we came into the church life, we were all imprisoned. For example, some were imprisoned in the dungeon of Catholicism. But wherever we were, Christ, the One who holds the key of David, opened our prison and released us. According to our experience all the doors opened for us by Christ are prison doors. Although the opposers are trying their best to imprison us, and to make the church a prison, we are released by the key held in the hand of Christ. As today's David, He has the key to open whatever God desires to open. Once He opens the door and we are released, we enter into the house of God where we become the household with many vessels held by Christ as the nail. If we remain in our mentality, we shall not have the realization or the sense of being held by Christ in this way. Nevertheless, Christ is the nail in God's house, and by this nail, we all are held up from the earth.

Firstly, Christ uses the key to release us from prison. After we have been released and have entered into the house of God, He becomes the nail holding us off the ground. The purpose of His doing this is that we might be transformed into a pillar in God's house. Eventually, we, the pillars, will become parts of the New Jerusalem. As we shall see, Christ's writing the name of the New Jerusalem upon us means that we have been transformed into a part of the New Jerusalem. If you see this, your view will be changed. In the past, you might have pursued holiness or spirituality, but you sought holiness and spirituality in an aimless way. You did not have God's goal in view. You did not see that both holiness and spirituality are for God's building. Today, Christ, the real David, uses the key to release us from prison. He then brings us into God's house that we might be transformed to be pillars and parts of the New Jerusalem. This is the church life, and this is the temple of God. Within this temple our Christ is a great nail holding us off the ground for God's building.