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Revelation 3:8

“‘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.” ‭

What is the “little power” that the church kept?

5 Answers 5

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This verse refers to the church at Philadelphia. Not much is known about the nature of this congregation at the time. Moreover, commentators do not say much about the meaning of "little power," so we are left to draw our own conclusions. Here is the verse in context from the NABRE translation (Rev. 3:8-12):

You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name... Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come to the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take your crown. The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again.

This is perhaps the most encouraging and least critical of any of the letters given to the Seven Churches. My reading would be: The church itself was not powerful or prestigious compared to other churches or within Roman society. However, because it has been faithful, it will be protected and will come through the coming persecution intact.

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The reference to a "pillar in the temple of my God" has an obvious spiritual meaning promising a place of honor to those who endure, but it may also be an allusion to the contrasting fate of the many pagan temples that the city housed. These were subject to damage from the earthquakes known to trouble the area from ancient times through the present day.

Conclusion: "little power" means that this particular church was not influential or prestigious.

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  • I appreciate this answer! Thank you! Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 14:25
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The "little power" attribution to the church of Philadelphia should be seen as part of general trend among the progression of the seven churches of increasing spiritual weakness.

  • Ephesus hates the Nicolaitans.
  • Pergamum has a few who hold to the teaching of Balaam, eat food sacrificed to idols and have some Nicolaitans.
  • Thyatira tolerates Jezebel and are unwilling to repent.
  • Sadis has reputation for being alive but is actually dead and their deeds are incomplete; only a few in Sardis have not soiled their clothes
  • Philadelphia has little strength left
  • Laodicea is the only church with zero commendation

As the spiritual weakness increases, the rewards for the faithful correspondingly increase:

  • Ephesus faithful will be rewarded with (1) the right to eat from the tree of life
  • Smyrna faithful will be rewarded with (1) a crown of life (2) not hurt by second death
  • Pergamum faithful will be rewarded with (1) hidden manna (2) white stone (3) new name known only by receiver
  • Thyatira faithful will be rewarded with (1) authority over nations (2) morning star (3) rule with iron scepter (4) dash nations to pieces like pottery
  • Sardis faithful will be rewarded with (1) will walk with me (2) dressed in white (3) not erase name from book of life (4) acknowledge before Father (5) acknowledge before angels
  • Philadelphia faithful will be rewarded with (1) pillar in God’s temple (2) never leave temple (3) write God’s name (4) write name of God’s city (5) write my new name (6) kept from hour of trial
  • Laodicea faithful will be rewarded with the right to sit with me on my throne

CONCLUSION

The "little strength" of Philadelphia is a reference to their little spiritual strength; thus, Jesus promises to keep them from the hour of trial. This is confirmed is the counsel given: "Hold on to what you have".

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    How does the "you have kept my word and have not denied my name" fit with "little spiritual strength?" Seems quite the contrary to me... they have little influence but they demonstrated strong faith... and thus serious spiritual power in contrast to outward appearances. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 21:50
  • @DanFefferman - that must be seen in the context of the next sentence - "Look at those who belong to the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews but are liars instead." It appears that the faithful were very few in number.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 22:12
  • good point, but this also fits with my idea that the true church had little influence but did not lack spiritual power. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 22:28
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    @Dan - the church contained both faithful and unfaithful people - the latter are called part of the synagogue of Satan. Thus, outsiders looking on saw a corrupt church with few faithful people. This would weaken its SPIRITUAL influence. Thus, I would argue that it is spiritual influence not "prestige" (or civil influence) that counts here.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 22:42
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To those who are very good with Greek out there (I’m not one of them).

As it is written “… no one is able to shut it because little you have power and yet you have kept my word…”

The “because”, 3754 (hoti) can mean “that” or “though”.

The “yet” 2532 (kai) seems to be an add on to “and” that’s not really there.

So can the intended sentence be “no one is able to shut though little you have power and you have kept my word…”

Meaning the church may have been small but still had power to stand?

Ok Greek students, I await and value your expertise.

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In addition to Dotttard's insights, I think one should consider the logical flow of the words that Jesus spoke. Here they are in literal Greek from the word-for-word translation here: https://biblehub.com/text/revelation/3-8.htm:

I know your deeds. Behold, I have set before you a door having been opened, which no one is able to shut it, because little you have power, and yet you have kept my word and not have denied the name of me. - Revelation 3:8

First of all, Jesus knows their deeds with the implication that they're being marginalized and their deeds are unknown. Then, there's a promised reward for believers who seem to have had doors consistently shut to them or slammed in their faces. The reason for this particular reward is because they have little (or a little) power, likely inadequate to open doors that have been shut to them, and despite this, they (1) kept Jesus' word (logos, singular) and (2) didn't deny his name, which implies resisting coercion or persecution.

Note that in the next verse, Jesus promises them that the so-called Jews from "the synagogue of Satan," who might have been keeping the door of the third Temple closed to them to worship (God) at their feet!

Speculatively (!!!), this 9th verse might be a veiled reference to Messianic Jews during the time of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and its doors either before or after the third Temple is built!

Again, this is just a wild speculation. If you have an open mind, it's something to mull over and has many implications regarding their lack of power, the promised harpazo, and their being kept from the hour of testing coming to the entire world!

Still unanswered is the reason for Jesus mentioning an "open door." What door is that?

In another direction, notice that Jesus also mentions a closed door when he reviews the Laodicean church. This closed door that Jesus knocks on might be the closed doors of their Laodicean hearts.

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. - Revelation 4:1,2 ESV

And finally, here's an open door. Notice that John is instantly in the spirit, appearing before the throne of God! This sounds very much like the description of the harpazo, which occurs in the twinkling of an eye!

Food for thought.

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At the time of the writing they had little strength as a church as a whole but despite that - they persevered and taught a doctrine which was pleasing to God.

Rev 3:8 (KJV)

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Apr 25 at 13:35
  • Do you mean to say that it was "power" in the general sense, such as as a church? That's what it looks like you mean from what you write.
    – Jesse
    Commented Apr 25 at 14:15

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