There must be a definite explanation why Rabbi Yeshua had chosen to name the sixth generation of the Church after the city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor. When bible scholars and commentators wrote something about the seven churches, they always presented a brief history of each of the seven cities in Asia Minor. It has been suggested that we will understand the seven churches more, once we know their true historical background. Somehow the history of the ancient city of Philadelphia up to the 19th and 20th century can help us understand who really the prophesied seven churches in history are.
Of course, that is applicable to all of the seven churches in prophecy.
Philadelphia is one of the cities of ancient Lydia in Asia Minor, 28 miles from the city of Sardis. It is located at the foot of Mount Tmolus and stood upon a terrace 650 feet above the sea. The city is known for its excellent wine for Philadelphia was situated at the center of a great vineyard district. It had a thriving business in wine and most of its inhabitants were drunkard.
Philadelphia became a city in 189 BC when its name was given to it in honor of Attalus Philadelphos, who was known for his loyalty to his elder brother, Eumenes II, king of Lydia. The name of Philadelphia means ‘one who loves his brother’ or ‘brotherly love.’ Decapolis is another name given to the city for it was considered as one of the ten cities of the plain. When John received the seven letters in the latter years of the 1st century CE, Philadelphia already had the new name of Neo-kaisaria. Today the city is called Ala-shehir or Alasehir by its Muslim inhabitants, which means the city of God, and its Greek population continues calling it by the name of Philadelphia.
Many Hellenizing Jews had settled there. They built a synagogue within the city for their worship. When the coast cities declined, Philadelphia grew in power quickly and became an important and wealthy trade center.
The locality was subject to constant earthquakes, and in 17 CE it was destroyed by a great earthquake, rendering even the town walls of Philadelphia unsafe. For this reason many of its local inhabitants lived in constant fear of dread and disaster. Many of its citizens fled the city and relocated in the nearby cities of Laodicea. But through the help of Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD), the city was quickly rebuilt.
During the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1922), the Greek army occupied the city and when they retreated from Alasehir, Philadelphia was razed to the ground. The city was completely devastated by the Greek’s scorched-earth policy, on their retreat in the final phase of the war. It has been estimated that 3,000 lives had been lost and 70% of the buildings within the city were burned.
There are two roads that connect the city of Philadelphia to two other cities mentioned in the book of Revelation. There is a route that leads to the city of Smyrna and the main trade route that passed through the city headed toward the city of Laodicea.
The letter of Yeshua to the church in Philadelphia brings to mind the history of this ancient city. This is also the case with the rest of the other letters of Rabbi Yeshua to the seven Churches. Somehow that serves as the transparent explanation why commentary about the seven churches does not fail to produce the history of the seven cities in Asia Minor.
Although the name ‘Philadelphia’ implies that it is a city of brotherly love, the reality is the place of Philadelphia defines a city of God where people that are destined to become God live, awaiting their inevitable transformation into the real city of God. There is only one city of God here on earth and that is Jerusalem, the only place where God has placed His name in Israel and on earth.
Now you know why the name of our little congregation is the New Jerusalem. If you are like God, like the Jewish people that keep the Torah, maybe it is about time you join us in the New Jerusalem congregation. Be with us in the city of God—Kahal Yerushalayim HaChadasha.
“Yochanan, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and shalom, from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a Kingdom, Kohanim to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amein” (Revelation 1:4-6, Hebrew Names Version).