The Message to Philadelphia
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: "This is the message from the One Who is holy and true, Who holds the key that belonged to David, Who opens and none can close, Who closes so that none can open.
I know what you do, that you have a little power; you have followed my teaching and have been faithful to me. I have opened a door before you which no one can close.
Listen! As for that group that belongs to Satan, those liars who claim that they are Jews but are not, I will make them come before you and bow down at your feet. They will know that I love you.
Because you have kept my order to be patient, I will also keep you safe from the time of trouble which is coming upon the whole world, to test all the people on earth.
I am coming soon. Keep safe what you have, so that no one can rob you of your victory prize.
I will make him who is victorious a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never again leave it. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from my God. I will also write on him my new name.
If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!".
Rev. 3, 7-1
Alashehir, former Philadelphia, is on the main road from ?zmir to Eskishehir, about 182 kms from ?zmir. The town was built in a narrow valley at the foothills of Boz-Dagh, the former Mount Timolos, that is about 822 feet high.
The town Philadelphia was built on the site of an ancient Lydian town, that was founded in the first millenary RC. under the name Callatebus. In 159-138 RC. under the reign of Attalos II, King of Pergamum, this town was captured and re-named Philadelphia in hounour of the conquerer. The city was very famous because of its situation in a fertile area. A beautiful and fertile river valley, in history known as Cagamus River, is crossed and then Alashehir can be seen in the distance at the same moment when the lofty Mount Timolos comes into view of the traveller, its graceful peak rising in the South.
The town was destroyed many times by earthquakes. During the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius the town was rebuilt from 17-23 A.D. and then the name was changed into "Heoceasarea". The thankful inhabitants of the town erected several temples in honour of their Imperial Roman benefactors like Tiberius, Vespasian Caligula, etc.
Some historians record that in 189 BC, when Eumenes II King of Pergamum founded a city twenty-five miles south-east of the confluence of both Cogamus and Hermus Rivers, he named this city Philadelphia in honour of his younger brother, the later king Attalos II, who had a deep love and devotion toward the elder. The name of the ancient city means: "Brotherly Love". Ancient coins found in the city show two brothers alike in limbs, features and garments, an identity that symbolized their mutual unity and affection. Even now, when the town is no longer known as Philadelphia, this beautiful name has been given to many cities and towns all over the world. The most famous of them is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.. This city was founded at the end of the seventeenth century by William Perm, leader of the Quaker Group. This city was renowned for its very great tolerance toward all types of religion. In that city the Indépendance of the United States was proclaimed in 1776 by the Provisional Congress. This Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in the City Hall of Philadelphia, where the Congress of the reprentatives of the Thirteen Colonies were assembled then.
It took a considerable longer time before Christianity was rooted here compared with the other towns of the area, because of the large income and revenues that were extorted from the pilgrims that visited its many temples and shrines. So paganism was a great source of income to the townspeople, and the coming of Christianity ended this lucrative business. But, nevertheless, only a few early Christians were martyred here, and in the Byzantine period Philadelphia became a very important church.
Towards 1112 A.D The town passed into the hands of the Seljuk Turks. Sultan Melik Sjah conquered the town from the Byzantines. The Seljuk Period was followed by that of the Ottoman Turks. The old city walls, dating from this period, are still standing for the greater part. East of the town are the ruins of a Basilica with fres coes dating back from the eleventh century. The Seljuks, and later the Ottomans changed the name of the town in Alashehir (Turkish: Ala?ehir).
The "City of Brotherly Love" was the home of a spiritually strong and mature Church. In His message, the Lord pays to this church a great tribute, and no reproach or warning. The Church in Philadelphia was the youngest of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The letter written to this Church quotes that "These things are said by Him who is the Holy One, He Who is true, and holds the keys of David. He opens and no one will shut, and if I shut, no one will open.Listen, I am coming soon. Keep what you have, so that no one will rob you of your crown".
Like the Church in Smyrna, the believers in Philadelphia met great adversity from the Jews who lived in the area; the Lord calls them "The Synagogue of Satan who claim to be Jews, but they are not". Undoubtly the Church was exposed to much opposition from the fellow towns people But this had a special purpose and gave a great missionary opportunity like an open door to carry the Good News, ije. the Gospel (in Greek the word means Good News) to those who had never heard the message of the love given by Jesus Christ toward the Brothers, i.e. everyman.
Philadelphia had a characteristic geographical situation. The town lay on the edge of a vast plain called "Katakekaumene", which means "The Burned Land", because of the volcanic lava sediments of which the soil consists. This soil is very fertile. Due to this, Philadelphia was the center of an excellent grain cultivating area, and also a famous production center of wines. Of all the cities to which John addressed his messages, Philadelphia receives the greatest praise and anyone could see that the town received it. Agriculture was another major source of the city's prosperity, textiles and leather manufacture contributed to it, too. And because of its cultural prominence and its major religious festivals, Philadelphia was nicknamed "Little Athens". These festivals were routine, being held in honour of the numerous pagan cults. Every day there was some extraordinary religious observance in some particular cult center. Money flowed in, business flourished, feasting, parties and rivalry filled the town. So, in later days, Philadelphia became a very great city for these activities.
When the Turks came and Islam spread across Anatolia, and every other town had fallen into the hands of the new rulers, Philadelphia still stood steadfast and withstood the invaders several times. But at last the town fell also: it remained, however, the last bastion of Christianity in Anatolia, that lasted until the fourteenth century, only a short period before the fall of Byzantium itself.
Another reason to build the Church here was the great promise of the Risen Christ that he had set an open door for Christianity in Philadelphia. The meaning of this open door comes from the word of Paul the Apostle, who said: "A wide and effective door is opened unto me". And also Jesus opened a door by claiming for himself I am the door" (John 10, 7-9). So, the door that stands wide open for the Church in Philadelphia may be the door via Christ to the very presence of God.
Philadelphia was the inheritor of this promise. The members of this Church were faithful in their behaviour and in their existence among the others, they were a very promise for the day of the triumph of Christ.
In the letter to the Church of Philadelphia were promise and warning combined. What Christ says about "the coming of the Lord" was promise and warning both. The Risen Christ asks the Philadelphians to hold what they believed, so that no one could take their crown. Here applies again what is explained about the meaning of the word "crown" to the Church in Smyrna. In the New Testamentical and early Christian times men applied the idea of the coming of Christ both as a warning to the careless, and as a comfort to the oppressed faithful believers.
It is quite true that the promise of the Risen Christ was applicable to those who were faithful; it was very real to the believers in Philadelphia. The letter addressed to this Church is the only one without a condemnation. The believers in this town lived a full life in Christ and received their promised reward in Heaven.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, Philadelphia became part of the Byzantine Empire and the seat of a bishopric. Its further history is somewhat of a saga. The town has had the reputation of having been the most attacked town and the most difficult citadel to conquer for its enemies.
Today there are only a few remains visible in present Alashehir from these old times. The antiquities lay buried under the present city that was rebuilt atop the old one. On the way to Denizli-Jjaodicea a part of the old city-walls still lying here and there. An ancient brick church ruin forms what is probably the most important ancient feature of modern Alashehir. It can be visited in the center of the town. On one of its walls is a faded fresco of the Madonna with Child. Behind this relic stands the minaret of a mosque that was built during the Ottoman period. This forms one of the specimens of Islamic art in Alashehir.
Today this town, whose name means "Excellent City" in Turkish, is one of the most important trade centers of the Aegean Region. But throughout the ages, in Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times, the prosperous valley in which Alashehir lies is still stretching out over miles and it has kept its situation as an open door to the world…