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Suggestions for starting a Philadelphia Home Church

Eric Summers

I recently had discussions with a friend who was disappointed regarding the weekly messages given in his church. He felt these sermons were only centered in the message of evangelism and few were presented regarding discipleship.  He and another member of this church began discussing starting a home church using the Philadelphia church of the Book of Revelation as a model.  After hearing about this discussion, I've been studying scripture about what a faithful church should be doing regarding discipleship and here are some ideas:

The First Century Churches

Colossians 4:15 Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house.

Romans 16:5 ... and [salute] the church that is in their house. Salute Epaenetus my beloved, who is the first-fruits of Asia unto Christ.

The first century churches were not complicated in their makeup.  One of the members would offer their house as a meeting place and those that wanted to learn more about Jesus Christ, discipleship, worship and prophecy would simply show up at an agreed upon date and time and study the Old and New Testaments.  There were no mortgages to pay, no insurance, no administrative staff, no salaries to pay.  They simply met to learn more about God's word and to serve our Savior, Jesus Christ. 


A farmer can't plant or harvest his crops or a carpenter can't build a house unless he has the proper tools.  Here are several suggestions for materials to use in meetings and Bible studies:
  • Several versions of the Holy Bible.  I like the NKJV, the KJV and the American Standard Bible.
  • Strong's Concordance which gives all Bible verses that contain a specific keyword.  For example, there are over 100 verses in the Bible that contain the word faith.
  • Hitchcock's Bible Names:  understanding the meanings of names given in a verse might help to better understand the verse.
  • Interlinear Bible: Contains the Old and New Testaments in original languages with word for word English translation.  Even in the best translations from the original languages the editors sometimes did not come up with the best English equivalent word.  It's a great reference should a verse be difficult to understand. 
  • A computer with Internet connection.  You can search and read different interpretations of the Holy Bible on the Internet.  You will have to determine if what they say in their articles is doctrinally correct. 
First meeting

Here are some ideas for your first meeting:
  • Discuss objectives for the Home church.  Some should include: becoming more faithful, helping others to be more faithful, having a closer relationship to God and with one another and understanding the more difficult books of the Bible.
  • Discuss reference materials
  • Discuss how often, when and where you want to meet and for how long.  Meeting once a week for two hours is a suggestion. 
  • Select a Bible study leader
  • Determine a book of the Bible that all want to study.  Each chapter and each verse should be read and studied.  Selecting a book should depend on the maturity of the group.  A new Christian may benefit studying the Book of John, Book of James or the Book of Acts.  More mature Christians could benefit from studying the Book of Hebrews, the Book of Isaiah or the Book of Revelation.

The Philadelphia Church

I am including an exegesis from the Book of Revelation, chapter three, where Christ evaluates the works of the Philadelphia Church.  I believe that it is so important to understand what He expects from the members of this church.
Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth:

Jesus is speaking to the pastor of the church in Philadelphia.  Christ tells him that everything He says to him is true and that He has control over everything and that whatever He plans to do, He will accomplish; no one, not fallen angels or mankind can stop Him.  If Jesus opens a door of opportunity, no one can close it and once Jesus closes that door, no person can open it. 

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works (behold, I have set before thee a door opened, which none can shut), that thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name.

Jesus will shortly open the door to Heaven for the Church of Philadelphia to enter and no one can stop their entrance into Heaven. This will be the First Fruits Rapture and I believe that it will take place on the day of Pentecost, after the city of Damascus, Syria is destroyed  (Isaiah 17).

In terms of today's mega churches or the TV churches, the Philadelphia Church has little power and little influence on mainstream Christianity.  But the believers of this church have kept His word: these are the verses in the Holy Bible; they have obeyed Jesus; they have not denied the power and authority of Jesus Christ: they have become his faithful disciples.

Revelation 3:9 Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

Replacement theology began in the 1800s and this church says that God has nothing more to do with the people of Israel: they say that they have taken the places of the Jews and other descendants of Jacob.  The people in this group are believers in Jesus Christ but they have believed the lie instigated by Satan that God has abandoned the Jews and replaced them with the Replacement Theology church.  However, no one has taken the place of the Jews.  God still loves them and He will never abandon them.

When the whole Christian church is in Heaven, Jesus will make the Replacement Theology church come and worship Him and they will bow down before him: this is their worship at the feet of Jesus.  Since the Philadelphia church is the most faithful of His churches, they will share the throne of Jesus and hence the Replacement theologists will worship Jesus at their feet also.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that [hour] which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

The Church at Philadelphia is the only church that Jesus says to them: "I will remove you from the earth and take you to Heaven before the Tribulation begins.  I will do this because you have patiently obeyed my word.  This is my reward to you for your faithfulness."

Those left behind will be the unfaithful Christians, Gentiles that Jesus will save during the Tribulation and the Jews.  The first two groups of people will be severely tested by Antichrist during the first half of the Tribulation.  During the Tribulation, most of the unfaithful Christians will become faithful followers of Christ.  The Jews and the saved Gentiles will be severely tested during the second half of the Tribulation.

Revelation 3:11 I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.

This verse is a warning to members of the Church of Philadelphia. There will be many temptations during the last days of the Church age and Jesus warns them to keep looking up for His return.  If they do give into temptations, they may fall and Jesus may not then consider them as His most faithful.  The crown Jesus mentions is the Crown of Life and is only given to Christ's most faithful disciples.

Revelation 3:12 He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name.

The members of the Philadelphia church that continue to be very faithful to Jesus are overcomers:  they will avoid evil, confess their sins to God, praise God, watch for Jesus' return and perform good works that glorify God.  If they do these things, they receive the name of Jesus upon their forehead.  This means that they will become the Bride of Christ; they are the most faithful believers of the entire Church age.  They will always be in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

This evaluation of the Church at Philadelphia ends with an admonition to the seven churches of Revelation to listen and heed the warnings given in these letters to the various Churches.  In this verse Jesus shows that if the members of the six other churches mentioned in Revelation, chapters two and three, understand and obey the verses spoken by Jesus to the church at Philadelphia, they too will become among His most faithful followers.

To summarize:  Jesus has evaluated the works of the Church at Philadelphia and found that they are very faithful to Him.  They have obeyed the holy scripture and have recognized and used the power and authority of Jesus Christ to overcome any temptations they have faced; they have judged their own works and have confessed to God any sins they have committed; they have accomplished good works that glorify God; they have stood up to and have not given in to persecution.  They are watching and praying for the soon return of Jesus Christ so He can initiate the First Fruits Rapture; they will be soon be taken through the open door into Heaven and miss all seven years of the Tribulation.

Bible Study

Philadelphia Church members that want to become more of a disciple of Jesus have been given the Old and New Testaments to study and some of these books are easier to understand than others and some chapters in these books are very difficult to understand.  However, these verses are given to us by God and therefore, we must give it our best effort to understand and obey even if they are difficult. We cannot skip verses just because we don't initially understand them; it may take much study before some verses are understood.  Obeying the following scripture tells us that God will allow us to understand even the difficult verses if we ask Him for wisdom to understand them and we then earnestly study the scripture:

James 1:5-7 But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord;


II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
In my opinion, a complete book of the Bible should be studied in detail from the first chapter to the last and no verses should be skipped; difficult verses should cause us to research their meaning even if it takes a considerable effort.  Each verse in each chapter should be read in the home church and then discussed.

A Bible study could include the following:
  • Opening prayers for God to guide your members in understanding the Bible verses you will study
  • Praise for God: how He has blessed you and helped you
  • Discuss how you applied the verses to your life using the scripture from the previous meeting
  • Some may have questions from the previous meeting; attempt to answer these questions
  • Introduce the Book or chapter of the Book you will will now study
  • Read the complete book, starting with chapter one
  • Read and discuss each and every verse in the chapter
  • Discuss questions members might have regarding the chapter
  • Give reasons why you believe a given way.  Have others give the reason they believe a certain way.
  • Discuss areas of the chapter you don't understand; resolve then or assign several members to research the questions that arise.
  • Assign members to read the next chapter several times and write down questions about the verses.  If a verse touches a person, invite them to  tell the group why.
  • Ask members to pray for each other and for their families.
  • Close in prayer.
Research the Signs of the Time

This could be a weekly or even daily scanning of newspapers and news websites, particularly of the middle east and Israel, for prophetic events that could be taking place.   Take a few minutes during a Church meeting to discuss these events and tie these events to prophetic scripture.  Several members of your Philadelphia Church could volunteer to do this research and periodically report their findings to the other members. 

You will need to study the prophecy included in the Gospels, in the letters of Paul, Peter and others and the books of Revelation, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and other books of the Old Testament.  This could be a "background" study.

Revisit Scripture

It has been my experience with the Holy Bible, is that it is not static: we should never think that we have understood every facet of the verses and do not need to study again Books of the Bible that we have studied in the past.  Because of our life experiences and because of fulfilled prophecies, when we go back and read and study specific books of the Bible, we will often see other aspects of the scripture that were not obvious the first time we studied it. 

Topic-based Studies

When you study a specific book of the Bible, there are usually several topics that are discussed.  When you are finished with a given book, you might want to discuss in-detail a specific topic within a given set of verses.  Some topics you might consider include:
  • End-times events.  Jesus told the Pharisees that they understood the weather, but did not understand the signs of the times.
  • The role of the family including the role of the father, of the mother and of the children.  Paul discusses these topics in his letters and Solomon discusses them in the Proverbs.  Is there a role for grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters?
  • Discipleship.  There are many verses in both Old and New Testaments that command us to repent and to forsake our sinful ways and to live a life dedicated to God. 
  • Eternal Life.  What is it?  Traditional doctrine says that eternal life means that we go to Heaven and live forever.  I believe that it means to receive glory, honor and immortality at the Judgment Seat of Christ because you are a faithful follower of His.  Read Romans 2:7.
  • The Judgment Seat of Christ.  Could it be very painful for an unfaithful believer and wonderful for a faithful disciple of Jesus?
  • Spiritual gifts: what are they and how should they be used to glorify God?
  • Study "famous" scripture such as John 3:16 and Psalm 23.
  • Is there both a First Fruits and a Main Harvest rapture?  If not, why?  If yes, why?
  • Revival.  What is a revival: is it to evangelize or does it mean to renew our faith in Jesus Christ and to forsake our sinful ways and follow Him more faithfully?   Do we need a revival and how do we go about having a revival?
  • If the Philadelphia church is the church you want to be a member of, what about the other churches of the end times: the Catholic, the Protestant and the mega-TV church?  What are some warnings that Jesus gives to them in Revelation, chapters two and three?
  • Why were most of the people of the twelve tribes of Israel unfaithful in the Old Testament times?
  • Names.  There are many chapters of the Holy Bible that list lineages.  Use the Hitchcock Bible Names to learn the meaning of the names of Biblical individuals.  Determine if there is a message somehow contained in the list of names of a given chapter.
If you decide to study the Bible to better understand a specific topic I suggest that you first gather all scripture that discuss a given topic; include those verses before and after the topic scripture.   If you can conclude something, explain the scripture that substantiates your conclusions.  Determine if you can apply the scripture to the way you live your life.


Jesus spent considerable time on His knees, praying to God the Father and some of His prayers are recorded in the four Gospels.  We should also pray much: lifting up our needs to God, praying for the healing of our loved ones, asking God to help us overcome our faults and praying for wisdom from our Heavenly Father.  We should tell God that we love Him and praise and give thanks to Him for His presence in our lives and our many blessings.  Some suggestions for prayer are given: Prayer.

How do you know if your home church is a Philadelphia Church?

If your home church is a faithful church, you will exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit.  These Christ-like attributes are gifts given to you by the Holy Spirit when you repent, avoid evil, follow the scripture, produce good works, and love as Christ loved. You will demonstrate by the way you live your life that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.

The fruit of the Spirit that is exhibited by a faithful believer is the result of their faithfulness, service to God and love and worship of God.  These wonderful characteristics are gifts from God for their love and service to God. This fruit is a direct result of their obeying the two great love commandments:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Jehovah.

Watching for Christ's Return

The Church at Philadelphia will be escorted through the open door that is mentioned in Revelation, Chapter three before the testing of the Tribulation begins.  If you are a faithful believer, you will be watching for Christ to return to take you to Heaven in the First Fruits Rapture and will daily pray the following prayer:

Watch ye therefore, and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)

My paraphrase: I pray to my Father in Heaven that I am counted worthy to escape all seven years of the Tribulation and to stand before Jesus Christ for my judgment. 
I continually watch and pray for the return of Jesus Christ and I pray that I am counted as a faithful member of the Church at Philadelphia. 

As the signs of the end times continue to be fulfilled, it will be very important for the members of your home church to continue to meet and to discuss and live out the admonitions given to us in the Holy Bible:

Hebrews 10:23-25.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised: and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting [one another]; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.

The day drawing nigh in this verse is the First Fruits Rapture.


Praying for the soon return of Jesus Christ for the First Fruits Rapture is an activity that I enjoy doing, almost every day.  I believe that a Philadelphia Church should beckon for Jesus' return from time to time.  Here is my beckoning:

Our Lord Jesus, You are our Savior in Heaven and in our lives, and we earnestly beckon for You to return to Earth so that our joy in our salvation will become complete.  We, Your humble servants, want You to appear so we can see Your glory.  We want you to return so that You will change us from being fallen and sinful men and women to becoming completely holy and righteous. We want You to appear so that our love for You and for our fellow believers will be made complete and perfect.  We want You to appear so that in seven years, evil and death will be destroyed, the Earth restored and the curse removed.  We dedicate the rest of eternity to Your service and to love You and to fellowship with You.  We are at peace with You and will give praise, glory, honor and devotion to You forever.  We pray this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,  Amen.