Contrary to the earlier communities, Philadelphia is in John’s time not an old city, but recently founded. The city received its name at its foundation in 169 BC from king Eumenes II (197-160 BC) of Pergamon. He expressed with this name his love for his brother and successor Attalus II, who reigned from 159-138 BC. Philanthropos means ‘he which loves his brother’. And this name expresses the most important characteristic of the sixth cultural period.
After Attalus II died, Philadelphia came in Roman hands as part of the province Asia. Nowadays, Philadelphia is called Alasehir. It is connected to Izmir by a 65 miles railway. The city has been destroyed several times by earthquakes. Forces of death are more and more noticeable in Philadelphia as well as in the last community of Laodicea (Schult, p.73). A small amphitheater is one of the few remnants of the Roman period. The Christian community in Philadelphia grew in time to a significant size and knew how to maintain itself till the beginning of the twentieth century. In the sixth century the city prospered as part of the Byzantine empire. Pieces of the city wall dating from this period are still present. Also huge pillars from the St. John Basilica date from this period and are at the moment the main attraction of the city.
The ideal community
The letter to Philadelphia introduces us into a new phase of human evolution, the sixth cultural period. This period is a foreshadowing of the great so-called Seal epoch, that will follow the present fifth or Post-Atlantean epoch. During the sixth cultural period (3600 – 5700), also called the Slavic cultural period, the vernal equinox, the astronomical beginning of spring, falls in the zodiac sign of Aquarius. In the sixth cultural period those people, which have developed the best in themselves during the fifth cultural period, enter a spiritual life of wisdom and love. It will take till Philadelphia before the real Christianity will start to flourish (Steiner, GA 92, p.156).
The sixth letter no longer speaks with reprimands to the Christian community, but gives them the highest praise. In Philadelphia the Christian community unfolds Christianity in the most perfect way (Schult, p.74). Sardis was called to transform the forces of thinking till higher consciousness, Philadelphia realizes the transformation of the forces of compassion to bringing alive the divine love, which expresses itself as neighborly love and love for God. That is why Philadelphia has become for many generations the symbol for what a Christian community should be. An example of this longing are the Quakers who were prosecuted in England by Cromwell and emigrated under George Fox and William Penn to the newly discovered world of America. There, at the end of the seventeenth century, they founded on the basis of their principles, Philadelphia as the capital of the State of Pennsylvania.
The key of David
In the sixth cultural period, man will have developed far enough the I-consciousness to be able to approach independently and freely others with love (Steiner, GA 104, p.85). As a result of our stronger I-forces and after finding our true self, we shall, in accordance with our will, be able to admit or not admit external forces into our self. We can open or close according to our will the door of our heart and nobody can enter unless we allow it. That is what is meant with the ‘key of David’.
The community is also warned to keep the crown of brotherhood and not let someone take it in periods of temptation. Bock (p.68) explains this danger further. When people open their hearts in the sixth cultural period, friends and neighbors can enter. But also dark beings will have in this period more strength which can result in experiencing feelings of fear which can again lead us to closing our hearts. The letter states that Christ will show those who consciously open their heart, that he loves them. The impact of the stream of healing love will become so powerful and irresistible that even the adversaries of Christ, the followers of the synagogue of satan, will in the end worship and recognize that Christ loves the community in Philadelphia.
Schult (p.76) points out that the symbol of the key of David refers to Isaiah (22: 20-22) where God lays the key of the house of David on Eliakim’s shoulder ‘so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open.’ Also Peter receives after his confession that Jesus is the Messiah the key to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:19).
Philadelphia mirrors Smyrna
Many words spoken to Philadelphia remind one of those spoken to Smyrna (Schult, p.79). But in Philadelphia things have developed further. The community of Smyrna is not able to overcome the synagogue of satan, but in Philadelphia the Christ force resists the attacks from the synagogue of satan. Christ says to Smyrna: Do not fear those things which you will suffer! and to Philadelphia: I will keep you for the hour of temptation which shall come upon the whole world. And the community in Smyrna gets the promise of the crown of life: Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life, while the community in Philadelphia already wears the crown: Hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.’
In the sixth cultural period of Philadelphia, the Persian wisdom of Zarathustra, experienced in the second cultural period of Smyrna, will emerge in a new form. Instead of seeing in the sensory perceptible world something that is dead, one will start to understand that what Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao has expressed itself in everything that surrounds us (Steiner, GA 104a, p.93).
The pillar in the temple of God
The symbol of the pillar in the temple of God is referring to the very important step of the priest ordination, according to Schult (p.80). He which is made to a pillar in the temple no longer has to leave the temple and has become a priest. In antiquity the pillar was a symbol of the erect standing man which has become a royal priest. It represents the ideal of the Philadelphia man.
When man receives a living entry to his own divine core, to the original image of how he was created, he goes from the state of being a spectator of the divine being to one living in the divine spirit. At that moment the higher self enters the sphere of life forces which transforms and illuminates the life forces. The life forces are changed into the life spirit, the Buddhi, and with this transformation man receives the priest ordination. This is the way how everyone, who is ready to walk on the path of truth and purification is ordained to priesthood, as a result of the direct spiritual connection with the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ (Schult, p.75). This is how the Christ discloses the general royal priesthood for humanity in Philadelphia.
In John 10 Jesus explains the meaning of the Christian priest ordination by presenting the image of the good Shepherd. The shepherd is the image of the priestly man. Selfless love is the basic condition of any true priestly activity. The good Shepherd (John 10:9) says: I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. I am the door, means: My I is the door, if someone enters through my I (which corresponds with our higher Selfs), he will be able to go freely in and out. This is, according to Schult, the same door as the door mentioned in the letter to Philadelphia.
The heavenly Jerusalem
Schult (p.80) further explains some characteristics of the new or heavenly Jerusalem. Later additional elements will also be described. The pillars in the temple, the royal priestly men, will carry the names of the Father god, the Son god and the Spirit god and the name of the heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is also called in the Apocalypse: the bride and the Spirit. The new Jerusalem is the spiritualized Earth and Cosmos at the end of times. This means that at the end of times Man and Cosmos exist as realized ideas. The priestly and royal man will participate in the life of the threefold God.
The manifestation of brotherhood
Schult (p.77) sees the letter to Philadelphia submerged in the brotherhood love that will be the characteristic of the future Jupiter era. Yet this Philadelphia community has little strength (Luke 12:32). Christ does not create a physical kingdom on Earth that is large and powerful and culturally dominant. He does not want to force man with external will power to follow him because this would ruin the subtle inner processes in man. Opening up for the love of Christ does not only purify our own soul, it also illuminates and heals the other people and the world. He says to them ‘I am in you and you are in me’ (John 17:23). Steiner (GA 97, p.287) summarizes the impact of the flowing of Christ’s love: ‘where love between people supersedes their opinions brotherhood starts’.
Steiner furthermore says on 24 June 1908: the community of Philadelphia will not be a small group of people that will spread over the Earth to prepare the future. It will be like people found at many places where social networks are based on the Christ love principle, which is not limited to any Christian church community.