Uprooted by the Lie


Revelation 2:8-9

“And to the messengers of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich, and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

Don’t you feel uneasy about these words and uneasy about the Jewish people being called the synagogue of Satan? But wait. You are going to feel very good about them and you are going to love Israel and the Jews even more after we read this text in the framework of history and with the backdrop of the Scriptures.

Smyrna is the persecuted church. Her name means myrrh which is the symbol of sacrifice and death. In the Targums, the Temple was called the Mountain of Myrrh (Song 4:6) for this was the place of sacrifice. In the Brit Chadasha (New Testament), it symbolized the death of the Messiah.

The question we ask here is: Who was persecuting this good congregation of Smyrna? These persecutors have been clearly identified by the Messiah Himself. These are the ones who say they are Jews and are not, but a synagogue of Satan.


So Who are They?

The vast majority of Gentile commentaries on this passage, those throughout the last 2000 years, including those in our day, say that those who say they are Jews but are not, are those Jewish unbelievers who are part of the Jewish synagogue. They based their conclusions on passages like the one found in Romans 9:6b which says, For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, or the one from Romans 2:28, For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly.

They think that they are now the new Jews, and the people of Israel became the false Jews. This is the great irony of the history of the church when those who are accusing others of being false Jews, may very well be the ones who are the pretenders and the usurpers.

First, looking at these two Roman passages, Paul was making a distinction, not between Jews verses Gentiles, but Jewish believers in Yeshua and the other Jews who were not believers. He was fighting the Judaizers who pretended to be the real Jews.


Time for a Definition

When we define a Jew, we recognize that they are a people. Jewish is not a faith, it is not a title or a mission, it is a people with a definite ancestry. They could be good or bad, but the title of the deed is not transferable. If I am a Jew, it is because I am a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not because I choose to be a Jew, nor it is based on what I believe.

And notice that we must include Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into our definition and not Abraham only. We mention this because of another verse they quote, found in Galatians 3:7 which says, Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. Paul is here addressing those of faith, not of physical ancestry, for the Edomites were also descendants of Abraham. If you believe you are a son of Abraham, that does not make you a Jew. You must be descended from Isaac and Jacob as well. The bible itself often divides the word into two people groups, Israel, and the nations.


Gentiles Who Pretend to be Jews: Replacement Theology

Now let us read what Yeshua says, the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. If they say they are Jews but they are not Jews, that means they are Gentiles who pretend to be Jews. Who today says they are Jews when they are not? Who today says they are Israel when they are not? Yet these are the ones who from the very beginning, have adopted replacement theology into their doctrinal stance, and throughout these 2000 years, they have become the persecutors of the Jews.


Who is Persecuting Who?

Church antisemitism stems from the fact that they think they are the new Israel and this is the growing trend today. How can they believe it is the Jews that Jesus is referring to? Afterall, who persecuted who in the last 2000 years? Was it the Jews who persecuted the church? After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Jews did not have the influence or power that is expected in order to persecute another. The Jews were not well tolerated in the Roman Empire. It was in 52 AD, when Claudius, the Caesar of the time, expelled the Jews from Rome. Earlier, in 19 AD, Jews were expulsed from Rome by Tiberius Caesar. Remembering Priscilla and Aquila, they too were victims of the last expulsion.

Suetonius, the Roman historian wrote that the emperors “ordered them out of the city of Rome, under the penalty of being permanently enslaved if they disobeyed.”

You would think they had the time or the power to persecute others. Some have gone to great lengths to find a big Jewish community in Smyrna in order to authenticate the false fact that there was a dynamic (anti-church) synagogue presence, but these same words which we find in Revelation 2:9 were also used in Revelation 3:9 describing the church of Philadelphia, yet they were unable find any large community in this Turkish location.


Double Taxed

By the time of the apostle John’s writings, the Jews were always considered a community apart. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, all Jews, from all over the Roman Empire, were forced to pay a special tax, the fiscus Judaicus, the Jewish Tax. Revenues were given to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome, and they made sure that the Jews also paid the same amount toward the Jerusalem Temple Tax.

Some will say that Revelation 2:8-9 refer to the Judaizers, but this group was only there at the time of Paul, James and Peter, but they soon after disappeared from the scene, or at least they became small groups with no influence at all.


Preaching at a Synagogue of Satan?

So, to say that the synagogue of Satan are the Jewish people is to be blind of history. And let me ask you, would Paul go to a synagogue of Satan to preach? Yet, every time he went to a city, he preached at a synagogue. Even more, would Jesus preach at a synagogue of Satan? He preached in synagogues, and He attended a synagogue in Nazareth during His youth.

Even Epictetus, a Greek philosopher who lived in Rome around the time when Revelation was penned understood that those Gentiles who pretended to be Jews, were not Jews at all. He wrote, “He is not a Jew, he is only acting the part” (Epictetus, Diatribai 2.9.20).

Remember the Didache (written around the first to second century)? This the oldest known handbook of doctrine and biblical living written. This book was filled with advice against the persecutors of the church, like false teachers, false apostles, false prophets, yet the name Jew is not even mentioned once.


Getting a Proper Definition

Those who say they are Jews but are a synagogue of Satan, are those who hate Israel and her people and think of themselves as the new Israel. And don’t think for a moment that the Jews today are not aware of these false accusations against them.  In the Encyclopedia of Judaism, under the heading of Antisemitism, it has this to say concerning Replacement Theology:  “The young church, therefore, which declared itself to be the true Israel, or “Israel according to the spirit,” heir to the divine promises, found it essential to discredit the “Israel according to the flesh,” to prove that God had cast away His people and transferred His love to the Christians.”

This is the theology of many Christian sects, of the Catholics and the majority of the Protestants. And secular Jews are privy to this.


Take-Over Repeated

But this take over is nothing new. In biblical history, there was always someone even a brother who wanted to take over the blessings from someone else.

  • Like Cain who wanted to take Abel’s inheritance.
  • Like Esau who wanted to take Jacob’s inheritance.
  • Like Ishmael who wanted to take Isaac’s inheritance. Even today, this ideology is at the foundation of Islam.
  • Like the 10 older brothers of Joseph who wanted to take his inheritance.
  • Like Herod who wanted to take Jesus’ place.
  • Like Laodicea ruled by the Nicolaitans who wants to take Israel’s inheritance.

All these, says Jesus, are liars.


A Growing Protestant Phenomenon

And we see this growing phenomenon in the Protestant world. Replacement theology is based on two premises:

(1) God has permanently rejected National Israel, and

(2) the church has replaced or superseded Israel in God’s plan.

The end result is that the church has become the inheritor of God’s covenant blessings originally given to Israel, and Israel will not be restored as a nation with a distinct identity and function. With this view Israel becomes a hindrance to world progress and an obstacle to God’s plan for humanity.

This is from where Christian Antisemitism stems. Therefore Jews were persecuted and killed these last 2000 years in the name of Christ. It is very well known that Jews were much better treated by the Moslems than by the nominal Christians these past 2000 years. Sadly, this belief is the one that is growing so fast in the churches today, even in our province of Quebec.