A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
In addition to the comments I’ve received concerning my answer to the question about Reformed Theology, I’ve also been asked to interpret Rev. 3:9.
I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Who are those who claim to be Jews but are not? Since Revelation 2-3 applies to the entire Church age, the Lord may have been referring to more than one group. Here are several candidates.
In Romans 2:28-29 Paul wrote, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”
In Paul’s day there were many who had been born into the Jewish race and circumcised as a sign of the covenant, but according to him were not really Jews because there was no inner substance to complement their outer form. It was this kind of Jew the Lord had earlier condemned saying, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) People like this were among the first to persecute the early Church. They called the believers apostates, drove them out of Jerusalem, and tried valiantly to prevent the growth of the Church. It’s easy to see how they could be called the synagogue of Satan, but are there others?
Among Christians, there is a school of thought called Replacement Theology, sometimes known as Supersessionism. This view holds that when the Jews crucified the Messiah all the promises God had made to Israel were transferred to the Church. They claim the New Covenant has superseded the Old, hence the term supersessionism. The Jews are neither God’s chosen people any longer, nor does He have any specific future plans for the nation of Israel. The Bible’s prophecies concerning the future blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land have been allegorized into promises of blessing for the Church.
Elements of replacement theology can be found in Church writings as early as the 2nd Century, but it was the 16th Century emergence of a system of thought called Reformed Theology that’s most responsible for it becoming a mainstream Protestant belief today. This, in spite of the fact that many of the early Reformers – including John Calvin (but not Martin Luther) – wrote about the nation of Israel one day being restored by the grace of God and experiencing a national regeneration. Today Calvin’s position is clearly in the minority among Reformed Theologians. Some scholars believe that Jesus may have been including advocates of replacement theology among those who say they are Jews but are not because they’ve claimed the promises God made to Israel for themselves.
By the way, the term “Synagogue of Satan” doesn’t mean the groups I’m describing are necessarily Satan worshipers. But we must understand that there are only two sides to the issue of Israel’s destiny. One is God’s and the other is Satan’s. Those who don’t consciously support God’s plan for His people are supporting Satan’s by default and are therefore of the synagogue of Satan.
The Sword Of Islam
Among Moslems there’s a view that since Ishmael was Abraham’s first-born son, he’s the rightful beneficiary of God’s covenant with Abraham. Therefore the Promised Land belongs to his descendants, not Isaac’s. Others say that even if the inheritance does pass through Isaac, the current residents of Israel are the descendants of European converts to Judaism. They’re the sons of Gentiles, not Isaac, and have no claim to the Land. Whether they adhere to one view or the other, Moslems agree that at the End of the Age Jesus will come back with Mohammed and help him rid the land of any remaining Jews. They say even the rocks and the trees will get involved saying, “O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This would certainly qualify them for membership in the synagogue of Satan.
The Blood Of Ephraim
Then there’s the Mormon Church, with its members claiming to be descendants of the tribe of Ephraim (some include Manasseh as well) who escaped from the Babylonian destruction by sailing boats to the Americas. Theirs is the Temple of God, they say, and on land they’ve purchased in Kirtland, Missouri the New Jerusalem will stand. Every practicing Mormon receives a patriarchal blessing that reveals his or her lineage in the House of Israel.
Historically Mormons have referred to themselves as Israel, and we who are not members are called Gentiles. When I lived in Salt Lake City (called Zion by Mormons) and brought Jewish men like Gershon Solomon of the Temple Mount Faithful, and Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute to our ministry to teach us about the coming Temple, I took delight in shocking them by saying they had come to the only place in the world where a Jew is considered to be a Gentile. Officially, Mormons claim to be Jews but are not.
By the way, according to Mormon eschatology, a Mormon leader will appear on a white horse at a time when the US constitution hangs by a thread, to save America and restore peace to the world.
So here are several groups who claim to be Jews but are not. What does God have to say about this?
The Word Of God
It seems like just about everyone is claiming the inheritance promised to Israel. But what does God say? Has Israel been rejected because of her disloyalty, to be replaced by the Church or some other group?
This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:37)
Why does Israel serve a future purpose in God’s plan, after what she’s done in the past?
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:22-23)
Will the Lord bring His people back to the land He promised them?
I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:14-15)
This regathering began 62 years ago. One day soon the Lord will reveal Himself to Israel by destroying a huge Moslem force arrayed against them. Then He’ll complete the regathering, not leaving any behind (Ezekiel 39:22). He’ll protect those who are His through the End Times judgments (Jere. 30:11) and open their eyes to finally recognize that Jesus is their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) before the 2nd Coming.
Will Israel once again be the pre-imminent nation on Earth?
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:22-23)
What role will the rocks and the trees really play in this? Speaking to Israel God said,
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
So once again we see the contrast between man’s view and God’s view.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Think about it. How can we believe that God will keep all His promises to us, while at the same time believing that he broke all His promises to Israel? Sure, they don’t deserve His loyalty, but then again, what makes us think that we do?
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)
The answer is obviously no, and that’s a good thing, because we’re betting our eternal destiny on His trustworthiness. Watching Him perform on His promises to Israel gives us great comfort, because by the time we know for sure that He’s going to perform on His promises to us, it’ll be too late for us to do anything about it. But He will do all that He has promised, and that includes having those who didn’t take Him at His word where Israel is concerned come and fall at our feet and acknowledge that He has loved us. Selah 04-10-10