Synagogue of Satan
In Three Parts
Jesus Warns Of False Jews
If you have ever read the book of Revelation, you’ve probably come across the phrase “the synagogue of Satan.” We have heard of the church of Satan, but we don’t hear much about the synagogue of Satan. Do not confuse the two. One overtly worships Satan, the other, covertly.
The true Church of Jesus Christ would never knowingly give the church of Satan a place of influence. However, we have allowed the synagogue of Satan to have a rather prominent place. In some areas, it actually dictates parts of our theology.
Do you think it is possible for a true Christian to aid and support the synagogue of Satan? Would a Christian even know if they were? At the end of this study, you will know.
To the Church at Smyrna, Jesus said,
Rev. 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.(also Rev 3:9)
Those who blasphemously say they are Jews and are not, comprise what Jesus calls the synagogue of Satan. What is a synagogue? It is a gathering for the purpose of worship, prayer and study. If it is a synagogue of Satan, what is it? It is a gathering of men who worship, pray to and study the deep things of Satan(Rev. 2:24), the Adversary of God.
Who would say they are Jews, although they really are not? Before we can answer that, we need to understand the Biblical definition of “Jew.”
Definition of Jew
The term “Jew” as used in the NT is the Greek (Strongs, g2453), Ἰουδαῖος Ioudaios. This word means, Judaean, as in belonging to Judah. This word should be translated, Judean. It can signify tribal descent or it can refer to cultural affiliation. There are other uses of the term ‘Jew’ or ‘Jews’ in the NT, which we will see later.
The apostle Paul informs us in Romans,
Rom. 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The true Judean is one whose heart has been circumcised. What does it mean to have a circumcised heart? The answer lies in the Law.
Before the Israelites went into the land of promise, Moses admonished them,
Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
To have a circumcised heart is to no longer be “stiffnecked,” but obedient to the voice and commandments of the Lord. Later, Moses instructs them that after they have returned from captivity, "The Lord thy God, will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." [Deut. 30:6]
The circumcised heart is not just an obedient heart but a heart that wholly loves the Lord God.
Is not the natural Jew circumcised in his flesh as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant? Yes, but still it is strictly a sign in the flesh. It affects the heart in no way, therefore it is not counted as true circumcision(Rom. 2:28). According to apostolic teaching, it is only the Jew who is circumcised in the heart who is counted as a true Jew.
According to Paul, the natural unbelieving Jew’s circumcision is reckoned as mutilation (concision). In Phil. 3:2-3, he says,
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
The believers in Christ are counted as the true circumcision. Those who are truly circumcised,
- 1) worship God in the Spirit,
- 2) Rejoice in Christ Jesus and,
- 3) Have no confidence in the flesh.
Those who trust in the circumcision of their flesh, Paul characterizes as dogs (unclean), evil workers, and mutilators of their flesh. They do not worship God in spirit and truth, nor do they rejoice in Christ Jesus, and finally they place all their confidence in their flesh (their works and identity in the flesh).
This is why Jesus calls out those who “say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.” By Jesus’ own estimation, those who claim to be Jews based solely on their physical descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are not true Jews, due to their lack of true circumcision, which is of the heart, not the flesh.
According to New Testament teaching, one is not counted a Jew just because of a genetic connection to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To be counted a true Jew, they must also be circumcised of heart. This does not mean when a gentile becomes a believer in Christ, he becomes a true or spiritual Jew. In Scriptural terms, there is no such thing as a “spiritual Jew.” This is never the teaching of the NT. Remember what the apostle Paul said in Galatians 3,
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In Christ, there is no Jew or Greek/Gentile, male or female, free or bond. Those who claim the name of Jesus and yet still boast in their claimed Jewish descent are deluding themselves and ignoring apostolic teaching.
Paul was what could be called “a Jew’s Jew.” He reminds the Philippians,
3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Paul was well advanced in the Jew’s religion, i.e., Pharisaism (Gal. 1:13-14). However, he was willing to count as dung all his Jewish advantages in order to gain Christ.
All this is to distinguish between those who claim to be Jews, strictly by their natural genetic connection, and those who have been circumcised of heart. The real Jew is one who is a follower of Christ Jesus.
Who are these who say they are Jews and are not? They can only be those who have a claim to a Jewishness, but do not fit the NT qualification of a circumcised heart. These can only be those Pharisaic Jews who stood in opposition to Jesus and His Community of Disciples at every turn. According to our opening text, the ones who say they are Jews but are not, are the synagogue of Satan. Knowing that Satan means accuser or adversary, then they will do the work of Satan, their spiritual father.
Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said,
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. [John 8:44]
Jesus admitted that these Pharisees were physically descended from Abraham (John 8:37), but spiritually, they were not of the faith of Abraham, but of the seed of Satan. Later, Jesus makes this even clearer.
In Matthew 23:33, He said to these Pharisees,
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
generation - g1081. γέννημα gennēma; from 1080; offspring; by analogy, produce (literally or figuratively): — fruit, generation, brood.
brood - 1). a number of young produced or hatched at one time; a family of offspring or young. 2). a breed, species, group, or kind:
According to the witness of Jesus, the Pharisees were viewed as having Satan as their spiritual father. Jesus stated that the deeds of their father they would do, which was being a murderer and a liar.
1 Thess. 2
14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
In many instances in the New Testament, especially in the latter part of the Gospel of John, the term “the Jews” refers to the leadership of the people, as it does in this instance. This leadership would constitute the Pharisees, Sadducees, or we could just call it the Sanhedrin Council. We also see that according to Mark 7:3, all Jews/Judeans followed the doctrine and practice of the Pharisees.
These ‘Jews’ killed the Lord Jesus, their own prophets and persecuted the apostles. In so doing they please not God and are “contrary to all men.”
Contrary to all men - they are antagonistic, hostile to all men. They are contrary to all men, in that they forbid them from entering the Kingdom of God and His Christ.
1Thess. 2:16 “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved”
Just two verses later in 1 Thess. 2:18, Paul is speaking about trying to come to them "once and again", but "Satan hindered us." He just noted that the Jews were "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles," then he says, "Satan hindered us." Who hindered Paul from coming to the Thessalonians? Satan did through his children, the Pharisaic Jews.
Matt. 23:13 “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”
The Pharisaic Jews forbade the apostles to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. They sought to hinder the gospel or kill the apostles every chance they could(Acts 4:14-18; 12:1-3; 13:45,50; 14:2,19; 17:5-8,13; 18:5-6; 19:12-13; 20:3,19; 21:11,27; 23:12; 25:7). The Council, desiring to halt the spread of the gospel, decreed,
Acts 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70, there was only one sect of Judaism left standing, Pharisaism. The Judaica Encyclopedia informs us,
With the destruction of the Temple (70 A.D.) the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Henceforth, Jewish life was regulated by the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older priestly tradition (Abot 1:1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. (Judaica Encyclopedia, 1905)
Again, it states,
The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees. Their leading ideas and methods found expression in a literature of enormous extent, of which a very great deal is still in existence. The Talmud is the largest and most important single piece of that literature ... and the study of it is essential for any real understanding of Pharisaism. (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1943)
Louis Finkelstein, a Talmudic scholar and leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, said this concerning Pharisaism being the foundation of today’s Rabbinic Judaism.
“The spread of a modified Pharisaism to the ends of the earth has fortunately not prevented the endurance throughout the centuries of the unchanged faith, in Rabbinic Judaism. Pharisaism became Talmudism, Talmudism became Medieval Rabbinism, and Medieval Rabbinism became Modern Rabbinism. But throughout these changes of name, inevitable adaptation of custom, and adjustment of Law, the spirit of the ancient Pharisee survives unaltered.”
(Louis Finkelstein, The Pharisees, the sociological background of their faith, xx-xxi, 1938)[emphasis added]
Mr. Finkelstein states that the “spirit of the ancient Pharisee survives unaltered” in today’s Judaism. Modern rabbis are following the same traditions as those Pharisees of Jesus’ day. These early oral traditions were set down in writing about AD 500, and are known as the Talmud.
The Jewish historian Josephus, says this concerning the Pharisees,
What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; (Antiquities 13.10.6)
It is admitted “a great many” of the observances of the Pharisees, and hence modern Judaism, are not taken from the Written Word of God, but come from their own traditions. This should make it clear that the Old Testament is not the focus of modern Judaism’s faith. It is the traditions of the rabbis as found in the Talmud. The Talmud is Judaism’s holiest book, not the Old Covenant writings.
“The Pharisees are important for two reasons. First, the Gospels portray them as one of the principle opposition groups to Jesus. Second, Judaism as we know it generally traces its roots back to the Pharisees.”
(Rabbi Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1984, p.45)