In Monday’s edition of Israel Today an article appeared addressing “the synagogue of Satan” which is found in the Book of Revelation when the Lord Jesus wrote His letter to the assembly at Smyrna. Tragically, this phrase has been used by those into replacement theology to ‘dam’ and ‘denigrate’ the Jewish people. Martin Luther, who became an outspoken and somewhat rabid anti-Semite at the end of his life, wrote a book titled “The Jews and Their Lies.” A sad ending for such a stalwart of the faith!
Of course in its context “the synagogue of Satan” is referring to those who professed to be of the faith of Abraham but were not and persecuted those who remained faithful to the apostle’s doctrine. (Revelation 2:9; 3:9) “The Synagogue of Satan” had nothing to do with physical Jews but everything to do with all those who professed to have faith but rejected the teaching of the apostles. Remember a true Jew was considered to be one who had been spiritually circumcisewd in their heart by the Holy Spirit and whose praise was not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)
We see an example of those who were of the Synagogue of Satan in John’s first letter where he identifies those who were once part of the fellowship but had left the assembly because they had doctrines that did not line up with what the apostles were teaching, especially concerning the deity of the Messiah. They were in fact denying the deity of the Lord Jesus and had embraced the spirit of antichrist. (1 John2:18-23)
With this matter in view I wanted to state at the outset that the first century Body of the Messiah was Jewish at its very roots. It was not a ‘Gentile movement’ as such but a Jewish movement. The apostles never saw the Body of the Messiah as a separate entity from Biblical Mosaic Judaism, but a completion of it having been fully realised in the Messiah, being the true vine and the fullest personification and manifestation of what God intended Israel to be like.
When Moses appeared before Pharaoh God said through Moses concerning Israel; “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is My firstborn son.” (Exodus 4:22) In the New Testament the Messiah our Lord Jesus is called God’s “Firstborn.” In reference to Israel coming out of Egypt and to the Lord Jesus coming out of Egypt with his parents, Matthew writes; “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” (Matthew 2:15) The Body of the Messiah is also called “the Assembly of the Firstborn.” (Hebrews 12:23)
The Lord Jesus was Jewish and the perfect and complete fulfilment of the Torah. He was in fact the Torah in a flesh and blood human body. (John 1:1-3, 14) He was in fact the invisible eternal and supreme Elohim made visible. (Colossians 1:15-20) The Lord Jesus Himself is the true vine and the root that supports the Olive Tree (Israel) with its natural and engrafted branches being Jewish and Gentile believers in Him, made “one new man” in Him, and clearly seen in the New Testament as the Commonwealth of Israel. (Romans 11:17-18) (Ephesians 2:11-22)
There is no indication in the New Testament that the ‘Christian Church’ was established as a separate entity from Israel. Denominations were never in God’s mind nor were they ever approved of or mentioned in the New Testament. Thanks to Constantine’s ‘brand’ of Christianity, influenced by Hellenistic Greek minded ‘theology,’ this thinking of replacement theology really kicked in thanks to Augustine.
When Paul wrote to the assembly at Rome already there was a division occurring between the Jewish and Gentile believers which had been brought about after Emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from Rome. (Acts 18:2) Paul set the record straight concerning this matter. He wrote; “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:28-30)
The law is upheld by faith because a living faith produces obedience to God’s Torah and it is only possible through the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) (Romans 2:28-29) Abraham is the father of all who believe whether they are Jew or Gentile. (Romans 4:11-16) The righteous commandments of the Torah are written by the Spirit on tablets of flesh being the human spirit of a believer. (1 Corinthians 6:17)
Neither Paul nor the apostles ever taught that Gentile assemblies were somehow separate from Messianic assemblies. The truth is they saw the Gentile assemblies as an extension and by inclusion a part of the Commonwealth of Israel and not a separate entity from Israel.
The first century Body of the Messiah was Jewish at its very roots but there were exceptions made for Gentile believers in certain ceremonial matters especially concerning enforced circumcision. (Acts 15:1-29) Having said all of this we must not discount the fact that because of the blood covenant cut with Abraham and with his physical descendants’ the Jewish people Israel will be fully restored nationally and spiritually in the Messianic age to come. To this the prophets testify!
God never intended ‘Christendom’ to replace Biblical Judaism. True Messianic Judaism of Torah is not Gentile believers trying to dress up like Jews or imitate Jewish customs, but believers in the Messiah, both natural and engrafted believing branches that fully complete Biblical Judaism and are spiritually nourished by the root, being the Messiah Himself, the True Vine! (John 15:1-8)
Those who ‘dump’ the Jews into ‘the basket’ labelled “the Synagogue of Satan” do not understand to whom the Lord Jesus was referring to in His letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia when He mentions the Synagogue of Satan. Biblically defined, “the Synagogue of Satan” is all those within wider Christendom, who have a form of godliness outwardly, but deny its power to change them down on the inside and who oppose those who adhere to apostolic doctrine as revealed in the New Testament. (2 Timothy 3:1-9)
We always need to keep in mind that the Lord Jesus looks upon the motives of a person’s heart whether one is Jewish or Gentile ethnically. God does not show partiality in the matter of salvation but welcomes all those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35) Just because there are individual Jewish people who reject the Messiah does not mean that God has finished with Israel. If this was the case then He would most certainly be finished with Christendom! How many are there within wider Christendom today who do not follow apostolic doctrine as taught in the New Testament but are teaching for doctrines the commandments and religious traditions of man?
As for the nation of Israel, a time is coming when the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to His Jewish brothers and sisters in the flesh. It will be a remnant that will come to faith in Him. In that day every Jew still living on earth will be saved! (Zechariah 12:10-14) (Romans 11:25-27)