The Vision of the

Church in Philadelphia

Part 3

 

Revelation 3:7-13

 

7.        And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

 

8.        I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

 

9.        Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 

10.   Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

 

11.   Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

 

12.   Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

 

13.   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. KJV


 

Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 

 

A Corrupt Church

 

“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.”  This verse reads much differently in the literal expanded Greek version as, “Beware, understand, and perceive for your own self-interest, with an earnest, continued inspection.   I have smitten with my hand those from the assembly who assemble themselves together for entertainment of the accuser.  These ones are relating in words, through a systematic discourse, that they themselves are of the praise of Yahweh, (but they are not); instead they utter an untruth and attempt to deceive by falsehood, (for their own self interest).

 

This is a warning to the believers in Philadelphia.  There will be false brethren in this age who claim to be true worshippers but are false.  Many of them assemble themselves every Sunday morning for what they call “church services” but have concept of what true fellowship is.  Thinking themselves to be religious, many are on the broad path leading to destruction.  There are countless others whose profess the name of Christ, but are lukewarm, and a part of the church of Laodicea.  .  Few find the narrow way that leads to eternal life. 

 

 Except Philadelphia, the church in Smyrna was the only other church age to receive the same warning regarding false brethren (aka “the synagogue of Satan”).  Smyrna was the church age during the end of the first through the third century AD.  They were persecuted and killed for their faith by the Roman government and through the hands of Jewish zealots.    These faithful martyrs had even been betrayed by their own so-called Christian brethren.

 

Deception and imposters have always been among the flock of God.  There are intruders in the body of Christ.  These so-called believers assemble together more for the purpose of “entertainment” (see literal version above).  Their church services are structured and designed unbeknownst to them with the help of the accuser (Satan). 

 

Satan is a clever adversary; his policy is, “If you can’t fight them, join them.”  He slithers in among those weak in faith, but strong in pride, and does whatever is necessary to enhance their ego.

Churches today are viewed as institutions and with meeting places engineered for comfort and elegance.  Their gaudy and ornate television props, their plush padded church pews, and all the tinsel they adorn themselves and their edifices with is all for entertainment.

 

In America this is particularly true because there are so many churches, “who assemble themselves together for entertainment.”  A great percentage of these churches and their members are doing nothing more than appeasing their own conscience with religious liturgy and rituals.  Some of these religious ceremonies are in the form of legalistic man-made “do’s” and “don’ts.”   Others are more flamboyant and fanatical. 

 

Rather than gathering together for the purpose of body ministry to` edify and equip the believers for the work of the ministry, churches today have services and programs which amount to little more than amusement.  There is no group participation, only a ‘one-man’ sermon and the distraction of preplanned music and the clanging of collection plates.  They fail to heed the command in 1 Corinthians 14:26:

 

·         1 Corinthians 14:26 What is {the outcome} then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.  (NAS)

 

Churches today have become too much like a business corporation.  In fact, most churches ARE a corporation, with a 501 C-3, tax exempt, non-profit status.  Sunday is the highlight of the week, but personal friendships are rarely developed on an intimate and active basis.  Can the Lord Jesus be pleased at this?  Jesus called His disciples “friends”(READ Luke 12:4; John 15:14-15). 

 

God set a pattern for us to follow through Jesus’ example.  We also see this same example expressed in the early church; believers were a community of people that knew each other as friends (READ Acts 10:24; 27:3; 3 John 1:14)

 

In many churches the emphasis is on giving the money to the church in the form of “tithes and offerings.”  For the most part, this practice amounts to nothing more than pure greed.  What happens to the money that is given to the church?  Is it used to help the widows and the orphans (READ James 1:25-27)?  Is the money used to help single moms struggling to get by?  Is it used to help the elderly, to care for the sick, to take in the stranger, or visit those in prison?  No!  It is used to maintain the building facilities, church programs, and staff salaries. 

 

Some of the false brethren meet in grand cathedrals, adorned with glass, plush carpet, and ornate icons.  But most importantly, all of this religious entertainment is prevalent in what we will call “organized” Christianity (i.e. - church buildings, non-profit organizations, pará-church groups, etc.).

 

True friends would never ignore the needs of their brethren as so many Christian churches do today.  Are churches today actively reaching out to help the poor, the downtrodden, the drug addict, the prostitute, latchkey teens and troublemakers? 

 

Is it any wonder that the world laughs at Christianity?  People turn on Christian television and watch people dressed in Armani suits and pleading for more money.  They sell books, tapes, videos, CD’s, prayer cloths, medallions, and all kinds of junk!  Adding insult to the injury of the blessed Name, these ministers of avarice have the audacity to conduct frequent “pledge” programs to bolster their non-profit television business.  Gag!

 

The Philadelphia church is commanded to keep, “an earnest, continued inspection,” with regards to these greedy, lukewarm and selfish imposters in the church.  Some of these so-called believers are on Christian radio stations, having set themselves up as judge and jury of who is, or is not, a Christian, and are being used by the devil (i.e.-the accuser) to divide the body of Christ over trivial points of mainstream doctrine.  These men are like the Pharisees of old, who used man-made orthodoxy and self-righteous traditions to condemn the righteous. 

 

These false brethren attempt to use a “systematic” form of theology to validate themselves, while all along they accuse others.  God says their utterances are “falsehood” and “an attempt to “deceive by falsehood” (see literal version above).  Like Christ’s accusers, they are motivated by jealousy, religious pride, arrogance, egotism and the love of money. 

 

The leaders of the Jews were jealous of Jesus because he exposed their hypocrisy, and used the truth to set Israel free from bondage to religious servitude.  Unlike many self-proclaimed messiahs of the day, Jesus spoke as one having authority.  God was with the man Christ Jesus, and bore witness to his teaching and life through signs and wonders and miracles.

 

 Pastors, ministers and other clergy today are much like the Pharisees in the days of Jesus; nothing in the heart of man has really changed.  They watch helplessly as their church members are released from the bondage of lukewarm Christianity, abandoning the sterile environment of pew lined churches for the warmth of meeting together as small groups in homes or coffee houses.

 

Many of these clerics are losing a significant amount of their congregation as individual believers in their churches witness the believers of the church of Philadelphia in action.  Philadelphia is comprised of both educated and uneducated men and women who are mighty in the scriptures; they love the word of God, and guard its’ truth with their very lives.

 

Jesus’ apostles were easily distinguished by the self-righteous hypocrites of the day.  They need look no further than the public places; the markets, the squares, the city gates, the synagogues, and wherever people congregate.  Like their Master, they stayed busy with their Father’s business.  They were those men and women recognized and identified as having been with Jesus (READ Acts 4:8-22).   

 

When church denominations lose members, it also means a substantial drop in giving.  This can lead to financial ruin and disaster if the trend is not dramatically reversed.  They will try new programs, new music, guest speakers, remodeling of the church, renewal and revival meetings to entice people to attend their services and give money to their cause.

 

A day is coming however when the true people of God will tire of the programs and Christian entertainment.  Church services and programs cannot fulfill the longing of the heart for love and fellowship.  When the American and world economy collapses, and takes with it many of the church institutions, those hungering after righteousness and love will flock to the believers in Philadelphia.

 

Satan will not take “no” for an answer, and when the time comes, he will do all that is in his authority and power to destroy God’s people.  When the church organizations he helped establish begin to wane, and their demise is on the horizon, he will aggressively mount a frontal assault against God’s elect.

 

The clergy and religious institutions that suffer financial loss will unite together to fight Philadelphia.  This will cause them to become even more vicious in their betrayal of their brethren who proclaim and practice the truth without seeking financial gain (READ Isaiah 66:1-6).  This is what happened when China fell into the hands of the Communist regime.  The mainline churches united, as the Three-Self Patriotic Church; government approved and sponsored churches were the only ones legally allowed to meet.  Illegal homes meetings were flourishing (and still are), but at the cost of the blood of many martyrs.

 

In due time God will bring the accusers of the brethren before Jesus, who has cherished His bride, (the church in Philadelphia), and they will “prostrate” themselves in shame for accusing God’s elect.  At that time, they will know “absolutely” that the Philadelphian church was “emphatically loved” by Jesus (see literal Greek version of Revelation 3:9 above).  Perhaps some of the false brethren will include those on judgment day that Jesus warned of:    

 

·         Matthew 7:21-23 ”Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (NAS)

 

“Behold (beware)…”

 

·         Revelation 3:9 - “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie…”

 

In Revelation 3:9 (KJV) the word “Behold” in Greek it is a demonstrative particle meaning, “Lo and behold!”   It serves to call attention to something external or exterior to oneself.  Jesus is saying, “Watch out; pay attention to everything around you; carefully inspect and appraise what people say and do.  Be aware and cognizant of all that happens around you.”

 

·         1 Thessalonians 5:21 But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.  AMP

 

The Philadelphia church is commanded to “call attention to something” that is happening all about them, particularly with regards to deceivers.  The believers who make up the Philadelphia church must “beware” of the false brethren and a lukewarm commitment.  Jesus warned believers from all ages about those who pose as believers, but are, in fact, deceivers:

 

·         Matthew 7:13-23  “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.  Beware (understand, and perceive... with an earnest, continued inspection) of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn {bushes,} nor figs from thistles, are they?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’  (NAS)

 

The verse above gives clear instruction, “Beware, understand, and perceive... with an earnest, continued inspection.”  Jesus commands us to watch for false prophets who disguise themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing.  This is the equivalent of the warning given to Philadelphia regarding false brethren, “who assemble themselves together for entertainment of the accuser.”

 

False brethren are people who play ‘church’ in the name of ‘Christianity.’  They relate to Christ in words, through a systematic discourse (i.e. – doctrine), and claim to be the ”the praise of Yahweh.” However, these are not true disciples of Jesus; instead they utter an untruth and attempt to “deceive by falsehood, (for their own self interest).”

 

·         Revelation 3:9b (literal version) - I have smitten with my hand those from the assembly who assemble themselves together for entertainment of the accuser.  These ones are relating in words, through a systematic discourse, that they themselves are of the praise of Yahweh, (but they are not); instead they utter an untruth and attempt to deceive by falsehood, (for their own self interest).”

 

How can we to discern true believers from the false?  Today, if you say something negative about those groups or individuals whom you believe are not true Christians, many accuse you of “judging” them falsely.  They say you are being too harsh and unloving.  Certainly no one wants to judge another improperly, or be judged by another, without cause.  Jesus said:

 

·         Matthew 7:1-5  “Do not judge lest you be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”  (NAS)

 

The type of “judging” Jesus is mentions above is using one’s own SELF as the measuring rod, or standard, by which you pass judgment on another.  However, there is a type of discernment, or judging that we MUST do within the church to weed out behaviors and attitudes that will destroy one another.  The standard we judge others by is JESUS; if our life and/or their life does not match up to the words and life of the Master (Jesus) and what HE expects, we can and MUST judge them.

 

·         Romans 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  (NAS)

 

·         1 Corinthians 11:31-32 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.  (NAS)

 

Jesus said we could know the true believers, “...by their fruits.”  Just like you determine a good fruit tree from one which produces rotten fruit, outwardly there are ways to perceive whether or not someone is truly of, “the praise of Yahweh.”  It is simple; you discern someone’s walk by observing how he or she lives his or her life. 

 

·         Do they love? 

 

·         Are they patient? 

 

·         Are they kind to people, particularly the ‘down-and-outers’? 

 

·         Do they boast and talk about self, or do they seek to help and listen?

 

Consider the following verses of scripture and isolate the ‘fruit’ in a person’s life; thus you can determine whether or not they are true followers of Jesus:

 

·         Galatians 5:19-26 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.  (NAS)

 

Observing a man of woman of God as they perform mighty deed, including signs, wonders and miracles, is NOT discerning their true character.  These are mere external gifts.  The “gifts” of the spirit are not the same as the “fruit” of the spirit.  Gifts do not measure the quality of a person’s moral fiber.  Only the “fruit” of the spirit shows what a man or woman of God is on the inside.  Gifts are given; fruit is grown, cultivated and developed.

 

In nature, the farmer must do more than pick fruit when it ripens.  He must also prune dead braches, and the clip the sucker branches that are not fruit bearing.  God prunes us, and cuts out the dead wood of our ungodly passions and desires.  Considering WE are the fruit trees in this analogy, it HURTS to have a part of our ‘self’ cut off.  However, unless the diseased part is removed and burned in the fire of tribulation, the tree cannot bear good fruit, and the diseased limb can spread its destruction.

 

Spiritual nurturing is required to bear “god fruit.”  Our trees require the water of the word, and must be nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6).

 

In Philippians 3:2-3, 18-19 & Matthew 6:1-5, we see a direct connection to the context of Revelation 3:9.  Because Revelation 3:9 text is using “Jews” and “synagogues” to represent false brethren in the church, there are parallels between the Jews in Jesus’ day, and what is being practiced in Christianity in the 21st centuries. 

 

Below are some examples of false brethren:

 

·         Philippians 3:2 - Beware of the ‘dogs’ - a primary word; a dog ["hound"] (literally or figuratively): those who hound you like a wild dog; controlling men who rule their ministerial or even their pastoral position as though it was their empire by lording it over the flock.  These are men who hound people for their money, for prideful recognition, and other abuses.

 

·         Philippians 3:2 - Beware of the ‘evil workers’ - worthless, depraved, or injurious teachers; men who act as ministers, preachers, evangelists and pastors within the Christian churches.  Men who cause injury to those who follow their teaching; worthless toilers, working only to line their own pockets, or to build their own empires.

 

·         Philippians 3:3 - Beware of the false circumcision - a cutting down (off), i.e. mutilation (ironically): those who outwardly act ‘righteous’ through self-abasement; those who make a public spectacle of their own righteousness.  In the last days, this could include those who are involved with the ‘Messianic’ congregations; a movement of born-again believers who emphasize the importance of Jewish feast days, regulations, the Sabbaths, etc., thus bringing people back into the bondage of the Law. It also refers to Catholic, Episcopal and other church clergy who make so-called external sacrifices (e.g. – celibacy) symbolized by false circumcision.  It is also prevalent in the United Pentecostal Church, so-called ‘Apostolic’ churches, and other ultra strict churches that forbid women to use make-up or wear jewelry, or cut their hair, and enforce ridiculous dress codes, and whose ministers  ‘lord-it-over the flock of God.

 

·         Matthew 6:2, 5 - Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them - This is self-evident.  Throughout all church ages, and throughout all time, there have been those who desire to make a show of their pious and religious outward behavior.  These types of people have not truly been converted in their heart, but have a facade of self-righteousness to gain the acceptance and approval of others.  This is particularly prevalent in churches where legalistic dress codes, and other man-made regulations are strictly enforced.

 

As stated in the literal translation, today’s churches are those, “who assemble themselves together for entertainment.”  Entertainment?  The charismatic folks would object to such criticism, saying, “We meet to hear the pastor preach.  We meet to hear the choir sing, and we even sing along!  Aren’t we edifying one another?  Our church services are more alive,” they may respond.  Yes, that may be so, but has God called us to have church “services” or has He called us to edify one another?  Do you continue to bless God’s people throughout the week, or equate Christian fellowship with church attendance on Sunday?

 

The old mainline denominations do the same thing as the charismatic churches, albeit their “entertainment” comes in a much different package.  These often boast in the fact that their services have more “order.”  All this really means is that their services are more stiff and starchy, more boring, and a more lifeless form of entertainment.  They say, “But we have people in our congregation that minister every week.  The pastor preaches, the music ministry sings worship songs, and everyone enjoys it.” 

 

Just because the pastor preaches, and people listen to him, it does not mean every person fulfills their function in the body of Christ.  Singing songs from the hymnal, along with the church choir may be a form of praise, but it is not true worship as described in scripture.

 

This is not meant to be a bash session on God loving churches, but, rather, to cause believers to examine their church services in light of what scripture teaches.  Don’t the unsaved meet together hear their favorite speakers?  Don’t they meet to hear their favorite rock concerts, or other musical entertainment?  What significant difference (in terms of protocol) distinguishes church services as being uniquely Christian?

 

Many Christians will object to all of this criticism, saying, “But we sing songs about Jesus; that’s different than the world.”  Yes, the Christian church has its praise times, and believers sing the same songs every week, believing that this is true worship.  Certainly it feels good to praise the Lord together, but in most cases, even the best of music times becomes routine and passé.

 

Ask yourself this, “Does everyone with musical talent have the freedom and liberty to bring songs or psalms in music spontaneously during the song service?  Is each and every person individually interacting, functioning, speaking, sharing and to contributing to the overall edification? 

 

If your answer is, “Yes,” to the above line of questioning, consider this: Mutual edification refers to the talents and gifts of ALL of God’s people, not just those who minister in church services.  Since Sundays are usually the only time an entire congregation gathers in one place, WHEN does each member manifest their gift or talent?

 

And what of the pastor’s weekly sermon?  Sure, your pastor may be a great speaker, and he may bring excellent messages.   However, every Sunday morning the entire assembly of believers will sit passively listening to just one man’s interpretation of the scripture.  Most of the time there is little group interaction or input during the pastor’s sermons.  One dare not interrupt the pastor with questions, or comments of value during his blessed sermon time.

 

“Oh, we can do that at our small Wednesday night Bible study,” you say.  What of the entire assembly of believers?  What if the pastor is teaching something scripturally inaccurate?  No one is allowed to publicly give his or her objections, correction or input, because this would not be considered “proper.”  What is more important, church protocol, or revealing the truth?  Something is drastically wrong with this picture.

 

Consider what God’s word says should happen when we assemble together:

 

·         1 Corinthians 14:26-33 What is {the outcome} then, brethren?  When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, and has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, {it should be} by two or at the most three, and {each} in turn, and let one interpret; but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.  And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.  But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, let the first keep silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not {a God} of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (NAS)

 

In the context of 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 we read, “Each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation?”  This infers the individual participation of every person, male or female.  Individual involvement just doesn’t happen in today’s churches.  When can the congregation participate with questions and comments during the pastor’s sermon?  When do we hear two or three prophets ever speak?  How often does someone share a psalm publicly?

 

Can you now see how disjointed the Christian church is?  We have our weekly church “services” instead of body ministry!  And have you ever considered why we refer to them as church “services”?  This almost sounds like something you get at a restaurant or a retail store or a gas station. 

 

In fact today, if you don’t like the ‘service’ at one church, you conveniently ‘shop’ around for another.  It is really no different than shopping at your favorite stores or restraints.  You even ‘tip’ the church for good service if the offering plate comes your way.

 

The scripture teaches us to “serve” one another, not to provide ‘services’ to the congregation.  Services are exactly what the word implies, “service.”  Service is something provided by those who specialize in the ‘service industry’.  This is not what the body of Christ should do! 

 

·         Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (NIV)

 

Today’s pastors are seminary-trained specialists who learn how to provide the ‘services’ that people desire.  They insure you receive good music, nice sermons, a comfortable sanctuary, and so on.  How much we have deviated from than the calling of the early church, with its apostles, elders, teachers, evangelists, prophets, helps, hospitality, etc.

 

We must beware and be perceptive of any religious system, especially those who claim to be following Jesus.  If they are not in line with the teachings scripture, they must be scrutinized and discernment exercised lest a person be drawn in unsuspecting of evil practices and motives of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

 

Philadelphia is commanded to beware of those who, through “systematic discourse” (i.e. - systematic theology) claim to be of the “praise of Yahweh, (but they are not); instead they utter an untruth and attempt to deceive by falsehood, (for their own self interest).”

 

Regarding this type of religious facade, we are further warned in scripture:

 

·         2 Timothy 3:1-7 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (NAS)

 

The definition of the word “synagogue” from the Greek gives us more insight why John used this particular word.  John was familiar with persecution from the Jews, particularly strict religious sects, whose position in the local synagogue was that of scribe or lawyer. 

 

These were the so-called experts in the Law.  The Christian church has its so-called ‘expert’ theologians and heresy hunters (e.g. – The ‘Bible Answer Man’ radio program with Hank Hanegraf) who persecute other believers because they refuse to embrace orthodoxy for the sake of tradition.

 

The synagogue was an assembling place, primarily for the Jews (although the word is used once with regards to the church in James 2:2).   It referred to the building itself, and was unlike the Greek word used for the ‘church’ (ecclesia). 

 

The word ‘sunagoge’ did not imply the natural unity of the people, but a community established in a special way and for a special object.  The symbolic use of “synagogue” in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 indicates a form of Judaism and also legalistic so-called Christianity.  These are said to boast more on religious merit than exist as a people united through their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

 

Therefore, ‘sunagoge’ (synagogue) is a fitting word for the warning given to the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia (Revelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13).  Ironically, these are the only two church ages in Revelation that did not receive a rebuke from the Lord.  Both Smyrna and Philadelphia are warned to beware of them who are of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.  

 

Why would Christians, (followers of Jesus), be exhorted to beware of those “who say they are Jews?”  Why should they be exhorted regarding “the synagogue of Satan?”  After all, Christians do not meet in synagogues today, with the exception of some Messianic congregations, (i.e. - those who mingle Judaistic practices with Christianity), most believers have little or no interaction with either “Jews” or “synagogues.”. 

 

Is God warning Philadelphia to beware of modern day Judaizers?  Is He warning that there will be so-called Christians who claim to be Jews (i.e. - symbolic for spiritual Israel, or the church) who are nothing more than a counterfeit?

 

The Greek word “sunagoge” means, “to lead together, i.e. collect or convene; specifically, to entertain” (Strong’s Dictionary of NT words).  Perhaps Jesus is warning Philadelphia to beware of those who ‘claim’ to be Christians, but convene together for the purpose of entertainment. 

 

We know that many, if not most church services amount to little more than Christian “entertainment.”  They consist merely of passive observation by a captive audience.  As apathetic as this appears, is it extreme enough to be labeled as “the synagogue of Satan?” 

 

The one place in scripture where ‘sunagoge’ is used in relationship to the church is found in James 2:2.  In the context of James chapter two, God addresses the manner in which, the church showed partiality towards the rich, and distained the poor.   All the while, this assembly of pious (and supposedly converted) Jews apparently boasted in how they closely observed the Law of Moses.  Their boasts were undeserved because they ignored the needs for daily food and clothing among the poor.  The “Law” finds its fulfillment in one saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

 

This context (below) demonstrates why the Lord warned the church in Philadelphia to “beware” of those who are of the “synagogue of Satan”:

 

James 2:1-20

 

·         My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with {an attitude of} personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly (sunagoge) with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

 

·          Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world {to be} rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?  Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 

 

·         If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin {and} are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one {point,} he has become guilty of all. 

 

·         For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder."  Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by {the} law of liberty.  For judgment {will be} merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. 

 

·         What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for {their} body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, {being} by itself. 

 

·         But someone may {well} say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."  You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  (NAS)

 

The following are isolated instructions, rebukes, and exhortations from James 2:1-20.  Since the Greek word for synagogue (James 2:2 sunagoge) is found only in James referring to a Christian assembly, identifying the negative characteristics illustrates what “the synagogue of Satan” will be like.

 

Characteristics of the Synagogue of Satan

 

·         An attitude of personal favoritism.

·         Paying special attention to the one who is wealthy and wearing the fine clothes.

·         Making distinctions between rich and poor, thus being judges with evil motives?

·         Dishonoring the poor man.

·         Showing partiality while boasting in how well they have obeyed the Law (i.e. – the Bible); these are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

·         Unwilling to show mercy to those in need and those less privileged.

·         They say they have faith, but have no works.  Specifically, “if a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”  

 

The Philadelphia church must be on constant alert against an attitude of personal favoritism and partiality towards those with wealth in the church is something that.  It is this pursuit of wealth and material gain that causes Jesus to rebuke the Laodicean church:

 

·         Revelation 3:14-17  And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked...”  (NAS)

 

Laodicea is the church seeking material wealth; they disregard the poor man.  Their attitude and actions are merciless and judgmental towards those who are needy and less fortunate than them.  They claim to be the ones who are truly the ‘praise of Yahweh’ while their greed makes them self-condemned.  God warns that in the last days, the love of money and cares of life will plunge believers into ruin and destruction:

 

·         1 Timothy 6:3-11 If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.  But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  (NAS)

 

In America today there are thousands of believers who have wandered away from the faith, seeking health, wealth, and prosperity.  Furthermore, they ridicule any Christian who is suffering, or who teaches that suffering is a part of the crucified walk with Christ. 

 

Arrogantly they toot their horn, “God doesn’t want His children to suffer, and He wants them to be blessed!”  Or they say, “You shouldn’t confess your suffering; God is not glorified by suffering.”  They have become prideful, arrogant, and boast that they are the special ones God has chosen to be rich in faith.  Their boastful words clearly contradict the plain text of scripture:

 

·         James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

 

Suffering is an integral part of our walk with God.  Even Jesus Himself was perfected through the sufferings that He endured:

 

·         2 Corinthians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.  But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings, which we also suffer.  (NAS)

 

Those who are, “of the synagogue of Satan,” will face God’s judgment.  James says, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.”

 

“The synagogue of Satan”

 

Much is written in the New Testament concerning synagogues; this study will only focus on a few more examples of religious piety that exerts hostility toward Jesus, and his disciples:

   

·         Matthew 6:2  When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues (sunagoge) and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  (NAS)

 

In Christian churches today (the modern-day counter-part to the ancient synagogues), those who are the ‘big givers’ or ‘large tithers’ are most revered by the pastor and the congregation.  God wants us to give our lives and finances to help others, without seeking the recognition of men.

 

·         Matthew 6:5  “And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues (sunagoge) and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  (NAS)

 

Often, people pray long, eloquent prayers in church; they do this MAINLY because they like the sound of their own voice!  God is not impressed with how eloquent our prayers sound, but rather, if they come from a sincere, honest, and broken heart.

 

·         Matthew 10:16-17  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to {the} courts, and scourge you in their synagogues (sunagoge).  (NAS)

 

The Philadelphia church must beware of men; particularly those who convene together for their own entertainment.  Of these, the most dangerous men are wolves in sheep’s clothing that seek to prey upon the naivety of undiscerning Christians.  These men prey upon the women, finances, and they will exploit anyone’s weakness to feed their evil appetite. (Read Matthew 13:54-58)

 

Jesus began teaching in the synagogues of his own hometown; in like manner believers in the Philadelphia church age teach the scripture in theirs.  A servant is not greater than his master. Just as Jesus was not given the respect and honor due him as a man of God, so the Christian church shall castigate the Philadelphia believers. 

 

As the truth is taught, dispelling the error of tradition within the churches, the pastors and their congregations shall take,” offense” at what is being said.  Sadly, these evil men will one day persecute and deliver up other Christians to courts, and have them imprisoned.

·         Matthew 23:1-11 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.  And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.  But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments.  And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues (sunagoge), and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi (i.e.-’teacher’ or the modern-day counterpart...’Pastor’ or ‘Bishop’ or ‘Reverend’).  But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.  (NAS)

 

These verses epitomize the condescending way some church folks treat others.  At their church services, the ministers have special, fancy seats high up on the podium or platform for all to see and recognize that they are the ‘pastor’ or the ‘minister’ or the ‘evangelist.’ 

 

These men are careful to say the ‘right’ things from the pulpit (i.e. – what the people want to hear).  They are political figures, guarding their words, so as not to offend the big givers.  They may teach or preach good sermons, but they are unwilling to live the very scriptures that they preach.  Basically, “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.” 

 

Jesus commands us not to placate and flatter one another by great titles.  We are all simply “brothers” in Christ.  The Philadelphia believers will not aspire to places of honor, nor will they accept applause and the accolades of men.  Instead, as Jesus commanded, the church in Philadelphia shall live by this standard, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” 

 

·         Matthew 23:33-36  “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?  Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues (sunagoge), and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall {the guilt of} all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”  (NAS)

.

Jesus promised that Philadelphia, and other faithful believers throughout the ages, would be sent to the “synagogues” (i.e. - the places where they congregate for entertainment).  Why?  Perhaps God sends His faithful ones to warn them to repent.  To deliver such a message will undoubtedly result in persecution:

 

·         Mark 3:1-2 And He entered again into a synagogue (sunagoge); and a man was there with a withered hand.  And they were watching Him {to see} if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him.  (NAS)

 

Philadelphia must beware when they seek to do what is good and right; those who are of the “synagogue of Satan” will be watching them for a reason to “accuse” them.  The Greek word for “accuse” is: 

 

·         Accuse” = 2723 kategoreo (kat-ay-gor-eh'-o); from 2725; to be a plaintiff, i.e. to charge with some offence.  (Strong’s Dictionary)

 

The Greek word “kategoreo” is where the English word “category” comes from.  Legalists always find ways to categorize their accusations.  Many of those who claim to be Christians in the last days are really self-righteous and self-appointed judges of the Law.  They categorize as heresies any teaching that is contrary to and in violation of their traditions and orthodoxy.  They are not lovers of the truth, but lovers of themselves. 

 

Self-righteous people create and categorize their own labels for sin.  They call “light” darkness, and they call darkness light.  In Jesus’ case, it was healing on the Sabbath.  In the case of the church in Philadelphia it might be meeting in homes instead of church buildings. 

 

Or, it might be Philadelphia’s refusal to adhere to non-scriptural teachings of the orthodox church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, original sin, Calvinism, the Pre-Existent Christ, the ‘God-man’ teaching about Jesus (also known as the ‘dual-nature’ of Christ) and so on. 

 

Or perhaps the accusations might fit in the category of yet another of their special ‘heresies’; that is, saying “Raca” (you fool) to those who refuse to acknowledge the teaching of “tithing (10%)” of ones’ income to the church.  Philadelphia would rather give freely to those in need (e.g. - the widow and the orphan).  This will create great hostility, as it is certain to cost the ‘synagogues’ (i.e. – organized churches) their tithe money.

 

One of the greatest so-called ‘heresy’ categories of the self-righteous that persecute Philadelphia will be their denial that Jesus is ‘God.’  It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ to distinguish Jesus Christ from his Father God, but this is the ‘holy grail’ of orthodox Christianity.  Christians will ostracize and denounce their own brethren in Philadelphia because of this doctrinal difference.

 

Strong’s Dictionary says the Greek word ‘kategoreo’ comes from a root word 2725  “kategoros”, meaning, “against one in the assembly, i.e. a complainant at law; specially, Satan.”  This shows why Jesus warns the Philadelphia church to “beware” of those who are of the synagogue of Satan.  The most intense persecution in the last days will come from within the church, as is spelled out in the phrase, “against one in the assembly.”  Yikes! 

 

Even worse, contained in this definition is the mention of, “i.e. a complainant at law; specially, Satan.”  Satan will use humans for his cause, which is to blame, criticize, and to accuse. 

 

Persecution is not limited to the synagogues, or meeting places (i.e. - modern day church buildings).  Also contained in the root word meaning of kategoreo is the idea of someone being “over against another”; this means where people gather, such as the town-square, or a market or thoroughfare.

 

In other words, Philadelphia must beware of self-righteous legalists in just about any environment, public or private.  Like Jesus was, Philadelphia will likely be accused wherever and whenever they are doing good things in his name.   This could be in the shopping mall, the grocery market, on the streets, etc.

 

EXAMPLES OF BEHAVIOR IN THE “SYNAGOGUES”

 

·         They like respectful greetings and places of honor (Mark 12:38-44)

·         For appearance's sake offer long prayers (Mark 12:38-44)

·         Inside they are full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39-50)

·         They give God a tenth (i.e. - tithing) but neglect justice and the love of God

·         They feel insulted by the truth (Luke 11:39-50)

·         They consider themselves experts in the law, but load people down with burdens they can hardly carry (Luke 11:39-50)

·         They will not lift one finger to help others (Luke 11:39-50)

·         They will persecute the righteous delivering them to the synagogues and prisons, but will be unable resist or refute their wisdom…some they will put to death (Luke 21:11-17)

·         They accuse Philadelphia of blasphemy (Acts 6:9-13)

·         They will be filled with jealousy, and will contradict the things spoken by Philadelphia (Acts 13:43-45)

·         They are disbelieving and embittered them against the brethren they stir up the minds of the unsaved against Philadelphia (Acts 14:1-2)

·         They resist & blaspheme the true message of Jesus (Acts 18:4-6)

·         They hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way (Acts 19:8-9)

 

The synagogue “of Satan”

 

DEFINITION:  The Hebrew word “Satan” (saw-tawn’) 7854 means “an opponent.” the word comes from another root word  “Satan” (saw-tan’) 7853 which means “to attack”, or (figuratively) “to accuse.” (Strong’s Dictionary)

 

One of the first places we see the mention of Satan in the Bible is in the Book of Job:

 

Job 1:7-2:7

 

·         And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?”  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”  Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?  Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.”  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”

 

·         So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.  Now it happened on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house that a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 

 

·         While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

 

·          While he was still speaking, another also came and said,  “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 

 

·         While he was still speaking, another also came and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 

 

·         Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. 

 

·         Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.  And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause.” 

 

·         And Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.  However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face.”  So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  (NAS)

 

In the story of Job, we get a glance of how Satan accuses a man before God.  Then, after the accusation has been made, the Almighty decides if, exactly what, and just how much Satan, the accuser, can do to test their faith. 

 

In “the synagogue of Satan,” so-called ‘Christians’ whose backsliding led them down a path of apostasy,  will become accusers like Satan.  They will utter accusations at just like Satan did to Job.  They are unwitting dupes of our archenemy, the devil himself.  They are of their father the devil. 

 

There is a great similarity between the Jews in the days of Jesus, and the church folks who profess Christianity today.  For example, just as the Jews were outwardly religious, they were inwardly full of dead mans bones.  And so too, the church today puts on a fashion show at churches across America every Sunday morning, but most members are not living the life of Jesus every day of the week.

 

·         Revelation 3:1-3 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”  (NIV)

 

The Jews in the synagogues were legalists; they were more concerned with the observation of the outward “rules” than with the needs of the poor, the sick, and the hurting.  Churches today are not much different.  They have fancy church buildings, plush pews, and eloquent church services.  They pride themselves on the “correctness” of their “doctrines.”  But they fail to reach out to their neighbors with the practical love and compassion as God commanded in scripture.  They are as self-righteous as the Jews of old in their synagogues.

 

In fact, the “synagogue of Satan” in Revelation 3:9 is dealing specifically with the Christian churches of America today.  They have an outward “form” of “godliness,” but inwardly, they deny the power of God’s love for each other, and for the world.

 

Just as Satan accused Job before the LORD, he will use various churches to accuse the true Jesus people in the last days.  However, this is not the end of the matter.  There are examples in scripture where the true men and women of God rebuff Satan’s accusations.  The following scripture passages demonstrate how Satan (i.e.-the devil) works, and how he can be defeated:

 

Satan Demands Permission To Test Our Faith - Luke 22:31  

 

Satan Snares The Hearts Of Selfish Christians - Acts 5:3

 

Satan Has Dominion Over Those Who Walk In Darkness - Acts 26:18 

 

Satan Can Be Used As A Tool Of Discipline Within The Church - 1 Corinthians 5:5

 

Satan Tempts Husband & Wife - 1 Corinthians 7:4-5

 

Satan Takes Advantage Of Unforgiveness - 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

 

Satan Disguises Himself In Religion - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

 

God Uses Satan To Humble Us - Corinthians 12:7

 

Satan Thwarts Our Plans - 1Thessalonians 2:18

 

Satan Uses The Antichrist To Deceive Those Who Hate The Truth - II Thessalonians 2:8-10

Satan Uses Idle Women In The Church To Gossip & Slander - 1 Timothy 5:13-15

 

Satan Uses The Religious To Persecute Jesus’ Disciples - Revelation 2:13 

 

Satan Pollutes The Church With Idolatry - Revelation 2:24 

 

Satan Deceives The Whole World - Revelation 12:9

 

The reason for listing the scriptures above is to demonstrate what Satan’s nature is.  The church in Philadelphia must beware of those in the church who are of  “the synagogue of Satan.”  To understand the devil’s nature, is to understand how he works through his evil disciples.  The Philadelphia church will need to recognize these characteristics in those who claim to be “so-called’ brethren in Christ.

 

Next we will list some scriptures with the Greek word sunagoge translated as “synagogue.” This will again demonstrate what the Philadelphia church must deal with in the religious world.

 

BEHAVIOR & ATTITUDE OF THOSE IN SYNAGOGUES:

 

·         They Seek The Praise Of Men - Matthew 6:1-2

 

·         Eloquent Prayers Of Religious Hypocrites & Vain Repetition Of Heathen - Matthew 6:5-8

 

·         Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing - Matthew 10:16-17  

 

·         Being Jealous, They Are Offended By The Truth - Matthew 13:54-58

 

·         Hypocrites That Say One Thing And Do Another; Phony Inside Out - Matthew 23:1-11 

 

·         Like Their Father The Devil, They Watch To Accuse - Mark 3:1-2 

 

·         They Conspire To Do Harm To God’s People - Luke 6:6-11 

 

·         They Give Out Of Religious Pride & Get Rich Off Of The Poor - Mark 12:38-44

 

·         They Pay Tithing But Neglect Justice & Love - Luke 11:39-50 

 

·         They Use The Bible To Condemn, Not To Humbly Serve Others - Luke 11:39-50 

 

·         They Persecute Fellow Believers - Luke 21:11-17 (READ Isaiah chapter 66) 

 

·         They Love To Argue Doctrine And Bear False Witness - Acts 6:9-15 

 

·         Filled With Jealousy, They Are Blasphemers - Acts 13:43-45

 

·         Disobedient And Hardened To The Truth - Acts 19:8-9

 

There are many evil and ungodly characteristics seen in the synagogues of Jesus’ day, and during Paul’s ministry.  These characteristics give us a clear picture of what believers in the age of Philadelphia should be looking for in America.

 

The Western so-called “civilized” world, with it’s many denominations and church organizations, which claim to be Christian, are actually, “the synagogue of Satan.”  Of course not every person in organized church is evil, and many of God’s children attend church services.  We must distinguish between true disciples of Christ and those who “lie,” and are from the meeting place of the accuser.

 

“Which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie”

 

The phrase in Rev. 3:9, “which say they are, ‘Jews’ and are not...” reads literally, “Who are relating in words, through a systematic discourse, that they themselves are of the praise of Yahweh, and they are not....”

 

·         Jews” - 2453 Ioudaios (ee-oo-dah'-yos); from 2448 (in the sense of 2455 as a country); Judaean, i.e. belonging to Jehudah; 2448 Iouda (ee-oo-dah'); of Hebrew origin [3063 or perhaps 3194]; Judah (i.e. Jehudah or Juttah), a part of (or place in) Palestine; 3063 loipon (loy-pon'); neuter singular of the same as 3062; something remaining (adverbially); 3062 loipoy (loy-poy'); masculine plural of a derivative of 3007; remaining ones; 2455 Ioudas (ee-oo-das'); of Hebrew origin [3063]; Judas (i.e. Jehudah), the name of ten Israelites; also of the posterity of one of them and its region. (Strong’s Dictionary)

 

·         The phrase in the Revelation 3:9 (KJV),“but do lie.” Reads in the literal Greek text as, “...but utter an untruth, or attempt to deceive by falsehood, (for their own self interest).”

 

The Greek and Hebrew origin of the word for “Jews” seems to imply that this group of people is claiming to be of the posterity of Yahweh.  Perhaps they are groups who claim to be “Christian” and claim they are God’s remnant, or “remaining” posterity.  Whoever they are, they are liars.

 

They are NOT God’s true Judah; they are NOT God’s posterity.  They are imitators of the genuine.  They have an outward appearance of godliness, but inwardly deny the power of God unto salvation.  These imposters utter untruths and deceive for their own self-interest, using the name of Jesus (who is the real Lion of the Tribe of Judah) to accomplish their self-seeking purposes.

 

One of the most insidious of all the false brethren can be located on the Internet.  While cyberspace is a wonderful tool for sharing the gospel, it is also a powerful instrument in the hands of evil workers.  I was once a part of a chat room dominated by one individual who warped and twisted the scripture to his own destruction.  He formed his own little clan, and made them twice sons of hell.

 

Many people in America today claim to be “Christian.”  They relate in “word” that they are of the praises of Yahweh (God), but their lives and actions say otherwise.  They are selfish, attempting to deceive others with an outward facade of religious piety.  They have a showy external, with lavish church buildings and services, or even fancy web site, but inwardly they are full of dead men’s bones. 

 

The ministers in such religious circles speak lies, and attempt to deceive their followers by a falsehood; everything they say or do is geared towards their own self-interest.  One such example is in the “prosperity movement.”  These ministers teach that “faith” is a means to an end; their ill-gotten gain is the byproduct of greed and avarice.  They speak little of suffering, and only then with distain and ridicule. 

 

Another type of deception comes in the form of religious piety; following a set of man-made regulations, and claiming it is “holiness.”  These groups include, but are not limited to:  so-called ‘holiness’ (or Pentecostal or Apostolic) churches; purported independent Bible churches, which deny the power of the Holy Spirit, and champion orthodoxy. 

 

There are many deceivers on the radio, television, and on the Internet who claim to be God’s police force (actually, they don’t call themselves this, but their actions do!).  These puffed-up Holy Ghost cops will criticize anyone who does not bow their knee and submit to their harsh, and mean-spirited judgment.  They are twice dead, and destined for judgment, unless they repent.  They spew forth anything from orthodoxy to ecumenicism, but they neglect the compassion, love, and mercy of God.

 

Many groups claim to be God’s people, but their fruits reveal their character.  The scriptures deal with religious deception and lies:

 

·         John 8:42-44 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand what I am saying?  {It is} because you cannot hear my word.  You are of {your} father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own {nature;} for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”  (NAS)

 

·         Romans 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  (NAS)

 

·         James 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth.  (NAS)

 

·         I John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and {yet} walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  (NAS)

 

·         I John 2:21-23 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Timothy 3:1-7 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (NAS)

 

·         Matthew 23:3-28 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'  But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.  Woe to you, blind guides!  You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind fools!  Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind men!  Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.  And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices-- mint, dill and cummin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-- justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (NIV)

 

·         Matthew 7:12-23 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'  (NIV)

 

·         Luke 6:45-49 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.  Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?  I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.  He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."  (NIV)

 

The church of Philadelphia consists of believers who are doing the will of God.  They will be bearing fruit unto repentance, and the fruit of the Spirit, and the fruits of the harvest (souls).  They will immediately recognize someone who is merely playing “church” or one who is hiding their true heart behind a mask of religious duty.  Likewise, they will immediate recognize those who walk in the spirit and bear good fruit.

 

Believers in Philadelphia will bear witness with God’s Spirit that they are the children of God; they will walk in God’s truth and light.  They will be outcasts amongst the religious world, recognizing that Satan is using even “so-called” Christians to persecute them.  They see through religious deception, because they hold the truth of scripture in their hearts.

 

The believers in Philadelphia are aware that anyone can claim to be “Christian,” but only true followers of Jesus will be busy about their Father’s business.  They know they fruit of true believers who express their love for God by loving others.

 

·         The phrase in Revelation 3:9 (KJV) reads, “Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”  In the Greek, this phrase reads literally, “Behold! I shall be making them, as a result, to be arriving and prostrating themselves in homage, (like a dog licking his master’s hand), before your feet, and that they may be knowing absolutely that I emphatically love you.”

 

The literal translation reveals the flaw by King James translators.  The word “worship” is obviously faulty; God alone receives worship, not sinful man.  A closer look at the meaning of the Greek word used for “worship” identifies the repentant state of those who once persecuted and maligned the church in Philadelphia:

 

·         Worship” - 4352 proskuneo (pros-koo-neh'-o); from 4314 and a probable derivative of 2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore); 4314 pros (pros); a strengthened form of 4253; a preposition of direction; forward to, i.e. toward.  (Strong’s Dictionary)

 

One day, the same ones who persecuted the Philadelphia church will “prostrate” themselves before their feet, and they will know, at that time, Jesus loves the Philadelphia church. 

 

The reason they will come before the Philadelphia church as a dog licking his master’s hand is because the Philadelphia believers will be “in Christ” and reigning with Him.  The imposters will recognize that the very church they persecuted, and pretended to imitate, was the true bride of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In that day, they will be “emphatically knowing” that Jesus loves the Philadelphian church!

 

Jesus will be the one to reveal God’s justice to those who have feigned being a part of the church during the age of Philadelphia.  This verse should be an encouragement to the true Jesus people, revealing God’s vindication for all the rejection they experienced from other Christians.

 

The fact that the scripture shows the imposters in the church as “dogs” licking the hand of those they persecuted brings to mind scriptures that speak of evil workers as “dogs”:

 

·         Psalms 22:16-20 For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones.  They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.  But Thou, O LORD, be not far off; O Thou my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, My only {life} from the power of the dog.  (NAS)

 

·         Isaiah 56:10-11 His watchmen are blind; all of them know nothing.  All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; and the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.   (NAS)

 

·         Matthew 7:1-6  “Do not judge lest you be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.  Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”  (NAS)

 

·         Philippians 3:2-4 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the {true} circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.  (NAS)

 

·         Revelation 22:14-15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.  (NAS)

 

Who are those in the church that shall one day lie prostrate before Philadelphia, licking their hands like dogs?

 

·         A band of evildoers.

 

·         They are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.  

 

·         Those who, “look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye, and who are a, ‘hypocrite.’”

 

·         The sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

 

When we see purported “shepherds” or leaders in the church who are “evildoers” and “hypocrites,” they are more concerned with the speck in someone else’s eye than their own.  These demented souls are lumped in with murderers, and those who love and practice lying!  Murderers?  What if they never actually killed someone?  John spoke about this:

 

·         I John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  (NAS)

 

·         I John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (NAS)

 

These self-proclaimed critics will find themselves outside of God’s kingdom; they are like the wild dogs of ancient days that tear and rend others, to their own eternal destruction.  They are the ones who say they are “Jews” (i.e. - of the praise of Yahweh), but are not, and who lie.  To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus will cause these evil workers to, “be knowing absolutely that I emphatically love you.”

 

·         Isaiah 43:4  Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.”  (NAS)

 

·         John 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (NAS)

 

Selah

 

Continued in Part 4


Links to the Entire "The Vision of the Church in Philadelphia” Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7



 

Return to BAS Homepage   ·   Craig's Bible Studies   ·   E-mail Craig   ·   Write Us   ·   Writings & Links to BAS Friends   ·   Q & A   ·   Return to Top of This Page