By Pete Garcia -
Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. (Luke 12:37)
Ever since Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth debuted in 1970, interest in Bible prophecy moved out into the mainstream American culture with a roar. It spawned a whole new generation of teachers, broadcasters, pastors, and writers who would go on to carry the torch of Pre-Millennial Dispensationalism into the last decades of the 20th century.
Along with this newfound passion of the American evangelical, came a whole new host of critics citing everything from 'sensationalism' to 'Darbyism' to those who held to a literal, grammatical, historical understanding of Scriptures.
From whom and where do these critics come from, and why would they ostensibly be so opposed to a literal understanding of the Bible? For all intents and purposes, these critics carried on a time-worn tradition of waging war against Christians who take the Bible seriously. Well, I can assure you that the war began not just in the 1970, the 1800's, or even when the Bible was being written...it began in the Garden of Eden.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NKJV)
So the Lord God said to the serpent:...And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."
And it has been game-on ever since. Unfortunately for Satan though, God knows the end from the beginning, so the match has really been a mismatch. From the fall, to Cain, to the violent and wicked days leading up to the Great Flood, to the unnecessary tower at Babel, Satan's attempt to corrupt man to the point beyond redemption, has failed at every turn. God always has His elect.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8)
So it has been thus far in the 6,000 years of man's history, that God would raise men up, and Satan would attempt to bring them down. Or bring their message down. Or corrupt their message. Or destroy those who would spread that message. Satan is always in damage control.
Yet roughly 2,000 years from Abraham's calling, victory was wrought that day on Calvary. Had Satan known Christ's intent all along was to come and give Himself as a sacrifice for many, neither he nor the rulers he influenced would have crucified Him. [1 Cor. 2:7-8]
The Scarlet thread that runs through the Old Testament, was veiled in such a way, that Satan couldn't have known exactly what The Christ was coming to do even though Satan was well versed in the written text as demonstrated in His temptation in the desert. Still, God used typology, and the prophetic text to tell His servants ahead of time, what MUST come to pass.
But since the Jews were the keepers of the Word, how come they weren't thronging the Manger to get a glimpse at their Redeemer? How come the religious leaders of the day, didn't walk the five miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem with the Wise Men upon hearing about the birth of the One born "King of the Jews"? Certainly, God gave them the exact time of when they should be expecting their Messiah to arrive.[Dan. 9:24-27] Why didn't John the Baptist's message of "Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" have all the Jewish religious leaders on their knees in praise and sober reflection?
There are many reasons I could list leading up to it, but the bottom line is they quit believing. They quit taking their Scriptures literally. They began to place their faith in men's explanations over what the text actually said. Some took it to the other extreme and missed the intent of the law, for the letter of the law. The religious experts (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) began to explain away prophecies as irrelevant or already fulfilled, or twisted it to fit their own pre-supposed agendas of how things "should" be rather than what God said would happen.
After the victory at Calvary, after the Resurrection and the Ascension, after the birth of the Church at Pentecost, what could Satan do now? The only thing he could do, which was halt the spread of the Gospel, and destroy Israel. So while his fate was sealed and his doom was certain, in his rage he used the ones who killed their Messiah to first persecute the Church. And while imprisoning, beating, stoning, and killing the believers, Satan in his fury, introduced corruption in the form of half-truths and outright lies to them. He began to mix the law into grace, of which Paul confronts in Galatians, Hebrews, and other epistles.
As the church grew and became more Gentile, Satan used the Jew's paradoxical hostility toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ against them first through legalism, then through corrupt scriptural interpretations which sought to deny the very hope we have in Christ's Second Coming.
Synagogue of Satan
In the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches (Revelation 2-3), only two of the seven churches receive NO condemnation from our Lord Jesus Christ, and these are Smyrna and Philadelphia. In understanding of the four-fold application to these letters, they are:
1.Historical-these were literal churches in John's day
2.Congregational-these letters had a message to that entire church, and to all churches who were instructed to read and hear (He who has an ear, let him hear)
3.Personal-these letters also had personal applications to the individuals
4.Prophetic-the names of the churches along with the order these letters are given to us are significant. They have borne true to their titles over the last 2,000 years of church history.
1.Both churches exist in a time of great persecution
2.Both churches have a condemnation within their letters, against those who say they are Jews, but aren't.
3.Both churches are told to hold fast to receive their reward: the former through death (2:10), and the latter through deliverance (3:10).
4.Neither church receives any negative criticism from our Lord Jesus.
Of interest is number two, for when else in man's short history have people pretended to be Jews? Historically, the real Jews, were those who can trace their lineage from their forefathers back to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But they seemingly cursed themselves when they crucified their Messiah. Who would want part of that?
1. We know that the first group to persecute the early church (ex. 2 Cor. 11:24), were the Jewish Judaizers. So in keeping with the context of historical chronology, Christ said to the second church Smyrna:
"I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." (Revelation 2:9)
Christ had harsh words for these who were trying to draw newly born Christians (Jew and Gentile) back under the burdensome yoke of the Law. In fact, Christ called them blasphemous.
Ethnically, these Judaizers were Jews, but not real Jews according to Paul who would state... For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly... (Rom. 2:28-29). These were those who although were ethnically Jewish, had rejected their Messiah and continued to be an enemy toward the Gospel. [Matthew 23; Rom. 11:28] Their rejection of the Gospel, and their continued animosity towards it, would give fertile ground for Replacement theology to take root within an increasingly Gentile body of Christ.
2. But here we see another group who have come along and are pretending to be Jews at the latter end of the age. To the sixth church Philadelphia Christ says:
Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie-indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:7-9)
So who today, thinks they are the 'true Jews'? Many groups outside of orthodox Christianity make the claim that they are the real or true Jews such as; Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, British Israelism, etc. But since these groups fall outside of what is considered orthodox Christianity (they deny one or more of the essentials of our faith), they will not be in heaven because they are not Christian.
But notice that it says that they will come and worship before our feet which to me signifies these would also be in heaven. So these are those who have saving faith, but fall under the sway of one or more heretical doctrines such as; replacement theology or Supersessionism, covenant or reformed theology, Hebrew roots movement, or aberrant eschatologies such as Amillennialism, Post-Millennialism, and Preterism.
Note: Within each of these belief systems, there is truth and scriptural teachings, but they are mingled with falsehoods and errant theology. A little leaven, leaven's the whole lump.
But how do we know that this last group is the one Christ called a 'synagogue of Satan'? Because in understanding the four-fold application to the seven letters, we understand the promise that immediately follows in verse Rev. 3:10, is one we would apply to the generation alive when Christ returns.
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
They deny the distinct programs that God has for Israel and what God has for the Church. These are those today who seek to undermine others faith in the "Blessed Hope" by confusing the Church with Israel.
As interest in Bible prophecy has reemerged over the last two centuries, Satan has flooded Christendom with a slew of false and heretical doctrines. Satan reenergized these attempts to diminish and downplay the importance of expectant watchfulness of our Lord's soon return.
The above mentioned groups have grown aggressively in the last two decades and have made it one of their main missions to stamp out the Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millennial, Dispensational view of many Christians. They do this by ridiculing and scoffing at believer's who hold this view as well as blacklisting those who hold that belief from teaching and preaching in many churches and seminaries today. If there are those today who still hold to a Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millennial, Dispensational view of Scriptures, they are being drowned out by the many more who have come to reject it.
Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:3-7)
Notice the key word here is that they 'willfully' forget. To forget means they must have at one point known it. To willingly forget something means they knew it, but then rejected it.
And just as many within Christendom returned to a literal understanding of Scripture in the 1800's, many more moved to a liberal, progressive understanding of Scripture which denied a literal Creation, Noahic flood, and prophecy. I think it's interesting that Peter would link the two most contested issues within Scriptures together, as a marker for the last days.
And as Jesus noted to the church of Philadelphia;
I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Our open door is the "Blessed Hope". Our little strength was foretold. We will never deny His name. So what was His word?
And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:37)