Who is a true Jew? Revelation 2:9 & 3:9

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

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 3:9

Twice in the letters to the seven churches of Asia, Jesus mentions a group of people identified as, “Those who say they are Jews and are not.”  As if that statement were not perplexing enough, both times rather incendiary descriptions are added to this group: they are synagogues of Satan, liars, and will worship at the feet of Christians.  Immediately a very large section of American evangelicals are put on the defensive.  Here, in the same breath, we have mention of Jews, liars, synagogue of Satan, and God humbling said group.  The antisemitism bullets are ready to be fired!

But let us divorce the phrase “those who say they are Jews and are not” from the context in an attempt to take some of the passion out of the exegesis.  Just looking at that phrase alone what can we determine about the group?

What does it say?

The first thing that needs to be determined is, “What does the phrase actually imply?”  What is the truth that is assumed by the phrase?  In an attempt to further remove any prejudices, put the phrase in other terms.  If you heard someone say, “he says he is a professional baseball player, but he is not,” what could you safely assume?  I believe you could safely assume two things:

  1. There really is such a thing as a professional baseball player:  such a person actually exists.
  2. The person making the claim is not truly a professional baseball player.

So returning to the text we can safely assume two things:

  1. There really is such a group as Jews:  true Jews.
  2. Those making the claim to be Jewish are not truly Jews.

To paraphrase a T-shirt– there is a Jew, and you’re not him.

What could it mean?

So who are these people who say they are Jews but are really not?  I can think of three broad options:

  1. They are Gentiles who for some reason claim to be Jews.  Perhaps they do not really want to worship the Emperor, so they seek exemption under the umbrella of Judaism.  Maybe in Smyrna and Philadelphia there was some economic incentive to be Jewish.  For whatever reason, this group refers to Gentiles calling themselves Jews.
  2. They are ethnic Jews who are not practicing their faith according to Scripture.  Whether intentionally or not, they are practicing an apostate form of Judaism.
  3. They are ethnic Jews who have misidentified what being a true Jew is.  This is somewhat different than the second category.  These people practice an orthodox faith, yet the orthodoxy itself flawed.

What is the question?

In all of this, the real question is, “What is a true Jew?”  The statement under examination, “those who say they are Jews and are not,” is based on the fact that true Jews exist.  By condemning the “false” Jews, Jesus acknowledges the “true” Jews.  But who might Jesus say is a false Jew and a true Jew?

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a clear answer to this question in the text.  So might the Scripture answer this question elsewhere?  Does the Bible speak about this true vs. false Jew dichotomy in other places?  In fact Scripture addresses this subject in various places and diverse manners.

Both Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8 record John (the baptizer) assailing ethnic Jews with the statement, “…and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”  This certainly leads in the direction of asserting that there is more to being a child of Abraham- hence, a Jew- than physical genealogy.  At the very least, John asserted that being a physical descendant of Abraham merited his audience members nothing with God.

While I assume this is what John meant, I know it is what Paul thought.  At the end of Romans 2 we read, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”  If this is not the jackpot, it is certainly a very handsome consolation prize.  Paul is seeking to answer the very question we are asking, “What is a true Jew?”  A true Jew is not a physical child of Abraham, but a Spiritual child of God.  It is not the physical circumcision made by man that counts, it is the heart circumcision made by the Spirit that matters.

Paul returns to a variation of this theme in Romans 4:11-12.  Again the question is, “Who is a true son of Abraham?”  Again Paul answers that physical circumcision is meaningless, but that whoever has the faith that Abraham had can claim Abraham as “father.”  This is also the argument of the entire chapter of Galatians 3.  The precise statements include:

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”   So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (3:7-9)

that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (3:14)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (3:26, 29)

In Philippians 3:3 we see more about this circumcision of faith, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh…”  Again we see that physical descent is meaningless (no confidence in the flesh).  Writing to the church, Paul says they are “the circumcision.”  What makes Christians in Philippi “the circumcision?”  Their relationship with the Trinity: they worship God, in the Spirit, while rejoicing in Christ Jesus.

Summary and Conclusion

So a true Jew is:

  1. Not necessarily a physical descendant of Abraham (Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8; Rom. 2:28; 4:11-12; Phil. 3:3).
  2. Someone who has the same faith Abraham had (Rom. 4:11-12; Gal. 3).
  3. Which faith includes a work of the Holy Spirit circumcising the heart (Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3).
  4. Which heart circumcision brings one into worshiping relationship with the Holy Trinity (Phil. 3:3) by way of one’s union with Christ (Gal. 3:26, 29).

What Scripture makes abundantly clear in the New Testament is that true Jews are more commonly known to us as Christians.  If you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ to worship God, you are a true Jew.

So who are “those who say they are Jews and are not?”  While the first option above was Gentiles claiming to be Jews, I find it completely irrational and cannot find anyone who seriously suggests it as an interpretive option.  As for options 2 and 3, there is not much difference since both deal with ethnic Jews: the same people addressed and rebuked in Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8; Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3; and Phil. 3:3.  Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 speak to and rebuke the same false Jews: all those physical sons of Abraham who have no relationship with God.  Those who say they are Jews and are not are still with us: worshiping on Saturday in the synagogue, denying the Lord who bought them.  Many Evangelicals call them Jews, the apple of God’s eye, God’s chosen people, etc.  Jesus simply says they “are not.”

Praise God for the circumcision not made with hands.

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28 thoughts on “Who is a true Jew? Revelation 2:9 & 3:9

  1. Well, my savior says you’re wrong, so what does that prove? It should reek of suspicion that those seeking to convert Jews to Christianity would accuse them of not being true Jews if they didn’t convert to Christianity.

    What is it that prevents you from seeing that? Ironically, those for whome you’ve just made the best case are the atheists.

    • Sam,

      So what does Romans 2:28-29 mean?

      Isn’t it a little boring to accuse me of being an atheist and antichrist? Wouldn’t you rather engage the Scripture and show me where I am wrong? Don’t you think that would be more effective?

      • What Is the TRUE meaning of ‘Synagogue of Satan’ in Revelation 2:9; 3:9?

        The word synagogue comes from a Greek word meaning “assembly of men” or “congregation,” and it was used much like the English word “church.” The “synagogue of Satan,” then, is an assembly or congregation—a church—made up of the individuals who “say they are Jews (followers of HaShem) but/and are NOT.” The term “Jew” is used here in a spiritual sense.

        Notice the apostle Paul’s definition of a spiritual Jew in Romans 2:29: “He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from HaShem.” In this case, it is NOT one’s physical “race” that counts, but his “spiritual condition” (Galatians 3:27-29; Romans 4:16). True Christians (true followers of Yeshua) are spiritual Jews (weaved into) because Yeshua says in John 4:22, “Salvation is of the Jews.”

        Those in the “synagogue of Satan” say they are spiritual Jews—pretend to be real Christians (followers)—but are not. This “false” church was already developing in the days of the apostle John, masquerading as Adonai-Elohim’s true followers. It had congregations in the cities of Smyrna and Philadelphia in Asia Minor even at that early time. It and its daughter churches are further described in Revelation 17.

        One of the hallmarks of Satan’s activities is deception, particularly counterfeiting the things of Yahweh. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Yeshua (Christ), And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [servants] transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (II Corinthians 11:13-15). Yeshua says we will know such false ministers by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). Thus, we should make sure that the Church (synagogue) we attend and its ministers are following Scriptural doctrines and producing the fruit of righteousness. Otherwise, it may well be a “synagogue (Church) of Satan.”

        So a “SYNAGOGUE” is a Church and NOT a Racial, Cultural nor Ethnicity of people!

        Shalom and blessings to you.

    • Thank you for the question.

      The point of this post, and the New Testament, is that a “true”Jew does believe in Jesus. John’s point in Revelation, and Paul’s point in Romans and Galatians is that being an ethnic Jew grants no privileges at all when it comes to inheriting eternal life.

      No one goes to heaven who does not believe in Jesus.

  2. Hi my name is Shawn not ashamed to mention that my ancestry go back to Sephardim descent on my father side and do believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Do believe that Real Jews are the American blacks and people from the islands. Oh yeah at least 85 to 90% that call themselves jews today are Esau. When you read the jewish encyclependia it tells that Edom is the modern day Jews.

  3. My blood line go back to Sephardim Jews or Black Portuguese Jews on my father side could be Judah or Benjamin. On my coat of arms got lions on them which represent Judah or Yahudah.

  4. Shawn,

    The point of the New Testament, and the point I try to make, is that your physical genealogy is absolutely meaningless to your salvation and participation in the promise of blessing made to Abraham.

    Christ is the promised seed. Christ is the One chosen. He is the true Israel. If you are united to Christ you too are God’s chosen.

    • I disagree, Brad. Christ Himself said that salvation is of the Jews (or Hebrew people), in fact He went as far as to say that He only came to minister unto the Jews. This world will not end until the blessing of Abraham that God promised is fulfilled with the elect, the royal priesthood who will lead the sinner to Yoshua in these last days. Check out Deut. 28 then the Book of Enoch.

  5. Youre all morons with your own spins on this stuff
    there is no truth, but your own
    we all have our own spins
    no one is wrong no one is right

  6. thanks for covering these rather obscure and somewhat cryptic scriptures, making an effort to give real answers rather than simple glosses. it really gave me food for thought.

  7. Oh glory to God! God gave me a message last year title ” If I be a Jew” If had opportunities to preach it in two assembly, mine mine, it was revival fire.! Contact this today has just reconvince me that God gave me the message. In fact, I’ve gotten more useful in4mation.
    God bless u brother.

  8. Hear you go with this European propaganda you know there’s no such name as Jesus in the original Bible his name is Yahshua and the true Hebrews are of African descent not European and we have been scattered all over the world and I still in bondage irritated for no reason except for being punished by Father in heaven for turning our backs on him too many times the letter J has only been in existence 400 years so the so called Jew is the synagogue of Satan

    • Aha,

      You know the truth, that curse will be ended in 2019. God’s curse upon His CREATION, dark races, is OVER. the world is waking up. Egyptians painted themselves as brown and black skinned, Moses was mistaken for one of them… Meaning he looked like THEM. David, Solomon, and even their descendant Jesus were brown skinned men. When the world wakes up it will realize that America is mystery Babylon, she will be punished because of what she did to the children of Judah, aka West Africa. The punishment is already coming, foods, Hurricane, for, can you SEE? But God is forgiving, for the sake of the elect these days will be shortened.

      As for blessings, It is us, the dark races if blessed that God will bless you back… Not physical Israel that steals our money hope and life force.

  9. And to add more which God are you serving for there are many gods but one father who is in heaven so stop your hatred and behold the true coming of the Messiah for now our eyes are being opened wo to all you gentile who take away from the book of life

  10. The Ancient people of Persia, Greece, North Africa and Israel were Red haired and Blonde haired. Archaeological evidence, historical texts, and DNA provide evidence of this. The true Jews were the red haired race, Red Haired Bloodlines are the Bloodlines of the Gods.

  11. The synagogue of Satan. That sums it. It does not say the Church of Satan. No words minced there. Get straight Jesus is coming.

  12. HaShem ALSO said He would gather the “Jewish people” from the four quarters of the earth and that they would “once again” become a NATION!. In that order from “around the world” this prophecy has NEVER in the whole of history happened before! So what took place in 1948, was a “clear cut” fulfilment of Yahweh’s promise to the Children of Israel in Ezekiel.

    Therefore, we must look for a further restoration of the Jews in which they would return to their own land and this time would not leave it again. We must remember that in 70 AD Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were disbursed among the nations. So, the first restoration was not a permanent one for the Jews. There would have to be another restoration in the future to see these prophecies of Ezekiel fully completed. Chapters 38 and 39 seem to point to some future period beyond the first restoration. It would be a time when the Jews would once again return to their homeland but this time they would not be scattered about but would remain in the land. Although nations would attack them, the Jewish people would remain for “God would rescue them.” It would also be a time when they would turn to the Lord and the implication is that they would accept the Messiah at that time and as a whole would become the followers of Yeshua HaMashiach as their shepherd. Ezekiel 39:21-29 describes this wonderful conversion of the Jewish people to the Lord – “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am Adonai their God. And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their iniquity, because they broke faith with me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleaness and their transgressions, and I hid my face from them. Therefore thus says Adonai-Elohim: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for My holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward Me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show Myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am Adonai their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them back to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Ruach (Spirit) upon the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Adonai-Elohim.”

    Ezekiel 38-39 corresponds remarkably to Zechariah 12-14 and seems to describe the same events. HaShem pours out His Ruach (Spirit) on the Jews in both passages. Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
    It is true that in the early church there were Jews who mourned over their rejection of Yeshua the Messiah and then turned to Him. Yet they were only a remnant of the total Jewish population. Many Jews continued to reject their Jewish Messiah and persecuted His followers. The prophecy in Zechariah mentioned above seems to show a mourning of a much greater extent encompassing all of the Israelites. Zechariah 12:11-14 tells of the extent of the conversion that takes place among the Jews – “On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. The land will mourn clan by clan, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David by themselves, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.”

    This future conversion of Israel predicted by Ezekiel in chapters 38-39 seems definitely to be a future event that is yet to come. Though the Jews ARE back in their homeland of Israel, the Jewish people have not yet as a whole been convinced of Yeshua (Christ) as their Mashiach. But, that day WILL come according to the Apostle Paul who seems to describe a future conversion of Israel in Romans 11:25-27,– “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brethren: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’” Earlier Paul talked about the olive tree representing the people of God. Israel is the root of the tree but some of her branches have been broken with other branches spliced / weaved into and apart of it, showing that the Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree. Yet, he points out that the Jews could yet be grafted in to their own olive tree again. In Romans 11:23, Paul says, “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11 predicts a future exceptance of Yeshua (Christ) from the Jews associated with the fullness of the Gentiles. This could very well be pointing to a future worldwide revival including the conversion of the Jews to Christ. Even now a lot of Jewish people have already come to except Yeshua (Christ) as their Messiah, the Mashiach.

    So even though the Scriptures may indicate “Spiritually” that the TRUE descendants of Abraham are the ones that actually except, believe and follow Yeshua as their Saviour and Messiah, the Scriptures ALSO indicate “by the prophesied promises of HaShem” that the ones in the land of Israel NOW are ALSO the “descendants” of Abraham, even though they may not be by “the blood of Christ!!.”

    Shalom, maranatha and blessings to all.

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