In the letter to the Church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3, John writes concerning the synagogue of Satan and those who claim to be Jews, but are not.

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:9 ESV)

What group was it that claimed to be Jews and were not? What was it about them that made them the synagogue of Satan?

  • I think this question might need to be scoped. Dec 31, 2014 at 2:06

5 Answers 5


I would guess that the reference to the synagogue of Satan is not to some local synagogue of Satanists that were pretending to be Jews, but instead to all those everywhere who claimed to be Jews but were not really, spiritually, Jews. Consider Jesus' words in John 8:

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. ... You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. John 8:39,40,44

In other words: "your actions show you aren't Abraham's children (i.e. you aren't Jews); you're children of Satan."

And then, also consider this passage, which divides everyone into two groups: children of God and children of the devil:

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:10

Also, consider Galatians 3:7-10:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

Finally, Romans 9:6-8:

... not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

So we see that the true sons of Abraham, the true Jews, are those who are "of faith". Thus, I would conclude that the passage you quoted is simply referring to Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah.

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    @gideonmarx Whether you want to call Abraham a Jew or not is beside the point. The point is that looking at these Scriptures, we see an understanding of what it means to be a son of Abraham, one whose reckoning is according to his spiritual offspring, rather than his physical offspring. That means some who are Jews according to the flesh are not Jews according to the spirit, because they are not sons of Abraham. That would explain Rev 3:9. (Note that if you are not a son of Abraham, then you are certainly not a Jew.)
    – Kevin
    Dec 12, 2013 at 20:08
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    Anyone can convert to Judaism and is then reconed a Jew. The question was about those who say they are Jews and are not. Abraham is not mentioned. Work to find the simplest answer. Occam's razor. The result is amazing. Dec 13, 2013 at 12:16
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    I would guess is not a good opening for a quality answer.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 12, 2014 at 12:01
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    @MeirIllumination No, the context shows he was addressing a group, only some of whom had believed. It makes no sense to say that those who had believed were the same as those he says were trying to kill him, did not love him, and did not believe him (v.45).
    – Kevin
    Aug 12, 2015 at 19:30
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    Jesus speaks to the "many" who "believed in him" about the devil etc without a change in audience until Jesus' exit (vv.32-59). The context makes perfect sense: his followers believed in him at first, but by the end changed their minds. This was not uncommon (cf. e.g., John 6:60-70), much of the proto-Christian community was fickle, at least until Pentecost. Positing different categories of his audience here is eisegesis. If you wish to discuss this passage further, I suggest the conversation be relocated to the Biblical Hermeneutics community hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Aug 13, 2015 at 8:37

Matthew 13:24-30

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Matthew 7:15-26

15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

I am interpreting "Jews" here as to mean "chosen people of God" -- i.e. the saved. I am not interpreting "Jews" here as the ethnically Jew.

In Christianity, people are either (1) worshipping God or (2) worshipping Satan. Those who claim themselves as Atheists, Agonistics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists ... are essentially saying "Our set of principles provides a way to live a meaningful life without declaring that Jesus is Lord." (and thus, by Christianity, are labeled as followers of Satan.)

Now, among those that follow Satan, we can split them as follows:

  • those who outwardly reject Jesus as Lord
  • those who pretend that Jesus is Lord

The former would include the Atheists, Agonistics, Muslims, Buddhists, etc ...

I then interpret the passage above, as a warning against people who (1) claim to be Christian and (2) are not.

This is similar to Matthew 13:24-30 -- where the tares outwardly look like the wheat ... but inwardly are not. Then, only in the end, can we tell the difference.

Similarly, I also see this as related to Matthew 7:15-26 -- where there are people who (1) believe themselves to be Christian, and (2) are doing lots of 'good' works supposedly in the name of Christ, and (3) are rejected by Christ.

I will admit however, I have no idea how to interpret part of the verse:

behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet,

I have no idea how to interpret that, since 'bow' is generally related to worship, and we are related to worship God alone.


The best Catholic commentary on Apocalypse is

On p. 100, he commentates on Apoc. 3:9, saying:

In the first sentence, Christ shows the contrast between Himself, who is the True One, and the “synagogue of Satan”, who claim to be Jews but are false Jews and liars. They per­secuted the Church at Philadelphia as at Smyrna. By doing so they persecute Christ. The Church is the Israel of God; and as they did in the days of St. Paul, so these false Jews still continue their hatred against Christ and His Church.


Before we can make the determination concerning the “who & what” question; what needs to be established is the “why, where & how” facts from scripture.

2 Kings 17:3 (KJV) 3 “Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; …” name means fire worshiper

2 Kings 17:20-23 (KJV) 20 And the LORD rejected …….. 21 For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin. 22 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not… ….So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.

Rebellious Israel replaced by many more wicked nations into Samaria!

2 Kings 17:24 (KJV) 24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.

The reader needs to grasp this fact; when the returning exiles arrived in Jerusalem, the transplanted Babylonian peoples had taken control of the land of Israel!

Returning Israel under the governance of a man appointed by Cyrus!

Ezra 1:7-11 (KJV) 7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; 8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. 9 And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, 10 Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. 11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.

Ezra 5:13-16 (KJV) 13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. 14 And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place. 16 Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.

Sheshbazzar; his name means worshiper of fire! The reader needs to comprehend this fact; the kings that had taken Israel into captivity and the governor placed in charge of those returning from exile; had similar meaning names that were not of Hebrew dialect! Cyrus had placed in charge an individual not appointed to do so according to guidelines set forth in scripture, but allowed by The Almighty! What we are seeing here is thought provoking!

Then we hear of Jesus The Messiah confronting the very “Transplanted Jews” about their lineage!

John 8:32-33 (KJV) 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

John 8:43-44 (KJV) 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

John 8:47-48 (KJV) 47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

The first martyr for The Gospel!

Acts 7 The preaching of Stephen is a direct testimony and reference to the dispersion of Israel sent to Babylon. He later implicates them just as did Jesus The Messiah in John 8, etc.!

Paul addresses the issue in his epistles!

Romans 2:28-29 (KJV) 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Romans 9:6 (KJV) 6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

2 Timothy 2:19-21 (KJV) 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

Question: What was it about them that made them the synagogue of Satan?

1) Child sacrifice!

2) Their rejection the voluntary gift of life and sacrifice for all mankind; provided by Jesus The Messiah, i.e. The Gospel!

2 Kings 17:29-32 (KJV) 29 Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. 30 And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.

Final considerations: Sounds like abortion to me! Time will tell!


I Am The Witness has a profound narrative discussion specifically on the topic in question. It is a re-post of a writing by theologian and preacher John D. Keyser edited for this website, which does not delineate far from the original. It points out that the reference 'those of the synagogue of Satan' refers primarily to the Sadducees, Pharisees, and those who, yes, were Jewish, but saw no authenticity in Christ's Messiahship or refused to see him as good. In that time, it could be said that those were 'false Jews' did not even see the good of Christ regardless of honoring his Messiaship. There were those who to fell as bad Christians, but the link's explanation is much more thorough and better worded than mine.

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    "but it does not delineate far from the original..." perhaps you didn't read this part of it: "The Roman Catholic Church has inherited all the doctrines of the Synagogue of Satan mentioned in the book of Revelation and is, therefore, the SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN in today's world — along with all her "daughter" churches that expound similar doctrines." - I don't exactly see that in "the original" - do you? Sep 19, 2014 at 9:14

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