Revelation 3:9

synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not
See commentary on Revelation 2:9.

but lie
ψεύδονται [pseudontai] , present tense, middle voice: they themselves are presently lying. They are making this ongoing claim themselves.

worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you
In the local context, Christ would converts who were formerly of the “synagogue of Satan” to the Philadelphian church.1 The worship would not be to the Philadelphian believers, but before them in recognition that God has loved them and favored them (Dan. Dan. 2:46-47).2 Rev. 3:21+), before whom, someday, every knee will bow (Php. Php. 2:10).”3 This is an allusion to numerous passages in the OT which indicate that in the Millennium, Gentiles will come and bow down to Israel in recognition that God is with them (Isa. Isa. 45:15; Isa. 49:22-23; Isa. 60:14-16). Zechariah described a time when Gentiles would honor faithful Jews because, “we have heard that God is with you”:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, and seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also.’ Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ” (Zec. Zec. 8:20-23)

In the church age, just the opposite is true—God elevates the faithful, both Gentile and Jew, over the national Jew who rejects Messiah Jesus.4 The unique role of favor enjoyed by the Church is intended to provoke the unbelieving Jewish nation to jealousy (Deu. Deu. 32:21; Isa. Isa. 65:1-2; Rom. Rom. 10:19-21; Rom. 11:11, Rom. 11:14; Rev. Rev. 3:9+). “What the Jews expected from the pagans, they themselves will be forced to render to the followers of Jesus.”5

In light of the general nature of the application of all seven of these messages, the prophecy must look forward to the time when the whole church enters the Messianic Kingdom. The people of Israel will have an entirely different attitude toward the church as Christ’s bride because they will by then have turned to Christ themselves.6

This verse does not distinguish Gentiles from Jews, but faithful from faithless. The Philadelphian church included Jewish believers (Rom. Rom. 9:27).

In connexion with this promise, there is an interesting passage in the Epistle of Ignatius to this same Philadelphian Church (c. 6), implying the actual presence in the midst of it, of converts from Judaism, who now preached the faith which once they persecuted.7

The formerly non-believing Jews from the synagogue of Satan would worship before their believing Jewish countrymen as well as the believing Gentiles. (Lest we forget, the writer of the Revelation is himself a son of Abraham by birth!) God loved them as was demonstrated by the cross (John John 3:14-17; Rev. Rev. 1:5+). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 1Jn. 4:10).

Notes

1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 280.

2 “The passage does not mean that believers are to be worshiped. It is merely at their feet that the unbelievers shall kneel as they are forced to acknowledge that Christ is God, and that every detail of the Scripture is eternal and true.”—Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 76.

3 Steve Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 76.

4 “Rev. Rev. 3:9+, . . . refers to Isaianic prophecies that the Gentiles will come and bow down before Israel and recognize Israel as God’s chosen people (Isa. Isa. 45:14; Isa. 49:23; Isa. 60:14). This Jewish hope has been turned upside down. Note it is the Jewish persecutors of Christians whom God will make to submit to the church. This reversal of Isaiah’s language is probably a conscious attempt to express the irony that the submission that unbelieving ethnic Jews hoped to receive from Gentiles, they themselves will be forced to render to the church.”—Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 94.

5 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 3:9.

6 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 282.

7 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 177.

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