Revelation 2.9, 3.9

Revelation 2.9, 3.9

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We soon find out about Satan, in the message to the next Angel, the Angel of the Church of SMYRNA:

[To the Angel:]  I know thine affliction and thy poverty, even though thou art rich.  I know the blaspheming of those who say they are Judeans and are not, but are a Congregation [Sunagoge] of Satan.  Fear none of those things that thou art about to suffer.

[To the people of the Church of Smyrna:]  Beware, Devil is about to cast some of you into prison as a test (peirasmos), and for ten days you will have affliction.

[To the Angel:]  Be faithful until death, and I will give thee the Crown of Life.  (Rev. 2.9-10)

I have reverted to the archaic second-person singular to reflect the Greek grammar, to indicate that most of the message is directed to the Angel, taking the plural forms to indicate a direct address to the

 

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people of the Church of Smyrna.  The result is not very satisfactory, since it makes the Angel subject to death.  It just goes to show that “the Angel of the Church” is merely a visionary way of addressing the people of the Church.

That being said, what does the passage say about Satan?  The Pseudo-Jews who say critical things (blasphemy) about the Christians of Smyrna are said to belong to a Synagogue of Satan, as opposed to the genuine Jews (= Christians) who belong to a Synagogue of the Lord (this expression is in LXX Num. 20.4).  In other words, they are exercising Satan’s office of making accusations against Christians, and we can presume that they are making these accusations to the local government.

But then in the next breath, the government turns out to be run by Devil, for Devil is said to be exercising the Satanic function of testing Christians.  Is Devil envisaged as the same person as Satan?  Later on in Revelation, this identification is made, but we can’t be sure that this part of the Apocalypse is drawing on the same traditions.

We saw in above (chap 5.1) that two members of the Christian Church of Ephesus, Hymenaeus and Alexander, have been handed over to Satan because of their practice of “blaspheming,” so that they can be cured of their habit (1 Tim. 1.19-20).  This fits in with the function of Satan as punisher and rehabilitator.  But in the Church of Smyrna Satan encourages blaspheming, doubtless as a form of testing, just as Devil serves as a jailer for the same purpose.

 

Revelation 3.9

 

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The sixth message is to the Angel of the Church of PHILADELPHIA, who is in much better shape.  In spite of having only a little power, he has kept the word of the Son of Man.  But this Angel has the same problem as the Angel at Smyrna: there are liars there who say they are Jews but are not; rather they belong to the Synagogue of Satan.  The Son of Man will make them bow down to the Angel, and the Angel himself (and presumably his Church) will be kept from the hour of the peirasmos that is going to test all the people of the Earth (Rev. 3.9-10).