This bit about the lamb is another one of those images that gives people grief.
Some information that might help you understand is that the Apostle John is NOT writing mysteries meant to be hidden from the church. I mention this because a previous Pastor told the audience that day that John wrote in code to get this letter – the Revelation, past the prison guards. Sometimes all you can do at the time is moan. The mysteries are only hidden from those that chose not to ask what things mean; the “mysteries” also tend to remain hidden from those who do not understand that John’s target audience was Jewish converts.
I will prove my point.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:7-9 ESV)
The Holy Spirit has him writing to churches.
You do not need to have a conversation about Jews and their traditions unless they are a part of the equation, and in Smyrna, they were central to the equation. The IVP Bible Background Commentary states, “The strength of the Jewish community in Smyrna is well attested.”
Another example comes from the book of James and demonstrates how widespread the Jewish converts were. Here in James 2:2, the mystery is cloaked thanks to the translator’s choice of terminology, and we, with our stacks of Bibles and no motivation to find out the alternate meaning of simple words, like assembly.
James 2:2 ESV “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,”
Translated for the Gentile reader, we see nothing wrong with the word assembly. People assemble themselves together frequently. However, when this was written by James, he actually wrote the Greek word for synagogue. He did not do that inadvertently, thinking that in time it would be filled with Gentile believers. He, too, was writing to Jewish converts.
sunagōgē – an assemblage of persons, the majority of which are Jewish in origin. Now, isn’t that something?
If they are calling it a synagogue, then what do they expect to find there?
Jewish converts, of course, but not only that, converts that are integrating the richness of their newly found Messiah into the heritage that makes them special (and we ignore that.)
Who were the two Apostles that seemed to be called to the Gentiles?
Peter – who seemed to end that mission shortly after going to the Centurion’s home. The other evangelist to the “Gentiles” turned out to be Paul. Paul, for almost 15 years, we are told in the book of Acts that in every town, he entered into the synagogues.
So, it is safe to say that in the beginnings of the church, the evangelistic impact was toward the Jewish community, but the Gentiles still came. When the traditionalists came around demanding that Gentile converts be circumcised and follow Jewish traditions, Paul withstood them and finally took his arguments straight to the church council of elders in Jerusalem, where several of the original disciples still sat (Peter was one of them), for a decision.
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth, the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between them and us, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
(Acts 15:7-9 ESV)
Notice the terminology Peter uses as he distinguishes between the Jew and the gentile. Years later, Peter is still referring to them (the gentiles) and us (the Jewish community). It may not mean anything to you, but the statement is dripping with prejudice. There, in the Jerusalem council, the decision was made to acknowledge their freedom but command the gentiles to stay away from blood:
Acts 15:19-20 ESV Therefore, my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God (20) but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
The synagogue of Satan?
Pastor John MacArthur says this of the – synagogue of Satan. “With the rejection of its Messiah, Judaism became as much a tool of Satan as emperor worship.”
Think about this for a moment. You should be able to see how Judaism could become a tool of Satan. It was the thing (a zeal for the law) that motivated young Saul/Paul to chase down converts, then beat, imprison, and in Stephen’s case – stone them to death.
When Paul had trouble on his missionary journeys, where did most of it come from?
The Jewish community, but not just any Jews, synagogue leaders.
Look at this.
(Act 14:2) “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” (Acts 14:5 NASB) “And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them,”
This is not the act of people who merely cannot understand. They are choosing not to buy into this Messiah message that Paul preached.
How many of them were around when Jesus spoke of God as his Father?
A statement of this nature would have been blasphemous in their hearing if it was not true. But it was true, and yet they still wanted to kill Jesus. They chose to be unbelieving Jews and, therefore, combative in their resistance to truth and change.
Since I have told you this, you now need to start thinking like a Jew – A person that has a reasonable comprehension of the Old Testament (something that would have been required of a Jew.)
Are you beginning to grasp that our absence of examining the scriptures has hurt us and left us open to deception?
Now maybe we can understand what John was trying to convey because virtually everything alluded to in the Revelation came out of previous prophetic words found in the Old Testament.