Jesus told the faithful church at Smyrna, “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews but are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of the things that you are about to (see comments on mello, translated about to, below) suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.”
There are some keys to the book of Revelation in these brief comments. First, note the Jewish nature of the conflict and persecution against the church. Jesus said the Smyrnians lived where the synagogue of Satan dwelled, where those claiming to be Jews lived. This is a conflict about identity. Who are the Sons of God?. As one scholar says, “ Since the persecution is said to be instigated by the Devil, and since the Jews of Smyrna were a synagogue of Satan, it is probable that the persecution here, as elsewhere, was brought about by the local Jewish community.” This is an astute observation, but perhaps fails to notice the significance to the rest of Revelation.
In chapter 12, the Devil pursues the seed of the woman. Why is the “Devil” in chapter 12 not the synagogue of Satan in chapter 2:9? Why should we look any further for the identity of the persecuting power, Babylon–which was “where the Lord was slain”– than the synagogue of Satan?
Not only was the synagogue of Satan to persecute the saints, Jesus said he was to do so for ten days. This expression, is the normal Greek expression for a short time. Notice the direct correlation with Revelation 12. Satan, i.e. the Jews, were to persecute the Christians for a short time (Revelation 2:9-10). In Revelation 12:9-12 the Devil persecutes the seed of woman, and knows that “he has a short time” to do so before his defeat.
The persecution in chapter 12 is that predicted by the Lord in chapter 2:9f (and 3:9-10). And if the persecution is the same, then that means that the persecuting power of chapter 12 and the rest of the book was (primarily) Israel. This means that Babylon in Revelation was first century Jerusalem. Revelation is not about a future Great Tribulation, or a future “beast.” Revelation is about events that were fulfilled in the first century, and in the conflict between Old Covenant Israel, and the body of Christ, the church.
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