After you have suffered a little while

After you have suffered a little while. Who are we talking about? And what is a little while? Not to mention, what happens after the suffering? And maybe, what is the suffering? How about why will this suffering take place? But first, where does this even come from? No surprise to many of you, this comes from the Bible. While suffering is mention often in the Bible, this specific instance is from 1 Peter. It comes up because it’s part of the Verse of the Day from YouVerse.

After you have suffered a little while

After
you have suffered
a little while

The context of After you have suffered a little while

As always, context matters. And as usual, let’s examine that context right away. Then we’ll go through it in detail to see what’s going on.

To Elders and Young Men

1Pe 5:1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1Pe 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1Pe 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

1Pe 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

After who has suffered for a little while

Let’s face it – everyone suffers at one time or another somewhere in our lives. Some more than others, but no one escapes suffering entirely. However, since this is from the Bible, when Peter talks about those who will suffer, he’s not talking about that kind of suffering. And therefore, he’s also not talking about everyone. How do we know this? Let’s look at just one example. One’s enough, because of where it comes from. The speaker, the context, and the implications of this one example say all that needs to be said. It’s one verse in the Beatitudes – but pay attention to the sequence. It’s Jesus’ statement on what it takes, what it means, to be a true follower of Him.

The Beatitudes – Matthew

5:3-12 pp — Lk 6:20-23

Mt 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What we just read is essentially Jesus’ manifest. Hopefully, you noticed that it’s a progression. We all start at step one – recognizing that we’re poor in spirit. We then go through the steps. Growing along the way. But also going back, as in an iterative process. Even there, going back, as we realize that we’re even more poor in spirit than we originally thought, we grow. And then we revisit the other statements, move further in the characteristics of a true follower of Jesus. And we grow some more.

But look what’s at the end!

Mt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That’s exactly what Peter is talking about.

So this passage is not about everyone. It’s also not about everyone who claims to be a Christian. Rather, this is about those who truly are followers of Jesus Christ.

Why will this suffering take place?

Maybe you already saw the answer in The Beatitudes. It’s part of our growth process as we walk the narrow path to the narrow get Jesus told us about. But let’s make it a bit more specific.

Trials and Temptations

Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I could stop with just these first few verses.  However, that leaves out other important explanations from James about the Trials and Temptations that we will go through.  So, while I’m not going to go into more details today, here’s the rest of the passage.

If you’d like to check out other articles with references to Trials and Temptations, just click here to get a list with a short topic statement for each.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Jas 1:9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Jas 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Jas 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

So it appears that this suffering has to do with being a Christian. With truly following Jesus. Not claiming to follow Jesus, but actually trying to follow Him. We saw that above, but let’s look at one more thing. We need to examine the definition of the word in Biblical terms. All sorts of things are considered persecution today.

Not to say many of the modern uses of the word aren’t some kind of activity against certain groups of people They are. However – when we read the Bible, and when we want to compare / contrast what’s happening to us today with what’s in the Bible, we must understand how the word persecution was used in that time. Otherwise, we can completely miss the point Jesus was making. With that, here’s a Biblical definition.


PERSECUTION — the hatred and affliction that follows the witness and holy life of God’s people in a hostile world. The concept is stressed in many of the Old Testament prophetic books, such as Isaiah. The New Testament also teaches that God’s people will suffer persecution. Jesus taught that God’s prophets always faced persecution (Matt. 5:12); so His disciples should expect the same (Matt. 10:23).

In the early church, two ideas were taken over from Judaism to express the meaning of persecution. The Jewish theologians taught that the death of the righteous sufferer had redemptive value. While this idea was applied primarily to Jesus by the early Christians, the persecution of His followers was seen as a participation in Jesus’ suffering: filling up “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1:24). A good statement of this is that of Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

The idea of the coming Messiah held that the suffering of God’s people was part of the coming of the kingdom—evidence that a person is truly one of God’s own. Therefore they are “blessed” (Matt. 5:10) and should “rejoice” and “glorify God” since “the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:13–17).

Jewish opposition to Christianity arose primarily among the Sadducees (Acts 4:1; 5:17). At first the common people and the Pharisees did not oppose the church strongly (Acts 5:14, 34; 23:6). The first persecution came because Stephen spoke out about the inadequacy of the land of Israel and the Temple for salvation. This intensified when the apostle Paul began to proclaim the salvation of the Gentiles through Jesus Christ alone. Both Jew and Christian began to realize that the two were now separate religions, rather than sects of a single religion.

Roman opposition to Christianity also developed gradually. The Book of Acts emphasized Roman tolerance for the new religion. But this began to change with the Jewish riots against Christians in Rome, resulting in the Emperor Claudius banning both groups from Rome in A.D. 49. This set the stage for the intense opposition of later years that allowed Nero to make Christians the scapegoats for the fire that leveled Rome in A.D. 64. During this persecution the apostles Paul and Peter were martyred.  [1]Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

With that contextual definition in mind, we must realize that not every thing that happens to us in this life is persecution, the way Jesus used the word.

For instance, one of the big deals in these COVID times is the government blocking in-person church services. This is not – I repeat not – persecution in the Biblical sense! Why not? Because it’s not in any way directly solely at Christians. The mandates related to indoor and some outdoor gatherings are not only for church services. They apply to all sorts of different scenarios.

Rather, Jesus is talking about things that are done to Christians specifically, by people who are not Christian. Unfortunately, it could also be one group of so-called Christians against another group of so-called Christians. I feel I must use “so-called” because we are told not to do this kind of thing. And yet, we do. Sometimes, as with cults, one part or the other really isn’t truly following Jesus. But sometimes both are recognized Christian denominations, sadly.

When it comes to this kind of suffering, how long is a little while?

How long is a little while? When we hear something like, after you have suffered a little while, we probably compare it to some event in our life. Maybe we expect a day or two. Maybe months. Possibly even years.

And yet, is that the correct comparison? Shouldn’t we first compare the length of our life to the eternity we have in the next life? When we do that, even if the suffering is for a large part of this life, compared to eternity it’s just a tiny blip. No wonder Jesus said these things about worrying in this life:

Do Not Worry – Matthew

6:25-33 pp — Lk 12:22-31

Mt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Mt 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

With that in mind, let’s consider someone who lives to be 100 years old. Let’s also consider that science thinks the universe is some billions of years old. Rather than even try to imagine eternity, let’s look at the percentage of one of those billions of years and see what percentage of that is taken up by our 100 year old person. It’s 0.000000001%. Now, consider that eternity is infinitely longer than one billion years.

Just how much worrying is really justified when we’re talking about 0.000000001% of our life in the billion year scenario, let alone eternity? Well, to give an example, for our 100 year old person, 0.000000001% of 100 years is about 5.5 minutes. Five and one half minutes! Compared to even the billion years, not a lot. Compared to eternity, practically zero.

Maybe we can’t imagine it. But as Christians, should we not trust Jesus when He tells us not to worry? Compared to what’s left of our life, in Heaven, a tiny fraction of 5.5 minutes, realistically less than a fraction of a second compared to eternity, it’s really not long at all. It is, for all practical purposes, as close to nothing as we can get without never having existed at all!

What happens after the suffering?

There is no shortage of assumptions on what Heaven will be like. However, the reality is that the Bible doesn’t really say a whole lot. It’s not even specific on whether we’ll be in the New Heaven, the New Earth, both? Here’s something to consider.


Christian theology teaches that when we die our bodies decay, but we continue to exist as persons in God’s presence and will one day be raised to undying life with glorified bodies. The nature of the resurrected body is inherently mysterious, but we may say that it is truly physical, although animated entirely by the Spirit, and that it somehow maintains continuity with our earthly bodies as well as being wonderfully new (1 Cor 15:12–58).

Every human being who has died will be raised for the last judgment—the wicked for hell and the justified for heaven (1 Cor 15:12–58). There will be a new heaven and a new earth, which will come in the form of a new Jerusalem (Rev 21), which implies that human civilization will be redeemed and present in heaven. But as always, the general vision is clearer than the details, and we must be cautious about assuming too much on the basis of the fragmentary evidence that we have.  [2]Bray, G. (2018). Life after Death. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

In some ways, just a few questions might be the basis for whether we want to follow Jesus or not.

Do we even want to spend eternity, wherever that may actually take place, with Jesus? If we love our current life too much, there’s a very real chance we don’t want to be with Him in Heaven.

Do we want to spend eternity in a place just like where we are now? Sorry, but that doesn’t actually seem to be an option. One thing that is made clear is that there are two, and only two, destinations. One is Heaven / the new earth with Jesus. The other is Hell, without Jesus or even anything at all of God. That means, of course, nothing good. Only eternal, unending evil. No love. Only eternal, unending and complete lack of caring about anything or anyone at all. The absolute worst scenario we can imagine in this life will be better than the reality of Hell.

And maybe that last question helps make the choice? It’s something we don’t talk about much anymore. Maybe a success of Satan that the topic is pretty much ignored?

Conclusion – After you have suffered a little while

So – what about this suffering for a little while?

Is it worth it? We each have to decide.

What comes after the suffering? We can seemingly know a lot more about one than the other. Sort of. However, it essentially comes down to a difference between everything that’s good – and everything that’s evil. However, again, we don’t get to define good and evil. God does.

And so the issue maybe ultimately comes down to one of trust. Whether we love God enough to believe that He truly loves us and wants nothing but good for us? If we do, the choice is obvious.

If we don’t love God “enough” to trust Him – well, then we just don’t. And that’s not good enough. Because not loving God “enough” means we really don’t love God. We love something else more.

And if we don’t want to be with God, well, we won’t be. Our choice, not His. He loves us enough to let us spend eternity in Hell if that’s what we want. He never forced Himself on us in this life, and He won’t in the next either.

The suffering is worth it if we truly love God. And then we also have the faith to rely on Him to get through it.

The thing is though, it’s not our words that matter. It’s what’s in our hearts that matters. If the words say I love God, but our hearts say we don’t love God, then the heart will win out. Or is it lose out?

The suffering is not worth it, at least that’s what we’ll decide, if we don’t love God.

Either way, the passage that contains a verse many non-Christians even know about – John 3:16. But it’s the passage, in context, that gives us the real conclusion to this question of suffering for a little while.

John 3:16

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

If that passage makes you wonder about the status of your eternal future, I urge you to read Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God? You’ll find out that what Jesus actually said wasn’t just whoever believes in him as in head knowledge belief. No, it was about heart knowledge belief that leads to a change in the way we live.

Jesus Himself tells us that most people, even most who claim to be believers, will not be with Him in Heaven. You may remember, even with the ten lepers who did believe Jesus could physically heal them, only one was actually saved. One out of ten, even among those who claim to believe. Not good. Very sad.

Want to consider that suffering issue again?


Image by 🎄Merry Christmas 🎄 from Pixabay


Footnotes

1Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
2Bray, G. (2018). Life after Death. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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