But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you


“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.”  

persecute - prison cell - specifically, persecution of ChristiansThis is something most Christians would have read.  Hopefully, we also remember.  But, do we really believe it?  Maybe we believe it, as long as it’s for someone else and not for us.  You know -NIMBY – not in my back yard.  Or even in my neighborhood.  

The thing is, Jesus said this would happen.  As Christians, how are we supposed to respond when Christians are persecuted?  Let’s start by getting some context for the opening line.

Persecution of Christians

Signs of the End of the Age

Lk 21:5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

Lk 21:7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

Lk 21:8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Lk 21:10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Lk 21:12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.”

Watch out that you are not deceived

I believe it’s important to note that when asked about the signs of the end of the age, the very first thing Jesus said was, Watch out that you are not deceived.  Only after that does Jesus begin to talk about the signs.  But notice, they are not in chronological order.  Again, this must be important.

many will come in my name

Jesus’ first warning is for those who would try to lie to us.  They will try to tell us that they are here in Jesus’ name, but they are not.  Remember His words to that effect.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Jn 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Jesus gives us clues as to how to tell the difference between Himself, the watchman, the shepherd, the thief, the hired hand,  the wolf.  One of the keys here is the phrase, his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  Knowing His voice includes knowing His Word – the Bible.  That means we need to read it, study it, try as best as we can to understand it.  Only then can we know that it’s His voice – that the one we’re listening to came in through the gate, and not by climbing under, over, or crashing through the fence.  Meaning, of course, that it’s not someone who is twisting the words of God – as when Satan asked, “Did God really say…”.  If we don’t know what God really said, how can we possibly know the difference between Him and the thief?  We can’t.  And then we would follow the thief.  It’s important to know and understand this passage.  If we don’t understand then we will, as Jesus warned, be deceived.

These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.

These things must be first – wars, revolutions, famines, earthquakes, fearful events (as if the previous ones weren’t fearful enough).  Indeed, all of these things have happened and are still happening.  There’s one more thing as well – great signs from heaven.  People would disagree about this one.  Some would say there have already been great signs from Heaven – but were there really?  Others would say there have been no great signs from Heaven – but have they missed them?  We can see a warning from Jesus about this happening as well.  It comes immediately after the passage from John that we just examined.

The Unbelief of the Jews

Jn 10:22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jn 10:25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Jn 10:31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

Jn 10:33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jn 10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’ ? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

For those who don’t recognize Jesus, the ultimate “sign from Heaven” – how will they recognize these other things that He talks about?  For that matter, why would they even be looking for those things?

Even for believers, it requires knowledge of what Jesus said.  Don’t forget wisdom and understanding to realize what His words actually meant.  Furthermore, there’s discernment needed to recognize the things that must come – versus the end.

Why does all of this matter?

To see that, let’s move from the Gospels to Revelation.  We’ll see that something has drastically changed.

The Beast out of the Sea

Rev 13:1 … And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”

Rev 13:5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

Rev 13:9 He who has an ear, let him hear.

Rev 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Did you notice the difference?

From Luke, we read:

Lk 21:12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.”

And from Revelation we read:

Rev 13:9 He who has an ear, let him hear.

Rev 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

They both sound a lot alike, don’t they?  But the first says make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves while the second says This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.  The situation is worse in the second instance.  Why?  Because it’s The End.  One “simply” says don’t worry.  The other says patient endurance and faithfulness will be needed.  Of course, endurance and faithfulness are needed all the time, but the fact that it’s not included in one but is included in the other – that seems to be saying the second one will be even worse than the first.  Further evidence of that is given when we read, He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.

When will The End come?

We don’t know when The End is coming.  But Jesus does tell us to watch for it.  That means we will be able to tell something’s different.  And then we need to be ready for it.

But doesn’t the Bible say the end will come soon?  And that was “soon” as in the time of Jesus and the Apostles.  So how come it’s been 2,000 years and nothing’s happened?

First of all, I wouldn’t say nothing’s happened.  All of those things that must come have been coming.  Not to mention, looking at the the other prophecies, we’re still getting closer to a point where they actually could happen.  For instance, something like not being able to buy or sell things without the mark of the beast.

The Beast out of the Earth

Rev 13:11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Rev 13:18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.

Clearly, this has not yet happened.  And yet, we are rapidly approaching a point where it’s possible.  For all of the good things that can come from our technological advances, they can also be put to evil use.  Even with this one event, we can see that signs will be clearly visible.  We also see the need for wisdom, added onto the need for patient endurance and faith.  Not that we don’t need them now, as was pointed out – but that we’ll need them even more when that time comes.

What about persecution?

So what does all this have to do with persecution?

During the early church period, brutal torture and murder of believers was common.  All of the Apostles except John were martyred.  John was imprisoned in a cave on top of the island of Patmos, in Greece.  That’s when he received the vision for the book of Revelation.

These days, in many countries (like the U.S. where I live), that kind of thing doesn’t happen.  Not much.  Yet.  And when it does, it’s nothing like the brutality and scale of what’s going on in other parts of the world. So in some countries, more patient endurance, more faithfulness, more wisdom is needed that in others.  

But it’s still not the end.  So still more of all of them will be needed when that time comes.

Speaking of timing, we still haven’t really looked at that question of when the end comes – and wasn’t it supposed to be soon?

Actually, the Greek word would have been better translated as something other than “soon”.

Revelation

Prologue

Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.

Here’s the definition of the Greek word that gets translated as soon.

5034 τάχος [tachos /takh·os/] n n. From the same as 5036; GK 5443; Seven occurrences; AV translates as “shortly + 1722” four times, “quickly + 1722” twice, and “speedily + 1722” once. 1 quickness, speed.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So we see, it’s more about “speed” and “quickness” than it is about “soon”.  This is backed up by one of the parables Jesus told.

Watchfulness

Lk 12:35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Lk 12:41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

Lk 12:42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

Lk 12:47 “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Quickness.  Unexpected.  Suddenly.  All of these are words that describes what happened in this parable, and in others that Jesus told.

What we learned then is that as bad as any of us may view persecution of Christians today, it will suddenly, with very little advance notice, get so much worse.  The word “persecute” will take on a whole new meaning from the way many of us view it today.  This is especially true in countries where persecution of Christians is significantly less than on other countries.  When we return to persecution as it used to be in the days of the early church throughout the world, it will be shocking.  Even though we read that it was going to happen.  Even though we were warned.  Even though we shouldn’t be.  We will be shocked.  And then the question will become one of what are we going to do about it.

Conclusion

With all of that in mid, this is the opening article in what will be a series looking at persecution of Christians around the world.

For a more detailed look at the severity of persecution, please see Does persecution have to be violent to have an impact? 

As more is written, the articles can be found here.

 

Series NavigationDoes persecution have to be violent to have an impact? >>

References   [ + ]

1. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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