Saturday, June 20, 2015

More on Jesus' End of Age Warning: Persecution

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of Jesus' answer to their question regarding the end of the age and His return to the earth. The discussion started when His disciples pointed out the beauty of the temple buildings, particularly the stone, and Jesus told them it would all come down one day. In all three accounts they say the same thing, that Jesus said, not one stone will be left on another, which will not be torn down. Of course, just like He said, that temple was destroyed in 70 AD. However, as a sign of His return coming near, we should watch the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which is what is left of that temple. It might just be one wall, but Jesus said, not one stone would be left upon another. 

Jesus first speaks of Christians, those who believe in Him and His name, which is the focus of this blog. He also refers to Israel which I may address in a later blog. After talking about the temple stones, He warns not to be misled, which I talk about in my first article--Jesus End of Age Warning. After that He mentions terrorism. He says that we will hear of wars and rumors of wars and to see to it that we are not frightened. This is terrorism--a rumor of war. In fact, not just a rumor of war, but wars and rumors of war. In other words there are those who engage in violence, with the threat of more violence. If we just had the threat of violence it wouldn't be as frightening as hearing of violence occurring and then the threat directed our way. Someone could mouth off in anger, "I'm going to kill you!" and that's not as frightening as someone who just killed a few people and then says they are going to kill you too. That is one aspect of terrorism we see in our day. Jesus said not to be frightened, the end is not yet.

Then He discusses racism and wars. He says, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Matthew 24:7. This word "nation" is ethnos which, according to Strong's Concordance, means a race. So Jesus is actually speaking of one race rising against another. The word "kingdom" is basileia meaning a sovereign power, so it refers more to what we consider a nation today. He goes on to famines, earthquakes, plagues, terrors, and great signs from the heavens. However what I want to point out is what He says will happen "before all these things."
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. Luke 21:12
Before all of these other things take place, there will be a persecution against Christians. It is because of the name of Jesus that this persecution occurs. Jesus said, "...they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations (ethnos) because of My name." Matthew 24:9. Just as we read in the book of Acts where the apostles were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, Acts 4:18 it's the name of Jesus that will be the target once again at the end of this age. Look for the term "Christian" and "Christianity" to begin to be watered down as people take the focus off of the name of Jesus and distort the true meaning of "Christ." The time will come when true Christians will of necessity be forced to identify with Jesus and not just Christianity. This may very well be why "many will fall awayMatthew 24:10 because they will not want to identify with the name of Jesus if it causes persecution or hardship. Not only will people choose not to identify with the Lord themselves, but will betray many who do. 
But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Luke 21:16-17
However, the end doesn't come because of persecution, or the famines and earthquakes, or wars, terrorism and racism. The end comes when "the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14. This is why the devil is trying to do all he can to distract Christians so they will not preach the Gospel. If we are being misled, or hiding in fear of terrorists, or afraid to identify with Jesus, then we will not preach the Gospel. Jesus said when they bring you before the authorities that, "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony." This is why He went on to say, "So make up your minds, not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. Luke 21:13-15. In Mark's account He says, "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit." Mark 13:11.

Here is good news. Jesus said, Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:18. Yes, some will be killed for their faith. Some will suffer, but will be able to speak in the name of the Lord before those in authority. Yet Jesus also said that not a hair of your head will perish! The word "endurance" is hupomone which means endurance, steadfastness, and a patient waiting for. It doesn't mean a person is hiding in a corner biting their nails, afraid of everything. In Matthew's account, Jesus says, "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." Matthew 24:13. This word "endure" is hupomeno which means to stay behind, await, endure, with the idea of standing your ground. 

The Gospel must be preached to all nations before the end comes. Those who are alive at that time will need to endure, or stand their ground, in whatever position they find themselves in. They are not to back down from preaching the Gospel or speaking in the name of Jesus, or even identifying with Him. They are not to resort to lawlessness1 or disobedience to the word of God and compromise out of deception or fear. Yet, Jesus says don't worry about what to say, the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say. The Holy Spirit will give you wisdom that cannot be resisted or refuted. And when you stand your ground, hold your position, remain steadfast and patient, you will be saved. The Greek word for "saved" is sozo, which means saved, healed, preserved and rescued!

The Lord is calling His people to be courageous soldiers and ambassadors for Him at the end of the age. Those who are not afraid or ashamed to call Him Lord, or to call Him by name, identifying with Him. Those who hold their ground to the end, will be saved, healed, preserved and rescued! In Luke's account, Jesus ended His discussion on the end of the age with, "...keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:36Our prayer for ourselves, as well as for others throughout the earth who are being persecuted for their faith, should be that we remain alert, and have the strength to escape all these things and stand before Him. It is still true that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:38.

1 "Lawlessness" in Matthew 24:12 is anomia which means lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin. It's the idea of utter disregard for God's law--written and living. 

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