The Bible Prophecy Nobody Talks About: Suffering & Persecution of the Saints
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
We have a savior that understands suffering.
Jesus understands abuse, pain. He understands ridicule and scorn. He understands weariness, loneliness and betrayal. He understands fear, anguish, rejection, sorrow, poverty, hunger, disappointment, temptation, grieving, and death. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ entire life was a long and continual trial.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage. Rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Some of you have suffered greatly in your lives. Some of you suffer now. Are you sharing the suffering of Christ?
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that ye are able but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.
~1 Corinthians 10:13
Most people think that verse is about temptation to sin. While its application can serve that purpose, the true meaning of that verse is much deeper.
The word for ‘temptation’ is peirasmos which means:
“of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin”
“or to a lapse from the faith and holiness”
That’s not the only meaning of that word. The word also means:
“an experiment, attempt, trial, proving”
“the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue or constancy”
“trouble: sent by God serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness”
“to inflict calamity upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith”
Temptation is trial. Temptation is suffering.
Let’s go back and read that verse again to see an amplified context.
There hath no [suffering] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to [suffer] above that ye are able but will with the [suffering] also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
The apostles shared in the suffering of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
Understand this: The work of the cross lacked nothing.
But, the church (being the population of believers) is the body of Christ. The life of the believer will include testing, conflict, trial and persecution. Especially in the last days -- which is an extension of the work of the cross. The believer and the church become a partaker of the afflictions of Christ.
The Apostle Peter wrote:
“And who is he that will harm you, if you are followers of that which is good? But, even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed [highly privileged]. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled,’ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will than for doing evil.”
~1 Peter 3:13-17
Of course, both of these apostles were martyred for the faith. Paul was beheaded, Peter crucified. Every apostle/disciple faced trial, conflict, persecution and martyrdom.
James (brother of John) – Executed by sword for the faith.
Philip – Tortured and crucified for the faith.
Matthew – Beheaded for the faith.
Luke – Tortured then hanged for the faith.
Mark – Executed for the faith.
James (the Lesser) – Thrown from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and clubbed to death for the faith.
Andrew – Hanged for the faith.
Thomas – Burned alive for the faith.
Bartholomew – Flayed and crucified for the faith.
Matthias – Stoned then crucified for the faith.
Simon the Zealot – Executed for the faith.
Judas Thaddeus – Beaten to death for the faith.
The only apostle who died from natural causes was John, who was exiled. While exiled, he wrote the book of Revelation.
The life of the believer will include testing, conflict, trial and persecution. Sometimes it starts early, even before you become a Christian. God knew you before you were born, who and what you would become, and what it will take to get you where He wants you to be. And I’m here to tell you that if you've faced suffering from the time of your start in this world, guess what? You are meant for mighty things for the kingdom. That is an extremely high calling and a divine privilege.
The suffering that takes place in the human life of the believer serves vital two-fold importance: to transform one into the likeness of Christ; and an extension of the work of the cross. Jesus is the head, but the church (population of believers) is the body. Not only will the believer be part of a transforming process of becoming Christ-like during the span of their life, they will also partake in the afflictions of Christ as part of the church, particularly in the last days.
Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
The bible unfolds a long redemptive plan that crescendos at the return of our Savior. The Bridegroom returns for His bride and the divine marriage union takes place. We transform into our perfected glorified bodies and will spend eternity with our Lord, as one.
If you believe for one second that the life of the believer is one of leisure and comfort, you’ve been spending too much time with feathers tickling your ears from any number of television prosperity pushers. What they sell is life through the broad gate. And, none of what they offer will prepare you for the real, genuine Christian walk, particularly in the last days.
Jesus instructs us to walk the narrow path. That includes suffering on a multitude of levels. And, the level of difficulty increases with each passing day that draws closer to His return.
The life of the Christian is not supposed to be easy and without challenge. It is a daily war, a front-line battle waged against the flesh and our own sinful desires. It is the taking up of our cross, which for some of us is the size of a telephone pole, weighing equally that amount, and carrying it on our weary, war-torn backs as we trudge through a hailstorm of enemy fire while wearing cement shoes.
It is a continual stream of fielding difficult people while making difficult decisions, typically extremely unpopular ones, in a world for which we do not belong, populated by people who hate us and everything for which we stand because they hate God and everything for which He stands. It is standing firm and unshaken in scenario after scenario where the community will lynch you and the legislators will jail you for holding on to your faith and teaching your children to hold on to theirs.
As we draw nearer to Christ’s return, all of this gets increasingly more challenging, the difficulty factor pegged in the red until eventually the choices we make could be between buying food and shelter or being homeless and hungry, or between life and death, all for the faith.
Whoever promised you that the Christian life would be an easy one full of wealth, favor and comfort has done you a great disservice.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."
Is your prosperity preacher preparing you for the end-time struggle? I hardly think so. The best they can offer you is a lesson on how to be lukewarm and self-serving, and the comfort in their message is lulling good Christians right into sweet slumber. Better enjoy your rest now, because it's about to be on, and you haven't cultivated even one skill on how to endure.
"Oh, but we are going to be raptured out of here before the severe struggle hits us!" Says the spiritually lazy Christian who just stepped out of a Joel Osteen rally.
Sigh... No, a thousand times no.
Being a Christian is not about being blessed with material wealth, "name it and claim it" or people falling all over themselves to show you favor everywhere you go. Quite the contrary. It's about training your heart and your mind to endure til the end. It’s about becoming like Jesus, who suffered, who was in poverty, who knew conflict, ridicule, scorn, resistance and rejection. Jesus was challenged, tricked, trapped and set up, time and time again. He was faced with doubters and haters, people who wanted him silenced...and dead! Does that mean that we will not have godly favor on our lives, ever? No. But, don't expect it in every situation, everywhere you go. Nobody would grow or learn a thing in their life if everything worked out the way we wanted, all the time.
You will face a multitude of challenges and could find yourselves stretched to your thinnest, most fragile measure. Jesus was tempted by the devil to dash His entire mission on the rocks, to forego the cross entirely, to give it all up...and that temptation came at the weakest and weariest point in his life.
And our adversary works like that.
Satan will approach the throne of God and demand to sift you like wheat. He will petition to bring the greatest challenge to your faith at your weakest point because he’s trying to break you. And, God may let him sift you! But, the enemy has zero chance of defeating you if your faith is unmovable, you are prayed up, suited up with God's armor, and you've been walking the narrow path so long you have the courage, agility and steadiness of a tight-rope walker with the rope strung between two high rises thirty stories up.
Yes, Jesus paid the price for our sins, He paid our ransom in full for our redemption. But, that perfect work on the cross did not include suffering for the faith. This is evidenced by countless scriptures warning us of that very fact. Its evidenced with every apostle who faced many of same challenges as Jesus including being executed for proclaiming the gospel as truth. This is evidenced by end-time biblical prophecies repeatedly detailing how it will be for the church during the last days and hours before Jesus returns to defeat the enemy.
Jesus taught more about persecution of the saints than His own return to earth!
Jesus is our living example of how to posture ourselves in the battle. Because there will be a battle, you can count on it. This battle will continue until Jesus comes back. Are you ready?
The devil has masterfully distorted the concept of suffering in the minds of people to believe that it is the worst possible thing that can happen. This lie goes all the way back to the garden. When Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, paradise was lost, period. And, no matter how much you want to run back to the garden, there is a light-sabre wielding archangel standing at every gate preventing that from happening.
Yes, we can live blessed, fulfilled, enriched lives during our Christian walk. But, there will be trouble, tribulation, struggle, strife, conflict, and a host of other forms of human suffering inter-mixed. Jesus takes us to paradise upon His return, and not a day earlier than that. Then, and only then does He wipe away every tear.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
The prosperity preachers want you paradise minded right here and now. Satan wants you tricked into thinking if you follow him, he can offer heaven right here on earth. According to him, you don’t need Jesus to get to paradise, the cross was meaningless, and you will never need a Savior. You can have paradise right here, right now; wealth, health, fancy house, fancy car, great career, perfect kids, people falling all over you with favor and everything you wish and hope for falling magically into place at no cost, free for the taking.
No. And, if you really think about it, how strong, faithful or courageous would you be if your Christian walk really looked like that? Thinkaboutit.
When you understand how blessed you are in suffering, the entire concept takes on a whole new meaning. This might be hard to take while you are in the midst of a serious trial, difficult period, or sickness. But, God makes a way of escape, He equips us to handle whatever comes our way. Sometimes that escape is that after you’ve suffered a while, God restores you and you end up better off than when the trial began. You’ve gained coping skills, your faith has been stretched, your strength has increased a hundredfold, and you have the endurance of a gold medal decathalonist.
But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, restore, establish, strengthen, settle you.
~1 Peter 5:10
Whatever you've gained from your suffering, there is nothing that can remove it from you ever again. It's a permanent feature with a value worth more than gold. It is a precious gift from God that can never be taken away.
The devil will do everything he can to make sure you don’t receive it. Don't let him. Stand firm in the faith and endure to the end, in Jesus' name! Amen!