Harmony of the Gospels

-Tuesday-
Mount of Olives
(12-5) Jesus Tells of the Future
Matthew 24:9-14, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19 (Focal Passage),

PART 5: The Beginning Of The Tribulation With Its Signs


Matthew 24:9-14

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

Mark 13:9-13

9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.
10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.
11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.
13 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

 

Luke 21:12-19 (Focal Passage)

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.
13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.
14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer;
15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.
16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.
17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.
18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost.
19 By your patience possess your souls.


Now the Lord begins to speak of the time of tribulation.  You and I are living in the age of the church or the age of the Holy Spirit, as some people like to speak of it.  The Bible divides the world today into three groups of people: the Jews, the gentiles, and the church of God (1 C. 10:32).  In this age, God is calling out a people to his name from both Jews and gentiles to compose the third group, the church.  It is this third group that will be taken out of the world at the time of the rapture.  Then the great tribulation will begin, and I believe that this passage speaks of this beginning. 

 

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.

Alternate Translation (NLT): But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will be accused before kings and governors of being my followers.

In the preceding section, Jesus had described events immediately preceding the end of the age. Because of His predictions, is seems that His words in versus 12-17 refer not only to the situation which would confront the disciples before the fall of Jerusalem but also to what will confront believers during the time of Great Tribulation.  The same kinds of persecution would be present at both times. 

Verse 12 is introduced by the expression “But before all these things. . . .” So I believe that verses 12–24 describe the period between the time of this discourse and the future Tribulation Period. His disciples would be arrested, persecuted, tried before religious and civil powers, and imprisoned. This prediction would be fulfilled throughout the entire new dispensation.  On the other hand, being handed over to synagogues would occur only at the beginning of this period, for after A.D. 70 (Jerusalem’s fall) the synagogue would lose most of this persecuting power against Christians.  The persecution of Christians may feel like failure and tragedy to them, but actually, the Lord would overrule it to make it a testimony for His glory. They were not to prepare their defense in advance. In the crisis hour, God would give them special wisdom to say things that would completely confound their adversaries.

Jesus, speaking to His disciples, told them they must be cautious that they are not drawn away from Christ, and from their responsibility to him, by the sufferings they would encounter for Christ’s sake. They must be careful that they do not deceive themselves with hopes for outward prosperity, for it is through many tribulations that you must enter into the kingdom of God.  They must take heed not to needlessly expose themselves to trouble, and pull it upon their own heads. Moreover, they must be cautious about what they say and do, because many are watching how they react to adversity.

Christ had told his disciples, when He first sent them out, what hardships they would suffer; but they had experienced little of it so far, and therefore He reminds them again, that the less they had suffered, the more there was remaining to suffer—“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Col.1:24). Paul’s ministry was carried out in an atmosphere of suffering. Writing from prison, Paul can say that he now rejoices in his sufferings for the saints, that is, on their account. As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was called upon to endure untold hardships, persecutions, and afflictions. These to him were a privilege—the privilege of receiving in his flesh the afflictions of Christ. What does the apostle mean by this? First, this cannot refer to the atoning sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Those were finished once and for all, and no man could ever share in them. But, there is a sense in which the Lord Jesus still suffers. When Saul of Tarsus was struck to the ground on the road to Damascus, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Saul had not been consciously persecuting the Lord—he had only been persecuting the Christians. He learned, however, that in persecuting believers, he was persecuting their Savior. The Head in heaven feels the sufferings of His Body on earth.

Thus, the Apostle Paul looks on all the suffering that Christians are required to go through for the sake of the Lord Jesus as being part of the sufferings of Christ, which still remains. They include suffering for righteousness’ sake, suffering for His sake (bearing His reproach), and for the gospel’s sake. However, the afflictions of Christ refer to more than the sufferings for Christ. They also describe the same kind of sufferings that the Savior endured when He was here, though far less in degree.

The afflictions endured by the apostle in his flesh were for the sake of Christ’s body, namely, the church. The sufferings of unsaved people are, in a sense, purposeless. There is no high dignity attached to them. They are only a foretaste of the pangs of hell to be endured forever. That is not the way it is with Christians. When they suffer for Christ, Christ in a very real way suffers with them.

Faithful believers will experience great personal testing during the Tribulation. The nations will conduct a bitter hate campaign against all who are true to the gospel. Notice, what the trouble is that they must expect.
1.) Believers will be hated more than any other group, not for anything they had done or said, but for the sake of Christ’s name, because they were called by His name (called Christians). Moreover, they prayed in his name, preached his name, and performed miracles in his name. The world hated them because He loved them. 
2.) They will be hated by all the nations of the world for Christ’s name’s sake, as he had told them before. The world was generally infected with hostility and hatred for Christians. The Jews, though spiteful to the Heathen, were never persecuted by them as the Christians were. They were hated by the Jews that were dispersed among the nations, and they were the object of the world’s cruelty. What should we think of this world, when the best men had the worst treatment in it? It was for Christ’s sake that they were hated and martyred. It was because they were professing and preaching his name that the nations were incensed so much against them, that the devil was able to take advantage of it, to throw everything he had at them.
3.) They will be afflicted with imprisonments, cruel mockings and scourgings, as was the apostle Paul—“Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep”(2 C. 11:23–25). The Apostle Paul could never forget he was a follower of the suffering Savior. He realized that the servant is not above his master, and that an apostle could not expect better treatment in the world than his Master had received. Paul reckoned that the more faithfully he served Christ and reproduced the Savior within himself, the more abundantly he would suffer at the hands of men. To him, suffering was the mark or badge of Christ’s servants. It says in Mathew, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Mt. 24:9). Faithful believers will experience great personal testing during the Tribulation. The nations will conduct a bitter hate campaign against all who are true to Him. The Lord is speaking of the nation Israel in these versus.  All of these things apply specifically to the Jews. John. 15:18-19 tells us, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you". If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not going to win any popularity contests, I can assure you. Not only will they be tried in religious and civil courts (Mark 13:9), but many will be martyred because they refuse to recant. Who is the “you,” who is Jesus talking about? Obviously, He is not addressing the church but the nation Israel.  The affliction He is talking about is anti-Semitism on a worldwide scale. But when God puts his seal upon them in that day, they are going to make it through to the end.  At this point, let me inject an important fact for Christians in our day.  As long as the true church is in the world, there could not be worldwide anti-Semitism because the church would resist it.  No genuine believer in the Lord Jesus can hate the Jews; it is an impossibility.
4.) Persecution would begin in the local Jewish courts, but it would move to the higher courts were governors and kings would be involved.  Not only will they be tried in religious and civil courts (Mark 13:9), but many will be martyred because they refuse to renounce their faith. While such testings have occurred during all periods of Christian history, the Lord predicted great personal testing during the Tribulation period, for those who would be unflinching in their testimony for Him. They would be put on trial before religious and civil courts (The book of Acts verifies all this). While this section is applicable to all periods of Christian testimony, it seems to have special reference to the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish believers who will carry  the gospel of the kingdom[1] to all nations of the earth prior to Christ’s coming to reign. These messengers of Christ will be indestructible during the time of the great tribulation.  The suffering of these Jews will be much greater during the Tribulation than it was under German persecution with the ovens and concentration camps. 
5.) Their own relatives will betray them (v. 16); those that are the closest to them, and on whom they depend on for protection. They will be betrayed even by parents and brothers. If a father has a child that is a Christian, he will go against his natural affection for him, and he will betray his own child to the persecutors, as if he were a worshipper of other gods. Many will renounce their faith, rather than suffer and die.
6.) Their church-leaders will reprimand them; "You shall be delivered up to the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and to the courts to be tried and found guilty. You will be beaten in the synagogues with forty stripes at a time, as offenders against the law, which was read in the synagogue.’’
7.) Governors and kings will use their power against them. Because the Jews do not have the power to put them to death, they will infuriate the Roman powers against them, as they did with Herod against James and Peter; and they will cause them to be put to death, as enemies of the empire.

Substantiation for the fulfillment of this prophecy, as it concerns persecution by the synagogue, during these very early days of the church, is found in such passages as Acts 9:1 and 22:19.  The latter passage shows that these early believers were flogged and that one of those persecutors to cause believers in Christ to receive this horrible punishment was Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.  After his conversion, he himself was going to be similarly tortured.  He would soon write, “From the Jews five times  I received forty stripes minus one.” [2] (2 C. 11:24).  This also implied imprisonment of Christians, as that same apostle shows by writing, “So I said, Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You” (Acts 22:19).  As for two “kings and governors” who figured in the persecution of the early church, think of such kings as (a) Herod Agrippa I, who killed James son of Zebedee, brother of the apostle John (Acts 12:1), and (b) Herod Agrippa II before who Paul made his defense.  Even (c) Herod Antipas who technically was not a king, is given this title at times (Mark 6:14).  And, as to governors, who took an active part in the persecution of Christ and/or his disciples, think of such Roman governors as Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus. 

Christians have always been hated by the world, but here we have an acceleration of persecution, lawlessness, and murders, for even the law enforcement agencies will not be able to keep the peace. All nations will be involved.  This certainly was not true in the history of the early church, for in the beginning it was the Jews who did the persecuting.  Jesus’ words here are descriptive of the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, and also of the events preceding the Great Tribulation period when the Antichrist will enter a future Temple in Jerusalem to set himself up as God—“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (II Thess. 2:3–4). Now the apostle tells His disciples that certain events must take place before He returns. After the Rapture, these events will begin to happen. First of all, there will be the falling away, or the apostasy. What does this mean? We can only surmise that it refers to a wholesale abandonment of Christianity, a positive rejection of the Christian faith. Then a great world figure will arise. As to his character, he is the man of sin or lawlessness, that is, the very embodiment of sin and rebellion. As to his destiny, he is the son of perdition; he is doomed to eternal judgment.

Remember, the things Jesus described here are not signs of his soon return, because they have been going on for centuries.  However, as the coming of the Lord draws near, these things will multiply and intensify.  No matter what our views may be of the coming of the Lord, we all need to heed his three admonitions: Don’t be deceived! Don’t be afraid!  Don’t worry! 

 

13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.

Alternate Translation (NLT): This will be your opportunity to tell them about me.

God will bring glory, out of their sufferings, to both himself and them. Their public persecution will make others take notice of their doctrine and miracles. When they are brought before kings and rulers, they will have an opportunity to preach the gospel to them. That is probably the only way they would even know there is a Gospel, and, as Paul said, “Salvation comes by hearing the Word of God.” It is through them suffering such severe persecution, and being hated by the worst men, men who live cruel lives, that they will have a testimony that they are good men. Their courage, cheerfulness, and faithfulness while going through persecution from their enemies, will be their testimony that they believe what they preach, that they are supported by a divine power, and that the Spirit of God rests upon them. In this way, St. Paul, being brought before Felix, and Festus, and Agrippa, and Nero, was a testimony to them concerning Christ and His gospel. Or, as we have already said, it will be a testimony against them, against both the judges and the prosecutors, that upon examination, Christ’s disciples will be found to be not only innocent, but that they are also excellent persons. The gospel is a testimony to us concerning Christ and heaven. If we receive it, it will be a testimony for us: it will justify and save us, but if we do not receive it, it will be a testimony against us on the Judgment Day.

This particular verse should not be used to teach that the gospel must ... be preached to all the nations before the Rapture. It should be proclaimed worldwide and perhaps it will be, but to say that it must be is to state something the Bible doesn’t state. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before Christ’s’ Coming for His saints; He may come at any moment!

It is good to know that the work they were called to do will be carried-on in spite of the opposition they will meet with. Those who suffer can be comforted by the knowledge that even though they may suffer and be beat down, the Gospel will hold its ground and prosper. Also, their sufferings, instead of obstructing their work, would advance it; "Your being brought before governors and kings will be for a testimony to them; it will give you an opportunity to preach the gospel to those before who are to judge you as criminals, and to whom you otherwise could not have access.”

See how richly this prophecy was fulfilled.  Christ’s disciples testified by word of mouth, by personal conduct, an even by the songs they sang.  In days of difficult trials and persecution, lying in dungeons perhaps, having been unmercifully beaten, etc., the followers of Jesus might be wondering what they should say when they were brought to trial.  So Jesus here essentially repeats the promise of  Luke12:11-12[3]: “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
He says, in the next verses, so fix it in your hearts not to plan your defense before hand, for I will give you such wisdom of speech, as all your adversaries combined will not be unable to withstand or contradict. 

 

14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer;
15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

Alternate Translation (NLT): So don’t worry about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply!

When you are on trial in the religious and civil courts, God will stand by you, and assist you. Therefore, instead of planning how you will answer the accusations made against you; wait upon the Lord, for He will tell you what to say. Do not try to contrive an answer on your own; do not depend upon your own wit and ingenuity. But, remember what our Lord said here, I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. This proves that Christ is God, for it is God’s prerogative to give wisdom, and he is the One who made man’s mouth.  A man that has a both a mouth and wisdom is completely able to serve God and to withstand suffering. He will have wisdom to know what to say, and a mouth, which is prepared to say it as it should be said. Note: it will bring great happiness to have both the means and words with which to honor God and do good, and to have a mind that is a storehouse for information.

Those who are faithful witnesses for Christ may depend upon Him to give them a mouth and the wisdom to have an effective witness. Especially when they are brought to trial for his name’s sake. Jesus does not say that he will send an angel from heaven to answer for them, even though he could do it, but that he will give them a mouth and enable them to answer for themselves, which is a greater honor for them, since it requires them to use the gifts and graces Christ furnishes them with, and it brings more glory to God, who quiets the enemy out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. When Christ gives a mouth and wisdom to his witnesses, He also enables them to refute what their enemies have said, so that they are silenced and confused. This was remarkably fulfilled after the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priest and rulers, and answered them in a way that made them ashamed (Acts 4, 5, and 6). Note, Those whom Christ calls out to be advocates for him, shall be furnished with full instructions: and when we are engaged in the service of Christ, we may depend upon the aid of the Spirit of Christ. However, this promise should not be used as an excuse for not preparing sermons or gospel messages today, but it is a guarantee of supernatural help for times of crisis. It is a promise for martyrs, not ministers!

 

16 You will be  betrayed[4] even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.

Alternate Translation (NLT): Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. And some of you will be killed.

He told them, "Your own relations will betray you, your parents, brethren, kinfolks, and friends; so that you will not know who to trust or where you will be safe (The extreme cruelty is illustrated not in physical terms but by the destruction of family ties). Your religion will be made a capital crime, and you will be called to resist unto blood. They will cause some of you to be put to death. You shall be hated above all men for my name’s sake.’’ This is worse than death itself, and was fulfilled when the apostles were made a spectacle to the world, and considered to be the filth of the world, which everybody loathes—“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men…being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world…” (1 C. 4:9, 13). In contrast to the self-satisfaction of the Corinthians, Paul describes the lot of the apostles. He pictures them as thrown into the arena with wild beasts while men and angels look on. As Godet has said: “It was not time for the Corinthians to be self-complacent and boasting, while the church was on the throne and the apostles were under the sword.” When they were slandered and insulted, they pleaded with men to accept the Lord Jesus. In short, they were made as the filth of the world, the scum of all things. This description of suffering for the sake of Christ should speak to all our hearts. If the Apostle Paul were living today, could he say to us, as he said to the Corinthians, “You have reigned as kings without us”?

They were hated above all men, that is, of all bad men, who could not bear the light of the gospel (because it discovered their evil deeds), and therefore they hated those who brought in that light; they wished they were dead. The wicked world, which hated to be reformed, hated Christ the great Reformer, and all that were his. The rulers of the Jewish church, knowing very well that if the gospel was accepted among the Jews their power was at an end, brought all their forces to stand against it. They filled people’s minds with prejudices against it, and made the preachers and disciples of it loathsome to the mob.He encouraged them to bear up under their trials, and to go on with their work, in spite of the opposition they would meet with. Note: world evangelism will precede these afflictions. Problems in bearing witness are everywhere, but they are a necessary part of God’s plan. Under the pressure, disciples may take comfort in the Holy Spirit’s special guidance: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

 

17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.
18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost.

Alternate Translation (NLT): And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me. But not a hair of your head will perish!

You will not suffer any real damage from all the hardships they will put you through, and when it is over you will discover that not a hair of your head has been lost.  It is a well-known expression, implying the greatest protection and security imaginable; it is frequently used in both the Old and New Testaments, in that sense. Some think that it refers to the preservation of the lives of all the Christians that were among the Jews when they were cut off by the Romans; historians tell us that not one Christian perished in that desolation. Others reconcile it with the deaths of multitudes in the cause of Christ, and take it figuratively in the same sense that Christ said it; “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” "Not a hair of your head shall perish.” But, to this end He had said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt. 10:30). The same God who takes a personal interest in the tiny sparrow keeps an accurate count of the hairs of the head of each of His children. A strand of hair is of considerably less value than a sparrow. This shows that His people are of more value to Him than many sparrows, so why should they fear?

Furthermore, an account is kept of the number of hairs, so that none of them will fall from your head, without Him missing it. Finally, it may happen that we become losers for Christ, but it will not, it cannot happen that we are losers for Christ in the end, for we will be rewarded by Him in the joys of eternal life.
There is a seeming contradiction between verse 16, “and they will put some of you to death,” and verse 18, “But not a hair of your head shall be lost.” It can only mean that though some would die as martyrs for Christ, their spiritual preservation would be complete. They would die but they would not perish.

 

19 By your patience possess your souls.

Alternate Translation (NLT): By standing firm, you will win your souls.

In the previous passage (Mt. 24:4-8), Jesus told His disciples that there would be certain events to mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and here He describes what the seven-year Tribulation period, which culminates with the return of Christ, will be like. Before I go on, it may help if I explain the different viewpoints held concerning the placement of the Rapture, the Millennium, and the Great Tribulation. There are at least four beliefs around today.

 

The Postmillennial View

The Millennium, a term meaning “thousand,” refers to the thousand-year reign of Christ. Some Christians believe the Millennium will be an age of blessedness on the earth. Some believe the Millennium is the present church age—a period of indefinite length, or that the Millennium is a way of referring to the eternal state.

The Bible’s only specific mention of the Millennium is in the book of Revelation (ch. 20). Interpreters differ greatly in their understanding of the Millennium and when it will occur. Postmillennialists expect Christ’s visible return after the Millennium. They look for God to use the church’s teaching and preaching to usher in a lengthy period (some interpret the thousand years literally, others symbolically) of peace and righteousness before Christ’s return. Postmillennialists usually adopt the “historical” view of Revelation as a whole.

 
The Premillennial View

Premillennialists believe that Christ will return before the Millennium. Interpreting Revelation 20 literally, they hold that Christ will reign on earth for a literal thousand years. Within this basic area of agreement, there are, nevertheless, a number of variant views—the most prevalent of which are the Premillennial-pretribulational and the Premillennial-posttribulational views. Premillennial-pretribulational scholars argue that there are two different peoples of God—Israel and the church—with two different prophetic programs. According to this view, the church will be “raptured” prior to a seven-year Great Tribulation. Following the tribulation, Christ will return to establish a thousand-year millennial kingdom centered in Jerusalem and involving the reinstitution of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The millennial kingdom will end with a futile rebellion by the forces of evil, after which will come the final judgment and beginning of the eternal reign.

 

The Premillennial/Posttribulational View

Premillennial/posttribulational scholars assert that Christ will return at the end of a seven-year Great Tribulation to establish a millennial kingdom. This kingdom will end with a rebellion by the forces of evil and the final judgment. This view often interprets prophecy in a non-literal way and does not usually view Israel and the church as the objects of completely different divine historical plans. Rather, Israel and the church ultimately form one people of God. Premillennialists of both types adopt the “Futurist” approach to the book of Revelation.

 

The Amillennial View

Amillennialists interpret Christ’s millennial reign in an ideal or spiritual sense. While believing in the Second Coming, they reject the idea of a literal thousand-year reign on earth. Some see Christ’s reign as having begun during His earthly ministry or at the time of His resurrection. They cite Peter’s declaration that Christ now rules from the right hand of God (Acts 2:33–36). Israel and the church are viewed as forming one people of God, and the kingdom promises to Israel are seen as applying to the church age, or to the eternal existence in the new heavens and the new earth. The amillennial approach usually involves an “Idealist” view of Revelation as a whole.

 

I stand with the Premillennialists. I do not believe that the Lord will allow His people to suffer the hardships that occur during the Tribulation, But I do believe that after they are raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation period, all the things that are mentioned in this passage will happen just as Jesus said it would.
Matthew wrote, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then  the end[5] will come” (Mt. 9:14). Revelation 7:1-8, teaches that God will choose and seal 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will carry the kingdom message to the ends of the earth.  Their one distinguishing mark will be that they will endure in faith until the end.

This verse does not teach that the gospel of God’s grace must be spread to every nation today before Jesus can return for his church.  It is the Lord’s return at the end of the age that is in view here. 

This verse is often misused to show that Christ could not return for His church at any moment because so many tribes have not yet heard the gospel. However, the difficulty is removed when we realize that this refers to His coming with His saints (Second Coming), rather than for His saints (First Coming). In addition, this refers to the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of the grace of God.

By your patience possess your souls. This verse indicates that those who patiently endure for Christ, rather than renouncing Him, will prove the reality of their faith. Those who are genuinely saved will stand true and loyal at any cost. The RSV reads, “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

It has a calming effect on those who love the Lord to know that, even though many are persecuted for Christ’s sake, some will endure to the end. When we see so many drawing back and no longer following Him, we are apt to fear that the cause of Christ will sink for want of supporters, and his name forgotten for want of some to make a profession of it. But, even at this time there is “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). What was true then is true now: God never leaves Himself without a witness. He always has a faithful remnant chosen by Him to be special objects of His grace. It is a remnant that will not draw back when faced with persecution and hardship; instead, they believe and persevere to the saving of the soul. They endure to the end, to the end of their lives, to the end of their present state of trouble, or to the end of these, suffering trying times, even if they are called to resist unto blood. It is comforting to those who do endure to the end, and suffer for their faithfulness, to know that they shall be saved. Perseverance wins the crown, through free grace.

They shall be saved: perhaps they will be delivered out of their troubles, and comfortably survive them in this world; but it is eternal salvation that the Lord is talking about here. They that endure to the end of their days, will then receive the objective of their faith and hope, “which is the salvation of their soul” (1 Pt. 1:9). The crown of glory will make amends for it all; and if we believe that, it will enable us to choose to die at a stake with the persecuted, than to live in a palace with the persecutors.

You are to get and keep possession of your souls. It is our duty and it is in our interest at all times, especially in perilous trying times, to securely possess our own souls, so that they will not be destroyed and lost forever.
"Possess your souls,” be your own men, allow reason to dominate your thinking, and keep control of your passions, so that neither grief nor fear will keep you from enjoying yourselves. In difficult times, when we can keep possession of nothing else, let us make sure to keep possession of our souls.

During the Tribulation, there will be many false prophets associated with the nation of Israel; however, in the church the danger comes from false teachers—“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1)[6]. 

In Matthew 13:44 the Lord Jesus is pictured as a man who sold all He had to buy a field. In verse 38 of that same chapter, the field is distinctly said to be the world. So by His death on the cross, the Lord bought the world and all who are in it. But, He did not redeem the whole world. While His work was sufficient for the redemption of all humankind, it is only effective for those who repent, believe, and accept Him.

The fact that these false teachers were never truly born again is indicated by their destiny. They bring on themselves swift destruction. Their doom is eternal punishment in the lake of fire.

Matthew stated this, in his gospel, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13). This obviously does not mean that men’s souls will be saved at that time by their enduring the hardships of the Tribulation. Salvation is always presented in the Bible as a gift of God’s grace, received by faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. Neither can it mean that all who endure will escape physical harm; we have already learned that many believers will be martyred (v. 9). It is a general statement that those who stand fast, enduring persecution without apostatizing, will be delivered at Christ’s Second Coming. No one should imagine that apostasy would be a means of escape or safety. Only those who have true faith shall be saved. Although saving faith may have lapses, it always has the quality of permanence.

During this period, the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed worldwide, as a witness to all nations. As explained before, the gospel of the kingdom is the good news that Christ is coming to set up His kingdom on earth, and that those who receive Him by faith during the Tribulation will enjoy the blessings of His Millennial Reign. Many false prophets will appear and deceive hordes of people. These are not to be confused with the false messiahs that will also appear. False prophets claim to be spokesmen for God. They can be detected in two ways: their prophecies do not always come to pass, and their teachings always lead men away from the true God. The mention of false prophets adds confirmation to our statement that the Tribulation is primarily Jewish in character.

He that shall endure unto the end … shall be saved is used to support a good-works gospel. However, the New Testament teaching on this subject dismisses such an interpretation. Romans and Galatians specifically discuss this issue and clearly declare that  salvation is based on faith[7]. In this passage “one who endures” speaks of a genuine believer who perseveres to the end of his life, but he can do so only because he has experienced the new birth. The ones who are persevering are only able to do so by God’s sovereign power. (Mt. 24:22).  So who is going to endure to the end?  Those who he has sealed, of course.  The Good Shepherd—in all ages—will bring his sheep through to the end.  When he starts with a hundred sheep, he comes through with a hundred sheep.  Be saved should be taken in a spiritual sense; it does not merely mean one will be delivered from earthly trials. The promise is that the one who endures will be saved spiritually.  The people who persevere are the same ones who are saved, not the ones whose love grows cold.  This fact does not suggest that a person’s perseverance secures salvation.  Scripture everywhere teaches precisely the opposite: God, as part of his saving work, secures the believers perseverance.  True believers are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5).  The guarantee of ones perseverance is built into the new covenant promise.  God says, “I will put my fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32: 40). He keeps believers through faith (1 Pet. 1:5)—their faith.

The message I get from this passage is, Do not be defeated. You must remain faithful under testing until the Lord returns. Do not let the sinfulness around you rob you of your enthusiasm. A LOST WORLD AROUND YOU NEEDS TO HEAR THE GOSPEL, SO GET BUSY!

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Special Notes

[1] The “gospel of the kingdom” is what John the Baptist preached—“Repent: For the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2).  And the Lord Jesus began His ministry with that message—“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17).  Also, He sent His apostles out with that message (see Mt. 10).  But in Matthew 11:28, we saw that our Lord’s message changed to “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  And in Matthew 20:28 he said that he had come to give his life a ransom for many.  But, during the tribulation period, the gospel of the kingdom will again be preached.  It is not for our day, because we are to preach the gospel of the grace of God.  Is the gospel of the kingdom another gospel?  No, my friends, it is not.  It is the same gospel with a different emphasis. We have no right to say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand because we don’t know.  But when the Great Tribulation begins, the people will know that they are close to the end, although they will not know the day or the hour.  Therefore, the message will be, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Remember, our Lord is answering the question, “What is the sign of the end of the age?” (see v. 3).  He is speaking of the end time.  

[2] The Law of Moses forbade the Jews to inflict more than forty stripes at one time (Deut. 25:3). In order to make sure that they did not break this law, it was common for the Jews to inflict only thirty-nine stripes. These would be inflicted, of course, only in what they considered to be cases of deep guilt. The Apostle Paul here informs us that his own people according to the flesh had given him the full measure of punishment on five different occasions. 

[3]It was inevitable that the disciples would be brought before governmental authorities for trial. The Lord Jesus told them that it was unnecessary for them to rehearse in advance, what they should say. The Holy Spirit would put the proper words in their mouths whenever it was necessary. It is a general promise to all God’s people that if they walk in the Spirit, they will be given the suitable words to speak in the crisis moments of life. 

[4]Another feature of the tribulation will be widespread betrayal of those who are loyal to the Savior. Family members will serve as informers against believers. A great wave of anti-Christian sentiment will sweep the world. It will take courage to remain true to the Lord Jesus, but he who endures to the end shall be saved. This cannot mean that they will receive eternal salvation because of their endurance; that would be a false gospel. Neither can it mean that faithful believers will be saved from physical death during the Tribulation, because we read elsewhere that many will seal their testimony with their blood. What it probably means is that endurance to the end will evidence reality, that is, it will characterize those who are genuinely saved.

[5]"The end" here means the end of the age, the tribulation period.  

[6]At the close of chapter 1 of 2 Peter, Peter referred to the prophets of the Old Testament as men who spoke, not by their own will, but as moved by the Holy Spirit. Now he mentions that in addition to the true prophets in the Old Testament period, there were also false prophets. And, just as there will be bona fide teachers in the Christian era, there will be false teachers as well.

These false teachers take their place inside the church. They pose as ministers of the gospel. This is what makes the peril so great. If they came right out and said, they were atheists or agnostics, people would be on guard. But, they are masters of deception. They carry the Bible and use accepted expressions —though using them to mean something entirely different. The president of a liberal theological seminary acknowledged the strategy as follows: Churches often change convictions without formally renouncing views to which they were previously committed, and their theologians usually find ways of preserving continuity with the past through re-interpretations.

W. A. Criswell describes the false teacher as follows: ... a suave, affable, personable, scholarly man who claims to be the friend of Christ? He preaches in the pulpit, he writes learned books, he publishes articles in the religious magazines. He attacks Christianity from within. He makes the church and the school a lodging place for every unclean and hateful bird. He leavens the meal with the doctrine of the Sadducees. 

Where are these false teachers found? To mention perhaps the most obvious places, they are found in:
Liberal and Neo-Orthodox Protestantism
Liberal Roman Catholicism
Unitarianism and Universalism
Russellism (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Mormonism
Christian Science
Unity School of Christianity
Christadelphianism
Armstrongism (The “Radio Church of God”)

While professing to be ministers of righteousness, they secretly bring in soul-destroying heresies alongside true Bible doctrine. It is a deliberately deceptive mixture of the false and the true. Primarily, they peddle a system of denials. Here are some of the denials which can be found among certain of the groups listed above:
They deny the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, and His death as a Substitute for sinners. They are especially vehement in their denial of the value of His shed blood. They deny His bodily resurrection, eternal punishment, salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the reality of miracles in the Bible.

Other false teachings common today are:
The Kenosis theory—the heresy that Christ emptied Himself of the attributes of deity. This means that He could sin, make mistakes, etc.
The “God is dead” fantasy, evolution, universal salvation, purgatory, prayers for the dead, etc.

The ultimate sin of false teachers is that they even deny the Master who bought them. While they may say nice things about Jesus, refer to His “divinity,” His lofty ethics, and His superb example, they fail to confess Him as God and as unique Savior.

Nels Ferré wrote, “Jesus never was or became God. ... To call Jesus God is to substitute an idol for Incarnation.” 
Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy agreed:
I am frank to confess that the statement (that Christ is God) does not please me and it seems far from satisfactory. I would much prefer to have it say that God was in Christ, for I believe that the testimony of the New Testament taken as a whole is against the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, although I think it bears overwhelming witness to the divinity of Jesus. 

In this and in many other ways, false teachers deny the Lord who bought them. Here we should pause to remind ourselves that while the false teachers to whom Peter refers had been bought by the Lord, they had never been redeemed. The New Testament distinguishes between purchase and redemption. All are purchased but not all are redeemed. Redemption applies only to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, availing themselves of the value of His shed blood (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).

[7]“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:23-26). Faith here is the Christian faith. It refers to the era ushered in by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, and the preaching of the gospel at Pentecost. Before that time, the Jews were kept under guard as if in a prison or in custody. They were fenced in by the law’s requirements, and since they could not fulfill these, they were restricted to the way of faith for salvation. The people under law were thus confined until the glorious news of deliverance from the bondage of the law was announced in the gospel.
 

Do you have any questions or comments?

 Charles Schulz consistently provided helpful and humorous insights through his Peanuts comic strip. In one run he showed Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, struggling with her memory verse for Sunday. She was lost in her thoughts trying to figure it out when she recalled, “Maybe it was something from the book of Reevaluation.” She never did find her memory verse but she sure gave us something to remember when it comes to studying the Bible. We should always read it with the intent of reevaluating our attitudes and actions to make sure they are squaring up with the truth of God’s Word.

Houston Chronicle, June 18, 1999, p. 11D

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