Persecution of Christians
Jesus in His Olivet Discourse is teaching His disciples future events leading up to His return to reign on this earth for a Millennium. Luke 21:27-28. But before He returns to this earth certain things must take place in this Church Age: religious deception 21:8 and all sorts of natural disasters and wars 21:9-11
But before these things come to pass, in verses 12-19 Jesus warns His disciples, as well as Christians in general, that we will experience severe persecution, even to martyrdom. Martyrdom of Christians has continued for 2000 years and there is more today worldwide than at any time in history.
This was difficult for His disciples to grasp. In fact, it was shocking! Their hearts were set on the Golden Age and they looked forward to being leaders in the Kingdom. See Luke 9:46 and Matthew 20:20-28.
Yet they should not have been surprised. Jesus had warned of persecution early in His ministry in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:10-12.
The persecution of Christians would come from two sources, Jesus warned. It would come from the Jewish unbelievers as Christians were brought before the Synagogues and it would also come from Gentile rulers.
That’s exactly what happened to the Apostles, as recorded in Acts. First it came from the Jews, as the new Christians were brought before the Synagogues and beaten. Actually, Stephen an early deacon was the first Christian martyr. His Christ-glorifying death got through to the Christ-hating Saul of Tarsus. Saul soon was saved and became the flaming evangelist and missionary, whose name as an Apostle of Christ was changed to Paul.
Have you ever thought about this? If Christianity is but a myth for ignorant, misguided people, why all the hatred towards Christians? If it is nothing but a myth, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, why do people get so worked up about Christianity? The reason they hate Christianity is because they know it is true and they hate the God who sees them as rebellious sinners facing hell and they hate those of us who love Him and share the Gospel with them.
If God could reach into the heart of Christ-hating Saul of Tarsus who frothed at the mouth with hatred for Christ, he is well able to reach those who hate Him in this age. Christians, let’s get the Gospel to those enemies of God. They can become the greatest of missionaries and evangelists when God get through with them.
One more thing
In Luke 21:20-36 is Jesus only speaking of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, or is He also referring to the Tribulation yet to come?
Post-Millennialists answer that it speaks only of the Roman invasion of 70 AD.
Pre-Millennialists believe it speaks of the Roman invasion of 70 AD as a foretaste of the persecution that is yet to come during the Great Tribulation
Let me show you why the events of 70 AD did not usher in Christ’s Kingdom.
1. The Jews were not converted to Christ as a nation in 70 AD nor did it usher in Christ’s Kingdom. Read Ezekiel 36-39 and Zechariah 12-14 and see if those events have been literally fulfilled. Of course, they have not been fulfilled yet, but they will be when Christ returns to reign.
2. Two thousand years later, the Jews are still being trodden down by the gentiles as Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:27. That mistreatment of Jews by non Jews will continue until Christ returns to set things right. It’s our responsibility as Christians to befriend the Jews and give them the Gospel.
3. The Jews as a nation do not yet recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They will when Jesus returns to reign. Read those Ezekiel and Zechariah passages again.
4. The great sign in the heavens spoken of in Luke 21:27 have not yet occurred. They will during the Tribulation just before Christ returns in His glory to reign over the whole world.
5. Although the Gospel has been preached around the world these past 2000 years, it has not yet reached everyone on earth. That will take place during the Tribulations when the 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes) peach the Gospel of the Kingdom and an angel joins in preaching the Gospel to the whole world. See Matthew 24:14. Don’t let the cults confuse you on this as some of them claim to be the 144,000.
6. Before God’s wrath is poured out on this earth during the Tribulation, Christians must be removed from this world. That will take place in the Rapture of the Church, taught in I Corinthians 15:50-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. God promises that Christians will never experience the wrath of God which will be poured out on the world in those last years before Christ comes in His Kingdom. Read carefully I Thessalonians 5:1-11 for assurance that you as a Christian will never experience God’s wrath when it is poured out on this earth.
Did the persecution Christ prophesied in Luke 21 come?
The answer is yes. It began with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. Not only that, but through the past 2000 years we have seen the wars, earthquakes, pestilences and other natural disasters Jesus prophesied. If Jesus has been right about these things, doesn’t it make sense that all the other details of the Olivet Discourse are going to come to pass on schedule just as Jesus prophesied?
How shall we as Christians respond to persecution?
1. Rejoice, we are blessed. Matthew 5:1-16
2. If we live godly lives, expect persecution. Philippians 1:29, II Tim. 3:12
Are we living in the last days?
Every generation of Christians finds themselves living in the last days, but for each succeeding generation these warnings become more relevant, pertinent and urgent than for any generation of the past. Reading I Timothy 4:1-5 I am convinced that we are closer to Christ’s return today than at any time in history. Are you ready to meet Him? You will meet Him one day either as His friend or foe. Woe be to those who meet Him as His foes when He comes to pour out His wrath in that day.
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