SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Part 2 (Ye Shall Be Hated of All Nations)

By Ward Fenley


YE SHALL BE HATED OF ALL NATIONS

Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Throughout the centuries of church history, Christians have been martyred at the hands of those who oppose the Gospel of Light and Life. Even within the twentieth century, there have been hundreds of thousands of martyrs for the cause of Jesus Christ. Without a doubt, persecution is what every true Christian will experience in their lifetime. In fact, if we are claiming to be Christians and we are not experiencing persecution for our faith, it is very possible that our faith is not a saving faith. The Scripture is clear: "Yea and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." This is one of the great promises in Scripture. Those who are unlearned in the things of Scripture have mistakenly perceived, not only in this century, but in previous centuries, that the persecution Christians are experiencing or had experienced were signs of the end of the physical world. The Scriptures testify that persecution would be a sign of the impending end of the Jewish age. This is precisely why our Lord told the disciples, "He that endures to the end shall be saved." Upon analysis of the Scriptures, it becomes clear that the signs of persecution that preceded the end of the Jewish age actually took place within the book of Acts. In order to appreciate the record of the fulfillment of these signs, we must first examine the prophecies of our Lord to the disciples.

In the Apostolic commission, Jesus gives an admonition that ultimately would prepare these disciples for the persecution that would come upon them:

Matthew 10:5,6,11-23 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel... 11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. 16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. 21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. A similar passage is found in Luke: Luke 6:20-23 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Some have assumed that these particular passages are referring to a far-removed group of Christians in our century or, for that matter, in any other century beyond the generation of the disciples. Matthew and Luke, however, qualify the entire commission of the disciples: Matthew 10:1-6 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples...

Specifically, Christ told His disciples to not go to the Gentiles but, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This is why His statement in verse 23 is so imperative to understanding the persecution of the disciples and its relationship with the coming of Jesus Christ: Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Jesus prophesied in distinct terms that persecution would be an unmistakable sign to prove that His return was imminent. This is seen with equal clarity as we compare the synoptic records of the Olivet discourse: Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.

Luke 21:12-13 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. 13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

Among the accounts in Matthew 10, Luke 6, and these three accounts of the Olivet discourse, the individual signs included in this persecution are manifest: the disciples would be delivered up to be afflicted, killed, and hated. Specifically, this would involve being delivered up to councils, beaten in the synagogues, and brought before rulers, kings, and governors for the sake of Jesus as a testimony against them and the Gentiles. Also, men would lay their hands on the disciples, put them into prisons, cast their name out as evil, and separate them from their company. In all these persecutions, the sign of shaking the dust off their feet and rejoicing in that day would be a testimony of the disciples acknowledgment of their receiving persecution for their Lord.

The question should be raised: were these exact signs fulfilled in the lives of the disciples? Before asking this question, it is important to identify Christís audience. Matthew qualifies the disciples as the audience of Jesus in verse 3:

Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Jesus qualifies the timeframe in which the persecution must take place: Matthew 24:32-34 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. It is obvious that Christ intended not only to prepare the disciples for His coming but also to prepare them for the persecution that would test their faith before His coming. The sign of persecution and the specific individual signs included in this persecution were indisputably fulfilled as is testified in the book known as the Acts of the apostles. We will examine the signs as they appear throughout the book.

In Acts 3, Peter, after commanding a lame man to be healed, delivered a sermon exhorting the Jews to repent and be converted in order to experience the presence of the Lord. In his conclusion, he reminded the Jews of the Abrahamic Covenant and that, in Christ, this Covenant was fulfilled both to Jews and Gentiles. The Jewsí response was nothing short of the entrance of that great persecution which would come upon the disciples:

Acts 4:1-3 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Jesus predicted that the Jews would lay hands on the disciples and put them in prison thus, the Jews "put them in hold." Later in chapter four, we find another prophecy fulfilled: Acts 4:15-18 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. 18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. We must be careful to observe before whom and for what cause the disciples were interrogated. Notice in verse 15 the command of the Jews for the disciples to exit the council (Gk. sunedrion: a joint session of Jewish leaders-Strongís). The same word was used by our Lord in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils. The Jews also clearly expressed their hatred for the disciples because of the name of Jesus (Acts 4:2,18), another prediction of our Lord: Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. In Acts 5:17-21, the same elements of persecution (laying on of hands, appearance before councils, and casting into prison) take place again after the healing of those vexed with various infirmities (verses 12-16): Acts 5:17-21 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. The Jews would have brought the disciples before the council had the Lord not miraculously intervened. Immediately after this, however, the disciples were found preaching Christ in the Temple. The Jews then were able to bring them before the council again: Acts 5:27-28 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. "Ye should not teach in His name," was the command of the Pharisees. We see again the persecution for the nameís sake of Jesus (Matthew 24:9).

The Jewsí hatred prophesied by our Lord began to manifest itself increasingly as the disciples preached to them the forgiveness of sins through Christ:

Acts 5:33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. God sovereignly protected the disciples through the words of one of their own lawyers, Gamaliel. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Jews from fulfilling yet another aspect of the elements of persecution: Acts 5:40-42 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. This event caused joy in the disciplesí hearts primarily because of their devotion to their King. Another reason they were rejoicing may very well have been because they remembered the words of their Lord who predicted this type of persecution: Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. The disciples were delivered to the council and beaten just as their Lord had predicted. Consequently, the disciples rejoiced just as Jesus commanded: Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Truly, that day of persecution had come for the disciples, and they willingly rejoiced in being beaten for their Redeemer.

An aspect of persecution that often goes unnoticed when examining the lives of the disciples is that of having their names reproached and cast out as evil for the Son of Manís sake (Luke 6:22). This type of persecution often came from the Jews as they professed to be defending the Law of Moses. An example of this element of persecution is found in Acts 6 and 7 where the Jews bring Stephen before the council. Here is a portion from chapter six:

Acts 6:9-15 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. The Jews clearly reproached Stephen and cast out his name as evil. Ultimately, at the end of Stephenís monumental sermon, the Jews, convicted by their conscience, stoned Stephen to death. Thus, the words of our Lord: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." Matthew 24:9.

In Acts 8, Paul (Saul before his conversion), after commanding the death of Stephen, relentlessly persecutes Christians in a rather violent manner:

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling (dragging) men and women committed them to prison. Saulís hatred for the Christians continued until his conversion in Acts 9: Acts 9:1-2 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Upon his conversion, Paul would then fulfill the Lordís predictions in the Light rather than darkness. Ananias received word from the Lord that Paul would now be used by the Lord to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The response of Ananias was one of caution considering the persecution Paul had previously inflicted upon the church. The Lord then informed Ananias that Paul would now be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:8) which Jesus had previously predicted that all His disciples would suffer: Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. Paul had joined the ranks of the disciples in enduring tribulation before his entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Immediately upon his preaching Christ in the synagogues, Paulís experience of persecution for the name of Jesus would begin: Acts 9:23-24 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Acts 9:29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

Christís prediction that His disciples would be killed for His nameís sake became an intense reality in the hearts of His disciples with the martyrdom of James, the brother of John, in Acts 12. At the same time, Peter, again, was cast into prison: Acts 12:1-5 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. Although the persecution was becoming more severe, the saints knew that prayer and the grace of God would enable them to endure to the end. Even the fury that had resulted in the death of James would not cease the bold proclamation of the Gospel, for the disciples knew the reward: the inheritance of Jesus Christ.

One of the characteristics of the Jews that contradicted the Gospel of Christ was envy. In the gospels this is evident between the Pharisees and Saducees as they became increasingly jealous of Jesus while multitudes flocked around Him. Likewise, in the book of Acts, this same jealousy is observed among those Jews who were envious of the large crowds drawn to the disciples. Thus, the Jews were ill-affected against the apostles and their doctrine:

Acts 13:44-52 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. This type of response of the angry Jews is clearly a fulfillment of Christís prophecy: Luke 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. The disciplesí response to the Jewsí anger is also very important as we see their obedience to their Lord when He commanded them concerning these circumstances: Matthew 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

In Acts 13, the Jews tried to dissuade the crowds from following the Way of the disciples. This tactic was also used to persecute Christians at Iconium to the extent that the disciples fled to preach elsewhere: Acts 14:1-7 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, 6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: 7 And there they preached the gospel. It may have been that some of the same men who stirred the people against the disciples at Iconium followed the disciples to the region of Lycaonia where they persuaded the people to stone Paul: Acts 14:19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. After this stoning, Paul and Barnabas exhorted the disciples to continue through persecution because it was through this persecution that they would enter the kingdom of God: Acts 14:21-22 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Christ told His apostles that they would be scourged for His nameís sake (Matthew 10:17). Paul experienced this severe type of persecution from the Gentiles in Macedonia after exorcising a demon from a soothsayer: Acts 16:19-24 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. 22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. In Acts 17, the Jews, again moved to envy, cast out the name of Jason as evil for the cause of Christ: Acts 17:5-8 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. Certainly the declaration of Christ as King was enough to bring the whorish, Caesar-exalting Jews to persecute Jason and the brethren before the rulers, so fulfilling the prophecy: Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. Paulís ministry in the last chapters of Acts unequivocally fulfilled the Lordís prophecy, not only according to the record of Acts, but also by his own testimony in his epistles. It is, however, in Acts that we see the accounts of this fulfillment. In chapter 21, the Jews in Asia laid hands on Paul to kill him: Acts 21:26-33 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. Later, the anger of the Jews intensified as Paul confessed that God had told him to go to the Gentiles: Acts 22:22-30 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23 And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, 24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. 28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. 29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. 30 On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them. Jesus told His apostles that they would be brought before councils (Mark 13:9). In Acts 23, Paul is brought before the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Their fury was incited to such a level that some of them vowed a strict oath: Acts 23:12-15 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. 15 Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. Another aspect of the prophecy of our Lord concerning the persecution of the apostles was that of being brought before governors and Gentiles to give testimony of Christ before them. This also was fulfilled in Acts 24: Acts 24:10,22 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 22 And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. Paul, under the new governor Festus, was brought to King Agrippa who requested that Paul bear testimony: Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: In verses 2 through 29, Paul testifies of the prophets and the risen Savior, by which testimony Agrippa confessed he was almost persuaded to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). Jesus exactly foretold of this element of persecution that would come upon the apostles: Matthew 10:18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. In the epistles, also, there are various testimonies to the trials and persecutions experienced by the apostles, many of which have already been cited in the book of Acts.

In Romans, Paul associates his sufferings for Christ with the glory that was about to be revealed in him (Romans 13:11,12), though admitting they were not worthy to be compared:

Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. The present time, as we will see in Corinthians, was the distress and persecution experienced especially by Jews defending the cross of Christ. The sufferings were those which converted Jews had to endure prior to entering the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). It was with patience through much tribulation that Paul and the early Christians would eagerly wait for the promised glory in them: Romans 8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. In the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul distinctly testifies of the decree of God that the apostles would be appointed to "death" in persecution. This death is sometimes seen as metaphorical in the sense that the apostles had no regard for their physical lives. By doing so, they would fulfill the words and decrees of God for their suffering (Acts 14:22). Paulís first testimony of his own appointment for persecution is found in 1 Corinthians 4: 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. Within this passage, Paul includes in the apostolic trials these elements of persecution: a spectacle unto the world, fools, buffeted, reviled, persecuted, defamed, made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, each of which was prophesied by the Lord (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:9 Luke 21:12). Jesus promised His disciples, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Luke 21:17); therefore, these persecutions never moved Paul: Acts 20:22-24 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Paul alluded to their existing persecution as a motive to encourage singleness: 1 Corinthians 7:25-26 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. In the introduction to the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul immediately exhorts the saints concerning the comfort of God during their times of tribulation and distress: 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; It is interesting to note the phrase "sentence of death" in verse 9. Strongís defines "sentence" as "a judicial decision." Their distress and persecution was much more than just a rough day. The suffering of converted Israel was part of God fulfilling His redemptive plan. This is seen further in Colossians 1: Colossians 1:24-25 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; An important truth found in this passage is the statement that Paul would "fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh...to fulfill the word of God." Whatever deeper meaning lies within this passage, we can know that the tribulation which Paul was undergoing was a judicial decision of God in fulfilling His plan. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, tells the saints that he had despaired even of life. He expounded upon this in chapter four: 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. Paul was confident that the distress he experienced had a great reward in the end: 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; Such was Paulís confidence and disposition of heart that in light of the eternal weight of glory his distresses were but a light affliction. May God grant us the grace to examine our present trials as such in light of our present glory.

In further detail, Paul describes the trying fire that the saints were enduring:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. The apparent negative elements in this passage manifestly fulfill the words of the Lord in His prophecies concerning the persecution His apostles would endure, yet Paul, through all this, never wavered in his joy through Christ: 2 Corinthians 7:4-5 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. 5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. The eleventh chapter of the same epistle describes the frequency of Paulís distresses: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfullness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Regardless of the magnitude of infirmities, Paul still rejoiced through Christ: 2 Corinthians 11:29-30 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. In verses 32 and 33, Paul makes reference to an experience near the beginning of his ministry: 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. Through some attempts of men to imprison Paul, the Lord chose to deliver him. Nevertheless, persecution always awaited him (Acts 20:22-24).

More than any other epistle, Paul, in 2 Corinthians, expressed not only his persecutions but his joy in them as well:

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. Paul, in Galatians, reminded them of his own persecution of the church, a fact that often goes unnoticed in the study of fulfilled prophecy within the N.T.: Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: He continues the book of Galatians to make very clear the fact that persecution was always a threat to those who were faithful to preach the cross of Christ as opposed to the will of man. He even mentions the experience of Peter fearing those of the circumcision, which also testifies to the obvious presence of persecution: Galatians 2:11-12 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. Paul described Peter as a pillar; yet even Peter was swayed, as well as Barnabas (verse 13), by the relentless persecution of the apostate Jews.

Paul encouraged the Galatians to forsake their apostasy and be as he was in experiencing and enduring persecution because of the offense of the Gospel:

Galatians 4:12-14 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. 13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Paul was bringing to the Galatiansí remembrance their previous devotion to the Gospel of grace and Paul as the minister to the Gentiles. The Galatians obviously had a good beginning but began to be hindered by those who were persuading them that one must be circumcised in order to be saved. Galatians 5:7-12 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you. The trouble-makers were stumbling at the Rock of Offense primarily because through Christ, the Rock, their self-exaltation was exposed. Thus, they were revealed as the chief sinners by the law of God. Their trust was in the arm of the flesh through the law which only showed them to be at enmity with God. This was manifestly clear during the life of Jesus as we have already seen. The hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisees were His chief targets. Christ prophesied that these same hypocrites would persecute the Christian church before He would return (Matthew 10:23). The effect of the Pharisees was leaven in the church of which Jesus told the disciples to beware: Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 16:11-12 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Luke 12:1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

This leaven, Paul reminded the Galatians, would leaven those churches which would bear with false gospels. The words of Christ were coming true in the hearts of some of these Galatians, so much so that Paul was forced to label the Galatians as "bewitched": Galatians 3:1-4 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. The sufferings were those that were inflicted upon these Galatians for their profession of the cross of Christ alone. This profession is what brought the persecution to them. Paul appealed to this persecution as potentially having been suffered in vain if they were willing to draw back unto the Old Covenant rituals for justification. Paul, however, urged them by his own experience to walk in the rule of glorying only in the cross of Christ, a glorying which showed Paul to be an apostle upon whom would come the prophetic reality of persecution as spoken of by the Lord: Galatians 6:12-17 As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. To the Philippians, Paul joyfully testified of his bonds because of the Gospel of Christ for which he had become imprisoned as prophesied by the Lord: Philippians 1:12-14 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. For those who were truly Christians, persecution resulted in added boldness because of their knowledge of the coming glory and the realization that Christís prophecies were being fulfilled in their lives. Paul displayed this joy and confidence expressly in the rest of the first chapter: Philippians 1:19-30 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; 26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. 27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Not only had God sovereignly ordained the saving faith in His elect, but He also had ordained their sufferings as well. Paul was so consumed with his passion and love for God that he not only recognized faith as a gift, but he was also firmly convinced that suffering for Christ was a gift, especially considering the results of that suffering that would turn for his salvation (verse 19).

Paul, again, reminded the Philippians that, whatever his situation of suffering, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) promised by Christ (John 14:16-18) was causing him to be content:

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. His "state" was that of being cast into prison, experiencing hunger under bonds promised by the Lord (Luke 21:12).

The afflictions that Paul experienced are observed in Colossians as tribulation lacking in Paulís flesh that ultimately would be completed to "fulfill" the Word of God:

Colossians 1:24-25 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; The theme of affliction continues in the epistles to the Thessalonians, as Paul made known to the Thessalonians the contention that came by preaching the Gospel. In the first epistle, as in previous epistles, Paul unites this affliction with the inevitable result of joy in the Holy Spirit: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: Paul then exclaims the poor treatment he received at Philippi: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. Jesus spoke of counting the cost, not only in terms of the apostlesí submission to the lordship of Christ in obedience, but also the cost of suffering persecution for His nameís sake: Luke 14:26-35 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Paul and the apostles experienced much contention for the sake of the Gospel knowing that this was a part of bearing the cross of Christ. This correlates with filling up that which was lacking in the body of Christ. The "mocking" of Luke 14:29, 30 would be the reaction of professing Christians drawing back because of the Judaizing persuasion who would merely affirm their own heresy as they observed these "Christians" lose heart and faith. Thus, Christís words were very pertinent to the mind of Paul; namely, that if such an apostasy of a professing Christian would take place, that person is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, chiefly because of the great blasphemy that would transpire against the Gospel. Paul, therefore, by the grace of God, was never moved at the threat of affliction, for he could not bear the thought of bringing reproach to the name of Christ. Much can be learned from Paulís commitment to the Gospel by modern preachers who may be guilty of withholding truth for fear of contention with their hearers. This admonition can especially be gleaned from the rest of Paulís exhortation to the Thessalonians regarding their sufferings: 1 Thessalonians 2:3-16 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. 9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. Suffering was the inescapable product of preaching the truth of a nothing-but-Christ-crucified Gospel. This type of preaching enraged the Jews against the apostles (verse 15), assuring the apostle Paul to the degree that they had filled up their sins, a phrase Jesus used to describe the Jews upon whom the end of the age and wrath of God would come: Matthew 23:31-36 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. It is no wonder that true Christians at this time were so overflowing with joy at their persecution. They were certain that God was going to avenge them speedily: Luke 18:7-8a And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily... This, of course, was the primary motivation for Paul encouraging the Thessalonians in endurance, particularly in light of what would also take place when Israel would be judged, which, fascinatingly, is contained within the same context: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy. Not only did Paul comfort them with these words, he also sent Timothy to comfort them as they were experiencing these afflictions to assure them that these predestined afflictions would have, in the end, everlasting life: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: 3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. 5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. 6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. What was Paulís incentive for these suffering Thessalonians? They would live if they stood fast through the multitude of persecutions, the very persecutions through which they would enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

The second epistle to the Thessalonians, from the very start, continues this encouraging stimulus during the distress of Gospel affliction and relates this affliction with the impending judgment upon the adversaries of the cross:

2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; 4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. It is a recurring motif in the epistles of Paul to brighten and revitalize the Christiansí perspective of everlasting life. The apostle strengthens the faith of these Christians by promising the coming judgment upon those who are persecuting them. It was a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God for the purpose that they would be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. They were suffering for the kingdom of God. The very enemies which were persecuting them God had promised and ordained would do so in order for the Jewish Christians to endure and fill up that which was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Thus, these Christians would fulfill the prophecy of the Lord Jesus: John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. It is clearly evident that joy was the overriding theme that carried Paul and the Thessalonians through the profusion of persecution. Jesusí words were ringing loud and clear in the hearts of these Christians. These very words convinced them all the more that the signs of persecution indicated the soon coming of their Redeemer.

Timothy was given sober yet compelling motivation by Paul in the beginning of the second epistle. Paul used forceful language to persuade young Timothy to press through the trial which was coming and would continue to come upon him so long as he lived godly in Christ:

2 Timothy 1:7-12 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Paul assured Timothy of the grace and power of God given to His people to endure persecution. Along with this assurance, Paul reminded Timothy of the immense salvation of God through the Lord Jesus Christ as an impetus to stir Timothy into a radically bold preacher of the Gospel of Life. Paul even uses his own testimony as a motivating factor for Timothyís boldness. The clear association of persecution with the coming of the Lord is evident.

Timothy was commanded by Paul to consider and remember why and for Whom he and Paul were suffering:

2 Timothy 2:7-12 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. 8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: 9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: The cross to bear was severe; yet for those who were truly Christís, the yoke was easy and the burden was light in comparison to the salvation with eternal glory that would be revealed at the presence of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. For Timothy, persecution was understood to be one of the incontestable indications that rule with Christ was about to begin (4:1). Paul aided Timothy by declaring his own bonds and his suffering trouble as an evil-doer for the cause of Christ.

After declaring the entrance of the last days, Paul tells Timothy of the great promise made by our Lord to those in Christ Jesus. This, of course, applies to men of all ages but was particularly a catalyst for godly living in light of the nearness of Christís return:

2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. As is evident from his epistles, Paul frequently wrote from prison. In his epistle to Philemon, he informs Philemon of his encounter with a runaway slave of Philemon who was converted after his acquaintance with Paul in prison: Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: The question should be asked, why was Paul in bonds? He faithfully preached the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, by Whom Paul was individually told he would suffer for Jesusí nameís sake: Acts 9:16 For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. The book of Hebrews, perhaps more than any other N.T. book, emphasizes the necessity of continuing in the faith unto the end of the Jewish age. The greatest encouragement the writer could give was that of emphasizing what Christ had endured. In chapter one, the glory of Christ is contrasted with the great humility He suffered for the salvation of His people. Chapter two explains, in detail, the purpose of His death. The writer conveys the immense suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This was to prepare them for the suffering they would endure during the great tribulation. Chapter three is the first exhortation to the Hebrews to consider what Christ had done as they experienced the great persecution from the apostate Jews and the world. In giving them the exhortation, he admonishes them to consider the faithfulness of not only Moses to his house but even greater: Christís faithfulness to His house-the spiritual, eternal house of the believers in Christ: Hebrews 3:1-19 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfullness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. "Hold fast...firm unto the end" was the command. In other words, if Christ held fast, so were these saints to hold fast to the end of the Jewish age. The writer even brings to remembrance the example of the Jews in the wilderness who hardened their hearts against the Lord in unbelief. Therefore, God was grieved with that generation or that group of people who lived during that forty-year period in the wilderness tempting and proving God. Those who were in unbelief were not able to enter the promised land, a type of that promised land the first-century saints were about to enter if they held fast their profession: Hebrews 4:1-6 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 1 Corinthians speaks of the same people: 1 Corinthians 10:1-12 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Just as the Jews in the wilderness saw the signs and wonders of God and still rebelled, so the professing believers in the first century also saw the signs and wonders and were in danger of rebelling: Hebrews 2:1-4 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? The forty-year period or generation was almost complete, and the promised land was about to be entered. Because of the immense persecution, some mere professors were falling away, showing their initial unbelief: 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

As is the manner of the writer of Hebrews, he again reminds the Christians of the example of Christ to bring them encouragement during this time of suffering: Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. What was the real time of need? Was it not the tremendous persecution imposed by the apostates, the same group that killed the Lord Jesus? These first-century Jewish Christians were in a war for their souls, and the key element in winning this war was a constant remembrance of the faithfulness of Christ to His people and His Father. The Christians were continually reminded of the endurance needed to break through the revilings and reproaches of the enemies: Hebrews 6:11-12 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Once again, the end of the Jewish Temple, system, and nation was in sight, and the promise of the heavenly Jerusalem was just about to be obtained (Hebrews 10:36,37; 12:22,23).

In the last four chapters of Hebrews, the theme of enduring persecution is abundantly clear, especially as it relates to the nearness of the return of Christ. In chapter ten, the continuance of faith is urged as the judgment of the Lord is considered in relation to Israel. In verse 23, an admonition to hold fast is given as the prelude to what was about to come upon them:

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) Verses 24 and 25 explain why there was such urgency to continue: Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. "The day approaching" is not a phrase to be cast away as some incomprehensible statement of the uncertainty of Godís timing. Rather, the rest of the context confirms the fact that the Day of Judgment was approaching, and God was about to judge His people. The writer made it very clear that it was imperative for these first-century believers to continue in the faith, enduring persecution so they would not be judged with national Israel: Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. These verses dealing with the judgment of God are clearly related to verse 25 and speak of the same "Day" that was imminent. It is, however, the rest of the chapter, still within the same context, that indisputably associates persecution and the coming of the Lord: Hebrews 10:32-39 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. The exhortation to these first-century believers is to remember the persecution they and the writer endured for the name of Christ. The writer uses an interesting word concerning their persecution. He reminds them of the "reproaches" they experienced for the name of Christ. Isaiah speaks of this same form of persecution in the prophecy of this same time period: the end of the Jewish system and Old Covenant curse upon the true people of God: Isaiah 51:5-7 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. A strong correlation is seen considering the identical apocalyptic language that is used in Hebrews 1:10-12: And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. We must remember that the theme of the book of Hebrews is the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, not the change from the first physical heaven and earth to an imagined second physical heaven and earth (cf. Hebrews 12:22-28). The problem the first-century believers experienced was the extreme persecution and reproaches by the apostate and blasphemous Jews. Isaiahís prophetic warning became a reality in the lives of the early Christians. Once again, the reason for the urgent warning to endure the incessant reproach and revilings was the extreme nearness of the return of Jesus Christ to fulfill the Abrahamic promise. The warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 is within the same context of verses 32 through 37, especially verses 36 and 37: Hebrews 10:36-37 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while (lit. soon and very soon), and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. One must violently contort the scripture to escape both the obvious context and imminence implication of the passage. The patience in verse 36 refers to the endurance through the surge of persecution that had come upon these believers. For them to know that Christ would come in a very little while and would not tarry would be a compelling and comforting exhortation to continue in the faith of Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews 11, it is often overlooked that the intention of the writer in bringing these examples to the Hebrew mind was to assure his readers that the complete fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise for which the O.T. saints were looking was about to come. Several of the examples of faith given in chapter eleven involved those O.T. saints that endured persecution in order to, one day, receive the Abrahamic promise of a heavenly country (verses 11:10,14,16). The example of Moses is clear in associating persecution with the ultimate reward that would be given to him in the day of the Messiah, i.e., "the recompense of the reward," which Colossians says was "Christ in you the HOPE of glory." Moses had hope for glory, but he did not have that glory in Him, which was Christ, who also was the promise:

Hebrews 11:23-26 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. Toward the end of chapter, the writer explicitly relates persecution as it pertains to Christís return upon the first-century church. He uses an example of the ancient women of faith longing for a better resurrection that the writer also associates with obtaining the Abrahamic promise: Hebrews 11:35-40 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. The last verse in the passage is to show that the Promise for which all first-century Christians were looking, who had true faith in the living God, was about to be granted to men and women of the faith throughout the ages. Specifically, the O.T. saints would not be made perfect, i.e., receive their better resurrection, without the first-century saints, hence the phrase, "God having provided some better thing for us." Thus, we see the incentive intended to motivate the early church to continue steadfast in the faith (Colossians 1:23).

Chapter twelve continues this same theme with the ultimate example of endurance, who was Christ Jesus:

Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Not only were the Hebrews to consider the great cloud of witnesses, i.e., the saints mentioned in chapter eleven, but they were also to consider the One who gave them the very faith in which they were admonished to continue. It is interesting to note the fact that the writer told the Hebrews to run the race with patience. Why were they to run with patience? First, an immense amount of patience was required to endure persecution from their very own countrymen (2 Corinthians 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 2:14). Second, patience was required to eagerly anticipate (Romans 8:18-25) the imminent return of Christ. James uses this point to compel his readers: James 5:7-9 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. The Hebrews were to consider Christ lest they be wearied and faint in their minds. Wearied because of what? It is clear that persecution was the theme addressed both in the examples of the O.T. saints and in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, verse 4 and the following verses are kept in their context: Hebrews 12:4-11 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. The Hebrews had not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. The sin to which the writer referred is none other than that mentioned in Hebrews 10:26,29,35,38,39. Consider the subject: Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

Hebrews 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Hebrews 10:35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.

Hebrews 10:38-39 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

The sin is unbelief. This is the core warning throughout the entire book of Hebrews. Even in chapter four, it is evident that the physical type and shadow of the promised land could not be entered because of unbelief: Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
Hebrews 4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
Hebrews 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
This reminder to the Hebrews was designed to show them that entrance into the heavenly promised land would be impossible without faith in Jesus Christ. The Hebrews had not yet shed blood striving against the sin of unbelief. Paul had to deal with this same subject in his first epistle to the Galatians: Galatians 5:11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. The offense of the cross manifested itself in the persecution of Godís people. For Paul to draw back to circumcision was to draw back from the faith, something that would never happen to those who had truly believed unto the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:38-39). Nevertheless, the warning was to keep those aware who were beginning to concede to the reproach of the enemies of the cross. Paul declared that tribulation and persecution was a part of Godís plan for the early church, especially the converted Jews: Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Colossians 1:23-24 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

The "afflictions of Christ" are those same afflictions which the Hebrews endured. These afflictions are very likely a parallel to the "chastening of the Lord" in Hebrews 12. The writer had just confirmed in chapters ten and eleven that it was imperative for these converted Jews to continue in the faith. Chastisement was a corporate scourging of these Jewish Christians. This does not negate the fact that God chastises us today. In fact, it confirms that he does since we are in the age to come, and we are the "sons of God." But we must not forget the context from which the passage is taken: Hebrews 12:5-17 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. In verse 9, we see the correlation between the "subjection unto the Father" and "living." They were about to experience the fullness of resurrection life (John 1:16).

Verse 15 is clearly referring to the amazing apostasy which had come by this; the magnitude of which apostasy Paul tells the Thessalonians had not yet happened:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Interesting to note is the fact that Paul was admonishing these Thessalonians regarding the coming or presence of the Lord: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. First, Paul told them to not be shaken as if the Day of Christ was present (Gk.-enestaken). Paul simply tells them that the Day of Christ will not take place until the man of sin is revealed. If, as many futurists affirm, the Day of Christ was to be the Day in which the physical earth would be destroyed, or the Day that would start a thousand year period of physical peace on the earth, why would Paul not say something to this effect: "Look, Thessalonians, when that Day comes, we are not even going to be here anymore. We will all be in heaven, or at least having obvious physical peace here on the earth. Believe me, you will know when that Day comes. You will all have brand new physically resurrected bodies." Instead, Paul addressed the Thessalonians as if they knew that the presence of the Lord was without observation (Luke 17:20,21), and that the Day of the Lord would not take place until the great falling away happened.

John, in his first epistle, also exclaims that this falling away had begun and clearly marked that they were in the last time:

1 John 2:18-19 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Paul, as well, identified this growing threat to professing Christians in his epistle to the Galatians: Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. The writer to the Hebrews uses the example of Esau to show the comparison of Israelís rightful place concerning the promises and covenants of God (Romans 3:1,2; 9:4,5). Esau by his natural birth should have received the birthright, but because of his sin, which the writer identifies as fornication, he lost all the privileges that would have been his. The fornication is representative of the adultery that professing Christians were committing. Paul made clear the fact that no true Christian would leave her Husband. Their first husband (the old man) had died: Romans 7:1-4 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Esauís sin may have manifested itself later in outward acts of fornication; however, the implication of the passage is referring to his defection from God. The first-century Jews who had made a profession of Christ were beginning to defect by returning to the weak and "beggarly elements" of the law (Galatians 4:3,9), thus negating their natural-born status as those who had received the covenants and the promises.

In Hebrews 12:17, we see the extreme desire of Esau for the blessing:

Hebrews 12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. Notice that Esau would have inherited the blessing but he found no place of repentance. It was the blessing that Esau sought with tears, but there was no repentance in his heart. This same motif can be found in the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. It was a worldly sorrow that was working death in the hearts of many professing Jewish believers. The worldly sorrow was being disappointed in their failure at performing that which they thought would save them. Their sorrow was not working true repentance unto salvation. The true Christians, on the other hand, had to endure the trial of persecution imposed upon them by the apostate Jews. The persecution, as Paul mentioned in Galatians 5, was because of the cross. The cross was the chief element that was cause for stumbling in the hearts of unbelieving Jews. If salvation was procured through the cross, then all efforts at justification by the law were futile. This, of course, contradicted the apostatesí wicked standard of righteousness. Therefore, these same apostates either 1) tried to incorporate law into the gospel, hence the Judaizers, or 2) they outwardly opposed anything that had to do with the salvation and Deity of Jesus Christ.

After the brief passage in Hebrews 12:16 and 17 dealing with Esau, the writer continues his theme with an even more exclamatory passage that irrefutably associates the kingdom of God with the context of the persecution described in chapters ten and eleven:

Hebrews 12:18-29 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire. The great contrast between the covenant of death (blackness, darkness and tempest) and the covenant of life (Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the Living God, etc.) is seen in this covenantal transformation passage. This was the great encouragement that was designed to compel these first-century Jewish believers to press through the hardships of persecution so they would inherit the blessing.

Chapter thirteen begins with an exhortation to brotherly love and immediately follows with a request by the writer that the Hebrews would remember those in the bonds of prison:

Hebrews 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. "The body" once again refers to that corporate entity of Israel that was, by sovereign decree, having to enter the heavenly Jerusalem through much tribulation (Acts 14:22).

In verse 9, we see the urgent warning which these Christian Jews had to heed if they were going to prove themselves as the sons of God at His appearing and His kingdom:

Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. "Them that have been occupied therein" refers to the apostate Jews still bound to the law. They were the ones trying to sway the true Christians from their gospel under grace. It was these same apostates that were serving the tabernacle and the earthly rituals, thus showing themselves to still be servants to the law of sin and death: Hebrews 13:10-11 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Directly opposed to ritual salvation were the Christians whose altar was a spiritual altar in the heavenlies. However, the writer adamantly continues the association of persecution with the imminent coming glory: Hebrews 13:12-13 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. The sufferings of Christ were to be accomplished outside the camp, and so were those sufferings that were to come upon His followers. The reproach was the continual mockings and revilings by the enemies of the cross. But why suffer persecution? Why bear His reproach? Hebrews 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. The heavenly country for which Abraham longed had finally come into sight on the horizon. Mount Zion and the City of the Living God were about to come. The word mello ("to come") is properly translated within the context: Hebrews 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one about to come: Hebrews 10:36-37 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. The promise was Christ: their City, their Country, their Temple made without hands, their All in all. The Jews were about to enter into the rest and kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4). There was, however, a prerequisite that all those elect had to endure, and that was the reproach of Christ outside the camp: the Jerusalem which was below (Galatians 4:25) which would be destroyed in a little while.

James commences his epistle with certain language that contained obvious implication, especially in light of what has previously been shown:

James 1:1-4 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Many of the first-century, converted Jews had been scattered among the nations because of the faith of Jesus Christ. It is evident from what we have studied that there were members of the Judaizing movement plaguing the Christian Jews and trying to dissuade them to the heresy of combining Christ and the works of the flesh for salvation of the soul. Between the Judaizers and the overt Pharisees who utterly denied the deity of Christ, the Jewish believers were under great pressure to conform to the apostasy. The temptations mentioned here are not necessarily the common temptations which twentieth-century Christians endure but rather the temptation of drawing back unto the perdition of the Judaizers (Hebrews 10:38). That is, when James tells these Christians to count it all joy when they fall into diverse temptations, these were the temptations of conformity to the apostate Jews. It is also interesting to note that the result of patience having her perfect work would be that the Christian would one day be perfect and entire, i.e., Christ would be completely formed in him: Galatians 4:19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, This is seen clearly when comparing a similar passage: Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Those who professed to be Christians would have their faith tested in a most unique way since they would come face to face with the generation who crucified the Lord of glory.

Later in chapter one, James continues his admonition to the twelve tribes scattered as they persevered to the end of the Jewish age; however, this admonition was not without a promise to those who would endure:

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Once we are able to see the enormous significance of the persecution against the Jewish Christians, the impact of this verse is startling. The inference that the first-century believing Jew would make, especially after knowing the promises of the Lord Jesus that persecution would come upon them before His return, would inevitably be that the crown of life was about to be obtained. The trial would take place during the temptation, then their reward would come. This becomes amazingly clear in chapter five where James, with the most distinct language, relates the endurance of the Christians to the return of Jesus Christ: James 5:7-11 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. Could James have been more clear? Would his audience be assuming that, despite their incredible sufferings and temptations, their Lord Jesus would not return to give them their crown until thousands of years after they had been martyred? Is this how they would interpret James? Would this weighty admonition and promise be construed as an unmotivating command that would not yield any benefit for millennia to come? Imagine the cruelty of James to lead these suffering Christians into thinking the Lordís glorious return was at hand, before the door.

Not only was the promise of the crown of life sure, but also the timing of the Crown of Life. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, was at the door and about ready to judge His enemies and bless the precious fruit of the earth; yet this blessing would only be sure to those who would endure. This is seen in Paulís second epistle to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul, like James, associates the crown with persecution and the coming Judge:

2 Timothy 4:1-8 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. As we have previously seen, the word "shall" is the Greek word mello which, properly translated, means about to. In context, verse one would read: 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Paul, immediately after this great promise, also assured Timothy that the false teachers would arise bringing not only damnable heresies but persecution to those of the faith as well. Timothy was exhorted to be watchful and endure afflictions. Even Paul declared his own readiness for the crown of righteousness that he predicted was coming to him and all who were longing for the appearing of Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul associated his own sufferings with the appearing of Jesus and the crown of righteousness, or as James says, the crown of life.

Both Paul and James affirmed the necessity of endurance through persecution by the enemies of God. They also both affirmed that the Crown of Life would soon come upon every believer who loved His appearing. James, in particular, was using the same language His Lord used on the Mount of Olives when He described in detail the persecutions that would be the sign of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. These persecutions would clearly demonstrate that the Judge was at hand and ready to give the Crown of Life.

The epistle of First Peter begins with an introduction similar to that of James. This introduction is of no small significance, especially considering the audience and their experience:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Compare this with the introduction of James: James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. The phrase "twelve tribes" is very important as we analyze the experience of these converted Jews enduring the immense persecution by the apostates. Peter is primarily addressing the same group of people, i.e. Jewish Christians who, as we shall see, were enduring a fiery trial of persecution.

Peter, like the other apostles, addresses his audience with great words of encouragement coupled with a warning regarding the imminent trial they must endure:

1 Peter 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: The salvation ready to be revealed in the last time was none other than the fullness of the presence and kingdom of Jesus Christ in the hearts of His church (Luke 17:20,21). This, or rather Jesus Christ, would be their reward for enduring the fiery trial.

The question might be raised, "How can we know that this was the sign of persecution that would come before the return of Jesus Christ?" First, not only does Peterís language reveal the imminence of the return of the Lord Jesus, i.e. ready to be revealed in the last time, but he also directly associates the coming of Christ with the trial:

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Once again the question must be raised, "How would those who received this letter be interpreting Peterís words in light of the persecution they were enduring?" In comparing audience time with the very real experience of persecution endured by these believers, it should be evident that these Christians were certain that their reward was undeniably imminent, particularly in light of the fact that Peter, led in all truth, would unquestionably tell them the truth. That is, the appearing of Jesus Christ would be the fullness of their salvation ready (Gk. about to) to be revealed in the last time.

Second, of what persecution was Peter aware? Did Peter know of some persecution that the Lord Jesus forgot to mention? Would Peter place such heavy emphasis upon a trial that the Lord, with whom he walked, did not even specify? If the trial to which Peter referred was the same persecution which the Lord predicted, a persecution which some affirm was not to take place for thousands of years, why would Peter speak with such incredible urgency? How could he dare use such manipulative language with those who trusted that he was a true apostle of Jesus Christ? The primary reason for the intense urgency of Peterís letter is because He was under the personal ministry of His God who proclaimed in the most transparent language that the fiery trial would come upon his generation (Matthew 10:17-19; 24:34). The only message of persecution that Peter knew was that of which His Lord spoke while on the earth:

Matthew 24:9-13 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Peter himself knew that even he would be affected by this same persecution: John 21:18-19 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Peter affirmed this in his second epistle: 2 Peter 1:14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Are we to assume that shortly does not really mean shortly at all but, rather, that Peter was referring to a death he would die thousands of years later?

It is also interesting to note that the same passage in John where the Lord warned Peter of the death he would die has within its context a clear time statement in light of the above references:

John 21:19-23 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? In other words, "Peter, I have just told you that you will die, and I may will that John live until I come. You be concerned with yourself." One of them would die before the Lord would come and the other might not.

Peter was sincerely convinced by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and personally by the Lord Jesus that the Lord would reward those who endured the trial with the great salvation promised throughout the Scriptures. This is precisely why he associated the sign of persecution with the salvation that was about to be revealed in the last time.

Again, in chapter one, Peter uses urgent battle-like language to prepare his hearers for the revelation of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:13-17 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: It is clear that the grace or salvation to which Peter, as well as the prophets, referred was about to come to completion. Those whose faith would fail would never be the recipients of this salvation. It is with this knowledge that Peter writes. He urges, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

The first-century Christians, particularly converted Jews, were to hope to the end, i.e. the end of the Jewish age. They were to hope for the time when Christ would destroy the Temple: the outward sign that the new spiritual and everlasting kingdom would be established. It was at this end that the grace promised would be brought. Notice Peterís words: the grace that is to be brought to you. These Christians were the ones that were urged to gird up the loins of their minds for the purpose of continuing in the faith so they would receive the salvation of their souls, something that had not yet fully come to pass:

1 Peter 1:7-9 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. The fire that would prove that their faith was the faith of gold, or the faith given by God, was about to be fueled. The early Christians were about to be tested like no other generation, and the reward in the end would be the salvation of their souls, the grace that would save them.

Even with more strength than the first chapter, Peter, in chapter four and the first verse of chapter five, drives home the imminent trial which was to come upon the first-century Jewish Christians and forcefully relates this trial to the glory which they were about to receive:

1 Peter 4:12-19 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 5: 1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: First, we must ask why would Peter tell them to not think it strange concerning the coming persecution? Surely his motive had within its reasons the obvious words of the Lord Jesus with Whom Peter was present in virtually all His prophecies concerning the judgment that would come upon national Israel and the glory that would come upon the Israel of God. We must remember the material previous to the promise, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled"-Matthew 24:34: Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

The promise of Christ assured the apostles that there would be incomparable trials on both the people of God and the apostate Jews immediately preceding the coming of the Lord. There would be plenty of reason to think it strange had the Lord not specifically prophesied of the very tribulation they were about to endure.

Even more convincing in the passage is the blatant association of imminent glory with the persecution and trial:

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. Imagine the thought and anticipation of these Christians who were about to experience some of the terrifying circumstances of persecution. Would they dare assume that Peter was gravely mistaken in his affirmation of imminent glory? Was Peter mistaken or was He clearly echoing the words of Christ? Matthew 24:29-30 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. "Immediately after" were the words of our Lord. Consider the fervency with which the apostle Peter spoke concerning the prophecies of the Lord Jesus. What other tribulation or glory would Peter dare mention that would be in addition to the words of Christ than that which would come upon his generation? Matthew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. It is clear not only in Matthew but in Peterís epistle, as well, that there would be a reward for enduring the great tribulation and trial that would test the first-century Christians: the reward of glory.

He continues the context of associating joy and persecution to let his readers know that the imminent glory would, without a doubt, come upon them as they emerged out of the fiery trial:

1 Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Compare verse 14 with a similar passage in Luke where the Lord is speaking with Peter present: Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Why be happy? Because they knew that the Lordís prophecy was being fulfilled in their lives. So many in our generation love to think that the prophecies of the last days are being fulfilled in our lives. If we would seriously consider the words of Jesus and the apostles, we, as Christians, would experience even greater joy than the first-century believers. This is only appreciated when we understand that the glory that was to be revealed is now revealed in all those in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, the first-century Christians could only be thrilled at the promise of Peter by the Holy Spirit that they were about to fully enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. This is why they were to leap and be glad with exceeding joy in the face of persecution.

Peter, in verse 17, again uses distinct phraseology to relate another subject within the context of persecution and glory, and that is the issue of judgment:

1 Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? This is called separating the wheat from the tares. How could Peter know that the time had come for judgment to begin? Once again, persecution is the key in Peterís decisiveness regarding not only the imminent glory, but also the grand separation of the wicked from the just. (The nature of the judgment obviously must be taken into consideration; however, we must identify the timing of the judgment in order to identify the nature). The determining phrase is conclusive: "The time has come." The new house of God had been around for years since the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Why would judgment suddenly have come at the time of the writing of this epistle? What was so significant about this time more than the thirty years before, or thirty years after, or perhaps nineteen hundred-thirty years after? The significance of this time was that the great and qualifying sign of persecution and trial had begun. This fact, alone, persuaded Peter and the early Christians that the Day of the Lord was at hand.

It is in the first verse of chapter five that Peter affirms not only his authority as an elder but also his authority as an apostle and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ in connection with the sufferings and glory that was to be revealed.

1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: With the sufferings of Christ and the consequential sufferings of the first-century Jewish believers in mind (Colossians 1:24), Peter then combines two phrases that, beyond any dispute, prove that the sufferings of chapter four, verses 12 through 14, were to be equated with, and prove the inevitable nearness of, the return of Christ. First, he declares that he is a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Paul was affirmed his status during this particular period of change. This was a peculiar time in which the Holy Spirit was transforming those who had believed in Christ into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), i.e. from the temporal glory of the Old Covenant to the eternal glory of the New Covenant. Second, Peter confirms that he is a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. The word shall be is the Greek word mello which, when translated in context, reads: a partaker of the glory that is about to be revealed. What could be more conclusive? How could Peter be so certain that the glory was about to be revealed? He understood very well the prophecy of the Lord Jesus in the Olivet discourse. He also understood the clear observation that the persecution that was taking place in the lives of those Jewish Christians was the precise fulfillment of that very prophecy; a prophecy that Jesus predicted would be a sign of His coming. This is exactly why Jesus was so concise in His prediction: Matthew 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. James certainly understood that he was observing these same signs of persecution: James 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Both Peter and James were entirely persuaded that Christ was about to return because of many signs that were taking place but specifically, in the context of Peter, because of the predicted persecution promised them by the Lord: Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Jesus knew who His audience was and did not mislead them. Peter knew that he was a part of that audience and was not misled. The audience Peter was addressing knew that he was an inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who was promised that the Holy Spirit would lead him into all truth. Therefore, Peterís audience was completely convicted that the persecution they were enduring was a sure sign that the fullness of their glory was about to take place.

Peter concludes his first epistle with a final proclamation and association of the persecutions and consequential glory that was to follow. In fact, to see this incredibly clear association, we must see the entire context of the first eleven verses of chapter five:

1 Peter 5:1-11 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. We have seen that Peter was certain that the New Covenantal glory was about to be revealed in all those who were enduring the persecution against believers in Jesus Christ. Peter then builds their hopes even more by guaranteeing the crown of glory at the appearing of the Chief Shepherd. Then, after an exhortation to humility, he pleads for his hearers to cast all the cares of fear that were overwhelming many of them: i.e. fears of those who were persecuting them.

These first-century believers were experiencing much emotional duress. However, the intent of the passage is clearly implying the same persecution as was previously mentioned, namely, the persecution by the enemies of God-the Judaizers. Notice what Peter writes in verses 8 and 9:

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. Many agree that Peter wrote this epistle between A.D. 62 and 64. It should be noted that, historically, the Neronic persecution was reaching a level that these Christians had not yet experienced, hence Peterís admonishment: 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: The analysis of the present tense in this passage is important to our understanding of what the Christians were experiencing. The clearer translation reads: 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is trying you, as though some strange thing is happening unto you: The persecution had begun. The Devil was using not only the apostate Judaizers to try the Christianís faith, but he was also using the Romans under the reign of Nero to persecute Jewish Christians that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire (1 Peter 1:1). It was very likely that this was the period of time in which Satan was loosed to try to deceive the nations, lest they should believe the Gospel. This persecution and attempted deception is found in Revelation 12:6-17; 20:1-4,7-9.

First Peter 5:8 speaks of the Devil in the present tense: "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Why was the Devil roaring? This roaring demonstrates the great wrath that the Devil had against Christ and His people because he knew he was about to be crushed shortly (Romans 16:20), i.e. the Devil knew the time was short:

Revelation 12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Finally, toward the end of the fifth chapter, Peter again associates, with no uncertainty, the coming of Jesus Christ resulting in the eternal glory of the saints with the sufferings that were being endured primarily by Jewish believers in the first century: 1 Peter 5:9-10 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. The command to resist the Devil steadfastly was accompanied with two motivating facts. The first was the fact that these believers were not alone in their suffering affliction. Second was the fact that the result of the endurance through this persecution would be eternal glory. Paul also shows this as he encourages the Thessalonians with the same words of comfort: 1 Thessalonians 2:12-16 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. Here, Paul assures the Thessalonians not only that they will receive the glory promised, but also that those unbelieving Jews who were persecuting the Christians were about to experience the most intense wrath of God; hence, "wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." Peter, likewise, knew with full assurance that the glory which was about to be revealed in him and his hearers (Romans 8:18) would definitely come after they had suffered a while.

Clearly, Peter was writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit and confirming the truth of God that the persecution which first-century Christians, particularly Jewish Christians, were enduring was a manifest sign that the coming glory was at hand. Even Paul, an apostle born out of due time, was divinely persuaded by the Holy Spirit, who was leading him into all truth, that the end of national Israel was imminent, and the Old Covenant curse of death was about to be abolished. The persecutions which were coming upon him with increasing frequency were proof to him as well as to those who were directly or indirectly influenced by the teaching of the apostles that Christ would, in a little while, reward them with His presence among them. The writer of Hebrews attested to this fact with one of the most conclusive passages concerning the sign of persecution and the fullness of the Everlasting promise given to Abraham:

Hebrews 10:36-37 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Only the very God who promised that the persecution would come could supply the patience needed to endure the intense persecution of the Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ made it perfectly clear that the apostles and those under their teaching would experience scourging, beatings, have their name cast out as evil for the Son of manís sake, be brought before kings, governors, rulers, and even death for some of them. Each of these were incontestably fulfilled within the book of Acts as well as the New Testament epistles.

Though the experience of persecution was enormously grievous to these first-century believers, the persecution produced a peculiar intimacy among these same believers, especially in light of the fact that these tribulations were promised by the Lord. Even more endearing was the knowledge that these Christians had concerning the revelation of Jesus Christ and His complete victory over the enemies of God which would be proven by the destruction of the very system in which these enemies trusted. The New Testament writers, being led in all truth, assured the saints under their ministry that the full glory of Christ was about to be revealed and that persecution was one of the signs by which they would be convinced. Perhaps no other Scripture supports this more clearly than Paulís comforting words (which we have already observed) to the Church at Thessalonica:

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; 4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The persecution that the converted Thessalonians were experiencing Paul identified as "a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God." Strongís defines the word token as an "indication." Thus, Paul was declaring that the afflictions the first-century Christians were undergoing were manifest tokens, or clear indications, of the righteous judgment of God.

The apostles, because of the discernment the Holy Spirit had given them, were able to discern the particular sign of persecution as a sign of the times. They were able to discern the times of the judgment and glory that were about to be revealed through the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead.

Ward Fenley


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