The Lord made very precious promises to His disciples, and we thank Him very much for these promises as we look forward to their fulfilment. He also promised 21us persecution, and we are to treat this promise as we treat all the others. He said to the twelve disciples, and, by implication, to us:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
‘He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.’ He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:16-42).
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9-14).
“But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:12-19).
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them” (John 15:18; 16:4).
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7).
“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49- 53).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Persecution: A Must
The Lord Jesus did not teach that persecution was an optional thing. He did not teach that persecution would come to some believers and not to others. The Lord expected all who believed in His Name to suffer persecution. That is why He said.-
- “They will deliver you up to councils and flog you in their synagogues.”
- “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake.”
- “When they deliver you up do not be anxious how you are to speak.” (“When” and not “if”.) As far as the Lord was concerned, that they would be delivered up was inevitable. The question was time – when.
- “Brother will deliver up brother to death.”
- “Children will rise against parents and have them put to death.”
- “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
- “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (and not if they persecute you in one town flee to the next).
- “I have not come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
- “I have come to set a man against his father.”
- “They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death.”
- “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.”
- “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
- “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.” Obviously, as we have already seen, they persecuted the Lord. So they will persecute the disciple too.
- “They will put you out of their synagogues.”
- “Whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
- “Henceforth in one house there will be five divided…”
The word “will” is abundant in these promises of the Lord. He meant every word of it. There is no choice about persecution. It must come. It is an integral part of the Gospel. The two are inseparable. The disciples also insisted that persecution was inevitable. The apostle Paul said, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine” (Philippians 1:29-30).
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Because persecution is a must, no one who decides to follow the Lord should complain about it when it comes. He opted for it when he decided to become one with the persecuted Lord. This also means that all who are being brought to the Lord Jesus should not only be told about the peace and joy that they will receive from Him, but also about the tribulation, suffering and pain which they will of necessity enter into by making Him their Lord. The Lord did not intend that people be coaxed into following Him without a knowledge of what it will cost. To do so would be to trick people, and is there any surprise that such people fall away in the day of trial and persecution?
If the Gospel were rightly preached, there would probably be fewer decisions; but there would certainly be more conversions and disciples. That is the task before us. May we draw close to the Lord Jesus and receive from Him both the message and the power to proclaim it.