Along with the wars, rumors of wars, famines, plagues and earthquakes that Jesus gave as signs that would precede His coming and that He said were only the beginning of the birth pangs that would mark the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the end of the Jewish age, what additional signs does He give that would be of particular importance to His disciples ? See Mat 24:9. Were these the sort of signs they were looking for in answer to their question in Mat 24:3? In what way would this answer have been the exact opposite of their expectation for what Christ’s coming would mean to them? Cf. Mat 19:27-28, 20:20-23, Act 1:6. In what way is it the exact opposite of the expectations of many Christians today? Cf. Amos 5:18-20.
From the immediate context, who are “they” that will deliver Christ’s disciples to tribulation? See Mat 24:10-11,4-5. What example do we have of Jesus’ own experience at that very time that illustrates the sort of people who would also deliver His disciples to tribulation? See Mat 16:21, 20:17-19, 26:3-4,14-16, Luk 23:1-5; cf. Act 4:1-3,17-18, 5:17-18,40, etc… Recall that the false Christs Jesus warned about would mislead people by appealing to their desire for a conquering king who would make war after the manner of the world in order to save them from and exact vengeance upon their enemies. What then is the connection between the false Christs, false Christians, and false prophets, and the persecutions that would arise against the disciples of the true Christ? I.e., why would they hate them so on account of Jesus’ name and deliver them up to tribulation and even kill them? See Mat 5:38-48. Why is it that throughout history those who love the world and war after it have especially persecuted those who refuse to war with them? Cf. Mat 10:16 and consider: In what way does the refusal of Christ’s disciples to join with others in hatred of their enemies condemn their sin? Cf. 1Pe 4:4. Even more importantly, in what way does their refusal become a moral impediment for others to join with those who desire to quench their thirst for the world? What does this remind us about the restraining influence of true Christians in the world? Cf. Mat 5:13. How does it also help us understand why Christ’s true disciples are hated by the world because of His name? Cf. Joh 3:19-20, 15:18-21,16:2-3, 17:14, 1Jo 3:11-13.
What do these things teach us about what it means to be called by Jesus’ name? Is it to just bear the name of Christian, especially when so many who call themselves Christians war after the world in Christ’s name? Or is it to follow in His footsteps as His disciples and obey his teachings, so that our lives also condemn the world for its sin, as did His? What is the inevitable result of that? See Mat 10:22. Was this the example of God’s prophets? See Mat 5:11-12. Was this the example of the disciples in the first century? Cf. Act 11:19, 14:22, 20:23, 1Th 3:3. In what way has this been the example of Christ’s true followers throughout history? Cf. 2Ti 3:12. What encouragement did Jesus give His disciples about such things? See Luk 6:22-23; cf. 1Pe 4:14. How is it that Christ’s disciples are actually blessed when others hate them on account of His name? Think: what does that experientially communicate to them about the truth for which they stand, and where they stand in relation to that truth? Is the reason that many Christians in America do not experience such hatred and persecution because they live in a truly Christian nation, or is it because their lives really aren’t that much different from the world and don’t condemn the world around them for its sins?
Consider that at Christ’s first coming the religious leaders were expecting a conquering king after the manner of the world who would save them as his cronies and exact vengeance upon their enemies. As a result, although they were anxiously awaiting the Messiah, because of their love for the world and their world circumstances they ended up rejecting the true Christ and even crucifying Him. Is it possible that given the right circumstances, if those today who claim to be God’s people are not truly repentant of their love for the world, they too could also end up on the wrong side of the truth, even rejecting the One they claim to await, and hatefully warring against Him and His true followers? See Mat 24:10-12, Luk 18:8, 2Th 2:1-3 and cf. Mat 3:12. What does this remind us about the importance of heeding Scripture’s command to not love the world? Cf. 1Jo 2:15-17.
1. IF I WASN’T A REAL CHRISTIAN Recently I had the privilege to travel to Laos and to meet Christians there who face persecution. One of the brothers we met with is an evangelist who leads people to Christ almost every day. He has seen numerous people miraculously healed through the power of God, and many overcome drug addiction with God’s help. He told us that his cell phone rings regularly with people who say, “I need help.” He said, “I tell them, ‘I can’t help you. But Jesus can help you,’” and he introduces them to the Savior. One of those that he reached, we’ll call him “Phong,” lived in a village where there were no other Christians. Phong quickly won six other people to Christ in the village. But such outreach upset the village leaders, and they expelled Phong from the village. Forced to leave, he and his wife and their two children moved in with relatives in another village; relatives that were not yet believers in Christ. Our evangelist friend asked Phong, “Are you discouraged?” He replied, “No. This is God’s plan.” “How do you feel about this?” the evangelist asked. “I feel honored. This is in the Bible! I’m not disappointed. If I wasn’t a real Christian, this wouldn’t have happened.” If I wasn’t a real Christian…I was reminded by his statement of a verse that is a troubling one for many American Christians like me, II Timothy 3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. How do we, who aren’t currently facing persecution, read that verse? What does it mean to us? If we aren’t being persecuted, does it mean that we don’t truly desire to “live godly in Christ Jesus”? –Voice of the Martyrs “Persecution Blog”↩