Fiery Persecution

The fourth sign of the end of the age is fiery persecution of followers of Christ. Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 24:9). The noun “tribulation” (thlipsis) means “literally pressure, pressing together; figuratively in the NT . . . of sufferings of the end-time tribulation, trouble, distress (MK 13.19).” (Friberg) The verb phrase, “put you to death” means, “they will kill you” (apoktenousin humas). The root word is apokteino, “kill, slay, put to death.” (Friberg)

Hatred towards believers and the persecution and death of believers are part of the birth pains—the period of suffering until the end of the age. This intense suffering of believers is called the Seven-Year Tribulation Period (Rev. 6:9-11).

If you believe the false gospel of health and wealth, you will have a hard time accepting the concept of suffering for Christ. Suffering in sickness and poverty is antithetical to the false gospel of health and wealth, which I call the gospel of “entitlement.” The false gospel of entitlement teaches that you are “entitled” to God’s blessings of health and wealth. Health is your blessing as a child of God, they say. Wealth is your portion if you obey God, they add. However, if the gospel of health and wealth is true, then why were Paul and Timothy sick while obeying God’s will (2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Tim. 5:23)? Why was Jesus not prosperous? He owned no home, no bank account, and no cemetery space (Matt. 8:20). Why are godly people now suffering disease and poverty? Why does God praise the life of faith which is the life of suffering and poverty (Heb. 11:26, 36-39)? Yet the true gospel will bring you suffering and pain for Jesus. Suffering for Christ’s name is the result of believing in Christ. Jesus teaches that. The apostles teach that (Acts 5:41; 9:16; Rom. 8:17, 36; 2 Cor. 12:10; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Heb. 11:25; 1 Pet. 4:16; Rev. 12:11).

Who are the nations in the gospel of Matthew that will hate the believers? The nations are the Gentile nations, the non-Jews. “And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:18). The Gentile nations will hate the believers. I believe Islamic nations will play a major role in persecuting believers at the end of the age. Presently, Islamic nations are pressuring believers, banning all Christian gatherings and missionary work. Eight of the Top 10 nations persecuting Christians today are Islamic.[1] We must keep praying for the grace of God for persecuted Christians in many nations today.

Matthew 24 is about intense persecution of all believers. Revelation 6 is also about intense persecution of all believers. John writes about the killing of many believers during the Tribulation Period before Christ’s coming (Rev. 6:9-11). Hence, most likely, Jesus speaks of believers’ sufferings during the Tribulation Period in Matthew 24.

The signs of Matthew 24 are yet future for several reasons. Very few men, if any, claimed to be the Christ before the fall of Jerusalem in CE 70; or even none at all. That there were few false christs in the first century proves that the signs of Matthew 24 were not fulfilled then.

The disciples will only “hear” the wars, and not join it. (Morris) Thus, the signs could not have been fulfilled during the Jewish war against Rome in CE 70, for they will only hear of the wars. More, the disciples did not expect to live until the end of the age.

The gospel was not preached to the whole world during their lifetime. Most believers were not killed during the disciples’ lifetime. The “abomination of desolation” did not stand in the holy place during the apostolic age (v. 15). The “great tribulation” did not happen during their time (v. 21). The darkening of the sun and the falling stars are not yet (v. 29). Thus, the signs of Matthew 24 are yet future. It refers the believers’ suffering for Christ during the Tribulation Period. By that time, which is after the Rapture event, the church will no longer be on earth to suffer in the Tribulation Period (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

The church is never mentioned in Matthew 24. But there is reference to Jewish believers. There is mention of Gentile nations hating believers, implying that the believers are Jewish (v. 9). There is talk of the “holy place” in Jerusalem (v. 15). There is mention of “Judea” (v. 16). Matthew 24 has a Jewish flavor, favoring a Jewish application. The church has nothing to do with these signs. It appears that the church is no longer in the picture when the signs of Matthew 24 will happen.

Why would the nations hate the followers of Christ? Jesus gave the reason, “for my name’s sake” (v. 9). The Greek words are literally translated, “on account of my name” (NASB) or “because of my name” (NRSV) (dia to onoma mou). Jesus is saying, “Because of my name, they will persecute you; they will kill you; and they will hate you.” It implies that they will know who the Christ-believers are. They will know because the believers will proclaim Jesus’ name to them (v. 14). The people will reject Jesus’ name and persecute His people.

If you obey Jesus, you cannot keep quiet. True followers of Christ will tell others about Christ. Now if you preach Jesus, get ready to suffer for Jesus.

[1] “Christian Persecution: World Watch List,” Opendoorsusa.org. Cited July 13, 2017. Online: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/

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