“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are My followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about Me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are My followers. But not a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls.Luke 21:12-19
The focus for this section is no longer the remarkable, earth shattering occurrences that will rock the world at the end of time. Rather the focus is the persecution which is going to come upon the disciples in the immediate future. That is clear. I agree with Michael’s thought in that sense with regard to Luke 12-19 (See Bible Gem 1180). Michael’s working theory that this includes Luke 21:8-11 as well is a new thought to me. I need time to think about that in this context. But it is clear that aside from the things that will arise to shake the earth, the disciples will face persecution. The message is for them, and for us, is not to let persecution put them off their task or make them fearful of the future. The confusion arises because there is clear tension between the coming disturbances for the disciples and the fall of Jerusalem coupled with End Times events. It is clear, these two perspectives are telescoped together.
We have a tendency to see tension here between a prophecy meant for the disciples and a prophecy meant for some later point in time. We view biblical prophecy as if it were on a linear timeline. An event is prophesied and then it happens and it is over and done with. But that is not necessarily the case. Prophecy in Scripture is more cyclic than linear. In other words there is application at a particular point in time after the prophecy was given and then there are future occasions when the “prophecy” is fulfilled again. This prophecy before us is a good example. There is no problem with the tension here in this instance as it likely had an application at the time of the disciples and will have future applications as well. This is especially true of the armies surrounding Jerusalem and the destruction of the city and the temple as we shall see. It doesn’t just happen once but rather happens numerous times. Interestingly the iterations (or repeated fulfillment) of biblical prophecy have a way of increasing in intensity or significance in their application.
“Before all this occurs . . .” Before all what occurs? Before the signs of the end of the age – war, earthquakes, terrors and signs in the sky. Jesus is not talking here about End Times. He is talking about the period after Jesus has left the disciples leading up to the times of persecution they will face described in the book of Acts and beyond. This is a prophetic word from Jesus telling what will happen to them. They will face persecution once their leader has gone. All hell will break lose against them – Roman hell and Jewish hell, societal opposition and opposition from their own families and relatives. But they are to stand firm for when it comes they are not to worry how to answer the allegations or charges against them. They will be given what to say and how to defend themselves when it happens.
Well isn’t that interesting? They will be:
- Dragged into synagogues
- Dragged into prisons
- Standing trial before kings
- Standing trial before governors
Do you see what is happening here? This is a very clear link to the book of Acts. Isn’t that what is depicted in the book of Acts. The Book of Acts is the sequel to the Book of Luke. Both are written by Luke – Volume One and Volume Two: Luke and Acts. In the book of Acts we have this exact description of the events of the expansion of the church through persecution. The Book of Acts is structured on that idea. Here is the same notion found in Luke’s gospel. These two books are linked together. We will find that out as we move on to Acts as the next book I intend to Gem. That is why I chose the book of Acts as our next focus because I am aware of the way in which these two books link together. In this case they link together because they are written by the same author, but that is not normally the case with other biblical books and yet they all dovetail together as though they were written by the same author. Well the truth is they are – the Holy Spirit of God is the author.
I am not going to rob you of the enjoyment of finding the pieces in the book of Acts which relate to being dragged into synagogues, prisons and standing trial before kings and governors. You can have the pleasure of finding those references for yourself. It is all part of seeing how the pieces fit. But I think you will agree this is clearly a prophetic reference to a series of events which are imminent, not for some time far off in a distant future at the time of the End. It is a relevant, soon-coming threat to the disciples in the near future.
“This will be your opportunity to tell them about Me” (21:13). Guys, don’t try to avoid the opportunity. Allow God (Me) to use every opportunity for His glory. He will, but in so dong He will show you, teach you and allow you to experience amazing things related to His protection over you and His presence with you. Most of us try to avoid the persecution because it is not nice, it doesn’t feel good. But it is life changing and will radically transform you into who He wants you to be. That was true of the disciples. Note how the wimpy disciples depicted through the gospels rose to become strong, focused and brave exponents of the Gospel and founders of the early church. What happened to them? Persecution. Note how the saints of old down through the centuries developed backbone through persecution. The same is true in your life now and in the future. If you are going through persecution because of your relationship with Christ, REJOICE dear Christian because He is forging for you a crown in glory and backbone and resoluteness in this life. I know a number of people facing persecution NOW. This is for you and for the rest of you looking on.
We have a tendency to avoid persecution. If we had a choice, we would choose no persecution opting for the easy way out. But the easy way is not God’s way. Unless you are prepared to pick up your cross you can’t be His disciple. It always amuses me when debating the rapture as to whether it is pre-Trib. Mid-Trib or Post-Trib, most will opt for Pre-Trib. Oh yes I agree that would be nice but I think better to expect to go through at least some of the Great Tribulation than to hope you don’t. That way you will be prepared! I feel I have shared this quote or thought with you before but I can’t find it in searching the Gems. [It might be among the almost 100 missing Gems on the website, which we are trying to regain or rename so they appear: be patient.] But I will tell you again anyway.
The statement is burned into my mind from when I first heard it.
The story is told of a Chinese church leader in the persecuted Underground Church of China upon hearing a western Christian say, “We, in the West, are praying for you because you are going through persecution.” Whereupon the Chinese pastor said. “Yes and we pray for you because you aren’t.” Persecution is what makes us strong.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.Martin Luther King Jr
Tough times expose your values, because they force you to choose.Ed Milliband
Be a pioneer today, take a few arrows, stand out, endure & lead us all somewhere we’ve never been before.Paul Scanlon
In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.Francis Bacon