Showing posts with the label Persecution

Disciples and Tribulation

The New Testament exhorts followers of Jesus to expect tribulation because of their faith. While it may not be an everyday experience in the life of the church, neither is tribulation for the kingdom unexpected. And the chief cause of tribulation and persecution in the life of the disciple is his or her faithful witness of the life and teachings of Christ.

The Forty-Two Months

The period when the saints endure persecution is presented in three different but equivalent forms – “ forty-two months ,” “ 1,260 days ,” and the “ season, seasons, and half a season .” These variations do not point to three separate periods. Instead, they link several visions that describe specific aspects of the persecution that takes place during this period.

Beast Goes to War

The book of Revelation uses “ war ” and related terms to illustrate Satan’s attacks against the followers of the “ Lamb .” The book shows no interest in conventional or nuclear warfare between nation-states. Instead, the “ Dragon ” strives mightily to annihilate the church before his allotted time expires, and to do so, he employs deception, compromise, and outright persecution.

Discipleship and Suffering

For disciples, retaliation and violence are NOT appropriate reactions when persecution does occur. Rather than respond in kind, they must meet threats with humility, mercy, and love. This is what it means to “ deny yourself ” and “ take up his cross .” And while praying for one’s “enemies” is contrary to the “ wisdom of this age ,” it epitomizes the paradigm of Christ crucified.

Blessed are the Merciful

The reality of persecution raises important questions. How should disciples react to hostility and opposition, especially when they are persecuted by the government? Should they resort to indignation, civil disobedience, and public protests, or ought disciples of Jesus emulate his example?

Taking the Kingdom

Christ’s comment about violence taking the kingdom refers to violent men who attempt to seize the work of God  – Matthew 11:12.  In  Matthew , Jesus declares that “ violent men are seizing the kingdom of God .” Is he referring to malevolent men outside the church who attempt to seize control of the kingdom? Or does he mean Christians must aggressively pray and otherwise press into it? Are disciples to “ forcefully seize ” the promises from God, and does his kingdom advance through forceful action?

Afflicted Disciples

The godly disciple who faithfully bears witness to the gospel of Jesus will endure “tribulation” and persecution for his sake .  Our human tendency is to avoid trouble and conflict. Understandably, we prefer our daily lives to be characterized by peace, acceptance, and prosperity, a life devoid of difficulty, affliction, and certainly persecution. And the New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Yet it also exhorts us to expect and prepare for afflictions in this life.

Beastly Economics

The second Beast employs economic pressure to coerce men so they swear allegiance to the Beast from the sea .  The “ False Prophet ” uses the economic power of the “ Beast ” against anyone who refuses to render homage to the  World Empire , and the “ mark of the Beast ” enforces submission. The ability to impose monetary penalties on nations, communities, and individuals is key to the Beast’s power.

Disciples and Persecution

When Christians react to hostility with hostility, whether from government, society, or individuals, Satan triumphs .  The reality of persecution raises several questions. How should disciples react to any opposition, especially when they are persecuted by governments? Should they respond with indignation, civil disobedience, and public protests, or are followers of Jesus called to emulate his example?

Two Witnesses Testify

In its task of prophesying before “ nations and kings ,” the church is symbolized by “Two Witnesses” that “ testify ” before the “ Inhabitants of the Earth .” Their work continues for the entire “ twelve hundred and sixty days ” or “ forty-two months ” until they “ finish ” their prophetic ministry. Afterward, they are “ slain by the Beast from the Abyss .”

Boastful Mouth

In  Revelation , the “ little horn ” is  NOT  explicitly named but its characteristics are present in the “ Beast from the sea .” But the book does not retell the same story without changes. Instead, it modifies and repurposes it to tell  ITS  story. The “ Beast ” is based on Daniel’s “ little horn ,” but it also is something beyond it, and arguably, far worse.

People of the Last Days

The church is the battlefield where the final war is being waged between the Lamb and the Ancient Serpent, Satan .  The book of  Revelation  is addressed to seven first-century churches in Asia, and it deals with their real-life situation and trials. In the process, it presents messages relevant to all churches throughout the present age. Their daily struggles are a microcosm of the cosmic battle between Jesus and the “ Dragon .”

War on the Saints

The Beast from the sea is authorized to wage war on the saints for its overlord, the Dragon  – Revelation 13:6-10.  Next, the “ Dragon ” tasks the “ Beast from the sea ” with the destruction of the “ saints ,” and the “ Beast ” receives authority over all nations. Humanity is divided into two groups: The “ inhabitants of the earth ” who “ pay homage to the Beast ,” and those who “ tabernacle in the heavens ,” namely, the “ saints .”

War on the Earth

After his expulsion from heaven, Satan attacks the seed of the Woman, those who hold the testimony of Jesus .  Having failed to destroy the messianic “ son ,” and now, thoroughly enraged, the “ Dragon ” vents his rage by pursuing the “ woman ” into the “ wilderness ,” not by waging war against the " inhabitants of the earth .” But he is thwarted in this effort, so instead, he turns his rage on her offspring – the men and women who “ have the testimony of Jesus. ”

Arrest and Fulfillment

Jesus began to proclaim the Kingdom of God after the arrest of John the Baptist, and that incident foreshadowed the opposition that would characterize his own ministry. At the time, Palestine consisted of three territories -  Judea, Samaria , and  Galilee , and the latter included a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles.