- God’s People Face Persecution
- Types of Persecution
- The Antichrist and the Final Persecution
- God’s Care of Persecuted Believers
The Bible warns that faithfully following God inevitably results in persecution and difficulties. In fact in a number of countries today severe persecution of Christians is common. Additionally, the Bible speaks of a time just prior to Jesus Christ’s return when persecution will be severe worldwide. But along with such warnings, the Bible gives wonderful and powerful promises of God’s care for his people in the face of persecution.
2Tim 3:12 Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. NET
John 16:2-4a [Jesus, to his disciples:] People will put you out of their synagogues. Yes, the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering service to God. 3They will do this because they have not known the Father and they have not known me. 4I have told you these things now so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. NCV™
Acts 14:22b “We must endure many hardships to get into the kingdom of God.” ISV
1Pet 1:6 [Peter, to believers:] This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. NET
1Thes 2:2 [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] But although we suffered earlier and were mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition. NET
Acts 5:40a They called the apostles in, beat them, and told them not to speak in the name of Jesus again. NCV™
2Tim 1:8 [Paul, to Timothy:] So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel. NET
John 15:18-19 [Jesus, to his disciples:] If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you. NCV™
Acts 20:19 [Paul:] I humbly served the Lord, often with tears in my eyes. I served the Lord during the difficult times I went through when the Jews plotted against me. GW
Jer 20:7b-8 [Jeremiah:] Everyone ridicules me. 8For whenever I prophesy, I must cry out, “Violence and destruction are coming!” This message from the Lord has made me an object of continual insults and derision. NET
Acts 18:6 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to object to the statements made by Paul and even to abuse him. ISV
Matt 5:11 [Jesus:] God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. CEV
Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! NET
Acts 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. NKJV
Acts 8:3 But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. NET
Acts 22:19 [Paul:] I replied, ‘Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat those in the various synagogues who believed in you. NET
Heb 11:35b But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life. NET
Acts 9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest … NET
Acts 22:4a [Paul:] I made trouble for everyone who followed the Lord’s Way, and I even had some of them killed. CEV
The Bible speaks of a figure of the end times that is opposed to God and Jesus Christ, and persecutes their people. Daniel has visions which contain figures that appear to be ultimately representative of such an individual. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 Paul clearly speaks of such a “man”. In his letters John refers to an “antichrist”. Most prominently, in Revelation John speaks of two “beasts” – accomplices of Satan – arising in the end times. The predominant first beast is correlated by many with a final antichrist, though others consider it and the second beast to represent evil world systems rather than individual persons. See also the comment on Revelation 13:1-2, 5-7 below in The antichrist will be of Satan and opposed to God.
The portrayals in both Daniel and Revelation are in apocalyptic literature and thus are highly symbolic. As such much of what is written is open to interpretation. The purpose is not to give precise details but enough knowledge so that when such events occur, believers will be able to recognize them for what they are. Furthermore the general concepts involved give encouragement to all God’s people, giving reason for hope amidst persecution in all eras.
2Thes 2:3b Then before the Lord returns, the wicked one who is doomed to be destroyed will appear. CEV
1Jn 2:18 [John, to believers:] Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour. NET
The final antichrist will be preceded by many others who are anti-Christ – “now many antichrists have appeared”. False teachers could be primarily in view, but the designation is applicable at least to some degree to anyone who actively denies that Jesus is the Christ.
2Thes 2:9-10 The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders, 10and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. NET
Dan 11:36a And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. ESV
Here “the king” is understood by many to represent the antichrist, as with “the lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 above.
Rev 13:7b-8 He [the beast] was given ruling authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation, 8and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. NET
Matt 24:9 [Jesus, to his disciples:] Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. NET
Rev 13:7a The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. NET
Rev 13:15 The second beast was empowered to give life to the image of the first beast so that it could speak, and could cause all those who did not worship the image of the beast to be killed. NET
Dan 7:25 He will speak against the Supreme God and oppress God’s people. He will try to change their religious laws and festivals, and God’s people will be under his power for three and a half years. GNT
In regard to the duration of the antichrist’s rule and the future period of intense persecution of believers, the Bible speaks of periods of time which are equivalent to three and a half years. Whether or not this is a literal three and half years, such specifications are indicative of the period being predetermined by God.
Rev 19:19-20 [John, describing a vision:] Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. 20Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf – signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. NET
In v. 19, “the one who rode the horse” is Jesus Christ, returning with his army of angels.
Rev 14:9-11 [John, describing a vision:] A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark [of the beast] on his forehead or his hand, 10that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. 11And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.” NET
Rom 8:28-31, 35-39 [Paul, to believers:] And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. 31What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NET
The phrase “all things” (v. 28) probably primarily has in view adverse experiences, in particular persecution (cf. v. 18). In vv. 29-30 Paul proceeds to look beyond any suffering to the purpose and work of God for the believer that overshadows all difficulties we might experience in this life. Verse 31 is implying that if God is for us – as is emphatically shown (vv. 28-30) – there is no one (and no thing) of comparable significance that can be against us.
2Tim 1:8b [Paul, to Timothy:] Instead, take your part in suffering for the Good News, as God gives you the strength to do it. GNT
2Cor 12:9b-10 [Christ, to Paul:] “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [Paul:] So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. NET
In weakness, hardship and/or persecution (v. 10a) Christ’s power was perfected in Paul (v. 9). As such Paul could then say: “I am strong” (v. 10b).
Jer 15:20-21 [God, to Jeremiah:] I will make you as strong as a wall to these people, a fortified wall of bronze. They will attack you, but they will not be able to overcome you. For I will be with you to rescue you and deliver you,” says the Lord. 21“I will deliver you from the power of the wicked. I will free you from the clutches of violent people.” NET
2Tim 4:18 [Paul:] The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will take me safely to his heavenly kingdom. Glory belongs to him forever and ever! Amen. ISV
In light of vv. 6-8, which indicate that his death was near, it appears that Paul is not referring here to a physical rescue but a spiritual one – where Christ would bring him “safely to his heavenly kingdom”.
Dan 3:28 The king said, “Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued these men who serve and trust him. They disobeyed my orders and risked their lives rather than bow down and worship any god except their own. GNT
2Tim 3:11b [Paul:] I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all. NET
Dan 7:21-22 [Daniel, describing a vision:] While I was watching, that horn began to wage war against the holy ones and was defeating them, 22until the Ancient of Days arrived and judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High. Then the time came for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom. NET
The “horn” is understood by many to represent the antichrist.
2Thes 1:6-7 [Paul, to believers:] God will do what is right: he will bring suffering on those who make you suffer, 7and he will give relief to you who suffer and to us as well. He will do this when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven with his mighty angels, … GNT
Rev 6:9-11 [John, describing a vision:] Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” 11Each of them was given a long white robe and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been. NET