TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. What to Do in Persecution

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Chapter 40  Part II

What to Do in Persecution

The Bible provides practical teaching on what to do when faced with persecution. Moreover, the Bible even provides good reasons to rejoice in spite of the suffering often involved in persecution. Not least of these reasons are the blessings that we can experience amidst such hardship – and those that we will receive in the future for enduring it.

Note that, as was the case in the first half of the chapter, a few of the verses in this second half speak of other hardships in addition to persecution that believers may face because of their faith.

Be Faithful to God and Endure

Remain faithful to God and Jesus Christ

Rev 2:10, 13  [Jesus Christ, to the church in Pergamum:] Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself. … 13‘I know where you live – where Satan’s throne is. Yet you continue to cling to my name and you have not denied your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed in your city where Satan lives.  NET

The clause “where Satan’s throne is” (v. 13a) apparently refers to the city of Pergamum as a center of pagan worship, no doubt a hostile place to Christians. Note Antipas’s example (v. 13b) of being faithful “even to the point of death” (v. 10b).

Continue to do what God wants

1Pet 4:19  [Peter, to believers:] Those who suffer because that is God’s will for them must entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good.  GW

Endure persecution and suffering

1Cor 4:12b  [Paul:] When people persecute us, we endure it.  GW

Rev 13:10  [John:] Whoever is meant to be captured will surely be captured; whoever is meant to be killed by the sword will surely be killed by the sword. This calls for endurance and faith on the part of God’s people.  GNT

Endure persecution and suffering patiently

Rev 2:3  [Jesus Christ, to the church in Ephesus:] I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  ESV

Consider and follow Jesus Christ’s example in suffering . . .

Heb 12:2-3  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God’s throne. 3Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.  GNT

. . . and share in Jesus Christ’s sufferings

1Pet 4:13  [Peter, to believers:] But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory.  NCV™

It was necessary for Christ to suffer in order to achieve God’s objectives for him. Likewise those who are “in” him, being a part of his body (the church), must also be prepared to suffer in order to advance his cause. Quite possibly the NT writers had such a concept in mind when they wrote of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

Note: Be on your guard against persecutors and avoid persecution when appropriate

Matt 10:16-17  [Jesus, to his disciples:] I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of people, because they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues.  NET

Matt 10:23a  [Jesus, to his disciples:] Whenever they persecute you in one place, flee to another.  NET

We are to be faithful to God in what we do even if it means that we will draw persecution. Having said this, verses such as this one suggest that it is appropriate to avoid persecution when doing so does not involve being unfaithful. Verses 16-17 above also suggest this.

 Questions for Section A

Have Faith in God and Pray

Have faith and hope in God . . .

Dan 3:17, 28  [Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to King Nebuchadnezzar:] Your majesty, if it be his will, our God whom we serve can deliver us from the blazing fire furnace, and he will deliver us from you. … 28Nebuchadnezzar spoke up and said: ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! He sent his angel to deliver his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and were willing to risk their lives in order not to serve or worship any god except their own God.  ISV

2Cor 1:8-11  [Paul:] For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  ESV

. . . Faith and hope enable one to endure persecution and suffering

1Thes 1:3b  [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] And we thank him [God] that you continue to be strong because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  NCV™

2Thes 1:4  [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] That’s why we brag in God’s churches about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and suffering you are experiencing.  GW

The coupling of “endurance and faith” suggests that faith goes hand in hand with endurance.

Do not be afraid of persecutors or suffering

Matt 10:28-31  [Jesus, to his disciples:] Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. 31So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.  NET

Rev 2:10  [Jesus Christ, to the church in Ephesus:] Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.  NET

Do not worry about what to say – you will be given what to say

Matt 10:18-20  [Jesus, to his disciples:] You will be brought before governors and kings because of me, to testify to them and to the gentiles. 19When they hand you over, don’t worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, because in that hour what you are to say will be given to you. 20It won’t be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  ISV

Pray to God, asking for help

Acts 4:29-30  [The early believers:] And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.  NET

Note that the believers’ prayer was for God to work through them amidst persecution, rather than simply for God to stop the persecution.

Bless and pray for those who persecute you

Matt 5:44-45  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  ESV

1Cor 4:12b  [Paul:] When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, …  NET

 Questions for Section B

Rejoice

Rejoice because trials develop Christian character and virtues

Rom 5:3-4  [Paul:] Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance, character, and character, hope.  NET

James 1:2-4  My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.  NET

Rejoice because of rewards for suffering and enduring persecution . . .

Luke 6:22-23  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! 23Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.  NET

. . . and look forward to these rewards

2Cor 4:17-18  [Paul:] And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts for ever.   GNT

Other reasons to rejoice in persecution and difficulties

Acts 5:40-41  After calling in the apostles and beating them, they ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus and let them go. 41They left the Council, rejoicing to have been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.  ESV

The apostles rejoiced in part because they considered it to be an honor to suffer for “the name” of Jesus Christ (cf. NCV, NIrV; 1Pet 4:16). Furthermore, being “considered worthy” by God and/or Jesus Christ is indicative of being accepted by them – a thought that the apostles may have also had in mind.

1Pet 1:3-6  [Peter, to believers:] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials.  NET

“This” (v. 6) certainly refers to the contents of vv. 3b-4; that which is in v. 5 may also be encompassed. These things give great reason for joy – and so to rejoice – even during suffering in trials (v. 6).

Further examples of rejoicing during persecution and difficulties

2Cor 6:10a  [Paul:] We have much sadness, but we are always rejoicing.  NCV™

2Cor 8:2  [Paul, speaking of the Macedonian churches:] In spite of a terrible ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy, along with their deep poverty, has resulted in the abundance of their generosity.  ISV

 Questions for Section C

Epilogue: Blessings for Faithfulness in Persecution

Note that some of the subsections in the previous section also speak of blessings for faithfulness in persecution. These are included in cross references in the subsections below.

Blessings amidst suffering

See also:

2Cor 1:3-5  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. 4He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us. 5We share in the many sufferings of Christ. In the same way, much comfort comes to us through Christ.  NCV™

2Cor 4:11  Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours.  GNT

Jesus’ “life” refers to his resurrection life – with its spiritual power for those who share in his suffering, suffering on his behalf.

God’s kingdom

Matt 5:10  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.  NET

Note that this teaching probably has both a present and a future application.

Eternal life

Luke 21:19  [Jesus, to his disciples:] By your endurance you will gain your lives.  NET

James 1:12  Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.  GNT

Future glory

Rom 8:17-18  [Paul, to believers:] And if [we are] children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. 18For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.  NET

Other blessings in the afterlife . . .

Rev 7:14b-17  [A heavenly elder, explaining to John who were the people wearing white robes in John’s vision:] “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will never go hungry or be thirsty again, and the sun will not beat down on them, nor any burning heat, 17because the Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  NET

. . . Blessings for one “who conquers”

Rev 3:4-5  [Jesus Christ, to the church in Sardis:] But you have a few individuals in Sardis who have not stained their clothes, and they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy. 5The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels.  NET

Being dressed in white (vv. 4b-5a) signifies purity and quite possibly also the glorified state of the righteous.

Rev 21:7  [God:] The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  NET

The believer who conquers or overcomes all the opposition and difficulties they face in striving to be faithful to God, will inherit all the blessings of the new Jerusalem (cf. vv. 1-6).

 Questions for Section D

Pray for persecuted Christians