Intermediate Edition

I.  The Persecution of God’s People


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Chapter 40  Part I

The Persecution of God’s People

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.

The Reality of Persecution

Following God and Jesus Christ results in persecution . . .

Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.   2 Timothy 3:12 NET

[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.   John 16:2-4a NCV™

. . . It brings all kinds of hardships and suffering

“We must endure many hardships to get into the kingdom of God.”   Acts 14:22b ISV

[Peter, to believers:] This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials.   1 Peter 1:6 NET

Spreading the gospel can result in suffering

[Paul:] My work is to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher. 12That’s why I am suffering now.   2 Timothy 1:11-12a CEV

God’s people are hated

[Jesus, to his disciples:] If 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.   John 15:19 NCV™

The Antichrist and the Final Persecution

The Bible speaks of a figure of the end times that is opposed to God and Jesus Christ, and persecutes their people – a final “antichrist”. The first “beast” in Revelation is correlated by many with such a figure. However others consider it and the second beast that supports it to represent evil world systems rather than individual persons.

The antichrist will have great authority and be worshiped

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.   Revelation 13:7b-8 NET

This is speaking of the first “beast” of Revelation.

Persecution of God’s people will increase in the end times – especially due to the antichrist

[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.   Matthew 24:9 NET

The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them.   Revelation 13:7a NET

“Three and a half years” is given for the rule of the antichrist and intense persecution

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.   Daniel 7:25 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 literal, such specifications are indicative of the period being predetermined by God. The period will end on Jesus Christ’s return, when the two beasts will be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (cf. Revelation 19:19-20).

God’s Care of Persecuted Believers

God strengthens his people amidst trials

[Paul, to Timothy:] Instead, take your part in suffering for the Good News, as God gives you the strength to do it.   2 Timothy 1:8b GNT

[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.   2 Corinthians 12:9b-10 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).

God rescues his people from trials

[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.”   Jeremiah 15:20-21 NET

[Paul:] I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all.   2 Timothy 3:11b NET

God will ultimately save believers from the persecution of the end times

[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.   Daniel 7:21-22 NET

The “horn” is understood by many to represent the antichrist.

Pray for persecuted Christians