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What the Bible says about Enduring Persecution
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 17:12-13

As Americans, we find this hard to take. It is not hard to imagine that a high percentage of the verdicts given in this country are appealed almost automatically. No one, it seems, is willing to submit to the judgment! But God says here in the law that whatever is judged—by those who are in authority to do so—should be taken. If one fight its (if he will not accept it), then he is acting presumptuously—because he is defying the authority that was put in place by God Himself!

God is the Authority over all. He governs everything. Sometimes, He puts the basest of men in positions of authority; but He "passed on" them. Or, He might have even put them there, personally. If such people should make a judgment that goes against what we think is right, we have to take it.

This is likely where Peter derived what he writes in I Peter 2. He says that if we are suffering (or we are being persecuted) for righteousness sake, and we take it patiently, then we get high marks from God—because that is exactly what He wants us to do. No matter what the decision that a judge should make, if that is the one he makes, then we are to submit to it. That is righteousness. That is the proper attitude.

Israel did not have an appeals court. The plaintiff could not take his case to a higher court. It was the judge himself who had to say, "This is too hard for me. I'm going to pass this up to a higher court." It is a little bit different from our own system, but it is the principle that we need to get out of this. If the priest or the judge should make a decision—then the godly thing to do is to submit to it. God says, "If you don't (if you rebel against it), then you are presumptuous."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness

Psalm 35:18

Psalm 35 is a plea to God from David to weigh in on his side against those who were troubling him without a cause (see verse 7). He had no idea where the animosity had come from, and for his part, he had behaved toward them like a friend:

But as for me, when they were sick,
My clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled myself with fasting;
And my prayer would return to my own heart.
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother. (Psalm 35:13-14)

However, when he was down,

. . . they rejoiced
And gathered together;
Attackers gathered against me,
And I did not know it;
They tore at me and did not cease;
With ungodly mockers at feasts
They gnashed at me with their teeth. (Psalm 35:15-16)

To grasp the reason for David's statement in verse 18, it must be read in context with the previous verse:

Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue me from their destructions,
My precious life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise You among many people.

David felt alone and persecuted unjustly, and worst of all, he felt that God was merely sitting as a spectator in the stands of the arena, idly watching the spectacle of his being torn to pieces by the teeth and claws of ravenous lions, his enemies. Knowing how undeserved his trouble was, David cannot understand why God has not acted to save him before this. Verse 18 is a promise, along with the plea of verse 17, to praise God publicly and give Him all the glory for his deliverance (compare Psalm 22:22, 25; 40:9-10).

Specifically, he promises to praise God in the public worship at the Tabernacle, as this occurred before the building of the Temple, accomplished by David's son, Solomon. The phrase "many people" is elsewhere translated as "the throng" (see Psalm 42:4; 109:30), and in this case, the psalmist speaks of it, not just as a great number of people, but as a "mighty throng," implying great strength as well. It is doubtful, but there may be a suggestion here that the people of the assembly would be strengthened if they only knew the mighty works that God had performed on David's behalf.

The more cynical may see David's promise as a bribe of sorts, trying to finagle a miracle from God and vowing to repay Him with praise. Others may equate it with the desperate prayer of a soldier in the foxhole, promising to go to church every week if God will just preserve him through the battle. However, that is certainly not the case here. David is already fully committed to God, which he has proved over many years of service to Him, and in this particular psalm, by loving his enemies and waiting on Him for salvation.

The simple fact is that praise (through continued thanks, worship, and proclamation of God's goodness) is the only way a human being can "pay back" the great God of the universe for His blessings and aid. What can a man give to God? We have nothing that God needs; He owns everything already. David's promise, then, should be read as a pledge of joy (verse 9) to praise his Lord and proclaim his faith in God to the widest audience possible as a witness (verses 27b-28). He will do his part to show the world that his God is the God of salvation, one who comes to the aid of His people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh

Amos 2:6-8

This is part of God's indictment of Israel forty years before its fall. At the time, Israel had regained some of its former glory under the able, though idolatrous, leadership of Jeroboam II, who had regained some of its lost territory and reinvigorated its economy. God's warning through Amos, however, is that material prosperity cloaks the ugly and rotten inner core, which was the true state of Israel's relationship with God. Thus, he concludes that the nation is doomed to fall to its enemies, and its people will die or shuffle off to foreign lands as slaves—and soon.

God concentrates on social injustices like exploiting the poor and weak, perverting justice, abusing sexuality, encouraging addictions, and trampling the sacred. This indicates that such societal ills reveal the "heart of darkness" hidden by a façade of religiosity and prosperity, much as exists today in modern America. A society that reaches the point of merely adorning the façade rather than changing the heart is taking its last gasp.

This is the punishment Amos foresees for the corrupt in Israel:

Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; your land shall be divided by survey line; you shall die in a defiled land; and Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land (Amos 7:17).

What a horrible end—but a just one in the eyes of God. It cannot be far off.

For us Christians who are spiritually counter-culture, we need to realize the rapidity of the decline and the probability that persecution will increase. People who know and hide their hypocrisy will strike out at those who expose it by their very presence. To face the bleak future of this nation, we need to remain "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10), because our "might" will not suffice. This requires us to renew our relationship with God day by day (II Corinthians 4:16) and strengthen it by growth (John 15:8; II Peter 3:18). As Paul says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (II Corinthians 4:17).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A Christian Nation? Reprise

Matthew 24:12-13

The Bible shows us the damage caused when God's people do not believe how special we are to Him. How do we keep our love from going cold? We must go to the source to replenish it. Where is that source? Where does real love come from? The answer is found in I John 4:19: "We love Him because He first loved us."

The next verse, Matthew 24:13, reinforces this thought: "But he who endures to the end shall be saved." Jesus sets up a contrast. Verse 12 describes people without faith in God's love for us growing cold and not enduring. In verse 13, "but" suggests that those with faith in His love will endure and be saved.

What happened over the past decade or so is nothing compared to what is ahead for some of us. The time of Jacob's trouble will be terrible. Many will face famine, pestilence, and persecution. Friends and family may turn on us. Church members will die. When all this happens, there may be no physical evidence to see how much God loves us. How will we endure those times? We will, but only if we absolutely believe in how special we are to God, how much He loves us. That is the faith we will need to endure any trial.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials

Matthew 24:13

Since Jesus spoke this prophecy directly to His disciples, it must be intended primarily as an admonition for His disciples living during the end time. It also indicates that, when compared with the persecution Christians have received all through the times since the church was formed, Christians will have to endure some measure of the Tribulation that Jesus forecasts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits

Luke 14:25-30

In the warnings of possible costs in Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-30, He says we must expect the loss of the respect and association with those we feel the most affection for, family members. They are not going to appreciate the changes we have made in our lives. They are yet blinded because God has not removed the veil covering their spiritual perceptions. This happens to many of us. It occurred in my relationship with my parents.

Jesus warns that our lives may become seriously unstable, as outsiders might judge it. He suggests that the convert may become somewhat itinerant, seeming to have an unsettled existence. He also suggests that following Him would put demands on our lives and time that might cut close family members to the quick, perhaps even turning them into enemies. Christ makes plain that, despite God's well-known mercy, He wants our wholehearted, unreserved loyalty with no yearning ever to turn back to our former lives. It is in meeting challenges like these that the potential costs become realities.

Though not mentioned directly here, Hebrews 11 reminds us of those who were tortured by mocking and scourging, by imprisonment, by stoning, and even by being sawn in two. Others were forced to flee for their lives, wandering destitute and tormented, barely able to clothe themselves. This may not happen to many of us now, but as matters intensify, Jesus warns that people will eventually kill Christians, thinking that they are glorifying God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love

Romans 5:2

The word "stand" is translated from the Greek histemi, and in this context it means "to continue, endure, or persist." Our calling, election (Romans 11:5-6), repentance (Romans 2:4), and justification enable us to stand before God in the sense of being given access into His presence. After that, receiving the gift of His Spirit and continuing on to salvation itself are accomplished by means of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace

2 Thessalonians 2:15-17

So stand firm, and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father (who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by his grace), inspire you with courage and confidence in every good thing you say or do. (Phillips)

When we read I and II Thessalonians, it does not appear that these people were going through any hard or difficult persecution, yet things were happening within the church. He tells these people, "Holdon!" There must have been pressure coming from somewhere to turn these people away from the truths, the traditions, they had learned from the apostles.

That causes one to think that, even though their neighbors were not persecuting them, nonetheless something was happening. They were in danger of being persuaded to turn away from the things that they had been taught.

It appears as if the focus of this pressure to which they were subject was something mental, doctrinal, and theological. So he tells them to "hold fast." The words J.B. Phillips uses in his translation sound like the words spoken in war: "Hang on! Hold fast!" he says. "May God inspire you with courage!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

This was a primary problem in the first century church—growing weary in doing well.

The foundation of this problem was the people's perception that the return of Jesus Christ was being delayed. They were weary from suffering, persecution, and other hardships associated with being a Christian. These hardships were social, because their friends, relatives, and others who were not Christians ostracized them. Their persecution was economic as well, in that it was difficult for them to get jobs, just as it is today because of Sabbath and holy day obligations. The combination of these trials brought to them to the point that they were tired of doing well.

We are close to the return of Jesus Christ; the world is filled with all kinds of signs of the end. They wear at us and worry us. We see them on television and hear them on the radio—everywhere we look, we see signs of the times. It is a stressful situation to be in, and still, Christ does not come. We say, "How long, Lord, will it be 'til You come?"

We can become neglectful. We can let our focus slip. We need to be exhorted and stirred.

Christ gives the first-century church a warning in Revelation 2:1-7, His message to the Ephesian church. He points out their problem. He gives them advice as to what they should do, and then at the end, He provides incentive for them to correct the situation that they had allowed themselves to deteriorate into.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ

2 Timothy 3:10-12

Paul had himself found Timothy, taking him with him in his travels. In a way, Timothy had grown up under the wing of the apostle Paul. So, when he says that Timothy had followed his manner of life and doctrine, he really had for quite a while. He was Paul's protégé. He is warning him: "You've seen what I've gone through, and you are following in my footsteps. You're going to face these things too—not only the good things, but also the bad. This is just part and parcel of the job."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears

2 Timothy 4:7-8

The apostle had endured strong temptation and terrible persecutions. He had been faithful and had dedicated his life to doing good works, specifically preaching the gospel among the Gentiles. He was certain that he had indeed overcome and would be given his crown of victory and honor when Christ returned.

The crown of life consists of eternal, imperishable living! It represents victory over our earlier, perishable life of sin. In the Millennium and for all eternity, we will wear our crown of life as an emblem of victory, righteousness, and honor as befits those who have been obedient and faithful to Christ.

Martin G. Collins
The Crown of Life

Hebrews 11:1-4

What was the difference between Cain and Abel? The Bible notes that Abel proved by his action that something set him apart from his brother. Though Cain and Abel were full, flesh-and-blood brothers and raised to adulthood by the same set of parents, Abel was markedly different.

Abel's belief in God set him apart from Cain. Even today, those who operate on the same faithful set of beliefs distinguish themselves from those who do not, like Cain. This principle is a simple but monumental reality concerning how one should conduct his life! No other characteristic even begins to come close in value to what faith in God can produce in terms of well-being for an individual or a nation.

Hebrews 11:6 points out faith's importance, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The epistle's author, who may have been the apostle Paul, adds in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Faith is thus mandatory for a relationship with God.

Faith in God is not the complete answer, of course, but its lack certainly reveals a fundamental need as people try to find solutions to the problems that arise almost daily. God is the Source of all good solutions, and faith in Him is the beginning step in seeking them out. It is by our personal faith as God's called-out ones that we will not only endure the troubling times that lie ahead but also grow as we respond to Jesus Christ's leadership. Even amid the nation's calamitous troubles, we can triumph through the faithful use of His Holy Spirit!

We cannot be dogmatic that we will experience any direct persecution in the near future. We can be sure, however, that the ongoing troubles will continue to spawn a gradual but ever-increasing weariness and confusion. The “spirit of the times,” the currents of thought in our increasingly anti-God society, will impact our lives negatively. We will likely find it difficult to be certain about how we should conduct our lives during such times. We may have trouble discerning who is telling the truth about ideas and events affecting us. These things will disturb our sense of well-being, but skillful use of faith will keep us focused on Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Thirteen): Hebrews 2 and the Next Five Years

1 John 4:17

If we have this faith in God's love for us mentioned in verse 16, its purpose is to give us the confidence, courage, and hope we need as we face our trials in our day of judgment, which is now (I Peter 4:17), whatever and whenever they may be. By exercising this faith, we will be exactly like Christ.

Christ had absolute faith in God's love for Him, and He used that faith to triumph in His trials and endure. We must use the exact same faith in following the example He set for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 




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