Matthew 24:9-14 ESV
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
These are just some of the signs of the nearness of our Lord’s return and of the end of the age (the last days). But the Lord wants me to focus mainly this evening on the persecution that true followers of Jesus Christ are facing now and will yet face in these last days before Jesus returns to judge and to take those of us who are his to be with him for eternity. For committed followers of Jesus are definitely being persecuted, even by the church.
I believe that, to a certain degree, most of these things have been going on ever since Jesus lived on this earth, was crucified, was resurrected from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and then sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers and to empower them to live godly and holy lives, for his glory, and to empower them to share the truth of the gospel with the rest of the world. Christians have always been persecuted, but in some locations and time periods more severely than others.
Yet, I also believe that we are now seeing a surge in the persecution of Christians, and it is existing in America, primarily aimed at those who are wholly committed to following Jesus with their lives and to spreading the gospel of our salvation with the world around them, who are also exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness and false teachers and false teaching. We are regularly being attacked verbally and are being falsely accused by some.
And a lot of this is because lawlessness is increasing greatly and the love of many is indeed growing cold. But sadly much of this is going on within the gatherings of the church (and/or within what is falsely being called “church”). And it is being embraced by pastors and elders and other church leaders. For many of them are teaching their congregants that repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord are not required of them.
So, what do you call that but lawlessness? If we are being told that we don’t have to obey God, and that we don’t have to submit to his authority, and if we are being encouraged that if we sin, even habitually, that we are just to “claim who you are in Christ,” to alleviate the guilt, but we are not being encouraged to turn away from those sins, to cast them off, and to walk in obedience to our Lord in holiness, then of course lawlessness will increase.
And the love of many is growing cold because they have no conscience anymore about their sins nor about hurting others with their sins. Since they are being given carte blanche to continue living in deliberate and habitual sin, all under the guise of God’s grace and his forgiveness, and they are being told to just claim who they are in Christ when they do sin, then that removes all consciousness of the severity of their sin and what it does.
Since they are also being taught that they do not have to obey God nor submit to him as Lord, they do not feel that they have to honor, respect, revere, obey, or worship him in truth. They see God as doing everything for them and that they don’t have to do anything. So they don’t love God, and God’s love is not in them, and so they continue sinning against others doing them willful and deliberate harm, even to their own spouses and children.
And they are also being taught to fight against those of us who are proclaiming the full gospel (the whole counsel of God) throughout the world, calling us “self-righteous,” “haters,” “not loving,” “judgmental,” “crazy,” “negative,” and teachers and spreaders of “works-based salvation.” But if we do not yield to them, and if we do not retreat, but we remain steadfast in our faith enduring persecution for the sake of the gospel, we will be saved in the end when Jesus Christ returns, when our salvation will be complete.
John 15:18-20 ESV
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
But Jesus told us that these things would take place, and so we should not let them unsettle us when they do. And it is getting much worse. But following Jesus Christ with our lives means we will be treated like he was. If we are not experiencing any kind of the hate and persecution that he received, then that probably means that we are lukewarm in our faith for we are not really impacting this world with the truth of the gospel.
And the truth is that Jesus died so that we would die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. His blood was shed for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so that we would now honor God with our bodies. For faith in Jesus means that we, our old selves, are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we are no longer enslaved to sin but so that we are now slaves of God and of his righteousness.
[1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15,21; 1 Co 6:19-20; Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24]
Revelation 12:17; Revelation 13:6-7,10; Revelation 14:12-13
“Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”
The beast “opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.”
“If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”
[Rev 12:17; Rev 13:6-7,10; Rev 14:12-13]
Satan is coming against those of us who keep (obey) the commandments of God (New Covenant) and who hold fast to our faith in Jesus and to the testimony of Jesus, to what he taught, and to what his gospel teaches, not just in words, but in how we live day in and day out. He has been given permission by God to make war against us who are living separate (unlike, different) from the world and unto God, which is what it means to be saints.
And we are being called of God to endurance and to steadfastness of faith in Jesus always, but especially as we are under persecution, which is going to get much more severe for us in America in the days to come. And it is we who endure to the end who will be saved in the end when Jesus returns.
An Original Work / June 19, 2013
Based off Acts 20-22, 26; Mt. 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8
Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I’m fully ready to suffer for Christ.
If I must die for the sake of His name,
I am convinced it will not be in vain.
Glory to God and to His Son Jesus,
Who has redeemed us; bought with His blood.
May I speak to you? Jesus came to me;
Asked of me, “Why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Now get up and stand on your feet.
Go, and you’ll be told all I have for you.
I have appointed you as a servant,
And as a witness; you have been sent.”
“Go into the world and preach the gospel.
Open the blind eyes. They will receive sight.
Turn them from darkness to the light of Christ;
From power of the evil one to God,
So they may receive forgiveness of sins,
And a place among those who’re in heav’n.”