21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Matt 10:21-23 (NIV)

The Words our Lord spoke here were fully demonstrated in the lives of His apostles after the day of Pentecost in their spread of the gospel fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will find their fullest manifestation, however, in the days of the great tribulation when the gospel will be taken throughout the entire world prior to Jesus’ glorious and powerful return to establish His kingdom on earth. In speaking of the signs given which point to the times at the end of the age Jesus states later in Matthew:
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matt 24:9-14 (NIV)

“The nature of man, if it is not sanctified, is the worst nature in the world next to that of demons...As far as the apostasy from God goes, so far the enmity against the saints goes; sometimes it appears more general than at other times, but there is something of this poison lurking in the hearts of all the children of disobedience.” Matthew Henry

“This knowledge [of our own sinfulness], though it strikes man with terror and overwhelms him with despair, is nevertheless necessary for us in order that, stripped of our own righteousness, cast down from confidence in our own power, deprived of all expectation of life, we may learn through the knowledge of our own poverty, misery and disgrace to prostrate ourselves before the Lord, and by the awareness of our own wickedness, powerlessness, and ruin may give all credit for holiness, power and salvation to him.” John Calvin

Friend will turn against friend, our Lord states and sadly, there will even be a lack of familial love. Jesus did not state this to frighten or dismay rather to warn and prepare us so that we will not be taken by surprise or have our faith shocked and diminished. We are to expect the world’s hatred. It is no wonder as He was hated that we who bear His image and interests are hated as well. Those whom Christ loves, the world hates. Conflict appears to be a given yet as children of Peace we are not to seek trouble rather we are to be wise at all times particularly in conflict and suffering. God desires that we do not needlessly expose ourselves rather use all fair and lawful means for our preservation. In the cause of Christ we are to be loosely attached to the world and its comforts yet not wasteful of them. Neither are we to place trouble on our own heads. I am reminded of Paul’s word to the Thessalonians as a good rule of thumb:

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thess 4:11-12 (NIV)
Perhaps what stands out the most to me in our verses for today is finishing well. Jesus’ Word: “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” spurs me onward to faithfulness. Many start out in their faith as a great firework in the sky only to dissipate into a tiny spark, if that. Battle weary, trouble laden, persecuted, the sinful nature rearing its ugly head, working in the flesh rather than in the power of the Spirit, prideful, seeking earthly comforts, trapped by the lures of this world, ad nauseam – you name it - all cause us to turn and if not extinguish, at least cover our flames. God desires for His children to finish well. You might want to read that again. He does not want us to cop out and coast. Souls of men are at stake and while admittedly we are weak cracked clay pots at best in our own flesh, for some odd reason, God has chosen to advance His treasure of the Gospel through humans. Go figure. He desires for us to finish as Daniel – who taken from his homeland as a mere teen rose to be a respected high commander in a pagan world leaving the aroma of Jesus in His wake or as Caleb – who desired to fight the giants in the promised land in God’s power at 80 years young or as Paul – whose desired greatly to finish well – pressing on through trials I can barely read much less have experienced. I wonder why we think life should be different for us. Paul’s words inspire me and with them I close:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Phil 3:12-16 (NIV)

What I Glean

  • Persecution is a given for those who follow Jesus. Persecution comes in many “flavors” from rejection by those near and dear to martyrdom. God desires for me to glorify Him through my trials not run or quit.
  • We cannot expect regenerate behavior from an unregenerate – they, as we would be apart from Christ, are not capable.
  • I desire to finish well.