Luke 21:10-19 (ESV)
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
This passage separates two time periods. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. For now, let’s just refer to them as the time of “all this” and the time “before all this”.
Since the rest of this passage deals entirely with the “before all this” period, we’ll stick with that today. We’ll get to what “all this” refers to later. Remember that yesterday’s passage ended with, “the end will not be at once.” So, all this could be a long way off.
Before all this there will be terrible persecution, but this will be your opportunity to bear witness. What an amusing way to put it. “Don’t worry about the persecution because it’ll give you a great chance to witness.” Heavenly goals trump pain avoidance every time. Jesus then specifically describes how He will bless this witness. “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Again, no promise of pain avoidance.
Then comes the really interesting part. “Some of you they will put to death. … But not a hair of your head will perish.” Again, Heaven is the only thing that matters. “For some of you, you’ll be dead but don’t worry; everything will be flawless.” Then Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
Gain? They’re alive now. What are they gaining?
The terrors these folks were about to endure make our trials and tribulations look like a picnic. Jesus’ message to them is incredibly blunt – you will not be spared physical suffering, but it’ll be worth it.
How do you like them apples? Is this how Christianity was first described to you?
Or was it sold as an offer too good to be refused – a free ticket to heaven. If so, it’s time to recognize the truth and get ready for real life in Christ.
And for heaven’s sake, please don’t evangelize by selling a cheap gospel. People need to count the cost before they sign on the dotted line.
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