The topic of persecution, tribulation, and suffering is not a feel-good topic. But, it is a topic that the Lord wants us to know about and understand because He specifically included it in the Bible. Let’s have a look…
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. — Philippians 1:20
In this verse, the Apostle Paul is describing the level of COMMITMENT that we MUST have in our relationship with Christ.
Specifically, the Apostle Paul is point-blank saying, “Live or Die…decide to let me live…or decide to kill me…either way…I WILL remain the saved, servant of Christ who magnifies Christ.”
This verse describes the same level of commitment that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had…
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. — Daniel 3:16-18
Now, let’s have a look at our next verse…
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; — Philippians 1:29
There are people who have the opinion that Christians will not be persecuted because God will rapture them out of this world before they are persecuted. But, that is NOT what the Bible says or teaches.
People have either failed to recognize and understand…or they simply do not want to acknowledge…that there are TWO wrath’s that will come upon this earth. And, Christians ARE subject to ONE of those wrath’s…but they are NOT subject to the OTHER wrath.
In terms of the FIRST wrath, the Bible talks about it in multiple places…but it is perhaps best summed up in Revelations 12:12, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
In terms of the SECOND wrath, the Bible also speaks of this in multiple places…but particularly in Revelations chapters 6, 11, 14, 15, and 16…and namely, when the mercy and grace of God comes to an end…when the opportunity for salvation has come to an end…THEN comes the wrath of God and of the Lamb!
Now that we understand there are TWO wrath’s…the Bible is very plain that Christians ARE subject to being persecuted under satan’s wrath.
That is what the Bible is telling us in Philippians 1:29 quoted above. To paraphrase, “…it IS given unto US…in the behalf of Christ…to SUFFER for his sake.”
Jesus told us in the gospels, “…men shall revile you…and persecute you…and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”
Jesus also said, “…some of ye shall be killed and crucified…some of you scourged…and persecuted from city to city.”
In Acts 14:22, the Bible tells us to, “…continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
In John 16:33, Jesus told us, “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
In 2 Timothy 3:12, the Bible says, “Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution.”
In Romans 8:17, the Bible tells us that we get to be “heirs of God, and join-heirs with Christ; IF so be that we suffer with him…”
In 1 Thessalonians 3:3, the Bible tells us to be established and comforted concerning our faith…”That no man should be moved” by “afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”
In 1 Peter 5:10, the Bible says, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, AFTER that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
Well, as we can plainly see in these scriptures…persecution, tribulation, affliction, and suffering IS within the boundaries of what God allows in a Christian’s experience.
Now, on the flip side…the Bible is very plain that IF our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life…and IF we have not taken the mark of the beast…then we are NOT subject to the wrath of God.
In Revelations chapter 5…we read about a holy book of time and prophecy that is sealed up with 7 seals…that nobody but Jesus is worthy to open up or to look within it.
In Revelations chapter 6…we read that Jesus opens the first seal…and a white horse ridden by a conqueror goes forth.
Then Jesus opens the second seal…and a red horse ridden by a peace-taker who gets people to kill one another goes forth.
Then Jesus opens the third seal…and a black horse ridden by a merchant who brings abundance and prosperity goes forth.
Then Jesus opens the fourth seal…and a pale horse ridden by Death himself goes forth…followed by inhabitants from hell…demons in other words…and power over 1/4th of the earth is given to them to kill with the sword, with hunger and famine, with death, and with wild animals.
As a side note, if you were a geologist who happened to study the geography, the inhabitants, and the phenomena of our present world, it would be pretty apparent to you that this seal has already been opened up…that this prophecy has already come to pass.
Next, Jesus opens the fifth seal…and that reveals underneath the altar of God…all the souls of the people who have been killed throughout the ages of time for their faith in God…their stand on God’s Word…and for their testimony and witness for God.
Then, Jesus opens the sixth seal…and that is when:
- There is a great earthquake.
- The sun becomes black.
- The moon becomes as blood.
- The stars start falling and hitting the earth.
- The atmospheric heaven rolls up and departs.
- EVERY mountain and island is moved out of its place.
- Sinners try to hide themselves in caves and in mountains.
- Sinners cry for mountains and rocks to fall on them to hide them from the angry face of God…and from the wrath of Jesus…because the great day of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus is finally come.
That takes us into Revelations chapter 7…where we find that everything stops…while angels seal the servants of God who are still on earth in their forehead .
And when they are finished, we read that those servants of God…are a great multitude which no man can number…of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues…AND THEY ARE STANDING BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD…AND BEFORE JESUS…clothed in white robes and with palms in their hands.
Notably, one of the elders in Heaven tells John the Revelator that these people clothed in white robes are people who have come out of great tribulation and who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb…who are before the throne of God…serving Him day and night in His temple…and God and Jesus dwells among them…who hunger no more…who thirst no more…and no sun or heat will ever light on them again…but rather, Jesus will feed them and lead them into living fountains of waters…and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The point is, throughout the first 6 seals…God allows people to be persecuted as a result of satan’s wrath. But, at the conclusion of the 6th seal being opened up…God’s people are removed from the earth.
And then, we go into Revelations chapters 8-10…where Jesus opens the 7th seal…which reveals 7 angels with their plagues and woes of affliction for the sinners who have been left behind on the earth…and that is when God pours out his wrath upon sinners.
And finally, in Revelations chapter 11, we find that Judgment Day comes.
So yes, there will be a rapture…but that rapture will be when God takes His people out of this world so that He can poor out His wrath upon all who have rejected and denied His offer of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
Now, people who hold the opinion that Christians will be raptured out before they can be persecuted like to support their opinion with examples such as Noah…asserting that God “raptured” Noah out of the flood…and that God will do the same thing for His people in the end time.
Well, it IS true that God spared Noah from the destruction of the flood itself. But, what was the flood?
Well, it was EXACTLY what I have been talking about…the flood was the WRATH of God being poured out upon sinners…and because Noah was right with God, he WAS SPARED from the WRATH of God.
However, we need to be clear in our understanding that Noah was NOT spared from satan’s wrath. Noah was NOT spared from 120 years of being persecuted, ostracized, ridiculed, mocked, and belittled. For 120 years, Noah got to SUFFER severely for his faith, trust, belief, and obedience in the Lord.
So, the story of Noah is in fact a PERFECT example of what the Bible teaches all the way through itself. There is a very distinct difference between satan’s wrath…and the wrath of God being poured out. And we need to be very clear on that distinction.
God’s people ARE subject to persecution, suffering, and trouble…as a result of satan’s wrath. And at the same time, God’s people will NOT be subject to the wrath of God.
Now, IF it should come our lot to be persecuted…IF it should come our lot to suffer…IF it should come our lot to go through tribulation…let’s remember Christ’s words:
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” — Matthew 10:28
In other words, however rough any persecution, suffer, or hardship may be that we have to go through…it won’t be nearly as severe as what those who are on the receiving end of God’s wrath get to suffer!
So, let’s be diligent in making sure we are never on the receiving end of God’s wrath…even if it means that we have to suffer as a result of satan’s wrath.
Now, IN THE NATURAL, none of us want persecution…none of us want suffering…none of us want hardship.
But, things are a little different on the spiritual plane…
Let’s see what the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1…
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
So, in this verse 4, we read about patience, faith, persecution and tribulation. Now, let’s notice what is next…
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
In other words, God sees something special in some people. God sees a patience and a faith in some people that He admires and respects. And in righteousness, God judges those people WORTHY of persecutions tribulations, and suffering…because God wants to fill His Kingdom with people who are WORTHY of His Kingdom.
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
In other words, IF a person is special enough to God to be counted WORTHY of being troubled by satan’s people…then that person should rest in the Lord…KNOWING that God WILL in time avenge and punish on their behalf.
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
Here, the Bible is talking about PRAYING to be counted WORTHY of 3 things:
- The CALLING to be troubled and persecuted.
- The FULFILLING of the good pleasure of God’s goodness.
- The WORKING of faith with power.
Now, WHY pray this?
Well, the answer is in the next verse…
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, here is a point that needs to be emphasized…
It is important for us to understand that it COULD come our lot to suffer persecution for Christ’s namesake.
Why is it important for us to understand this?
Well, IF persecution comes our way, THEN we UNDERSTAND what is going on and we are prepared for it…and we know that through the Lord we CAN endure it…and come through it victorious…whether in life or in death…just as the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 1:20 that was quoted at the beginning of this message.
Next, we need to be warned…
People who strive to convince others that they will be raptured out of this world before persecution are putting their self on DANGEROUS ground…where they may well end up with blood on their hands.
Specifically, what are people going to do when they have THOUGHT and BELIEVED that they would NEVER be persecuted…because that is what they have been told and convinced of…and then all of a sudden they find themselves being persecuted for being a Christian?
Well, when the intensity and pressure of persecution comes their way…the ODDS are high that they will turn away from the Lord.
Because they did not understand that persecution COULD happen TO THEM, the odds are high that they will recant on the Lord and backslide.
And, when we read what the Bible tells us in Ezekiel…particularly in chapter 3 and chapter 33…we find out that that IF we deceive people…if we teach people false doctrines…if we contribute to people being lost…and specifically, if we do not WARN people of potential dangers ahead…and they end up lost…then God will require their blood of us…that is, God will hold us responsible and accountable for their lost souls.
The point is, any person who convinces others that Christians will be raptured before persecution…is not warning people of what could in fact come their way…which could EASILY result in those people being lost…and if that happens, God WILL hold any such false-teacher responsible and accountable.
To conclude this…
It is essential that we KNOW for ourselves precisely and exactly what the Bible says in its entirety.
It is essential that we remember satan is EXPERT at taking a little sliver or portion of the Bible…misconstruing it…misinterpreting it…recasting it…and then deceiving people and destroying people…with nothing more than a FRAGMENT of the truth.
In other words, a FRAGMENT of the truth is one of the most dangerous things there is.
So again, we BETTER know ALL of what the Bible says.
Earlier in this message I mentioned 8 verses that specifically state that we Christians are subject to being persecuted…that we are subject to going through persecution, tribulation, affliction, suffering, and reviling. And, there are many more verses besides those that could have been given.
But, if we don’t know all of what the Bible says, then the devil (or someone employed by the devil) can easily cozy up to us…tell us the story of Noah…and convincingly persuade us that we won’t have to suffer persecution because will be raptured out before that happens.
And of course, the devil is hoping that IF God allows persecution to come our way…we won’t be able to withstand the shock of it…the devil is hoping that we will be OFFENDED at God because He did not rapture us out of persecution and tribulation…and that we will turn away and backslide because we are offended at God.
In fact, Jesus warned us of this very thing in Matthew 13:21, “…for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
Here is the bottom line…
In the Bible, God plainly and directly tells us Christians that He sometimes allows His children to suffer persecution and tribulation for His namesake.
So, if persecution and tribulation comes our way, then we can be strengthened by the knowledge that God forewarned us of this in the Bible…and we can be strengthened by the words of Christ…
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen — Matthew 28:20
In other words, we can KNOW that ANYTHING God allows us to go through is a thing that He will go through WITH us…and whether the end of that thing is life or death…we can come through it victorious and receive a great eternal reward.