Deliverance Through Persecution & Suffering: Sometimes the Very Thing We Try to Avoid Is Actually a Tool In the Hands of God

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ which was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-one verses of the twenty-fourth chapter. THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO JESUS! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find Jesus having just finished speaking unto the multitudes concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. In the previous chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we are brought face to face with Jesus teaching the multitudes strictly concerning the scribes and the Pharisees—and not only teaching them concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, but also warning and cautioning His disciples and followers concerning them. It’s actually quite interesting when you read the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters together—and truthfully, we have to include the twenty-fifth chapter of this gospel narrative as well—for within these chapters we find Jesus warning and cautioning His disciples concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and capping off that indictment against them with powerful language concerning the city of Jerusalem. The twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew concludes with Jesus actually weeping over the city of Jerusalem—and not only weeping over the city of Jerusalem, but weeping over both the city and its inhabitants because they did not know, nor did they understand their hour of visitation. It is truly something astonishing and worth noting that chapters twenty-three, twenty-four and twenty-five seem to be intrinsically linked to and with each other. It is when and as you read the words which are found within these chapters where you will find Jesus warning His disciples and followers concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees—this after we have already found Him in the Sermon on the Mount warning the disciples concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and having also warned them of the teaching the scribe and the Pharisees.

            As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within these chapters I can’t help but be brought face to face with the absolutely tremendous truth that these three chapters must not only be read together, but they must also be understood together. It is in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus warning concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, and it is this warning concerning the scribes and Pharisees that segways into His weeping over the city of Jerusalem. It would be the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees that would ultimately lead Him to weep over the city of Jerusalem—and specifically because they did not know, nor did they understand their hour of visitation. What makes the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew so incredible astonishing and intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that Jesus had already spent time preaching His disciples—not only for His departure from this world, but also for the tremendous suffering He would experience at the hands of the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus had already spoken unto the disciples concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus had already spoken unto the disciples concerning the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees, and He had even taught the disciples how He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, and how there in the city of Jerusalem He would suffer many things at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, as well as at the hand of the elders of Israel. This is truly something to think about and consider—particularly and especially when you read the words which are found within the twenty-third chapter of this book, for what we find in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel is a powerful warning and word of caution concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. Not only this, but it is also a powerful indictment concerning their hypocrisy.

            The words we find within these chapters is truly something worth thinking about and considering, for the words found and contained within them bring us face to face with an awesome and powerful truth concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. It’s actually quite interesting that almost as necessary as Jesus preparing His disciples for the Last Days was Jesus’ warning and word of caution concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. What I can’t help but think about and consider when reading these chapters is that when Jesus spoke these words unto the disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him He would have either been in the city of Jerusalem, or He would have been outside the city of Jerusalem. Not only this, but it would be at this particular point in time when we encounter Jesus having come unto Jerusalem and preparing Himself for that suffering which He would endure—and not only the suffering He would endure, but also the suffering He would endure and experience at the behest of the scribes and the Pharisees there in the city of Jerusalem. It’s truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words found within this chapter that as Jesus was preparing His disciples and His followers—not only for His suffering, but also for His death and crucifixion—He saw fit and necessary to speak unto and warn them concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. Undoubtedly the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ were well acquainted with the scribes and the Pharisees, and had faced and experienced their fare share of encounters between themselves and the religious elite of that day. The disciples had been the central focal point of the ire and angst of the scribes and Pharisees—not only because they plucked ears of corn and ate them on the sabbath, but also because they allegedly violated “the traditions” of the elders by not washing their hands before eating. What’s more, is the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ would not only watch and witness the scribes and the Pharisees contend and strive with Jesus during those three and a half years He walked upon the earth, but they would also watch Jesus silence them—this despite how many times they attempted to ensnare and entrap Him in His words that they might have room and grounds to accuse Him.

            Here we are during the week of Jesus’ passion—that week which would lead up to Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, that week which would lead up to Jesus’ being mocked and scourged by the Gentiles, and that week which would lead up to Jesus’ death and crucifixion—and one of the things we find Jesus doing is not only warning His disciples and followers concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, but we also find Him preparing them for the Last Days, as well as teaching them once more concerning the kingdom of heaven. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found within these chapters and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that prior to Jesus’ suffering and death, and prior to His resurrection and ultimate ascension unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven Jesus would not only warn His disciples concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, but He would also warn them concerning the Last Days. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding realities surrounding these chapters is that Jesus not only sought to warn the disciples and His followers concerning the legalism, the religion, and the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, but He would also warn and prepare the disciples for the Last Days. Almost immediately after Jesus finished warning the disciples and His followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees we find this shift and transition to Jesus departing from the Temple—the Temple which was most likely the setting for His indictment of the scribes and Pharisees. It’s interesting to note that when Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers concerning the hypocrisy and legalism of the scribes and Pharisees, He would do so in the Temple itself. INDICTING RELIGION IN THE HOUSE OF WORSHIP! INDICTING HYPOCRISY IN THE HOUSE OF PRAYER!

            It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words which are found within these chapters that Jesus would be in the midst of the Temple of the Lord when He would indict the scribes and the Pharisees. In the very place where He had previously overturned the tables of money, in the place where He had previously driven out those who had bought and sold, and in the place where He had previously driven out the money changers Jesus would now warn the disciples and His followers concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees. In the very place where Jesus would emphatically declare that a lowly and poor widow gave more into the treasury and gave more unto God in her poverty than all those who gave out of their abundance Jesus would now warn the disciples and His followers concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees. In the same place where the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery that they might find reason to accuse Jesus we find Him warning His disciples and followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. It is truly something astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider that in the very place of worship, and in the very place of prayer Jesus would not only warn His disciples and followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, but He would also indict them for their legalism, their hypocrisy, and their oppression of the people during those days. You cannot read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus would warn His disciples concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, as well as the cruel oppression of the scribes and Pharisees. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not find Jesus seeking to warn and caution His disciples and followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, for during the three and a half years He would walk among us as the Word made flesh we would find Him seeking to deliver them from the cruel oppression of the scribes and Pharisees—almost as much as He would ultimately deliver mankind from the bondage of sin.

            As you come to the twenty-fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative you will find and encounter the awesome and powerful truth that having just indicted the scribes and the Pharisees, and after just warning His disciples and followers concerning the hypocrisy and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus would depart from the Temple. It would be as Jesus and His disciples would depart from the Temple we find the disciples coming unto Him to show Him all the buildings of the Temple. After having just heard an indictment of the scribes and the Pharisees concerning their being white-washed tombs, and being those who are more concerned with the outward appearance than inward transformation the disciples would now proceed to show Jesus the buildings of the Temple—this without even thinking and considering that just as Jesus as Lord over the sabbath, so also was Jesus Lord over the Temple. The simply fact that Jesus would overturn the tables of money, drive out the money changers, and drive out those who bought and sold within the courts of the Temple would emphatically and powerfully display and declare that He was indeed and was in fact Lord over the Temple. The disciples sought to show unto Jesus the buildings of the Temple not realizing and recognizing at that particular time that Jesus was indeed and was in fact Lord over the Temple. Jesus had seen and beheld the original Temple which Solomon had built, for during those years of Solomon’s reign and at that time He would be with His Father in glory in the midst of heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus would watch and witness as the Temple of Solomon was built and constructed—and not only this, but He would also witness as the fire of God would come down from heaven in the sight of all the people upon the altar, as well as the glory and presence of the living God filling the Temple. Not only this, but Jesus would witness and behold the second Jewish Temple which would be rebuilt during the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah.

            Here within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus and the disciples departing from the Temple, and as they departed from the Temple His disciples would come unto Him desiring to show unto Him all the buildings of the Temple. What makes this interesting to think about and consider is that before we find Jesus preparing His disciples for the Last Days and speaking concerning those days, we first find Jesus speaking concerning the buildings of the Temple, as well as the stones of which they were made. If you begin reading with and from the second verse of this chapter you will find Jesus first asking His disciples concerning the things they saw, and then emphatically declaring unto them that there would not be left here one stone upon another, which would not be thrown down. At that particular time the disciples would not understand, nor would they discern that which Jesus had spoken unto them, however, we realize and recognize that Jesus was speaking unto the disciples concerning the coming invasion of the Roman army which would surround the city of Jerusalem, would lay siege to it, and would utterly destroy the Temple. What we must needs realize and recognize concerning these words is that they are directly in alignment with the words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament book. It is in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that we find Jesus not only weeping over the city of Jerusalem, but also emphatically declaring concerning it that its house would be left unto them desolate. What’s more, is that if you want to get an even greater understanding of that which Jesus would speak concerning the stones and buildings of the Temple you must needs turn and direct your attention to the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke. It is in the nineteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel we are brought face to face with additional words and language Jesus would speak concerning the city of Jerusalem, the Temple, and all the stones and buildings which made them up. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke beginning with the forty-first verse:

            “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou kneest not the time of thy visitation. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the Temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, and could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:41-48).

            Consider also the following words which are found within the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke beginning with the thirty-first verse of this particular chapter:

            “The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, GO ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth goather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:31-35).

            It is something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words which are found within these passages of Scripture—particularly and especially when considering the words which are found in the nineteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke—for within it you will find Jesus expounding upon the days which would indeed would in fact come upon the city of Jerusalem. The words which we find in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the physician Luke are truly astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider them, for within these verses we find Jesus speaking unto the disciples concerning the destruction and fall of Jerusalem. What I find to be so incredibly interesting and intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that just as Jesus knew He would suffer many things at the hands of the scribes and the Pharisees, and just as Jesus Himself would be killed and crucified before being raised to life on the third day, He also knew and understood that the city of Jerusalem would indeed be razed to the ground and destroyed. Jesus knew when He walked in the midst of the court of the Temple, and even as He and the disciples departed from the Temple that the day was coming when the city of Jerusalem would be compassed round about by enemies and adversaries, and how buildings and stones would be cast down to the ground. Jesus knew and understood that just as surely as He would die and perish from within the city of Jerusalem, so also would the city of Jerusalem and the Temple be destroyed. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that within a forty year period of time—not only would Jesus perish from the midst of the city of Jerusalem after being killed and crucified by the religious elite and the Romans, but so also would the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the LORD also be destroyed. While Jesus’ death upon the cross would indeed and would in fact be the means whereby the living God would reconcile man unto Himself by and in the person of Jesus, I would also dare say that His death upon the cross would be a portent and shadow of the destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem—and not only upon the city of Jerusalem, but also upon the Temple of the LORD which would stand in the midst of the Temple.

            There is a great need to realize, recognize and understand the words which are found within this passage, for at the same time Jesus knew and understood that He would suffer and be killed and crucified, He also knew the city of Jerusalem would be surrounded by enemies and adversaries, and that the city of Jerusalem would be razed to the ground by enemies and adversaries round about. Jesus did in fact know that He would suffer and would be killed and crucified, and He also knew that the city of Jerusalem would itself be surrounded by enemies, and when its buildings and stones would be cast down upon each other. OH I can’t help but think about and consider just how absolutely tremendous this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that Jesus’ death would indeed be in and of itself a portent and a prophetic sign of that judgment and that destruction which would come upon the city of Jerusalem—and not only that which would come upon the city of Jerusalem, but that which would come upon it because they did not know the things which belonged unto their peace. The city of Jerusalem did not know, nor did it understand the time and hour of its visitation, and as a direct result of this ignorance we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto the disciples that the city of Jerusalem would indeed be surrounded by enemies and adversaries, and would ultimately be destroyed. What’s more, is that not only would the city of Jerusalem be surrounded by enemies as in the days of the Babylonians, but so also would the city of Jerusalem be destroyed as it was during those days. What’s more, is that not only would the city of Jerusalem be destroyed in those days as it was during the days of the Babylonians, but so also would the Temple once more be destroyed.

            THE CITY OF JERUSALEM WOULD BE DESTROYED DURING THE DAYS OF THE PROPHETS IN RESPONSE TO THEIR REJECTION OF THE PROPHETS, WHILE THE CITY OF JERUSLAEM WOULD BE DESTROYED DURING THE DAYS OF JESUS BECAUSE OF THEIR REJECTION OF HIM! It’s truly interesting and unique to think about and consider this particular truth and fact, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth that the city of Jerusalem—together with all the buildings and stones which made it up—as well as the Temple with all its buildings and stones would be cast to the ground and destroyed. This would all be because of the fact that not only did they not know, nor understand the hour of their visitation and that which brought them peace, but also because of their rejection of the Messiah. The city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants of the city would welcome and embrace Jesus at the triumphal entry when He entered riding on a donkey, and yet less than a week later these same people would cry out and shout for His death and crucifixion. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture we are brought face to face with one final appeal and one final appeal for mercy which was given unto the city of Jerusalem, and unto the inhabitants therein. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we find and what we read within his passage of Scripture brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that this week of Jesus’ passion would in and of itself be one final warning and one final attempt to plead with the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem. Ultimately, however, we find them rejecting Jesus, rejecting His message, rejecting Him as the Son of God, and rejecting His claims that He was indeed the Son of God. Not only this, but we find the people of Jerusalem calling for the death and crucifixion of Jesus after being incited by the religious elite during those days. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly remarkable and astonishing reality, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that at this particular time Jesus knew and understood that the city of Jerusalem would indeed and would in fact be surrounded by enemies and adversaries round about—and not only would it be surrounded by enemies round about, but it would also be razed and leveled to the ground by those enemies and adversaries.

            If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand concerning the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew it’s that Jesus would speak unto and warn the disciples concerning the coming judgment of the city of Jerusalem—and not only concerning the coming judgment of the city of Jerusalem, but also concerning the destruction of the Temple that would accompany it. As surely as the city of Jerusalem would itself be destroyed, and as surely as the city of Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground, so also would the Temple itself be razed and leveled to the ground. Just as it was during the days of the prophets and during the days of the Babylonians, so also would the city of Jerusalem and the Temple be utterly and completely destroyed. What’s more, is that for almost nineteen hundred years the city of Jerusalem would lie in ruins until the time would come when Israel would itself become a nation again, and when the city of Jerusalem would not only be united, but would also be made the capital of the nation of Israel. For almost nineteen hundred years the city of Jerusalem would lie in ruins and would not be inhabited by the people of God after the Romans would lay siege to the city, after the Romans would utterly destroy the city, and after the city and the Temple would be destroyed. Oh how it’s interesting to think about and consider the fact that the Temple of the LORD and the city of Jerusalem seem to be intrinsically connected, for just as the Temple of the LORD was destroyed together with the city of Jerusalem during the days of the prophets and the Babylonians, so also would the Temple of the LORD be destroyed together with the city of Jerusalem during the days of Jesus and the apostles.

            The more you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that as Jesus and His disciples departed from the Temple they sought to show Him the buildings of the Temple. Jesus would respond to His disciples by emphatically declaring unto them that there would not be left one stone upon another which would not be thrown down. In response to the disciples showing Jesus the buildings of the Temple Jesus would speak unto them declaring that there would not be one stone of one of the buildings of the Temple which would not be destroyed and thrown down. Immediately following this we find Jesus and His disciples making their way to the mount of Olives. It would be there at the mount of Olives the disciples would come unto Jesus privately and ask Him when the things which He had spoken of concerning the stones being cast down would come to be. What’s more, is that the disciples would also ask Jesus what would be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the world. It would be in direct response to this we find Jesus beginning to expound unto the disciples concerning the times which lie ahead—not only during days in which they themselves would walk upon the earth, but also days which would come in the future. There is not a doubt in my mind that the disciples, the apostles, and the early Church were indeed living in their own “last days,” for they would live during those days which would not only lead to the siege of Jerusalem, and during days in which the Temple of the LORD would be destroyed, but they would also live during days when Rome itself would rise up against Christians and would persecute them in the most horrific and horrendous ways. The disciples, the apostles and the early Church would themselves live in their own version of “the last days,” for they would live during the days leading up to the judgment of God upon the city of Jerusalem. The apostles and the early Church would live during those days when the city of Jerusalem would itself be surrounded by enemies, and when enemies and adversaries would destroy the city as they would raze it to the ground. There would indeed be some of the apostles who would be alive and present during the days when the city of Jerusalem would be leveled and destroyed, and they would actually see Jesus’ words come to pass.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the tremendous truth surrounding the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and I can’t help but wonder if the persecution which broke out against the Christians and early Church after the death of Stephen would indeed be a means to move the followers of Jesus out of the city of Jerusalem prior to the days and time of the great judgment upon the city. What if persecution which broke out against the Christians and early Church in the city of Jerusalem was means of salvation and redemption for those disciples and followers of Jesus Christ? What if the great persecution which broke out in the city of Jerusalem wasn’t merely means of scattering the early Church that they might spread and further the gospel, but also a means of providing deliverance for them in the midst of the coming judgment? Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that there might actually be deliverance through persecution, and there might actually be salvation through persecution. I can’t help but think about and consider this particular reality, and in light of the judgment that would come upon the city of Jerusalem, in light of the stones and buildings being cast down upon each other, and in light of the Temple being destroyed, there might actually be salvation and deliverance through persecution. I look at the judgment, the devastation and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem and upon the buildings which made up this ancient city, and I can’t help but get the strong sense that there might actually be deliverance and salvation that would and could come through persecution. It might actually be true that persecution would indeed force the followers of Jesus Christ into Samaria, and ultimately unto the Gentiles, however, I would also dare say that persecution had a secondary purpose—namely, to deliver the people of God from the judgment and destruction that would come against and would come upon the city of Jerusalem.

            With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that persecution might very well have been the means to force the gospel of the kingdom to be spread beyond Jerusalem and Judaea, as well as to deliver the people of God from the judgment and destruction which would come upon the city. I can’t help but think about and consider within my heart and spirit that there might actually be redemptive purposes found within and surrounding persecution, and that persecution might indeed be means whereby the living and eternal God might deliver and spare us from judgment, devastation and destruction. What we must needs realize and understand is that there would undoubtedly have been those who experienced the persecution of Christians within the city of Jerusalem, and would be spared from the judgment and destruction that would come upon the city of Jerusalem, only to find themselves walking through and experiencing suffering and persecution where they were. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that it might very well be true that the persecution which broke out against the Church in the midst of the city of Jerusalem wasn’t means to deliver men and women from the judgment and devastation that would come upon the city, however, that deliverance and salvation would not exempt them from persecution in the cities and places they would find themselves. We know for a fact that there would eventually come a day when persecution would break out in great degree and measure within the city of Rome as Christians would be tortured, as Christians would be imprisoned, as Christians would be crucified, as Christians would be burned at the stake, as Christians would be slaughtered in the arena by gladiators, and as Christians would be mauled to death by wild beasts. The knowledge that there might actually be redemptive purposes within and surrounding persecution does not negate the fact that we might not have to continue walking through persecution. Oh there were those who might have been faced and experienced the persecution which would break out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and would find themselves in the near future facing persecution in the midst of the Roman Empire.

            Oh I sit here today thinking about the redemptive purpose of persecution, and I can’t help but think about how many men and women—particularly and especially in our modern and Western culture and society—who have never walked in and experience suffering and persecution, and yet how those days might very well be coming within us in this nation. Oh I can’t help but wonder if the living and eternal God might not bring and cause suffering and persecution to come upon this nation and country—not only as a portent and sign of judgment, but also as a means to deliver and redeem men from this life. What’s more, is that we must needs realize and understand that persecution cannot only have redemptive purposes here within this life as it can deliver us from the judgment and destruction that would come upon this nation, but also as it could even deliver us from this life. We must not forget the souls beneath the altar in the prophetic book of Revelation who were martyred for their faith, nor even those who overcame the accuser of the brethren by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony as “they loved not their lives unto the death.” There is not a doubt in my mind that persecution can indeed and can in fact deliver and redeem us in this life  during days of judgment, devastation and destruction, as well as deliver us from that which would indeed and would in fact come upon this world. What this might mean for certain men and women is that they might have to walk through persecution and suffering in this life and in this world in order that—even through their death and their martyrdom—they might be delivered from the hour of judgment that would come upon the whole world.

            Even as I am writing these words I can’t help but think about how many men and women looked upon church buildings being closed and shut down through the lens of being persecuted, and how there were countless men and who instead of humbling themselves actually became prideful and arrogant as they would protest against state and federal governments and their mandates to shut church buildings and keep men and women from gathering together to worship together with others. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are men and women within this country who wouldn’t know or recognize persecution and suffering if it was staring them down and looking them dead in the eyes. What’s more, is I would dare say there are men and women among us within this nation who would and could not be able to handle persecution and suffering if it indeed manifested itself among us within this nation. I fear for many men and women who profess themselves to be Christians and followers of Christ in this nation, and how such men and women resorted to protests—and not only protests, but also threatening legal action in courts when the church buildings were closed and shut. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are living during days when censorship and “cancel culture” is found within this nation, within this culture and society. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are living during days and times in which there is a great assault on the first amendment and freedom of speech. Right now this is taking place purely and solely in the political realm and arena, and yet I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that what we are witnessing and beholding within our culture and society during these days is a precursor and portent for that which we can and will face in the coming days. There is not a doubt in my mind that there might very well come days and times within this nation when the first amendment and our freedom to preach the gospel and share our faith with others might be considered “domestic terrorism.” Right now we are witnessing this unfolding in the political realm as white supremacism, white nationalism, patriotism, and the like are being considered as threats to national security.

            There is not a doubt in my mind that what we witnessed at the Capital Building on January 6th was not only individuals who had the desire and intention of engaging in violence and destruction, and there is not a doubt in my mind that those individuals who entered the Capital Building on this day and sought to destroy, vandalize, injure and harm should be judged to the fullest extent. With that being said, however, I am absolutely convinced that the events of this day were used as a political maneuver to label and brand individuals within this nation as “domestic terrorists,” and to even brand their speech as acts of “domestic terrorism.” There is not a doubt in my mind that what we watched and witnessed on January 6th has been used as a political context to engage military might, force and strength, as well as to surround the government within this nation with armed guards, a wall and a fence. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we are watching and witnessing is the means to create a military and police state, and if Washington, D.C. does indeed and does in fact become a state within this nation and country, it will be a police state that will not necessarily be governed by government officials only, but will also be guarded and protected  by armed guards and fortified with walls and razor wire. What’s more, is I am absolutely and completely convinced that it will only be a matter of time before Christians and those who profess themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ will be branded as domestic terrorists within this nation and country. Right now those who were connected to the events of the Capital Building riot, and those who support Trump, and those who are Republicans, and those who are conservative in their beliefs and thinking are being branded as national security threats and domestic terrorists, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is coming a day and time when those who profess to be Christians and those who name the name of Jesus Christ can and will be branded “domestic terrorists.”

            It is with this in mind I invite you to think about and consider the words which are found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for the words which we find here describe a time that was to come when devastation and destruction would be manifested in the midst of the earth—albeit in an entirely different way. In response to the disciples asking Jesus when the events which He spoke of would come to pass, and in light of the disciples asking Jesus what would be the sign of His coming, He would respond by warning and cautioning to take heed that no man deceives Him. Jesus would respond to their questions by warning them to take heed that no one deceives them, and then goes on to declare that many would come in His name, saying, “I am Christ,” and would deceive many. I have long believed that these words spoken by Jesus don’t necessarily mean, nor do they suggest that men and women will rise up declaring and professing themselves to be Christ, but rather that men and women will rise up and profess that they are “Christ’s” and that they are indeed and in fact followers of Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that there will be men and women in the last days who can and will profess themselves to be disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ, and who will deceive many. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there will indeed be countless men and women who will rise up within this nation—and not only this nation alone, but among other nations within the earth—who will profess themselves to be Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ, and yet they will do nothing more than deceive those before and around them. I firmly believe that when Jesus declared that there would be many who would come in His name professing and declaring that they are Christ, He was not declaring that there would be men and women who would rise up and make the declaration that they would be and are the Christ, but rather that they belonged to Christ, and that they were disciples and followers of Jesus Christ.

            When we read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture we must needs realize and understand that there will indeed be those who will rise up among us who can and will profess themselves to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and can and will deceive countless men and women. There will be those who will rise up among us who can and will profess and declare themselves to disciples and followers of the LORD Jesus Christ—and will even come in His name—and who will deceive many. Perhaps these individuals are those same individuals whom Jesus referred to will come to Him in that day, saying, “Lord, Lord,” and yet He will respond to them by declaring, “Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity; I never knew you.” Jesus would warn and caution His disciples in this passage of Scripture to beware and take heed that no man deceives them, and would then go on to warn them of many who would come in His name and would profess themselves to be Christ. Immediately after this Jesus would go on to declare how they would hear of wars and rumours of wars, but how they were to see to it that they be not troubled. Despite the fact that they would hear of wars and rumors of wars they were not to be troubled, for all these things which they hear of must needs come to pass prior to and leading up to the end. What’s more, is Jesus would go on to declare that nation would rise against nation, and kingdom would rise against kingdom. Jesus would also go on to declare that there would be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, and how all these things are the beginning of sorrows.

            The more I think about and the more I consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but find within verses four through eight Jesus warning His disciples—not only to take heed and guard themselves from being deceived, but also to be not troubled. DO NOT BE TROUBLED, DO NOT BE DECEIVED! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close and careful attention to the words we find within this passage of Scripture, for the words we find within this passage of Scripture stand and serve as a powerful invitation given unto us within and during these days concerning how we ought to live—and not only how we ought to live, but how we ought to live in light of the events which take place before and all around us. Jesus declared how there would be many who would come in His name and profess themselves to be Christ, and how those individuals would deceive many. Moreover, Jesus would go on to describe how they would hear of wars and rumors of wars, and how they were not to be troubled, for all these things must come to pass. Jesus would continue to declare that nation would rise against nation, and kingdom would rise against kingdom, and that there would be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All of these things which Jesus would speak of would be the beginning of sorrows, and would indeed be the beginning of birth pains which would be present in the midst of the earth. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs realize and understand the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have a great need to make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for the days and times in which we are living. It is absolutely undeniable that we are indeed living during days and times in which there are rumors of wars, and when nation will rise against nation and kingdom would rise against kingdom. There is absolutely no denying that we are living during days when famines, pestilences and earthquakes can and will strike the earth, and have already been manifested within and upon the earth.

            I read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I find myself being absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that Jesus would initially speak unto the disciples concerning their need to guard themselves against and from deception, and would then go on to speak unto them concerning persecution. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand it’s that in the days in which we are living there are two powerful tools and weapons the enemy can and will seek to destroy men and women in the last days. IN verses four through eight we find and read about deception being one of the main tools to destroy men and women during the last das, however, when you come to the ninth verse you will find something else the enemy and adversary will use in the last days to destroy men and women—namely, persecution, suffering, affliction and opposition. You cannot read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that there is a great need within these last days to guard ourselves against and from deception, but also to be ready and prepared for persecution. It’s interesting when reading the words which Jesus spoke concerning persecution that His words seemed to suggest that persecution was inevitable and unavoidable. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of scripture and not encounter the truth that persecution is and will be a sign of the last days. In all reality, the words which Jesus spoke within this passage of Scripture are such that bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the enemy can and will seek to use deception in these Last days to destroy men and women, however, if he is unsuccessful in using deception to destroy men and women, he can and will use persecution. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for there is a great need to recognize and understand that during these last days persecution will indeed be manifested within and upon the earth.

            The more I consider the events which are taking place within this nation, and the more I consider all the events that have taken place in our culture and society during these days the more I am absolutely and completely convinced that we as the people of God need to prepare ourselves to walk through and face persecution. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are indeed living during days and times when the spirit of antichrist is in operation in the midst of the earth, and how we are witnessing the prelude and precursor for persecution breaking out against and upon the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. I firmly believe with all my heart that what we are watching and witnessing within our nation and country is a powerful picture of a persecution that can and will come against and come upon those who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus emphatically declared that men will deliver up His disciples and followers to be afflicted, and would kill them, and how they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. This reality of being afflicted, of being killed and of being hated is actually quite astonishing and quite remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it, for one of the single greatest truths concerning Jesus and the words He spoke unto His disciples was that He prepared them to be hated—and not only hated, but hated of all nations, and hated of all people for His name’s sake. Although Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and although Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, He also prepared us to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Pause for a moment and think about those words and think about whether or not you are ready and prepared for that day and that time when you are hated for all nations for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ. Right now those who support and those who voted for a president of the United States are hated because of their beliefs, and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced that this President served an even greater purpose in this country than even he might realize.

            Over the past almost four and a half years men and women within this nation and country have been divided between and among themselves over support for the President of the United States. We have watched as those who supported President Trump have been vilified, marginalized, demonized, ostracized, despised and rejected because of their support for him. In recent weeks, however, this has taken on an entirely different level and measure when the events which took place at the Capital dramatically shifted the scope of this anger. From January 6th onward men and women viewed Trump in an even greater measure and degree of disdain and disgust as they viewed him as being the one who incited the mob and the riot which took place on that day. There are men and women who not only hate him even more, but who also hate his followers—and not only hate his followers, but also despise them. All you have to do is go on social media and you will find and discover how men and women who have supported Trump and who still support Trump are vehemently hated of those who voted for Biden, Harris, and those who align themselves with the Democratic party and the radical left’s agenda. With this being said I am absolutely convinced that right now—while hatred is directed toward those who supported Trump, there is coming a time when that hatred can and will be directed toward those who are disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Right now we are witnessing all of this take place on the political stage and in the realm of government and politics, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs ready and prepare ourselves for that time that is sure to come when those who follow Jesus the Christ can and will be persecuted for their faith—even within this nation. What’s more, is how that which we thought would and could never come to the shores of our nation can and will be manifested among us. There can and there will be men and women who will begin to be marginalized and vilified if they attempt to speak out against the LGTBQ agenda, or anything else that is supported by the radical left and their agenda.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced that we as the men and women within this nation, within this culture, and within this society must needs make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for the time which will surely and certainly come—a time when those who profess to be disciples and followers of Jesus Christ can and will be hated. Oh I feel the great need to urge and warn you to arm yourselves in the spirit, and to prepare yourselves for that time which can and will come when we will be hated of men for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for that time which can and will come when we will be hated of all men for our beliefs, and when it won’t be our stance on politics that will brand us as domestic terrorists, but it will be our profession of faith that will brand us as terrorists within this nation. Imagine yourself coming face to face with the military of this nation and being hunted down because of your religious stance, and because you are a disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ. I am absolutely convinced that we have a great need as men and women during these days to make ourselves and prepare ourselves for censorship, for silencing, for cancelling, for hatred, and the like to be directed toward and against us. For a number of years this nation and this country has boasted of its religious freedom, and yet there is not a doubt in my mind that there is coming a day and time when the religious freedom(s) we enjoyed can and will come under assault and can and will come under attack as those in government can and will rise up against them to silence them. Not only this, but we will even watch and witness as those among us will hate us and seek to silence our voices in these days. Oh we dare not and must not think and believe for one moment that this cannot and will not take place, for Scripture warned us of the spirit of antichrist, and we must needs realize and understand that the spirit of the antichrist is indeed at work among us today. To help illustrate this point even further I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to a war which would begin in heaven and yet would be brought to the earth—and not only how heaven’s war would be brought to the earth, but how the dragon can and will seek to make war with and against the people of God. Consider if you will the words which are found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the words which are found in the seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel. It is these words I leave you with that you might be ready and prepare yourself for the days and time that can and will take place in the coming days:

            “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his agnels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwel in them. 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. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, which brought forth the man child. And to the woman wer given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, AND WENT TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REMNANT OF HER SEED, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:7-17).

            “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a best rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crownds, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw ond of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. AND IT WAS GIVEN UNTO HIM TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:1-10).

            ”And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he hat two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the mans of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understand count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:11-18).

These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass, which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stoute than his fellows. I beheld, AND THE SAME HORN MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM; until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall rise; and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the divind of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and cominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:17-28).

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