Responding to Persecutions (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

How will they make the charges stick? With lies (Ps 119:86)! Sometimes it is even without cause (Ps 119:161), as society has descended to lawlessness:
Ps 119:86 All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!
• Ps 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

What should the Christians’ attitude be?
First, remember ultimately God will deliver us and punish those who persecute us:
Deut 30:7 The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.
• Ps 31:15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
• Rom 12:9 “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY”, says the Lord. (Also Heb 10:30)

Secondly, our response to the oppressors should be to bless:
Mt 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
• Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What should Christians do? That depends on how far the persecution has gone. If it is possible, flee (Mt 10:23). It is no heroism to wait around and be caught. If we can’t escape, endure and persevere (1 Co 4:12; 2 Thes 1:4; 2 Tim 3:11):
Mt 10:23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
• Mt 24:15-16 Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
• 1 Co 4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
• 2 Thes 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
• 2 Tim 3:11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!

If we have the opportunity, witness for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:
Mk 13:9-11 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Also Mt 10:18-20; Lk 12:11-12)

One final warning. If you are a shallow Christian, like the seed sown on rocky places, you will fall away when persecution arises:
Mt 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Also Mk 4:17)
So develop firm roots before it’s too late. Otherwise the consequences are fatal.

Kept from the Hour of Testing

Rev 3 10 d

Q. What does Revelation 3:10 mean and is it talking to the church in Philadelphia or to end-time Christians?

A. First, the immediate context is Rev 3:7-13, the message to Philadelphia. John was writing to a church in his days, not one over two thousand years in the future. So of course he was talking to the church in Philadelphia, although the message also applies to end-time Christians.

Second, the text:
Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Most scholars agree that the “hour of testing” coming upon the whole world refers to the Great Tribulation. But what exactly does “keep you from the hour” mean?

Those who believe in a pretrib rapture argue that since Jesus will keep the church from the hour of testing, not just the testing itself, He must snatch them away before tribulation begins, to avoid the time period altogether. Others note that the context is perseverance (v 10) and “hold fast” (v 11). Therefore the Lord’s keeping should mean protection as the church goes through the testing, because if they had been raptured away, then endurance would not be necessary.

Which is correct? There are precedents of both modes of protection in Scripture:
• Escape prior to judgment e.g. the angels whisking Lot’s family away before He rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19).
• Protection through the hour of testing e.g.
o Noah’s family in the ark during the Flood (Gen 7),
o The Israelites during the plagues (Ex 8:22-23; 9:4-7, 25-26; 10:23; 11:5-7; 12:12-13)
o Those with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 7:3, 9:4).
While we note that the latter is more prevalent and indicative of God’s pattern, the frequency of occurrence by itself is not definitive.

What about the historical and grammatical context? Although I subscribe to futurism (the view that most prophecies regarding the end times are still future) and not preterism (the view that some or all of the prophecies concerning the last days have already been fulfilled in the first century), I do believe the meaning to the original recipients holds significance to twenty-first century readers. How the Lord kept first century church of Philadelphia should inform us how He would keep the end times Philadelphian church, because His promise was first to the former and only secondarily to the latter. Was the first century church physically removed from the hour of testing, perhaps hidden in the wilderness? There is no historical evidence to that effect.

Grammatically, both “you have kept” and “I also will keep” translate the same Greek verb tereo, which means to attend to carefully, take care of:
• to guard,
• metaphorically to keep one in the state he is,
• to observe,
• to reserve to undergo something.

The Lord will keep the church the same way the church has kept the word of His perseverance. How did the church keep His word, by escaping or by persevering? By enduring through the trial, not by hiding.

Secondly, pretrib commentators argue that “keep from the hour of testing” really means “keep out of the hour of testing”, because the word “from” translates the Greek preposition ek which really means “out of”. I disagree because while “out of” is a legitimate translation, it is only one amongst several possibilities. ek appears a total of 921 times, which the KJV translates using the following:
of 366X
• from 181X
• out of 162X
• by 55X
• on 34X
• with 25X
• misc. 98X

Which is the proper translation really depends on the context or syntax. If ek is used as a preposition referring to a place, “out of” is a proper translation. However, if ek is used to qualify time, then “from” is the proper translation. In Rev 3:10 ek qualifies time, so “from” is the better translation, which is what almost all translations have done, despite pretrib commentators’ assertion otherwise.

I therefore conclude that Rev 3:10 means the Lord will guard and keep the church from and through the hour of testing, NOT take it out of the hour. Hope this helps.

Flax Spiritual Lessons

We went to the Maritimes with our friends for a little rest and recreation after our short-term mission, which vacation turned out to be educational as well. For example, at King’s Landing, New Brunswick, we learned a bit of history about early settlers from the British Isles to Canada. The agricultural setting gave us some reminders of biblical truths. For instance, the yoke recalled Jesus’ yoke in Mt 11:29-30, or “unequally yoked” in 2 Co 6:14. And the muzzle brought to mind how we should look after our pastors in 1 Co 9:9 or 1 Tim 5:18.

But a very interesting lesson came from the flax plant. Farmers grow flax for both food and fiber. The plant is pretty with small bluish flowers. The seed is like brown sesame and rich in omega-3. The stem is long like that of rice or wheat. However, it is how the plant is turned into useful products that provided the object lesson. Going back to the old days when most jobs are manual, the mature plant is pulled up by the roots, sun-dried, and the grains removed by threshing. The straw is then retted for up to two months, during which time the sun and the rain produce an enzyme that breaks down the bond between the straw’s outer stalk and the inner fibers.

After retting the outer straw is broken into smaller pieces on a crusher, which is shaped like a paper-cutter except that the edge is not sharp. The “chopper” breaks the stalk but leaves the long fibers intact. The fibers look like long blond hair, and are drawn through a bed of long nails called a hackle or heckle to separate them into strands. The individual strands are then spun on a spindle into threads, which are 2-3 times stronger than cotton, and transferred onto a loom to be woven into cloth.

The preparation process is an analogy to the Christian life. To be useful in God’s hands, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph had to be uprooted for their training. Paul had to suffer beatings (2 Co 6:5; threshing). Retting is soaking flax or hemp in water to soften it and separate the fibers. It is removal of the woody tissues by partial rotting. In the same way, Joseph, Moses and David had to be put on the sideline and wait to learn humility. Heckling resembles afflictions. Paul knew about being afflicted in every way, but not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Co 4:8-9). Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Co 4:16).

Most of us would shy away from any form of suffering, because we have not learned its value. But not Paul, who said in Rom 5:3-4 “but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character”. If only we’ve truly learned the theology of suffering, we would have been much better Christians and the Church would have a much greater impact. Pray that all of us would learn to pay the cost of discipleship.

Top - horn yoke; bottom - neck yoke

Top – horn yoke; bottom – neck yoke

Muzzle

Muzzle

 

Flax plant

Flax plant

Flax chopper

Flax chopper

Heckling

Heckling

Spinning into yarn

Spinning into yarn

Weaving into cloth

Weaving into cloth