In Matthew 10:23, Jesus said, “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.” Did Jesus mean this for us, in the present age? Or for the early Christians who would be persecuted? Or for both?
Christians Today: Flee!
Jesus’ instructions apply to Christians today. There are numerous countries where Christians are persecuted daily (Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Egypt, to name a few–go to www.cswusa.org for details). In many of these situations, Christians do what Jesus said to do: flee! They leave their homes, their possessions, sometimes their families, even their countries, to flee persecution. They are poor, destitute, often living in refugee camps, as aliens in foreign countries, in order to escape the persecution in their own country. What does God think of this? That the world is not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:37-38).
We also know what Jesus said applies to Christians today because in Matthew 10:23 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Jesus has not come back yet. He left instructions that we are to preach the gospel to “all nations” (Luke 24:47) and “all creation” (Mark 16:15). Taken together, Jesus said we will be persecuted as we go from country to country, proclaiming the Good News, until He returns.
Early Christians: Flee!
Jesus’ instructions applied to early Christians, too. In Luke 21:20-21, Jesus said that Jerusalem would be “surrounded by armies”. He then gave instructions for the Christians to “flee to the mountains”, to “get out” of the city. Jesus clearly and accurately predicted the surrounding of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 66, the Roman army’s subsequent withdrawal, and then the mass exodus of Christians from the city.
As Jesus accurately predicted in Luke 21:22-24, and in Matthew 24:1-2, when the Romans returned in A.D. 70 they completely destroyed and burned the great city of Jerusalem. Only the group of Christians who had heeded what Jesus said were spared. These Christians had stepped out in faith to flee in obedience to Jesus.
As we come to the end of this series of posts related to persecution, do not be discouraged at the thought or reality of it. Jesus said it will happen, and He has given us clear instructions of how to respond to it. In closing, I would like to share the following quote:
“Look at God’s incredible waste of His saints, according to the world’s judgment. God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places….God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.”
~ Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”, entry for August 10th
We do not know it all. We do not understand it all. In the natural realm, this persecution is senseless, unjust, and horrific. In the spiritual realm, who can say? In Revelation 6:9-11, the slain saints “were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed”. Yes, in humility, let us yield and admit we ARE totally incapable of judging what will “bring the most glory to Him”. Then, let us continue on in our walk with God, in faith, keeping our eyes on Jesus, and praying “Glory to God in the highest!”, whatever form that glory may take.