Nov. 13: Persecution points the way to Jesus’ return

by IAN GREIG writing in THE LIVING WORD

This is The Living Word Bible Study for Sunday, November 13, 2022, based on the set readings in the interdenominational Revised Standard Lectionary

Isaiah 65:17–25 — A glimpse of the millennial kingdom to come

Luke 21:5–19 — Jesus prepares His disciples for times of trial

2 Thess. 3:6–13 — Don’t just wait for the Lord, prepare His way!

  • See also this week’s linked article telling the story that emerges from these Scriptures
  • View or listen to the podcast ‘Seeing through the Pain into the Promise’ on video or podcast audio

Psalm 98

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvellous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.

2 The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations.

3 He has remembered His love and His faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4-6 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn — shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it

8-9 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

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Isaiah 65:17–25 — A glimpse of the millennial kingdom to come

  • The pain of “former things” will be transformed into a new and joyful order

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

“Former things” — the old order of things with pain and sorrow will give way to righteousness in “new heavens and a new earth”, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev. 21:4.

18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.

“I will create” — new, not a new version of the old city, Isaiah 62:7.

19 “I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

“Rejoice over Jerusalem” — as God’s original intention, “the joy of the whole earth” Psalm 48:1, is fulfilled.

20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.

“Dies at a hundred” — this verse supports a view of a temporal kingdom, with long but limited life, which precedes the eternal kingdom.

21-22 “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of My people; My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.

“As the days of a tree” — trees are long-lived, unlike grass which withers, Isa. 40:7-8.

23 “They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.

“Labour in vain… doomed to misfortune” — reversing the curse of sin and independence from God, Genesis 3:16–19, Deut. 28:30.

24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

“Before they call” — living so close to the Lord that they pray for what He wants and He anticipates the prayer.

25 “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.

“Wolf and lamb… together” — regenerated creation in the new order where animals relate without predatory instincts.

SUMMARY For those who revere the name of the Lord, the pain behind the weeping and crying isn’t the end. It heralds God’s new order.

APPLICATION The day will come when all will be re-created to be the Lord’s delight and joy in this new place of blessing and peace. The details and the timing still require our faith and imagination , but it will happen — and it will be good.

QUESTION What is the difference between not remembering “the former things”, v.17 and the honouring pledge of “we will remember them”?

Luke 21:5–19 — Jesus prepares His disciples for times of trial

  • They will face betrayal and hatred while knowing ultimate security

5 Some of His disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said…

“The temple was adorned” — Herod the Great’s temple precinct occupied one sixth of the city and was a mile to walk around. Decorated opulently with a golden vine and huge grape clusters, its massive marble blocks shone brilliantly.

6 …“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Thrown down” — in the revolt of AD 70 the Roman army toppled the huge stones over the edge of the mount.

7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

“When” — prophecy events often spoke of more than one situation and time.

8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

“Many will come… claiming” — Jewish historian Josephus reports”false prophets” trying to emulate Moses or Joshua and claiming messianic status, after Jesus’ resurrection and before the destruction of Jerusalem.

9 “When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

“The end… not right away” — the events listed happen throughout the age, not just at the very end.

10-11 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

“Kingdom against kingdom” — increasing unrest, political and ecological, will herald the last times

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name.

“Persecute you” — persecution of Christians is higher now than ever.

“Hand you over to synagogues” — which doubled as community centres; punishments could be meted out there.

13 “And so you will bear testimony to Me.

“And so” — opposition highlights testimony; the early church thrived under persecution.

14-15 “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

“I will give you words” — Jesus promises the Holy Spirit’s imparted wisdom in giving testimony. Stephen was a shining example: “But [the Jews] could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke,” Acts 6:10.

16 “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.

“You will be betrayed” — betrayal by those assumed to be close is the hardest form of rejection. Jesus experienced this.

• For further study, read Luke 18:29-–30, 22:1-6 and 47-62.

17 “Everyone will hate you because of Me.

“Because of Me” — where believers are free to practise their faith, ill-treatment comes in every age from defenders of the religious establishment.

18 “But not a hair of your head will perish.

“Not a hair” — protected spiritually and eternally, although persecution will come, v.12, for some, resulting in death, v.16.

19 “Stand firm, and you will win life.

“Win life” — most of the first disciples were martyred, but believers in Jesus are saved for eternal life.

SUMMARY The temple of Jesus’ time had only been finished a few years when the Romans, in regaining control of the rebellious province, sacked the city and destroyed the landmark feature that rivalled any of the wonders of the ancient world.

APPLICATION Jesus’ words about the temple came to pass within a generation. We have lived in the insecurity of the end times ever since, but there is a security to be found within it. It is the peace and joy of knowing Jesus, truly knowing Him through personal decision. That enables us to stand firm — and to win the life that endures.

QUESTION How do we live with reproach if we talk about Jesus as the Lord we know and love?

2 Thess. 3:6–13 — Don’t just wait for the Lord, prepare His way!

  • Disciples should show themselves to be disciplined in the whole of life

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

“Keep away from… idle and disruptive” — in the New King James, “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly”. The expression was used of one who deliberately did not keep in step in a marching column. Here it refers to disruptive believers who know how to live right, but choose not to.

7-8 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

“Follow our example. We were not idle” — some in Thessalonica who professed to believe in Jesus, expected the church to meet their needs rather than supporting themselves, perhaps out of a distorted sense of expecting Jesus to return imminently.

9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.

“A model for you to imitate” — Paul chose to support himself as a leather worker and tent maker.

• For further study, see 1 Cor. 9:3-14; Gal. 6:4; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18

10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

“Unwilling to work” — Greek/Roman culture disdained manual work (seeing it as the role of slaves) but in Jewish culture, to be industrious was evidence of good character.

11-12 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

“Busy… busybodies” — the English phrase represents well the similar wordplay in Greek. This teaching, now commanding and urging, follows up the exhortation of the first letter “to mind your own business and work with your hands”, 1 Thess. 4:11-12.

13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

“Never tire of doing… good” — encouragement to church members to be caring in recognising genuine needs, less so for those (vv.7-8 above) awaiting the Lord rather than preparing for Him.

• For further study, help in the fellowship for situations of genuine need, Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:3-8; Titus 3:14.

SUMMARY Jews had a work ethic, but Greeks leaned towards philosophy. Some would rather debate the return of Jesus, than get ready for it. It was good that needs were being met through the fellowship, but not good if it created a passive “me too” expectation. Paul and his companions set an example by supporting themselves, Paul engaging in his trade as a leather worker alongside teaching the kingdom of God and its eternal values.

APPLICATION A living faith will find the imminent return of Jesus motivating — this is Jesus who asked how many with faith He would find on the earth on His return, Luke 18:8. And church planter and cross-cultural missionary Paul made much use elsewhere of engagement phrases like “run the race”, “fight the good fight”, “contend for the faith” and “make every effort”.

QUESTION How do we anticipate Jesus returning without warning at any time? Are we waiting for it to happen, or are we at work preparing for when it happens?

PRAYER Lord, we struggle to understand the political and financial turmoil, protests and bullying, with free speech and democracy on trial, and an unprovoked war.
Even the planet and its ecosystems are unsettled.
As we seek You, help us to reconcile what we see around us with what You said would come.
May we gain the mind of Christ and an eternal timescale, with rising faith to pray down Your coming kingdom.
For Jesus to rule and reign. Amen.

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Originally published at https://thelivingword.uk on November 10, 2022.

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Husband+Father | Missional Christian | Author+ Speaker+Creator — offering ‘Faith without the Faff’ to encourage those not attracted to a formal club-like church

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Ian Greig

Husband+Father | Missional Christian | Author+ Speaker+Creator — offering ‘Faith without the Faff’ to encourage those not attracted to a formal club-like church