The Religious Persecutions
(This paper was addressed to members of the World-Destiny Internet Discussion List.)
These persecutions were foretold by Jesus, and are on record in the
New Testament. They come amidst a new evangelical effort by God-Dedicated
people. I analytically compared the passages on my web site under the title,
"A Warning From Jesus."
I shall illustrate from a parable Jesus gave about the end of the age.
Matt 13:24-43 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, `An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, `No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" . . .
Then he left the crowds and went into the house.
This parable is reproduced almost verbatim on page 1693 of The Urantia Papers.
However, the Matthew record has the following explanation, which is not reproduced in The Urantia Papers.
And his disciples came to him, saying,
"Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
We do not know if these are the actual words of Jesus, or if they are some later Christian interpretation. If the former, Jesus was acknowledging world conditions at the close of the age. If the latter, the statements mean clearly that early Christians recognized conditions at, and the fact of, the close of the age. Perhaps they are a record of remarks by Jesus, but clouded by later editing.
The historical record shows the great persecution which is destined for all of us who go out in service to God.
I have grouped these remarks from the gospels to bring them into cohesive perspective. Certainly, the gospel writers all believed in their value.
John 15:27 And you also are
witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Matthew 10:18 And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the nations.
Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them.
Luke 21:12 . . . delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
The context in Mark and Luke is clearly the close of the age. The Matthew text is cast as advice to the apostles, but study of the parallels show that the Matthew text was misplaced from the end-of-the-age context by an early Christian editor.
I had mentioned in previous discussions that I felt there was no way we could adequately prepare for the task ahead.
Remember "sackcloth?" We should speak from our hearts, and not from formal training. God did not prepare us that we should represent the old order; he prepared us in honesty and sincerity. This is the way the gospels stated it:
John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send
to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father,
he will bear witness to me;
Matt 10:19-20 For when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking
Mark 13:11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Luke 21:13-15 This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or
Again, you can see that these remarks describe human efforts to come at the close of the age.
These human events are somewhat described by John in his later chapters, although he does not allude to the end of the age in his Gospel. John mostly avoided "end-of-the-age" material in the Gospel. He had already written his Revelation; there was no need to repeat that material. In the latter he emphasized the love of Jesus for us, and our devotion to the Father.
However, a very important remark was given by John:
John 16:1-4 All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, a time is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you these things so that when their hour comes you will remember that I warned you.
I include here the gospel parallels in order to show that John did, indeed, intend for this passage to refer to the end of the age.
John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed,
the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
Matt 10:21 Brother will deliver brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and put them to death.
Matt 24:9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.
Mark 13:12 And brother will deliver brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and put them to death.
Luke 21:16 You will be betrayed by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.
These are the extreme conditions we shall face in our service.
Compare this to the statement in The Urantia Papers.
After Peter. James. John, and Matthew had asked the Master numerous questions, he continued his farewell discourse by saying: And I am telling you about all this before I leave you in order that you may be so prepared for what is coming upon you that you will not stumble into serious error. The authorities will not be content with merely putting you out of the synagogues; I warn you the hour draws near when they who kill you will think they are doing a service to God. And all of these things they will do to you and to those whom you lead into the kingdom of heaven because they do not know the Father. They have refused to know the Father by refusing to receive me; and they refuse to receive me when they reject you, provided you have kept my new commandment that you love one another even as I have loved you. I am telling you in advance about these things so that, when your hour comes, as mine now has, you may be strengthened in the knowledge that all was known to me, and that my spirit shall be with you in all your sufferings for my sake and the gospel's. It was for this purpose that I have been talking so plainly to you from the very beginning. I have even warned you that a man's foes may be those of his own household. Although this gospel of the kingdom never fails to bring great peace to the soul of the individual believer, it will not bring peace on earth until man is willing to believe my teaching wholeheartedly and to establish the practice of doing the Father's will as the chief purpose in living the mortal life.
I draw attention to the sentence which says:
I am telling you in advance about these things so that, when your hour comes, as mine now has, you may be strengthened in the knowledge that all was known to me, and that my spirit shall be with you in all your sufferings for my sake and the gospel's.
These statements were especially intended for us at the end of the age. He was telling us "in advance" for the time "when your hour comes." He will be with us.
Again we can compare with the Gospel content:
John 15:20a "Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant
is not greater than his master.'"
Matt 10:24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master . . ."
John 15:20b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you . . .
Matt 10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next . . .
Luke 21:12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you . . .
But consider the eternal import of our task:
Matt 24:10-14 And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
Do you remember that statement which explicitly describes the conditions for the return of Jesus?
But the times of the reappearing of the Son of Man are known only in the councils of Paradise; not even the angels of heaven know when this will occur. However, you should understand that, when this gospel of the kingdom shall have been proclaimed to all the world for the salvation of all peoples, and when the fullness of the age has come to pass, the Father will send you another dispensational bestowal, or else the Son of Man will return to adjudge the age.
As I showed elsewhere, we will not receive another dispensational bestowal until well into the Millennium.
How does all of this relate to our immediate actions?
Someone must carry the message of the kingdom. Who will that be?
Please recall that I have emphasized in my writings that this episode is not the gospel of personal salvation, but the gospel of the kingdom. You will be speaking to all those who are already children of God. You need not speak to them about their relationship with God, except in the decisions they must face.
If we stay dedicated to God, and to this call, we should not be running off to some other country to protect our skins. We will advise others about their decisions to take such refuge, but that is not our personal concern. We should give ourselves in his service. We cannot expect that any place in this country will be safe. Caligastia's agents are as free to travel, and to seek us out, as we are for this service. Those matters are in God's hands. We should give ourselves to him, and let him take care of us.