Past, Present, and Future Persecution: Luke 21:5-19

Focus Passage: Luke 21:5-19 (NASB)

This entry’s passage is just the first piece of a much longer passage where Jesus unpacks some of what will be coming down history’s timeline: Persecution, wars, rumors, famines, earthquakes, and more.

The specific detail that we will focus on in this entry has to do with a short phrase related to the timing. In verse 9, we read “When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” [Italicized words not in original Greek]

In this verse, Jesus is describing something that will happen before the end. But it gets even a little more interesting when we compare how Luke starts verse 12 when comparing it to the other gospels with this teaching: But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake . . .” (v.12)

Luke’s passage places the persecution Jesus’ followers face before the wars that happen before the end, while Matthew indicates that it happens afterward (Matthew 24:9) and Mark phrases it in a way that could mean at any or every point in time in history (Mark 13:9).

What this tells me is not that the gospel writers are confused by Jesus’ words, but there could easily be more present in Jesus’ predictions. For example:

  • Using Mark’s version, we can understand Jesus to be saying there will always be people/nations that are not accepting of the gospel, and at any point, we could be called to give a defense;

  • Using Luke’s version, we could look at points in history where the followers of Jesus were persecuted in major ways, and there are plenty of examples of this;

  • Using Matthew’s version, we can understand that in the future, there may be one big push to get rid of all of Jesus’ followers.

While the three gospels that include this teaching all are unique, they all give a different credible angle to Jesus’ words, and I believe that even though each is distinct on this point, they are all true predictions.

In these three gospels we have past, present, and future persecution – all happening before and during the end. Persecution does not provide a safe foundation to lean on when determining where we are in history’s timeline. Persecution fulfills a different task – prompting us to ask God how long will He wait to return and giving us the opportunity to be like Jesus and let the Holy Spirit speak through us.

This discussion pushes me to one big conclusion: Don’t be stressed out or worried about where we are in history. Jesus shares things in this passage that let us know we are at the beginning of the end or before the end itself. That means we still have time; we still can share Jesus to others; we can still fulfill Jesus’ great commission. Our primary focus should always be pointed to Jesus and moving forward with the mission He has given to each of us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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