3As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.
5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (Matthew 24:3–10, ESV)
Many children are very afraid of having a flu shot. Right before the injection, adults often comforted them by saying, “Don’t be afraid, it’s not painful.” But they burst into tears anyway. Of course, it isn’t painful to you! Ouch, it hurts!
When will the Lord Jesus return to the earth? His disciples are greatly concerned about it. The Lord Jesus warns His followers that there will be the coming of false Christs, wars, famines, earthquakes and Christian persecution all over the world at His Second Coming. Perhaps, the previous three signs that Jesus spoke didn’t impact His disciples that much, but Christian persecution would surely hit home.
1) Anti-Christian Trend
The Prophecy of Christ
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9, ESV)
According to Open Doors, there are 2.48 billion Christians worldwide. In 2018, there are about 215 million Christians suffering from extreme levels of persecution, that is, 1 out of every 12 Christians around the world. The Lord Jesus pointed out that before His Second Coming, the world will unveil the anti-Christian trend. The world would not only hate Christians, but it would also take away the lives of believers at all costs. Christian persecutions have existed in all ages around the world, but the situation would only be intensified before the immediate Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.
2) Anti-Christian Times
Old Testament Prophecy
According to the prophecy of Daniel 9:27, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel in the middle of the seven years of the Great Tribulation (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:14). After breaking the covenant, he would commence persecuting and slaughtering the Jewish race.
Shortly before the massacre of the Jews by the Antichrist, one important thing must occur, that is all living Christians will be caught away to Heaven. Theologians and Bible commentators call it the rapture, meaning that Christians will not taste death, but they will be taken to their heavenly home by the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul testified in saying, 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, ESV)
Perhaps you might ask, “After the rapture of the church, there wouldn’t be any Christians on earth, so who is left to be persecuted?” After the rapture of the Church, a seven-year tribulation will come upon the earth. As the Gospel of Matthew is mainly written for the Jewish audience, the Lord Jesus clearly foretells their future experiences. During this period of difficult times, a large number of Jews will come to know Jesus Christ as their Messiah. For this very reason, they will be discriminated against and they will be persecuted by the world. This is the focus of Jesus’s prophecy. I lived near a Jewish neighbourhood when I was a new believer. In a self-serve laundromat, I met a Jewish gentleman. I witnessed to him that Jesus was the Messiah but he resolutely rejected the Gospel. He despised the humble beginning of Jesus and stated that He was only the son of a carpenter. To this day, many Jews still don’t accept Jesus Christ as Messiah. However, during the seven years of the Great Tribulation, countless Jews will come to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. During the Great Tribulation, these Jewish Christians will become missionaries and they will have to pay a great price for following Jesus. Not only they will be hated by the hostile world, but they will be also killed by these people (Matthew 24:9).
3) Anti-Christian Reasons
Misunderstanding of Christianity
Jesus said, 1“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:1–2, ESV) Why does the world hate Christians? Before the Apostle Paul became a Christian, he tried his best to persecute Christ followers. Since he did not know Jesus Christ was the Messiah, he persecuted the followers of Jesus. Due to the misunderstanding of Christianity, people are hostile towards Christians. Karl Marx stated that Christianity is the “opium for the people”. Many people believe that they can dictate their own fate, and Christianity is for the weaklings. First of all, I must state that Christianity is not a “religion” but a “relationship”. By accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, believers would become the children of Father God, and that speaks of a “relationship”, instead of a “religion”. In addition, Christianity is not the opium for human hearts, but in fact, by knowing Jesus we would identify our real emotional and spiritual needs. By accepting the salvation of Jesus Christ, a person will attain the peace and joy of forgiveness, and will experience the blessings of God’s presence every day. I must point out that Christians don’t fully rely on themselves because we know our limitations, thus we bravely admit our weaknesses and sins before God.
Revealing the Sins of Humankind
Jesus was the light of the world and He exposed the sins of humankind (John 1:5; 8:12; 9:5). Since the words and deeds of Christ’s followers would have challenged the value and moral standard of their fellow human beings indirectly and directly, they would be considered by others as a nuisance. Most non-believers don’t believe in absolute truth or absolute standard in this postmodern world, but Christians still believe in the absolute truths of the Bible, and no wonder non-believers would be offended. Right before the Second coming of Lord Jesus, the world would become more hostile to the followers of Christ because of their spiritual darkness.
Do Not Belong to the World
The Devil is a fallen archangel. Jesus called him the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), which suggests that he even has the power to influence the world’s political scenes (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28; Daniel 10:13, 20). The world is seen as the evil and sinful system of Satan, which all those who do not know Jesus are upholding its values. As Christians don’t belong to this satanic system, the Devil will use all means to harm them. Let me give you an example. It is natural that Mafias hate to see police forces getting into their territories.
Dear friends, after hearing this message, I wish you could let go of your prejudice against Christianity. The Bible clearly states that all human beings are sinful and only God can forgive our sins. Jesus Christ has already accomplished salvation on the cross, and you can become a child of God if you are willing to confess your sins, repent and humbly believe that He is your Lord and Saviour. Perhaps, you dislike the idea of being persecuted as a Christian. As the Devil is the enemy of God, he will try his best to hunt more people down so that they will die eternally with him. The Devil hates Jesus and His followers, thus it is natural that he will incite the world to persecute Christians. There is a price to follow Jesus. Perhaps, Christians have to face persecution and even die for their faith, but they will arrive in our heavenly home safely. Believers in Christ, let us take up the cross and follow Lord Jesus every day!