Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. Some scriptures indicate that at the time of the end true Christians will be persecuted and even put to death (Rev. 13:7; Matt. 24:9).  On the other hand, there are verses (notably Psalms 91:7-11and Revelation 3:10) which promise that there is a way for true Christians to escape the trials and tribulations of that day.  How can these apparently contradictory scriptures be reconciled?
 
A. Psalms 91:7-13 reads: “A thousand may fall at your side; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.”

These verses, like many in the Psalms, are written in a poetic literary style. They express praise for God’s deliverance, which is described in somewhat hyperbolic language. But by no stretch of the imagination can this Psalm be taken as a definite promise of God to always protect every individual Christian.

As Hebrews, chapter 11, vividly describes, many righteous people have been martyred in the past (Heb. 11:35-38). And many of the righteous will be killed in the future (Rev. 6:9-11). Tradition indicates that all of the original apostles (with the possible exception of John) died violently at the hand of persecutors. Even Christ Himself was crucified.

Revelation 3:10, part of the message to the church at Philadelphia, states: “Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth.” While it is obvious that this verse cannot be applied universally to every single Christian, it does appear to have a definite application to “the crisis at the close.” Even then, however, no individual Christian has a “carte blanche” promise for personal, physical safety.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 states that “time and chance” happen to us all. If we are caught in the middle of an accident, a war, or a national disaster, perhaps God will have mercy on us and deliver us from our troubles. But again, He may choose, in His perfect wisdom, to let us live through such trials or allow us to die as a result of them.

But does this imply that God is in some way remiss to allow such things to occur? Isaiah 57:1-2 reads: “the righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart, devout men are taken away, while no one understands. [But} the righteous man is taken away from calamity, he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in uprightness.” So even death can be a haven from this world’s troubles.

But where does this leave the average Christian hoping for some form of security to hang on to in this unstable time? Notice Paul’s personal example, He experienced a great number of devastating personal trials (see II Cor. 11:23-28), but he never lost faith. He had his mind set on the only really definite promise of salvation recorded in Scripture – the promise of the resurrection. He was able to say: “count everything as loss because of the surpassing wroth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . .that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead: (Phil. 3:8-11).

Paul valued being a Christian, and being able to preach the message Christ had given him, over and above his own life. He knew that whatever happened to him physically, he would eventually be resurrected to immortal life. This kind of salvation is what Christians today ought to be pinning their hopes on, rather than some type of physical deliverance which may or may not materialize.
 
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