Endurance

The Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to his spiritual son Timothy from a Roman prison and “believed that his death was near…Some suggest that Paul was writing a more personal letter to Timothy because of the fact that he was expecting to die soon” (Introduction to the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy). Paul encouraged Timothy to endure suffering so that he could present himself to God “as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul said:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:1-7)

Paul used three analogies to get his message across to Timothy. First, Paul told Timothy that he must share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers are mentioned throughout the New Testament account of Jesus’ ministry because of the Roman occupation of Israel at that time. The Greek word that Paul used, stratiotes (strat-ee-oˊ-tace) refers to “a (common) warrior” (G4757). Paul’s idea of a good soldier of Christ Jesus was probably someone that was always engaged in spiritual battles. Paul encouraged the Ephesian believers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Paul told Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4). The New King James Version of the Bible states it this way. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” The Apostle Peter also talked about becoming entangled in the affairs of this life in the context of false prophets and teachers. Peter said:

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:17-22)

Paul’s use of the phrase “the affairs of this life” (2 Peter 2:4) was probably meant to be interpreted in the context of normal everyday life. The Greek word that is translated life in this instance, bios (beeˊ-os) refers to “the present state of existence” and by implication “the means of livelihood” (G979). The struggle between doing God’s will and our own will often centers on the question of how we earn our living. The struggle between the two is clearly portrayed in the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt. After the Israelites “set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses” (Numbers 10:13), it says in Numbers 11:1, “the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes.” Moses went on to say:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4-6)

The strength that was dried up may have been the people’s physical appetite, but there was likely more to what was going on than just a lack of physical nourishment. The Hebrew word that is translated strength, nephesh (nehˊ-fesh) in an abstract sense refers to vitality and often represents “the inner being with its thoughts and emotions” and by extension, “the whole person” (H5315). At this point in time, it seems that some of the Israelites were beginning to miss their old way of life. Moses referred to the group of people that had gathered together to complain to each other as “the rabble” (Numbers 11:4). It’s not stated exactly who these people were, but it seems likely that they were dissenters who were opposed to the military campaign that was about to take place as the Israelites approached the Promised Land (Numbers 13:1-2, 17-19).

The second analogy that Paul used to encourage Timothy’s endurance was an athlete that is engaged in a competition. Paul said, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). The point that Paul was making was that it is possible for Christians to be disqualified from the spiritual rewards that they expect to receive from God. An example of this principle was the 40 year delay that kept everyone that grumbled against the LORD from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 14:26-30), as well as Moses’ exclusion because he broke faith with the LORD (Deuteronomy 32:48-51). Paul told Timothy at the conclusion of his letter, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The crown of righteousness may be the crown that Paul was referring to when he said that an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5). If so, competing according to the rules might have something to do with preaching the gospel accurately, meaning that there isn’t anything added or taken away from the message that Jesus proclaimed to his followers.

Paul’s final analogy, the hard working farmer, indicated that the principle of sowing and reaping came into play with regard to suffering and endurance. Paul said, “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6). Metaphorically, fruit as it relates to work or deeds is “the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly, the character of the ‘fruit’ being evidence of the character of the power producing it” (G2590). Paul’s suggestion that the hard-working farmer should receive the first share of the crops meant that the person preaching the gospel would receive some of the benefits of his own message. In other words, the power of the Holy Spirit would spill over into his own life as the preacher of the gospel went about sowing the seeds of God’s word. Paul concluded with the statement, “Think over what I say; for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Paul seemed to be aware of the fact that his words of encouragement to Timothy weren’t really all that encouraging, at least not from a human perspective. The Greek words that Paul used, noieo (noy-ehˊ-o) which is translated think over and sunesis (soonˊ-es-is) which is translated understand have to do with the faculties of the mind and may be connected with Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23). Paul told the Ephesians that they must “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24). Basically, what Paul was referring to was the process of sanctification which results in the divine character of God being manifested in the life of the believer (G38).

After the Israelites complained to the LORD about their misfortunes (Numbers 11:1), they were commanded to sanctify or consecrate themselves (Numbers 11:18). Numbers 11:18-20 states:

“And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’”

The Hebrew word that is translated rejected, maʾaç (maw-asˊ) speaks of “despising one’s spiritual condition” and describes the Israelites’ actions “in refusing to heed God or accept his authority” (H3988). The Israelites were instructed to consecrate themselves, meaning that they had to go through a process of rededicating themselves to the LORD in order to reinstate his blessing upon them.

Moses’ role of keeping the Israelites in check was a difficult one because of the constant friction between God and his chosen people. Moses asked the LORD:

“Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:11-14)

A short while later, Moses’ authority was challenged by his own brother and sister. Numbers 12:1-9 states:

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

Moses’ personal relationship with the LORD made it possible for him to understand things that no other human being could. God said that he spoke to Moses “mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles” (Numbers 12:8).

Like Moses, Paul suffered because of the message that the Lord entrusted to him. Paul said that he was suffering, “bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:9-10). The Greek word that is translated endure, hupomeno (hoop-om-enˊ-o) is derived from the words hupo (hoop-oˊ) which refers to an inferior position or condition (G5259) and meno (menˊ-o) which speaks of “a person remaining in a state or condition” (G3306). The literal translation of hupomeno is “to stay under,” meaning to remain in an inferior position (5278). Paul said that he was enduring prison for the sake of the elect, “that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul believed that he was in prison because it was a part of his ministry, something that he needed to do to in order to finish his race (2 Timothy 4:7).

Paul encouraged Timothy to endure suffering because of the assurance that he had of future rewards. Paul said:

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11-12)

The Greek word that Paul used that is translated reign, sumbasileuo (soom-bas-il-yooˊ-o) refers to a co-regent (G4821). Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17). Jesus talked about his future glory in his high priestly prayer to his Father. Jesus said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).

One of the conditions that Paul identified for being approved by God was being able to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul contrasted being able to rightly handle the word of truth with irreverent babble that leads people into more and more ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16). Another way of describing irreverent babble might be a fruitless or meaningless discussion. Some people talk about God in a way that destroys other people’s faith rather than building it up. Paul used the example of Hymenaeus and Philetus, who had said that the resurrection had already happened (2 Timothy 2:18), in order to illustrate how a central fact could undermine the entire gospel. Paul encouraged Timothy to cleanse himself from what is dishonorable, so that he would be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Paul’s final recommendation for endurance had to do with the spiritual battles associated with winning souls for Christ. Paul said:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Paul’s description of salvation as coming to our senses and escaping from the snare of the devil emphasized the importance of spiritual warfare and its role in helping or hindering a person’s belief in God. The Greek word that is translated captured, zogreo (dzogue-rehˊ-o) means “to take alive (make a prisoner of war)” (G2221). The concept of a prisoner of war suggests that the devil is able to render believers useless to God by tricking them into believing things that are untrue.

Paul admonished Timothy “not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14) and then went on to explain that it is the condition of our hearts when we share the gospel that makes all the difference in the success or failure of our attempt. Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The idea that Paul was conveying of presenting ourselves to God was about the genuineness of our faith or you might say the accuracy of our view of ourselves compared to God’s view of us. We might think we are right with God, but when we stand in God’s presence every unconfessed sin will be exposed. Paul wrote in his message to the Hebrews:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
    and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
    and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:35-39)

The shrinking back that Paul mentioned may have had something to do with lowering a sail and so slackening the course of the ship. Paul was likely referring to being remiss in holding to the truth of the gospel (G5288). In other words, leaving out some of the details of the gospel in order to make it more palatable to unbelievers is a dangerous compromise that can diminish your faith and result in spiritual ruin. 

Humility

Peter’s first epistle contains a wealth of information about the reality of believers living in a fallen world. He stated, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NKJV). The Greek word translated fiery trial, purosis (poo’-ro-sis) is derived from the word puroo (pur-ro’-o) which means “to be ignited, glow” (G4448). Peter was most likely referring to the process used to purify metal. Gold is refined by melting it in a fire and removing the impurities. Another aspect of adversity that Peter may have wanted to bring out was the testimonies of faith that resulted from Christian persecution. Many first century believers were forced to take a public stand about their belief in Jesus because of their refusal to conform to the culture of the Roman Empire and as a result, the gospel became very effective in converting people to Christ during the first century.

Peter explained the process of purification that Christians go through in 1 Peter 5:5-10. He stated:

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (NKJV)

A key characteristic of a Christian that has been through the process of purification is humility. Peter said that we are to be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5). The Greek word translated clothed, egkomboomai (eng-kom-bo’-om-ahee) refers to putting on an apron as a badge or sign of servitude (G1463). Peter was most likely trying to communicate what Jesus did when he washed his disciples feet (John 13). The Greek word translated humility, tapeinophrosune (tap-i-nof-ros-oo’-nay) refers to “humiliation of the mind, i.e. modesty).” “This virtue, a fruit of the gospel, exists when a person through most genuine self-evaluation deems himself worthless. It involves evaluating ourselves as small because we are so. The humble person is not stressing his sinfulness, but his creatureliness, of absolute dependence, of possessing nothing and receiving all things from God” (G5012).

Peter said that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Another way of stating it might be, God is on the side of the loser, the one that doesn’t think he can do it himself. Peter instructed believers to “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). What Peter was saying was that we should submit ourselves to God because he can do more that we can do ourselves. Peter added, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NKJV). Cares have to do with the thoughts that go through our mind on a daily basis, the things we focus our attention on. Peter was indicating that we need to focus all our attention on God because he is our provider and is responsible for our welfare. Peter’s warning to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) emphasized the importance of spiritual awareness. Even though we cannot see what is going on in the spiritual realm, we can affect the outcome of spiritual wars by asking for God’s help when we are faced with trials and temptations.

Suffering

The Apostle Peter’s first letter to Jewish believers contained much of the same information that Paul preached to people that were not connected to Judaism. Peter’s mini-version of the gospel focused on just a few of the essential points of Christian living and answered some very difficult questions like, why do Christians suffer? Peter said, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21, ESV). According to Peter, suffering is a part of the process that causes us to become like Jesus. The Greek word translated example, hupogrammos means “an underwriting that is copy for imitation” (G5261). It is as if Peter was saying that we should be a carbon copy of Christ’s suffering. This proved to be true in Peter’s case because he was crucified like Jesus was except that he was crucified upside down (Nero Wikipedia).

Peter’s letter was most likely written to address the persecution that was going on in the latter half of the first century. He stated, “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled'” (1 Peter 3:13-14, NKJV). Jesus addressed this kind of suffering in his sermon on the mount. He stated:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

Jesus pointed out that persecution is a by product of citizenship in heaven. Earlier in his letter, Peter referred to believers as strangers, indicating that citizenship in heaven causes one to be viewed as an outsider in the material world. Jesus made it clear that Christians who are persecuted on Earth would be rewarded in heaven and even went so far as to say, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). The Greek word translated exceedingly glad, agalliao (ag-al-lee-ah’-o) means to jump for joy (G21). It’s hard to imagine having that kind of attitude toward suffering, but Jesus was obviously expressing a spiritual truth that does not make sense to us from a physical perspective.

The resurrection of Jesus is an indicator of the type of reward that awaits Christians in heaven. Peter said that Jesus in on the right hand of God and angels, authorities, and powers have been made subject to him (1 Peter 3:22). Jesus’ ultimate position of power is a direct result of his triumph over sin. Jesus now has the ability to direct the affairs of men with complete authority over all created beings in the universe. Peter said, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NKJV). The phrase “arm yourselves with the same mind” is a reference to spiritual warfare.

To arm yourself means that you are equipped with weapons. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds (1 Corinthians 10:4). One of the ways that we can fight against the devil is to pray and ask God for help. Peter indicated that we need to trust God and believe that his Holy Spirit will help us in our time of need. He stated, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:17-19, NKJV).

Foolishness

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul took the opportunity to boast a little about the things he had experienced while preaching the gospel. Paul started out by saying that it was foolish of him to try and impress the Corinthians with a bold display of his spiritual credentials (2 Corinthians 11:16) and then, added a disclaimer that the Lord had not given him permission to share his personal story (2 Corinthians 11:17). Among the many dangers Paul credited himself with were imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, and starvation (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Paul concluded with a special revelation he had of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said:

I have to talk about myself, even if it does no good. But I will keep on telling about some things I saw in a special dream and that which the Lord has shown me. I know a man who belongs to Christ. Fourteen years ago he was taken up to the highest heaven. (I do not know if his body was taken up or just his spirit. Only God knows.) I say it again, I know this man was taken up. But I do not know if his body or just his spirit was taken up. Only God knows. When he was in the highest heaven, he heard things that cannot be told with words. No man is allowed to tell them. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, NLV)

After sharing this fantastic experience, Paul stated, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul seemed to be saying that he was physically disabled as a result of his heavenly excursion. What isn’t perfectly clear is how Satan’s messenger came into play in inflicting Paul with this disability. The Greek phrase Paul used hina (hin’-ah) kolaphizo (kol-af-id’-zo) me (meh) which is translated “to buffet me” is also translated as “to harass me” (ESV) and “to hurt me” (NLV), but a better translation might be “to beat me up” because Paul was talking about being kept in a position of humility.

Paul’s objective in sharing his personal experience was to show that he was equal with the apostles that were present during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Paul recognized that it was foolish of him to boast about his accomplishments and admitted to the Corinthians, “I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Corinthians 12:11-12, ESV). Paul’s position as a super-apostle didn’t seem to gain him any favor with regard to suffering for the ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul indicated that he was expected to suffer more because of the authority that had been given to him. Paul asked the Lord three times to take away his thorn in the flesh, but his request was denied. Paul explained, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Suffering

Paul opened his second letter to the Corinthians with an explanation of why he hadn’t returned to visit them. Rather than sharing the details of what had happened to him , Paul talked about believers suffering. Paul told the Corinthians that God was their primary resource during difficult times and stated, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Greek word translated mercies, oiktirmos means pity (G3628). Oiktirmos has to do with the emotions of the heart and typically signifies compassion, a feeling of distress about the unfortunate circumstances of others.

Paul went on to explain that God comforts us in our suffering so that we can comfort others. The two Greek words Paul used that are translated comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4 are parkaleo and paraklesis. These words mean, “to call to ones side” (G3870) or “a calling to one’s side (G3874). The idea Paul was conveying was togetherness. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that God was by their sides when they went through difficult circumstances and he also stated that God comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1 Corinthians 1:4, ESV).

Paul didn’t state it specifically, but he somewhat implied by his use of the word comfort that he was talking about the Holy Spirit when he said “the God of all comfort” (1 Corinthians 1:3). Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Comforter” (John 15:26). The Greek word translated Comforter, “parakletos is the one summoned, called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid and is used of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand” (G3875). The Holy Spirit gives us divine strength so that we are able to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of God’s kingdom.

One of the goals of a Christian’s life is to maintain peace and harmony (G4991). As we go through our daily routines, things can happen that interfere with our peaceful existence. Paul identified three kinds of suffering that Christians have to deal with in his explanation of why he hadn’t made it back to Corinth. First, Paul talked about tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:4) which can be anything that burdens our spirit (G2347). Paul also referred to this as trouble and said, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Paul also talked about the sufferings of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). At the heart Christ’s suffering were emotions that were caused by external influences on his mind (G3804). Most likely Paul was referring to spiritual warfare, but this kind of suffering can also be caused by people who are abusing us, those who try to manipulate us into doing things we don’t want to do. Another scenario Paul mentioned was being afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:6). Affliction is the pressure of circumstances (G2346). According to Paul, affliction is what bonds us with other believers. Out of affliction comes the notion that we are in this together. Paul was essentially trying to tell the Corinthians, I feel your pain and I wish I could be there with you.

Even though he was unable to visit them in person, Paul wanted the Corinthians to know they were very important to him. Paul took his ministry responsibility seriously and didn’t intend to just leave the Corinthians hanging. In order to assure them of his commitment to return, Paul reminded the Corinthians that God had called him to minister to them and said, “I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth” (2 Corinthians 1:23). Paul had intended to encourage the Corinthians when he returned for a second visit, but because of his own suffering, Paul decided to write to them rather than talk to the Corinthians face to face.

Patience

James letter “to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad” (James 1:1) was meant to be a lesson on the topic of patience (James 1:2-4). Apparently, Jesus’ promise to return to Earth was being questioned and the delay of this event was causing believers to be filled with doubt. James encouraged Christians to wait patiently in his statement, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:7-8). The phrase “stablish your hearts” has to do with the way we think about our lives. It is likely James was referring to the commitment believers make when they give their lives to Christ. James was pointing out that even though the primary function of salvation was to secure God’s forgiveness and eternal life, Christians should expect to go through a difficult and sometimes long process of transformation before they go to heaven.

The return of Christ was misunderstood to be an event that would happen in the near future, perhaps before the first generation of Christians died. The reason it was so important to believers was likely because the persecution that was taking place was very difficult to handle. The return of Christ may have been used as a coping mechanism to get through the horrible circumstances Christians had to deal with. The problem with that approach was that it didn’t leave room for the possibility that suffering was to be expected and embraced rather than avoided in the Christian life. James wanted believers to understand that spiritual development was counter intuitive and shouldn’t be thought of as a quick and easy process that anyone can get through. His analogy of the precious fruit of the earth (James 5:7) being like the faith that Christians are developing throughout their lives suggests that the cultivation of spiritual fruit (love, joy, peace, etc.) is the outcome that we need to focus on in order to survive the trials and temptations that we all have to go through.

I think patience is often misunderstood because we associate it with things that are unpleasant. I believe James’ opening statement, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2) was meant to teach us that joy and patience actually do go together. The key to understanding this strange concept may be James use of the Greek word hegeomai (hayg-eh’-om-ahee) which is translated “count it” in James 1:2. Hegeomai means “to lead, i.e. command (with official authority)” (G2233). Hegeomai is also translated as “have rule over.” You could say that exercising patience means that you take control of a situation, you don’t let your circumstances determine how you are going to behave. Another way of describing patience is long-spirited. From this perspective, you could say that patience is letting yourself be stretched spiritually. In other words, your spirit is dominating your flesh or human nature. One way of doing this is through prayer. James encouraged believers to pray about their difficult circumstances (James 5:13) and stated, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Calvary

The place where Jesus was crucified was known as “a place of a skull” (Matthew 27:33). The Apostle John noted that it was “called in Hebrew Golgotha” (John 19:17) and Luke’s gospel provided the Latin version of this word, calvaria which is where the English term Calvary comes from. The exact location of this spot is unknown, but some think it “may have been a small hill (though the Gospels say nothing of a hill) that looked like a skull, or it may have been so named because of the many executions that took place there” (note on Mark 15:22). The name of the site was probably given so that there would be no confusion about the fact that a public execution actually took place. It is possible that Jesus knew of the site before he was taken there and had mentally prepared himself for the inevitable crucifixion that was going to take place.

Crucifixion was “a Roman means of execution in which the victim was nailed to a cross. Men condemned to death were usually forced to carry a beam of the cross often weighing 30 or 40 pounds, to the place of crucifixion. A cross might be shaped like a T, an X, a Y, or an I, as well as like the traditional form. A condemned man would normally carry a beam of it to the place of execution. Somewhere along the way Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21), probably because Jesus was weakened by the flogging. Heavy wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel bones. If the life of the victim lingered too long, death was hastened by breaking his legs (see John 19:33). Archeologists have discovered the bones of a crucified man, near Jerusalem, dating between A.D. 7 and 66, which shed light on the position of the victim when nailed to the cross. Only slaves, the basest of criminals, and offenders who were not Roman citizens were executed in this manner. First-century authors vividly describe the agony and disgrace of being crucified” (notes on Mark 15-21, 24 and John 19:17).

Luke’s record of Jesus’ crucifixion contains details that are not found in the other three gospels. Luke opened his letter with this statement:

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightiest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Luke’s motivation for writing his letter to Theophilus was to explain what had happened to Jesus in terms that were understandable to a non-Jewish Roman citizen. Luke was a physician and had spent a considerable amount of time traveling with the Apostle Paul. His education was probably an advantage in translating the Jewish records into modern language that could be understood by the general population. Luke’s use of the term calvaria, or in English Calvary, as the name of the place where Jesus was crucified has made it a well-known landmark that is still visited some 2000 years later.

 

Betrayal

In his discussion about signs of the end of this age, Jesus told his disciples they would not only face opposition, but would be betrayed by their own family members. He said, “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up. Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:11-13). Jesus wasn’t suggesting that endurance was a requirement for salvation, but rather that perseverance was an indicator of salvation (note on Mark 13:13). Paul wrote about this in his epistle to the Hebrews where he said, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast to the end. Whilst it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Hebrew 3:14-15).

Jesus understood that the severe trials the early Christians would face would be more than some of them could handle. His encouragement to endure to the end may have had a twofold meaning. First, that the individual Christians wouldn’t let the threat of persecution prevent them from receiving salvation and second, that the united body of believers that is sometimes referred to as Christ’s church, would continue to preach the gospel until Jesus’ return. In the midst of his message about the betrayal of Christians, Jesus referred to a prophecy that is found in the book of Daniel. He said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes” (Matthew 24:15-18). Daniel’s prophecy is thought to be a sign of the Antichrist outlawing worship of God during the Great Tribulation (note on Daniel 9:25-27). If so, then Jesus may have been suggesting that the betrayal of Christians would reach its climax at that point and it would no longer be safe for his followers to identify themselves.

Jesus’ reference to the Great Tribulation was probably meant for Jewish believers only. Many Bible Scholars believe that Christians will be removed from the earth before the Great Tribulation begins. Jesus indicated that after the abomination of desolation is set up in God’s temple, “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22). In spite of extreme persecution and betrayal by their loved ones, many Jews will turn to Christ during the Great Tribulation. It is likely that the work Jesus started with the original twelve Jewish apostles will be revived in some form during that time period. The Apostle John indicated 144,000 Jews would be preserved, 12,000 each from all the tribes of Israel during the Great Tribulation. These Jewish believers will be killed for their faith and given a special reward for their suffering (Revelation 7:13-17). At the end of the Great Tribulation, they will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).

Everlasting life

Jesus told his twelve apostles they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel when his eternal kingdom was established (Matthew 19:28) and then he added, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29). The Greek words translated everlasting life, aionios (ahee-o´-nee-os) zoe (dzo-ay´) referred to an endless existence similar to that of God. The implication being that an association with Christ entitles you to share in the inheritance he will receive from his heavenly Father.

Jesus used a parable of a worker in a vineyard to explain the reward that would be given to faithful servants of God. He said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-2). Jesus also talked about a future harvest in the context of non-Jewish believers receiving salvation. He said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:35-36).

Jesus’ reference to the reaper receiving wages (John 4:36) suggested that preaching the gospel was a type of work that would be rewarded in heaven. The persecution of the early church made it very difficult for those that wanted to share their faith with others to do so publicly. All of the twelve apostles were tortured and/or killed because they refused to denounce their belief in Christ. Even the Apostle Paul was killed because of his commitment to preach the gospel. In his parable, Jesus said the labourers that were hired first murmured against the goodman of the house because he rewarded everyone equally. They said “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day” (Matthew 20:12).

Jesus responded to the issue that was brought up about bearing the burden of the work by stating “Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto the last, even as unto thee” (Matthew 20:14). The Greek term translated last, eschatos (es´-khat-os) may refer to the lowest person in rank or the farthest from a place or time (G2078). Believers today are far away in time from the events that took place when Jesus was alive on Earth and therefore much more reliant on faith to accept him as their savior. On the other hand, we could be very close to the events that will take place when Jesus returns and have a much greater sense than ever of our need for salvation from this world. Jesus said, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). By this, I believe Jesus meant that only the believers far removed from the actual events of his death and resurrection would be able to appreciate his sacrifice and be willing to give up everything in order to inherit everlasting life.

Hell

Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) to illustrate what takes place at the time of death. In the Old Testament of the Bible, hell was referred to as she’ol or hades. She’ol was, “a place of degradation, the locality or condition of those who have died or have been destroyed. It is implied that although, so far as the world is concerned, they have perished, yet they are still in a state of existence and are within God’s cognizance.” Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, everyone went to the same location when they died. She’ol was the place of the dead. It referred to the “netherworld or the underground cavern to which all buried dead go. It was not understood to be a place of punishment, but simply the ultimate resting place of all mankind (Gen 37:35)” (7585). In the New Testament, the word translated hell is geenna (gheh´-en-nah). Gehenna (or Ge-Himmon) was a valley of Jerusalem used figuratively as the name of the place (or state) of everlasting punishment (1067). Gehenna may have been believed to be a place that everyone that had turned their back on God went in order to be separated from him for eternity. Gehenna is described as “a gorge (from its lofty sides; hence, narrow, but not a gully or winter-torrent)” (1516).

Jesus’ story went like this:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.'” (Luke 16:19-25, ESV)

After the rich man was denied relief from his suffering, he asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers of their impending doom. Abraham denied the rich man’s request stating that his family had already been warned by Moses and the prophets (Luke 16:27-29). The rich man replied, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:30-31).

The interesting thing about Jesus’ story is that a short time later, he raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. He may have done it as a witness to the fact that the story he told about the rich man going to hell was actually true.