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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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12-4 Latter Day Persecution 

Why just Us?

It may well be asked 'Why should we alone be persecuted?'. Our most distinctive doctrine is that of the hope of Israel- i.e. the true Gospel. We should be unique in the amount of attention and support we give to Israel, and our preaching is based around Jewish things. One can envisage a systematic persecution of Israel by the beast, using powerful propaganda to whip up opposition to everything Jewish. Once it is realized that there is one small sect who count themselves to be spiritual Israel, and who base their lives around the hope and consolation of Israel, longing for the time when her redeemer shall come to save her from the beast, the beast is likely to single us out for persecution too. Of course, all this looks unlikely at present. But in this very fact is the essence of this temptation. The prevailing trend amongst us to de-emphasize our preaching of the Jewish promises and associated history of Israel, a shift away from a fundamentalist stance over doctrine, a willingness to believe that those who do not know the hope of Israel may have hope of salvation, all these trends can only serve to weaken our strength to withstand what may well soon be upon us. Remember that gangs of youths throughout Europe are starting to burn down synagogues; the unstable world financial scene is blamed on Jewish bankers; children throughout inner London are taught that Israel is a prime example of a racist state which should be ended if there is to be world peace. The world is even now just not the tolerant place which it appears to be. We have seen that the natural Jews are to undergo the greatest persecution which they have ever experienced. Many Jews are presently living in the U.K. and North America. These countries will persecute those Jews more ferociously than the Nazis in the 1940s. If these countries are capable of such a sudden change of attitude towards the Jews, we can expect their attitude towards us to change just as quickly. Those who think " peace and safety" are in a dangerous position.

It would be tempting at this stage to analyze our community to see whether we are able to take the strain of all this. But given the almost certain breakup of the brotherhood as we know it during the tribulation, we need to look instead at ourselves personally. We should be able to gain specific guidance for the last days from the prophecies concerning them, notably in Revelation. It is tragic that this book is now neglected by so many of us. There is good reason to think that there will be a great increase in spiritual understanding amongst God's people, especially in the tribulation period itself (see later). “Some of the teachers that be wise shall fall, to refine them [the community that remains], and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end” (Dan. 11:35 RVmg.) suggests that the wise elders of the community may fall away or be killed- for the Lord said that indeed “some” of us will be in the final tribulation- and this will be in order to refine the personal faith of the rest. The ‘wise teachers’ are those who will have ‘instructed many’ during the final burst of witness just prior to the Lord’s return (Dan. 11:33). For them to fall away or be killed would force their converts to a very personal faith and relationship with their Lord in the final days or months before His return.

We need to ask ourselves whether our consciences are finely tuned so that in the sudden onset of tribulation we are able to instinctively see why we should not assent to the apparently nominal demands of the beast. Is our love of materialism so great that we will find three and a half years of " being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (Heb.11:37) just too much to bear? Will we trade another three and a half years of the easy, laid back life we know at present, for eternity? So great is this temptation of materialism that Christ advises those in the last days to " sell that ye have...provide yourselves...a treasure in the Heavens" so that when Christ comes we " may open unto him immediately" (Lk.12:33-36). Given the generally poor state of the believers throughout history, this can only really apply to the more affluent ecclesia of the last days. Do we love Christ more than our families? Are we prepared, even though we may not have to endure it, to see them suffer for our faith? 1 Cor.7:26-31 and Lk.21:23 warn against marriage in the last days for this reason. Is our personal conviction of the truth so great that we can see our close friends in the ecclesia fall away, and we ourselves still cling on to the Truth? Make no mistake. Many will fall away. Some of your own family and ecclesia will. Only the spiritually tough, resolute individuals will survive. " Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh (Heb. to reach, stretch unto) the (end of) the 1335 days" (Dan. 12:12) suggests the difficulty in enduring to the end. But those who spiritually endure to the end of the tribulation period will be saved (perhaps the Lord in Mt. 24:13 had Dan. 12:12 in mind).

We need to develop now a burning fire within us of dedication to our Lord, an all consuming love of the appearing of Christ, a fuller appreciation of the fellowship of His cross, an intensely powerful way of praying, a way of life that lives by every word of God, and that counts all things as dung that we might win Christ. It is no good to have just a vague love of Christ and the principles of the Bible. Malachi's words have special relevance to us as to no other generation: " The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come...even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come...But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" (Mal.3:1,2). Our Lord probably alluded to this when he lovingly warned us: " When the Son of man cometh, shall he find (the) faith on the earth?" .

The following are isolated comments on passages in Revelation which prophecy the latter day tribulation. Space forbids a full exposition of Revelation which ties up these passages in context with each other and the rest of the prophecy. But one day " this will we do, if God permit" .

It will be observed that Revelation frequently hints that it is a message specifically addressed to those under persecution. Phrases like " Jesus Christ the faithful witness" (Rev.1:5) should be read in the context of encouraging the readers to continue their witness, even on pain of death, just as Jesus did (see too Rev.13:8). For this reason, an understanding of the book of Revelation is vital for those who will experience the latter day tribulation, in whatever form we feel it will take.