Pastor David B. Curtis


Persecution and Eternal Life

Mark 10:28-31

Delivered 12/10/2006

Let's remember our context: Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus is heading for the Cross. Remember that all that is happening in this portion of Mark is designed to teach the disciples and prepare them for their future mission to the church. Jesus had just had a discussion with a rich young ruler about eternal life and discipleship. In this discussion Jesus said to the ruler:

Mark 10:21 (NASB) And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

It is this promise of our Lord that raises Peter's question:

Mark 10:28 (NASB) Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You."

Peter goes way back to the decision he made that day on the shores of the sea of Galilee when he left a fishing business to follow Christ. He speaks for the other disciples who also left wealth and fame and family to follow Christ.

Peter says to Christ, "Behold," which is the Greek word idou. Wuest's Word Studies says this is "a demonstrative particle, giving a peculiar vivacity to the style by bidding the hearer to attend to what is said." We could translate this: "Look now!" "We have left" is aorist tense indicating an instantaneous action, the making of the first choice, "left all once for all" looking at a past decision. The "we" is a reference to the Twelve. "Followed You" is a perfect tense verb, speaking of a past, complete action having present results, "have followed you and still do."

Peter says, "We have left everything and followed you." They have no more to give but their all. Yes, Peter may have still owned a boat rented out to other fisherman. And his wife probably still lives in the family home in Capernaum. Peter doesn't irrevocably distribute all his money to the poor. But Peter and his friends do give up everything they have of value to follow ­ the comfort of their homes and families, a place to sleep at night, relative security compared to the death-threats of Jesus' growing list of enemies. Peter and his friends have given up everything they had to give in order to follow Jesus ­ everything that has dimensions of space and time.

The inference of these words is more clearly stated by Matthew, who reports these additional words stated as a question to the Lord Jesus:

Matthew 19:27 (NASB) Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?"

Peter's question is not illegitimate. They had left everything to follow Christ. He had told the rich young ruler that as he gave his wealth to the poor he would have treasure in heaven; a thought that likely intrigued the disciples. The rich young man would not leave his love of things to follow Christ; but in great contrast, they did. So, "what then will there be for us?"

There was an obvious contrast right before their eyes between their own position and that of the rich young ruler. Leaving and following describe the concept of Christian discipleship. We find this in the Gospels' descriptions of the disciples as those that left their fishing nets or tax collector's booth to follow Jesus. The Christian who becomes a disciple chooses allegiance to Jesus Christ above all else. What he leaves will vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, but the reality is that he does leave one life for another.

Jesus answers Peters question:

Mark 10:29-30 (NASB) Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, 30 but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

The principle of leaving is about discipleship. Jesus had already taught them:

Mark 8:34-37 (NASB) And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. 36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 "For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

What the disciple leaves will be dictated by the circumstances in which they respond to the Gospel. One who comes to faith in Christ from out of atheism or Islam or Buddhism may be forced to leave home and familiar surroundings due to complete rejection of the Gospel in his home. That happens everyday throughout the world. Some who are employed in immoral vocations should certainly leave whatever profit they've known in those settings for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

Others will likely leave established relationships that would stand in antipathy to the Gospel and the life of discipleship. This does not mean that when we become Christians we avoid all of our unbelieving family and friends. But sometimes the one coming to faith in Christ has relational ties that would be sinful to continue. A young unmarried lady that has been living with a man upon coming to faith in Christ should break that relationship. A teenager that has spent his time involved with drugs should leave those relationships that tie him to that sort of bondage.

All of life should be weighed in relationship to Christ. That's what is involved in the principle of "leaving and following." Those positions that might breed disloyalty to Christ or worldly pursuits that would detract from being a disciple or achievements that center on self rather than glorying in Christ or relationships that enslave one to sin are left to follow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

There is a sense in which we are called to a life a self-denial and sacrifice. But there is also a sense in which we make no sacrifices at all. The man who found and purchased the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:44-46) did not think of the price he paid as a sacrifice at all. It was a bargain. We see this in Jesus' words:

Mark 10:30 (NASB) but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Jesus promised that those things the disciples held dear, but gave up to follow Him, would be rewarded 100 fold in this life. Now, this is more than a hundred percent, as any mathematician can tell you. A hundred percent would mean that he gave back to you exactly the same amount you gave up. But this is not what Jesus said. He said He will give you a hundredfold.

"Health and wealth" preachers have wrongly interpreted this passage. Christ uses figurative language. The thought was not that, like Job, all their goods and family would literally be restored. What was promised was that there would be satisfactory alternatives. When someone told Christ that His mother and brothers were standing outside the place where He was speaking, Jesus asked:

Mark 3:33-35 (NASB) And answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" 34 And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! 35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

There's the principle Christ now applies to every believer. With regard to the present age, the reward was to come in the form of rich personal relationships, and how often the servants of Christ have proved the truth of that guarantee! Leaving behind their earthly families, traveling often to the remote quarters of the globe, they have discovered new relationships created by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In those lives, to whom they have ministered the truth, they have found new brothers and sisters, new mothers and children. Homes have been opened to them, and lands laid at their service as though they owned them themselves. And the depths of the spiritual communion established in this way with men have often seemed to be indeed a hundredfold more rich than those ties which Christ's servants have left behind. No doubt, in fact, it was in the spirit of these very words of Jesus that Paul said:

Romans 16:13 (NASB) Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.

Notice what Paul tacks on with all these promised blessings of the present age ­ "Along with persecutions." The health, wealth, and prosperity preachers love Mark 10:30 until they come to this part. Jesus promises persecution, too. And He lists it right in the midst of the passage, which makes it look like one of the advantages. That may seem strange to us, but the early church actually viewed persecution as a gift from God. Paul, in fact, teaches that suffering is a grace gift from God:

Philippians 1:29 (NASB) For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

The verse says, "It has been granted"­ this is the Greek verb charizomai, which comes from charis, which means: "grace." So charizomai is grace. The noun form is used for spiritual gifts. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, "Charizomai primarily denotes to show favor or kindness as in Galatians 3:18; to give freely, bestow graciously." Suffering is a grace gift from God.

" For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe"­ he compares suffering with salvation. Both are grace gifts. Salvation is a gift, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, and so is suffering. He doesn't say that suffering is punishment or that it is something that has happened to you by chance. God gives suffering as graciously and lovingly as He gives you the faith to believe in His Son.

Does this make sense to you? Suffering and persecution are a gracious gift from God? Paul also uses charizoma in:

Romans 8:32 (NASB) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give [charizoma ] us all things?

Suffering has been freely given to us. It is a gift from God. Suffering is a gift! What is a gift? It is something that reveals the giver's love for you; a gift is undeserved, not earned; a gift should cause thankfulness and gratitude. When is the last time you thanked God when you were persecuted?

If this is the nature of a gift, how can Paul say that suffering is a gift of God? This should show us how far we have come from the thinking of Christians in the first century. God giving suffering as a gracious gift doesn't make any sense to us. That we should be grateful for it, that it should make us happy, that it should make us feel honored and blessed, that we should see it as a manifestation of God's love­that doesn't make sense to us. But it did to the first century believers, because they were familiar with suffering and its purpose.

Believers, we must understand that whenever Christians will live as they ought to live in this world, where they will live righteous lives and aggressively seek to spread the Gospel and make disciples, when we stand for righteousness, the natural outcome will be suffering. Jesus wants His disciples to understand and expect suffering, so does Paul:

2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB) And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

This verse doesn't say: All Christians can expect persecution. What does it say? "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Godliness brings suffering, expect it!

The following statistics may come as a surprise to you. The number of Christian martyrs, those who have died for their faith in Christ, in the last century alone is greater then all the other centuries combined. Every year some 156,000 Christians are killed because of their faith. Also, nearly two thirds of the world's population lives under governments that persecute Christians for their faith in Christ. We should realize that while being a Christian in the United States is not a life threatening thing, for the majority of the world's Christians, it is.

In several passages Paul writes with the assumption that suffering and affliction are a necessary part of an apostolic ministry. But in other passages Paul does not limit suffering and affliction to apostolic ministries. He assumes that it is an essential part of discipleship. This is the consistent emphasis of Scripture ­ that inseparably joined to discipleship are hardship, trial and difficulty, conflict and pain.

Suffering was exactly what the early believers experienced in nearly every location in which they found themselves. And, interestingly enough, they had the same attitude as Paul did:

Romans 5:3-4 (NASB) And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

Notice what Paul says here about suffering, "We also exult in our tribulation." The NIV says, "But we also rejoice in our sufferings." The word "exult" is from the Greek word kauchaomai, which means: "to boast, glory, joy, rejoice." And the word "tribulations" is from the Greek thlipsis, which means: "pressure (literally or figuratively), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble." This is a strong term and does not refer to minor inconveniences, but to real hardships. It was used in reference to squeezing olives for the oil, or squeezing grapes for the wine.

So, Paul is saying, "We rejoice in the problems and pressures of life." Does that sound strange to you? Before we go any further, we must ask: Who is the "we"? Paul says, "We also glory in tribulation." Let's back up a few verses:

Romans 5:1-2 (NASB) Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Who is the first "we"? It's all those who have been justified by faith ­ all believers! Who is the "we" that has access by faith into grace? Again, it is all believers. So, who is the "we" in verse 3? Take a guess? Yes, you're right, it's applicable to all Christians. We could translate it this way: "Christians should rejoice in suffering." How does that sound? Is it true of you?

Some have tried to interpret this: "We rejoice in the midst of suffering." That is, we rejoice in spite of our suffering. But it does not mean that we rejoice in spite of our suffering. Paul is saying, "We rejoice because of our suffering." Look at:

Romans 5:11 (NASB) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Does this mean that we rejoice in spite of God? This construction in the Greek is the same as verse 3. Paul rejoiced because of God, and he also rejoiced because of suffering, and he assumed that other believers participated with him in this rejoicing.

If this seems a little strange to you, let's remind ourselves that in the New Testament, suffering was the normal experience of a disciple and was viewed as a cause for rejoicing.

We see in these early disciples an entirely different attitude from that which we see in the church today. We pity ourselves, and we pity others who are suffering. We moan, murmur, and complain when we suffer. This wasn't the case with Paul and the first century Christians. Their Master had taught them that persecutions would come, and that they were to rejoice in them:

Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB) "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The persecuted are blessed, not cursed. Jesus taught them to rejoice in persecution! There is a connection in the New Testament between suffering and joy. That may seem like a contradiction, but that is what the Scriptures teach. Notice what the basis of rejoicing is; it is our reward in heaven. When we are persecuted, we are to rejoice.

So Jesus taught His disciples to rejoice is persecution, and they did:

Acts 5:40 (NASB) And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

When you are trying to share the Gospel, and someone shuts you down or mocks you, how do you feel? Do you get your feelings hurt, or get discouraged? These men were physically beaten. Please notice their response:

Acts 5:41-42 (NASB) So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

They rejoiced! And they kept on preaching. Their suffering caused them to rejoice. They didn't get hurt feelings or get depressed or mad at God, they rejoiced. I'm sure you've probably had enough, but let me give you one more:

Hebrews 10:32-34 (NASB) But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.

Not only did they have compassion on those in prison, but they also "accepted joyfully the seizure of your property." I would very much like to tell you that this is a textual error, but it's not! This is very convicting. This is the concrete action of the tribulation mentioned in verse 33. Their property was being confiscated because of their stand for Christ, and "They took it joyfully."

I don't think you could find a greater contrast between the American church of the 21st century and the church of the 1st century than in the area of suffering. As we study the New Testament and examine the attitude and perspective which New Testament believers took toward suffering and persecution, we should be ashamed. I am! We often hear today the attitude that suffering and persecution is not something that God wants for His people. Success and prosperity are the name of the game today, not only out there in the world, but inside the church as well.

Let's go back to our text:

Mark 10:30 (NASB) but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

I want you to notice the last phrase in this verse: "And in the age to come, eternal life" ­ Luke uses these same words:

Luke 18:30 (NASB) who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."

What does Jesus mean when He says they will receive "eternal life" in the age to come? Commenting on "and in the age to come eternal life" Swete says, "The age which is to follow the Parousia." Wuest Word Studies says, "The authorities are silent on all this, and the present writer confesses that he is at a loss to suggest an interpretation. The best he can do is offer the usage of the Greek words in question."

As is obvious, this phrase is troubling to many. To understand what Jesus is saying we need to understand that all through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age," and the "age to come." We see it in our text:

Mark 10:30 (NASB) but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

We see this same contrast in:

Matthew 12:32 (NASB) "And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.

The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: "about to be." We could translate this: "the age about to come." About to come for who? For us? No, for the original audience, which was those in the first century.

Ephesians 1:21 (NASB) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.

Here again, we see the two ages. So, the New Testament speaks of two ages, "this age," and "the age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible and understanding when the first century saint received eternal life.

The New Testament writers lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers, "the age to come" was future, but it was very near because "this age," the age they lived in, was about to end:

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NASB) Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

The wisdom and rulers of "this age" were coming to nothing, because the age was passing away. He is speaking of the Jewish leaders and the Old Covenant system. The rulers of "this age" crucified the Lord. These rulers would shortly have no realm in which to rule, because "this age" was about to end.

1 Corinthians 10:11 (NASB) Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages was coming upon them, the first century saints. "This age," along with its wisdom and rulers, was about to end.

1 Peter 1:20 (NASB) For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

Jesus came during the "last times" of the "this age," that was the Old Covenant age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. So, the New Testament writers lived in what the Bible calls "this age."

"This age" of the Bible is the age of the Old Covenant that was about to pass away in the first century. It should be clear to you that "this age" is not the Christian age in which we live. In the first century, the age of the Old Covenant was fading away and would end completely when the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.

Hebrews 8:13 (NASB) When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

The book of Hebrews was written at around 64-67 AD. At this time, the Old Covenant was still in effect, but it was ready to pass away. It passed away in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. The "this age" of the Bible is now ancient history.

Mark 10:30 (NASB) but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

If eternal life was a condition of the "age to come," then does this mean that the New Testament saints who lived in "this age" did not yet have eternal life? Or we could ask the question this way: When did believers receive eternal life? To answer that question, we must know what "eternal life" is. But first we need to understand that prior to Jesus' messianic work, no one went to Heaven:

John 3:13 (NASB) "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.

If prior to Jesus' messianic work, no one went to Heaven -- where did people go when they died? They went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament, the Greek word is Hades. What this place amounted to was a waiting area for disembodied spirits.

To understand eternal life, we need to understand death, and to do that, we need to go back to the book of beginnings, Genesis. In the book of Genesis, we see what death is:

Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB) Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

God warned Adam, regarding the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "The day that you eat of it, you shall surely die." Adam disobeyed God and ate of the tree. Did Adam die that day? Not physically! Adam lived at least 800 years beyond the day he ate the fruit. But, God said he would die the day he ate, and we know that God cannot lie. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually. He died spiritually the moment he disobeyed. Spiritual death is separation from God.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (NASB) Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Neither is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.

Because of his sin, man was separated from God. He was dead in trespasses and sins. The focus of God's plan of redemption is to restore through Jesus Christ what man had lost in Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:21 (NASB) For since by a man came death, (spiritual death) by a man also came the resurrection of the dead (eternal life).

Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from God. But through Jesus Christ came the resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ came to redeem man from death, to resurrect man back into the presence of God, to give him eternal life. The Bible is God's book about His plan to restore the spiritual union of His creation. Resurrection is not about bringing physical bodies out of the graves, it is about restoring man into the presence of God.

To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of the Lord is what the Bible calls the resurrection, which is eternal life. This resurrection that brings eternal life happened at the end of the Old Covenant age:

John 11:24 (NASB) Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."

This was the "last day" of "this age," "the age to come" has no last days. So, the resurrection was to happen at the end of the Old Covenant age when the Temple was destroyed, just as Daniel said it would:

Daniel 12:2 (NASB) "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

When was Daniel told that this resurrection would happen?

Daniel 12:7 (NASB) And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.

Daniel was told, "as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people (which was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70) all these events (including the resurrection) will be completed."

So, the resurrection was to happen at the end of the Jewish age, the Old Covenant age. We know that this happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple. To be resurrected was to be given eternal life and to be in the presence of God.

We must understand that those saints who lived in the transition time did not have salvation, justification, or eternal life in its consummated form.

Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first century believers, it was their hope, they looked forward to its soon arrival:

Romans 13:11-12 (NASB) And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

He equates their salvation with the "day" which was at hand, referring to the day of the Lord. The completion of redemptive history was at hand, and with it would come salvation.

Peter also states that their salvation was not yet complete:

1 Peter 1:5 (NASB) who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Salvation was ready to be revealed, when? In the last time, which would happen at the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. So, the resurrection was to happen at the end of the Jewish age, the Old Covenant age. We know that this happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple. To be resurrected was to be given eternal life and to be in the presence of God.

To those saints living prior to the end of the age "eternal life" was not a present possession, but a hope.

Titus 3:7 (NASB) that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

They had the hope of eternal life, but they did not have it as a present possession. Eternal life was something that was to come to them at the Second Coming, in the "age to come."

We must understand that those saints who lived in the transition time did not have salvation, justification, or eternal life in its consummated form. This is why Jesus says to His disciples "and in the age to come eternal." It was not until the "age to come" that the saints received eternal life. Since we live in what the Bible calls the "age to come," we have eternal life at the moment we trust Christ for it.

Mark 10:31 (NASB) "But many who are first, will be last; and the last, first."

This sets up what the Lord will be saying to James and John about being servants.

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