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Persecution and Disciples

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To follow Jesus means self-denial and the willingness to suffer for him. For the disciple, persecution is the highest honor – Matthew 5:10-12 .  For disciples of Jesus, retaliation and violence are NOT appropriate reactions when they are persecuted. Rather than respond-in-kind, they must meet threats with humility, mercy, even love. That is what it means to “ deny oneself ” and to “ take up his cross .” Praying for one’s “ enemies ” is contrary to the “ wisdom of this age ,” but it epitomizes the paradigm of Christ crucified . - [ Photo by Jean-Pierre Brungs on Unsplash ].

Three Woes

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An eagle "flying in mid-heaven" announces the last three trumpets, the "three woes"  – Revelation 8:13 .  The first four trumpets have sounded. Next, an “ eagle flying in mid-heaven ” announces the final three but calls them “ woes .” Unlike the first four, the plagues unleashed by the last three trumpets afflict the “ inhabitants of the earth ” themselves, whereas the first four damaged the infrastructure on which human society depends – agriculture, commerce, freshwater supplies, and light - [ Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash ].

Afflicted Disciples

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In this life, the disciple of Jesus will endure “tribulation” and persecution for his sake   –   1 Thessalonians 3:1-4 .  Our tendency is to avoid trouble and conflict. Understandably, we prefer to live lives characterized by peace, acceptance, and prosperity, and devoid of all affliction and persecution. And the New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Yet it also teaches us to expect afflictions in this life, and how to react when they do occur - [ Photo by Martin Vysoudil on Unsplash ].

Missionary People

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From the start, Jesus commissioned his people to proclaim the good news of the kingdom “to the uttermost parts of the earth” - until he comes .  The message proclaimed by Jesus is summarized as the “ Good News of the Kingdom of God .”  In him , the final reign of God over all things is being implemented, a process that will consummate at his “ arrival ” in glory with the establishment of God’s absolute sovereignty and the defeat of all His enemies, including death. Before his ascension, he assigned this task to his church - [ Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash ].

Kingdom Servants and Slaves

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To be a citizen of the kingdom requires a life of self-sacrificial service for others, and not power over them   –   Mark 10:35-45 .  The New Testament teaches that Christians are a “ kingdom of priests .” As citizens of this realm, we rule with Jesus both now and in the “ age to come .” But such a high calling raises the obvious question:    How do we participate in his reign? Fortunately, both Jesus and Paul provided down-to-earth explanations of how we are to implement his sovereignty on the earth - [ Photo by  Elaine Casap  on Unsplash ].

Fully Qualified High Priest

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Jesus qualified as our high priest by participating fully in human sufferings, mortality, and death   -   Hebrews 2:5-18 .  The priesthood of Jesus is one of the key subjects of the epistle to the  Hebrews  - He has become the “ merciful and faithful high priest ” for “ his brethren .” The topic is anticipated in the opening paragraph of the letter, including the uniqueness of his priesthood. Unlike the Aaronic priests, the “ Son achieved purification of sins ,” then “ sat down ” in the “ real ” Tabernacle - [ Photo by Krisztina Papp on Unsplash ].