The Unseen Enemy of Good: Matthew 10:21-23
““21) Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22) You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23) “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭21‬-‭23‬
Some scholars herein see Jesus predicting the severe persecution that was going to come to the early Jewish Christians. Notice that the wording here is specifically focused on Israel; “23)… you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.”
If you study the early Jewish church up until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, this describes exactly the conditions they endured. The early Jewish believers lost everything and many fled from village to village trying to escape the persecution.
Ok, I struggle with some wording in the text, such as the end of verse 23 where it says “until the Son of Man comes.” That sounds like the second coming of Christ. So how can we understand this verse?
Many times prophetic words have double application in the Bible. The description can apply to the immediate recipients of the word, but also apply to a future time. Such may be the case with this context.
The destruction of the Temple in 70 AD caused many Orthodox Jews to abandon the temple system of worship. Why? The temple was gone. Many of the persecutors of Messianic Jews suddenly had their eyes opened about “the Son of Man” and embraced Jesus. This sudden and catastrophic event caused many to became Christians.
But I believe there is also a future fulfillment in this text. The end times will again be focused on Jerusalem and intense persecution of both Jews and Christians. The atrocity perpetrated by the anti-Christ will be ended by the return of the Son of Man. This scene is laid out in the book of Revelation.
This parallel between the early church and the end times was so dramatic that the early Christians believed the book of Revelation literally applied to them. They thought they were living in the end times.
No matter your understanding of these verses, Jesus paints a stunning contrast in this Chapter that defies understanding. It applied to both Himself and to His followers. Let me elaborate for a moment.
Despite the fact that Jesus performed many miracles and manifest the power of God over and over again, He was rejected, persecuted and ultimately crucified. Why would anyone reject such amazing love, miracles and … “good!” It defies explanation.
I always lock up on this point when reading the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded in the four gospels. There seems to be an unseen and irrational enemy of good. Yet, He made it clear that the same would happen to His followers.
Look at the comparison. Matthew 10:5-15 lays out the authority of Christ and miraculous powers given to the followers of Jesus and the church. They would perform great signs and wonders in His name. But then Matthew 10:16-23 flips the coin and reveals the persecution and even martyrdom that Christians will endure because of their faith in Christ. The same puzzling paradox exists.
I confess, my natural mind cannot comprehend how such great love and power focused on amazing good can be so viciously hated and rejected by the world. But, the kingdom of darkness has always vehemently opposed the kingdom of light.
In a sense, this chapter lays out a contrast between love and hate, good and evil, hope and despair and ultimately God and Satan. This battle has always existed. The Bible consistently paints this picture on the canvas of reality. Let me say it again, there seems to be an unseen and irrational enemy of good in this world.
The atheist who has a view of reality based on naturalism has no answer for this phenomenon. They believe mankind is the highest evolved creature and has the propensity to create a perfect world apart from “God.”
But their hope of an earthly utopia has always been smashed. It was crushed by WWI and WWII. Their belief in the innate goodness of man apart from any notion of the existence of God constantly escapes them. For some reason, evil always shows up to stomp on their agenda.
I believe the biblical view of this tension between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan is self evident in the world. From our vantage point in history, the god of this world has only a short time to deceive and hurt humanity before the Son of Man returns.
Though we are commissioned to minister the gospel with great love, authority and power… persecution will come. We will be treated exactly as Jesus was treated. Embrace this truth: this present world is not our home, we are just passing through. (See Philippians 3:20-21)
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global