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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

PERSECUTION FORETOLD

John 16:1-4 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

In the two chapters preceding this particular chapter of John's gospel, as well as in various places of the other three gospel records, we find similar prophetic predictions of Jesus death, burial, resurrection, reappearance, and finally, His ascension back into heaven. Because of the extreme importance of this event, namely, that His apostles fully understand the divine reason for these events taking place in this order, they are emphatically taught once again in the lesson text. God's plan to extend the hope of eternal salvation to the world was established in His mind before time began. So that His plan of salvation could be delivered to the world through the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles, Jesus told His apostles, These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. Unless they completely understood the reason for persecution occurring, they would likely spiritually stumble, loose faith, and fail to teach His New Testament doctrine of salvation. They would be faced with the same persecution, trials, and tribulations as was Jesus. In order to remain faithful and teach the remission of sins through God's Son, Jesus Christ, His apostles must have complete assurance, without any doubt, that He was the promised Messiah sent to lead them to the hope of eternal salvation. Fellow Christians, this is the same faith that must be maintained by us today, without wavering, in order to gain the same hope of salvation through our Lord and Savior.

Lest they be offended, stumble, and become disheartened in their service to Him, Jesus forewarns them of exactly what they would experience by proclaiming His gospel to the world. Jesus told them that the first thing they would experience from the unbelieving Jewish leaders was that they shall put you out of the synagogues, that is, they would be banned from the temple and from participating in Jewish worship services - they would be excommunicated. The apostles could be expected to be treated by the unbelieving Jews as pagan heathens, publicans, and Samaritans. As they continued to serve God through Christ, the time cometh when those opposing them, and their gospel message, would seek to kill them. And in doing so, these radical Jews would have a clear conscience thinking that they were doing a good service to God. Before his conversion, this is exactly what Saul of Tarsus sought to do to Christians.

Why would these Jews have such hatred for Jesus, His apostles, and their gospel message of salvation? Why would they seek them out and persecute them even to death? Jesus proceeds to tell them exactly why in words that can be easily understood by all: these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me. Such spiritual ignorance is easily seen in these and many other writings of the New Testament. And in today's world, it is just as easily seen. Many individuals, religious bodies, even complete nations of people openly confess to know and follow God, yet they are totally ignorant of Him and the plan of eternal salvation He offers to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. They ignore the inspired word of God and adamantly follow their humanly-devised creeds, doctrines, and religious dogmas. Not only that, but they defiantly oppose anyone that attempts to teach them God's unaltered doctrine as it is found, verse by verse, in the New Testament. To know God and His Son, is to hear, believe, and obey the Holy Scriptures that were given to the world through the Holy Spirit. Indeed, one cannot truly know God and be rebelliously ignorant of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. "These things" refer to the spiritual need for Him to depart from them and suffer a cruel death by crucifixion. They also refer to the hatred and dangers that await them when, being filled with the Holy Spirit of God, begin to proclaim the gospel of eternal salvation through God's Son and our Savior. When they do come true, the apostles will recall their Lord and Savior having warned them, thus preparing them to remain true and faithful to Him and His cause. When first called to serve Jesus, knowledge of these things would not have been effectual. Now was the time to understand the awaiting persecution.