Get ready for persecution. But π˜₯𝘰𝘯’𝘡 defend yourself.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 September

Mk 13.9-11, Mt 10.17-20, Lk 12.11-12, 21.12-19.

After Jesus said the temple’s coming down, his students wanted to know when and how, so Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, loosely telling ’em what’d become of them when the Romans destroyed the temple in the Roman-Jewish War, i.e. the great tribulation.

What’d become of them? Persecution. Which happened in Acts, happened over and over again in the various Roman persecutions, happened throughout Christian history whenever Christians went to lands where Christianity upended the status quo, and still happens. Never stopped. Our first-world rights to freedom of speech and religion aren’t perfect, but they’re still way better than the rest of the world. But don’t kid yourself: They’re hardly the rule; they’re a huge exception.

Now, your average American doesn’t know squat about history, and your average Evangelical doesn’t know squat about Christian history. Mostly ’cause their anti-Catholic bigotry calls it “Catholic history,” so they know little to nothing till the King James Version showed up—and even then, their version of events is all warped. So they believe the previous tribulations of Christians under persecution were nothing. And that the great tribulation is yet to come. They’re steeling themselves for it. “When they come for me, here’s what I’m gonna do.”

That’s where whatever Christian beliefs they have, start to turn profoundly dark. Many of ’em are planning to do some mighty violent things. Not just Simon Peter with a machete type things: They’re planning to shoot cops and soldiers. They already have the assault weapons and the armor-piercing bullets. Even though many of ’em claim they “love” our police, “love” our troops. Sure, that’s what they say now. But their gun stockpiles indicate no, they really don’t.

As for those Christians who aren’t planning to murder law enforcement officers, a number of us are already planning our defense if we’re ever hauled before courts and city council chambers and Congress. Watch David A.R. White’s godawful God’s Not Dead movies and you’ll see what I mean. They’re pretty sure the government is already coming for them, even though our local, state, and national governments are so predominantly Christian (yep, even here in my liberal state of California) it’s silly. They’re expecting persecution—so they’re getting their logical and legal defenses ready.

But here in the Olivet Discourse, what did Jesus say about such defenses? To not put any such thing together. To shut up and listen to the Holy Spirit and let him defend us. To practice faith. You know—exactly what fearful Christians aren’t doing. Have no intention whatsoever of doing.

Mark 13.9-11 KWL
9 “Look out for yourselves.
People will hand you over to senates
and you’ll be flogged in synagogues.
You’ll stand before leaders and kings because of me,
to testify of me to them.
10 Primarily, this testimony
has to spread the gospel to every people-group.
11 Whenever they may take you to hand you over,
don’t worry beforehand about what you should say.
Instead, whatever is given to you at that hour, say it.
For you aren’t to be the speakers.
But the Holy Spirit is.”
Luke 21.12-19 KWL
12 “Before all these things happen,
they’ll throw their hands on you;
they’ll hunt you down,
handing you over to synagogues and prisons,
dragging you away to kings and leaders because of my name.
13 It’ll turn you into witnesses,
14 so determine in your hearts to not prepare a defense:
15 I’ll give you a mouth and wisdom
which every one of your adversaries
will be unable to withstand or dispute.
16 You’ll also be betrayed by parents, siblings,
relatives and friends,
and they’ll put some of you to death.
17 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name.
18 But if every hair on your head isn’t destroyed,
19 save your souls by your endurance!”

Seriously: Shut up and let the Holy Spirit speak.

Jesus doesn’t only say this stuff in the Olivet Discourse either. There are other passages in the other gospels where he talks about the very same thing. Yes of course I’m gonna quote them too.

Matthew 10.17-20 KWL
17 “Be aware of the people.
For they’ll hand you over to senates,
and have you flogged in their synagogues.
18 You’ll be brought before leaders and kings
for my sake, for testimonies of me, to people groups.
19 Whenever they hand you over,
don’t fret over how or what you should say,
for what you should say will be given to you
at that hour.
20 For you aren’t to be the speakers.
But your Father’s Spirit should be speaking in you.”
Luke 12.11-12 KWL
11 “Whenever they may bring you
before synagogues, princes, and powers,
don’t fret over how or what you should defend yourself,
nor what you should say.
12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you
what’s necessary to say at that hour.”

At that time, despite our worry and stress, the Holy Spirit has our backs, and will give us just the right things to say at that time.

Which might not even be a legal defense! When the apostles got hauled before the Judean senate to answer for their crimes of preaching Jesus, they offered no legal defense; they simply reminded everyone Jesus had risen from death and granted them power to cure the sick. In one instance, with the cured guy right there. The senators were forced to either accept or reject this testimony—and in rejecting it, condemn themselves. But that’s what we typically see in the trials throughout Acts: Testimony.

Except, y’know, when Stephen offered a big ol’ legal defense, and they stoned him for heresy. Or when Paul threw ’em a theological argument which he knew would disintegrate the senate chamber into chaos:

Acts 23.6-10 KJV
6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. 7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

But since Jesus had the goal of sending Paul to Rome, Ac 23.11 no doubt it was the Spirit’s idea to discombobulate the senate like that.

Compare this with how often dark Christians have full speeches prepared. Sometimes something meant to be (but usually isn’t) as eloquent as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Some defense of our rights, or defense of Christianity, or defense of Christian nationalism. Something with lots of apologetic arguments thrown in, and references to a few court cases, and various out-of-context scriptures.

Won’t be quite the same as when we share Jesus with strangers… because this is a hostile audience, and a lot of us are prepared to be hostile right back. Although depending on the Christian, we’re either struggling really hard to take the high road… or we ditch the passive aggression, and get full-on aggressive, sarcastic, insulting, and tone-deaf to the sensibilities of the authorities. Almost like we’re baiting them to persecute us.

I really don’t care whether you put up biblical examples of prophets and apostles daring people to smite them. You know the bible doesn’t always provide good examples of good character. But Jesus does, and if you’re legitimately following him, truly listening to the Holy Spirit, you’re not gonna deliberately be a dick when you testify of him. We’re supposed to represent him in these situations, not vent our own spleens.

Y’notice Jesus presumes we even listen to the Spirit.

A Christian is meant to have a conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit. It’s not just unidirectional prayer and bible quotes; we listen to him speak. We’ve been listening, so we’re not unfamiliar with what he sounds like. We don’t have to put together prepared statements, ’cause we know the Spirit’s in the room with us, ’cause we know he’s always been in the room with us.

But that is not the mindset of the Darbyists who first put forward the idea that the Olivet Discourse is about future tribulation. Those guys were cessationists, who believe God stopped talking to Christians once the bible was fully written, and all the Holy Spirit within us does anymore is make us feel all warm and fuzzy when we read bible. He doesn’t tell us what to say. He doesn’t talk to anyone that way. Hasn’t for centuries. Hence the prepared statements.

Now, if the person in question isn’t really Darbyist, but still believes the Olivet Discourse is about our future, they might believe the Spirit still speaks to us. But there are all sorts of Christians, and some of ’em have some very weird ways they imagine the Spirit speaks. To some, the Spirit only speaks in bible quotes. To listen to these people, turns out “the Spirit” uses an awful lot of out-of-context scriptures—which I point out is how we know it’s definitely not the Spirit. You think he’s gonna misquote his own bible? Misquoting bible is a Satan thing, not a God thing. In any event, because they don’t really how to listen to God, their ad lib defenses don’t sound anything like what Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse. They’ll be far more pathetic.

When we aren’t in regular active conversation with the Spirit, stands to reason we’re not following him all that closely. We’ll be guessing at what he wants us to do… and all these guesses will be colored by our own prejudices. It’ll be far more partisan than Jesus-like. If they “talk to God” at all, it’ll be more of a sock-puppet thing, in which they project all their fleshly desires upon the Spirit, and whatta ya know—“Jesus” sounds just like them! Yet Jesus has nothing to do with what they’re about—their campaigns, boycotts, rallies, their godless “worship protests.” Pay attention to their fruit, and that’ll tell you whether these people actually know Jesus or not.

Now yes, under real persecution, worry is entirely understandable. I’ve known many a Christian who went to a country where there’s no real freedom of speech or religion, and whenever they get threatened, they felt like a Muslim who unexpectedly walked into a Trump rally: They were suddenly, sharply aware of the fact they could die. Panic kicked in. Wild, rational fear.

Which, if you follow the Spirit, you’ve hopefully learned to control. ’Cause any wild emotion makes it really hard to focus and listen to anybody—much less the Holy Spirit. But we gotta, since he’s our best chance of getting out of there intact.

Impatient Christians aren’t even gonna think that way. They’ll lose their cool. They’ll want a lawyer, or a gun. They’ll shout at the Spirit, “Talk to me! Tell me what to say!”—and not care for his answer, “I’ll tell you at the trial. Not before. I got this. Trust me.” Even if we follow him all the time and do trust him, we’re gonna be really tempted not to. Really tempted to prepare our own statement, instead of waiting for his.

Heck, I know Spirit-filled Christians who have their statement already prepared. Sometimes their well-stocked gun cabinet is that statement. They don’t really trust the Spirit at all, but they do trust their guns. Which is why Jesus said those who live by their weapons will die by them. Mt 26.52 Live by the Spirit. Get rid of those fleshly impulses to shoot your way out.

’Cause if these Spirit-filled Christians have honestly spoken with the Spirit about this subject, instead of avoiding it ’cause they never wanna give up their idols guns for him, they’ll know better than to think of their stockpiles as their safety net. It may be a struggle, but ultimately they must trust the Spirit, and learn he’s gonna tell us what to say when we have to make a statement. He’s good like that.

Are you out of practice hearing the Spirit?

When you share Jesus with others, how often do you put aside your pre-prepared evangelism talking points, and listen what the Holy Spirit has to say to this person?

I try to do it every time. I admit, I don’t always. But you realize when we share Jesus with others, we are in a very similar situation to a persecuted Christian on trial. We may not be persecuted, but we are kinda on trial: The people we speak to are making up their mind whether we’re someone to listen to, or someone to dismiss as ridiculous. Or, like many an ancient judge, they already have their minds made up, and it’s gonna take direct intervention from the Holy Spirit to break through to them.

The reason the first Christians found they could fall back on the Spirit when they stood before senates and synagogues, was because they’d been falling back on him when they shared the gospel with a new city. Because they knew a predetermined sermon doesn’t have the same impact as the living God who knows everything—including secret things—about the people they’re trying to reach. It’s why we don’t see anyone, anyone, in the New Testament use a canned speech: They’d engage people unconventionally, same as Jesus.

John 4.16-19 KJV
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

Well duh he’s a prophet. But if Jesus had stuck to a script, the Samaritan he spoke with wouldn’t have known it. She’d have thought he’s only some weirdo talking about water that permanently cures one of thirst, Jn 4.14 as if such water exists. Drop a word of knowledge onto people, and they’ll realize you really do know stuff—because the living God tells you stuff. And God might, through you, tell them stuff.

This is how the Spirit, speaking through us, empowers our preaching, our evangelism, and our defenses of Christianity. It wakes people up to the fact we’re not doing this stuff alone. We’re working with God. These are his ideas; this is his church; we’re his people. (Assuming of course they are, and we are.) You wanna grow his kingdom farthest, you gotta tap his power. It’s not an absolute guarantee of success; plenty of people resist his grace, y’know. But if he can’t get through to them, you certainly had no chance.

Anyway this is how we get ready for the day (which always could come, great tribulation or not) when we gotta stand trial for our affiliation with Jesus. Can we step back and let our Advocate defend us, or are we stupidly gonna try to act as our own attorneys? Get in the regular habit of having the Spirit empower our speech, and it’ll be mighty easy to have him empower that someday speech.