3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3–5, NKJV)
Tears and joy. Timothy shed tears as his beloved father in the faith was imprisoned in Rome. Death was near (2 Tim. 4:6, 17-18). Would Timothy arrive in time to see Paul one last time (2 Tim. 4:9)? We do not know. Yet, Paul did not dwell on his departure except to say it was near, he was ready, and the Lord would deliver him (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). He focused on the joy of seeing Timothy’s face again and on the deep faith that sustained his companion, brother, and friend. Comforted by knowing Paul prayed continually for him, we are sure Timothy went to Rome as quickly as possible (2 Tim. 4:9, 21). Life brings times of sadness, pain, loss, and sorrow. Prayers and memories of lives lived faithfully see us through the vale of tears and sustain us with a joy no one can take from us (Jno. 16:22). Remembering the faith of Timothy, Eunice, and Lois comforted Paul. No doubt, Timothy remembered Paul’s pure conscience and faithful service. So it is between fellow-Christians when life fades and eternity’s light grows brighter. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with tears and joy. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psa. 126:5). As when God restored the captivity of Zion, so it will be when He gathers His faithful ones to glory (Psa. 126:1-4). Tears will be replaced with joy forevermore.
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11, NKJV)
The souls of martyred saints cried out to the Lord for righteous judgment against those who drew their blood and took their lives because of their faith. His promise to execute His vengeance against evil would prevail (cf. Rom. 12:17-19). But other Christians would face distress and death before God judged and removed the persecutors. With elaborate imagery, The Revelation tells of Rome’s defeat and the victory of the faithful (cf. Rev. 17:14). We must patiently endure and remain faithful to Christ when we face pressure and persecutions “for the word of God and for the testimony” we hold (Heb. 10:32-39). God will reward our patience (1 Pet. 4:12-13; Rev. 14:12-13). The Lord will defeat evil, just as He did in the days of Rome (which was “Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth,” Rev. 14:6-11; 17:5-6, 14, 18; 19:1-6, 11-21). When our faith is tested, let us be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7, NKJV)
We may immediately think this verse refers to Christ’s return on the last great day (Acts 1:11). That day will surely come (Acts 17:30-31). But to apply it to the last day overlooks its immediate context and the broader context of the book. Christ gave John this revelation to show to the servants of Christ “things that must shortly take place” because “the time is near” (Rev. 1:1, 3). Jesus Christ is “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” a central truth borne out in The Revelation (17:14; 19:15-16). Yet, Christians were being persecuted unto death (even though Christ had loved them, redeemed them, and made them a kingdom of priests on earth, Rev. 1:5-6). The Revelation assures them He would execute judgment against their persecutors; They would be victorious in Him (Rev. 17-19; 18:20-24; 19:11-21). The expression, “coming with clouds,” is judgment language (as Jesus used in Matt. 24:29-30 of Jerusalem’s demise, cf. Isa. 19:1). He said, “They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” There was no visible image of Jesus when Jerusalem fell. But its fall was evidence that the Son of Man rules in heaven and on earth. They would “see” the Son of Man coming in judgment against Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. His heavenly reign and authority were on display for all to see (Mk. 13:26, 30; Matt. 26:64). Similarly, Revelation 1:7 refers to Christ’s judgment against the persecuting powers, the Roman empire (cf. Rev. 14:14-16). “The ruler over the kings of the earth” would soon execute His judgment, and it would be evident (“every eye will see Him”). “Even so, Amen.”
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)
God longed to gather His people to Himself to give them refuge and blessings. But their rejection of Christ brought terrible judgment upon Jerusalem and Judea at the hands of the Roman army. Like vultures devouring their prey, the Romans squelched a Jewish rebellion when general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:1-2). Historian Josephus estimated 1.1 million Jews perished (many who had come to the city for Passover). Tens of thousands were enslaved and dispersed throughout the empire. Jerusalem’s house was left desolate because she refused to receive the Messiah (Lk. 19:41-44; Jno. 1:11). We must learn from Jerusalem’s demise that God judges sin, including those of His people. When Christians turn away from the Lord and reject His truth and mercy, we face the righteous judgment of God for our sins (Rom. 2:1-6). The gospel calls on Christians to abandon sin through repentance and embrace the spiritual blessings that are in Christ (2 Cor. 12:20-21; Eph. 1:3). “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). Beware. Practicing sin will not go unpunished. Christian friend, if there is sin in your life, repent and turn to the Lord without delay (1 Jno. 1:8-9).
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14, NKJV)
What begins as a trial may become the very moment of great blessings. Divine providence turns trials into opportunities and burdens into boldness. Paul had been imprisoned for more than four years for preaching the gospel (two years in Caesarea and two years in Rome, Acts 24:27; 28:30). Threats from his countrymen, injustice from rulers and shipwreck in the deep were among the obstacles he faced on his journey to Rome. Yet, these things turned out as a great opportunity for the gospel to spread and for fellow-Christians to be emboldened with confidence to courageously speak the word of God. When you are faced with a burden, a trial, or even persecution for your faith, do not lose heart. God is giving you an opportunity to rely on His power instead of your own. His spiritual provisions will sustain you while His gospel strengthens and saves others. So, keep fighting the good fight of faith and see the possibilities rather than the hindrances (1 Timothy 6:12).