If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18, NKJV)
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jno. 16:33). As they preached the gospel, Paul and Barnabas were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “do not think it strange” when fiery trials happen to you because of your faith (1 Pet. 4:12). These statements do not suggest we earn our way to heaven. They explain being a faithful Christian brings you face to face with challenges and turmoil that require the effort and conviction of a faith to endure and prevail when they come. “Scarcely” is from a Greek word that means “with difficulty.” Luke used it in Acts 27:16 of securing the skiff with difficulty during a storm. He also used it in Acts 14:18 of the difficulty of restraining the mob from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas. The righteous are saved, but not without difficulties that test our faith. Trials purge the dross from their faith and identify them as being unashamed to live for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:16-17). On the other hand, the “ungodly and the sinner” will not appear in glory due to their lack of faith. They are unwilling to endure tribulations to enter the kingdom of God, preferring not to obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:8–9, NKJV)
It is said that the city of Smyrna in the first century claimed to be “first in beauty, first in literature, first in loyalty to Rome” (Commentary of Revelation, Hailey, 125). It was the seat of the Caesar-cult that afflicted the church during that period. So, Christ assured the saints at Smyrna that He is the First and the Last. No doubt, His primacy of deity and His power over death emboldened them in the face of what they were about to suffer for the name of Jesus (Revelation 2:10). Jesus knew their works (toil), their tribulation (distress and oppression), and their poverty (they were rich in faith, James 2:5; Matthew 6:20). Jesus also knows the words and deeds of the enemies of righteousness, just like He knew those who claimed to be God’s people (Jews) but were not His people (cf. Romans 2:28-29). Those who oppose and oppress Christians and their faithful service to Jesus are a congregation of Satan, serving his evil intents and aims. Take heart and be strong, Christian, when the world hates you. Know they hated Jesus before they hated you (John 15:18). Christ is Lord, not Caesar or any other ruler on earth.
16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” (Mark 4:16–17, NKJV)
Stony ground is not a productive seed bed for plant growth. The rocky soil prevents the growth of a stable root system, which is necessary for nutritious, vibrant development and fruit production to occur. Without sufficient roots, the sun scorches the plant and it dies. Even so, a heart without spiritual depth does not give rise to strong, faithful discipleship. This heart is likely driven by emotion, joyful over initially hearing the gospel, it gladly receives it. But, with discipleship comes external pressures that test one’s faith. Tribulations or persecutions will arise when one follows the word of God (2 Tim. 3:12). When tested by the heat of spiritual conflict, the person with a shallow, emotional heart (instead of a secure faith) will “fall away” (Lk. 8:15). Emotion without a deeply-rooted faith is not spiritual strength; A good reminder for us all, lest we confuse spiritual excitement with strong faith.
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:12, NKJV)
Hope is not doubtful, halting and uncertain. The Christian’s hope rests upon evidence-based faith (Heb. 11:1). While we hope in things unseen, our hope vitalizes our joyful expectation of glory while reinforcing perseverance in the face of present distresses (tribulation). Prayer, our great means of immediate communication with our Father, emboldens our faith day by day. Notice the triplet employed here: In hope, let us rejoice; in tribulation, let us be patient; and in prayer, let us be steadfastly devoted. Our living hope does not remove us from distress; it focuses our sight on heavenly shores of victory and the eternal relief awaiting the faithful. Rejoice. Be patient. Keep praying.
And I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9)
The apostle John, now aged and exiled, was a co-participant with his Asian brethren in three important things. First, they were partners in the tribulation of Jesus Christ. They were under persecution, and so was John. Second, they were companions in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. John and his brethren were not looking for a future kingdom; they were in the kingdom of Christ at that very moment. Third, they shared in the patience of Jesus Christ. As Jesus endured “hostility from sinners”, so did they (Heb. 12:3). When you are faithful to “the testimony of Jesus Christ” you, too “will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). But, take courage and patiently endure. You are a citizen of the kingdom of Christ. Your king and His kingdom is greater than every kingdom on earth (Dan. 2:44; Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13).