One Important Lesson at the End of the Ages
One of the most difficult things to do in all of human experience is to keep our composure when we are unjustly or inaccurately criticized. Our natural inclination is to strike back in hostile anger when someone criticizes us for unjustified reasons.
Jesus is unjustly crucified as a malefactor between two thieves on crosses when in fact He is acting as the perfectly sinless, atoning Lamb of God sacrifice for the shortcomings of other people (Lk. 23:41). But Jesus on the cross is operating at the pinnacle of self-sacrificing righteousness. His performance occurs within the context of the most derisive and unjustly demeaning circumstances imaginable. Yet Jesus kept His composure throughout His ministry, His trial, and the crucifixion (Lk. 9:55-56). He did not call down tens of thousands of avenging angels from heaven in righteous indignation while on the cross. He did not even defend Himself, His honor, or His complete innocence at His night-time trial (Mk. 14:61).
Only divinely unselfish love, motivated by a higher purpose, can produce this lofty character trait of absolute composure in the face of wrongful accusations patiently born for the benefit of other people. Only a future-sighted spiritual vision elevated above the horizontally conventional now could possibly place the needs of others high enough above our own reputation and worldly standing to inspire and maintain self-composure. Matthew 24:7-14 seems to imply that this is one of the lofty character traits that will be required of end-times Christian to be able to navigate successfully through some portion of the great tribulation without being offended (Mt. 13:21) and falling away (2 Thes. 2:3).
During the period of time when the latter rain of the Spirit of God is poured out upon the earth (Joel 2:28-29), enabling heroic evangelism and self-sacrificing good works by Christians around the globe, the universal hatred toward Christians prophesied in Matthew 24:9 would be as unjustified as was the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth in the first century.
The great irony of a successful journey of faith that produces elevated aspirations, morals, and attitudes is that this creates the separation and difference from other people still living in worldly conventional thinking. The positive change that enables Spirit-born Christians to have something valuable to offer to the world in terms of salvation and transformation is ironically the very thing that produces the unpopularity of being different and not fitting in. The farther Christians get away from being worldly-minded through their God-composed and guided walks of faith, the more Christians have to offer but the less they will fit-in and be accepted (Acts 22:22).
End-times Christians must obtain through hard-earned experience the elevated vision to be able to love and pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:43-48). Genuinely wanting the salvation and beneficial transformation of those disagreeable people in our lives to the point that we can disregard opposition, offensive behavior, and hard speech toward us (Mt. 5:11-12), and push forward in prayer and right responses on our part, is a divine character trait.
Every Christian who has been challenged, exercised, and chastened in this area of maintaining our self-composure in response to unjustified criticism and unfair accusation, knows how unreachable this character trait is in our fallen, natural-man thinking. Yet Matthew 24:7-14 tells us clearly that the whole world will hate Christians in the last-days and that many will be offended and the love of many will grow cold. Christians cannot possibly learn and exhibit this spiritually mature behavior at the pinnacle of Christ-like character without experiencing first-hand the challenging events of the end-times. The end-times tribulation is the capstone course in Christian character, the final seminar lesson-plan in discovering the real truth behind the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:5).
If end-times Christians can rise to the challenge and put into practice unselfish sacrificial love, this divine character trait will shine in brightness above the egocentric, false light of the fallen covering cherub Lucifer. This brings the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden full-circle. It exposes the lie of the character assassination of God in the Garden of Eden, and accomplishes this through the very same agents…human beings…who were originally so easily deceived. God’s divine love shining through mature and experienced Christians sacrificing themselves unselfishly for the salvation of others, through their free-will voluntary decision to follow and obey Jesus Christ in a journey of faith even into the spiritual battlefield of the great tribulation, is God’s winning demonstration of the power of thoughtful and giving love over the obstinacy of self-centered rebellion in all of its forms.
This final argument can only be forever decisively articulated through a full assembly of the Christian church in battle array on earth, clothed in the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6:12-17, and motivated by the divine quality of love exhibited by Jesus Christ at Calvary. The Christian church gets the long-awaited final victory through Jesus Christ, a hard-earned lesson of inestimable value that will last for all eternity.
This great final victory involves a willingness to embrace change at the deepest, most profound level. Humility produced now through divinely guided training, which is liberated from the cares of this world and is committed to uplifting Christ to the world even at the potential cost of our lives, is the authoritative pattern of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.
Radical change in the outward world environment, having the loss of the expectation for worldly conventional normalcy combined with the contrast of Spirit-filled, non-worldly minded Christians not going along with the horizontally conventional, temporal message of the Antichrist, will separate and divide the eternal issues of right and wrong like never before. The willingness to follow Jesus into the uncertain risk of radical change may be one of the required ingredients in the end-times needed to expose finally and forever the man of perdition of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, aptly and decisively bringing to a close the final chapter in human redemptive history.