“But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.” Hebrews 10:32, 33
There are three provocative phrases in the above text:
- “You endured a great struggle with sufferings”
- “You were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations”
- “You became companions of those who were so treated”
If you have been raised as an Adventist from birth, it is less likely that you have had this experience, but Paul was writing to Hebrews who had converted to Christianity later in life.
“The Jerusalem Council had already released Gentile converts to the Christian faith from the ritual requirements of Judaism, but the silence of the Council with respect to the duty of Jewish Christians in this matter implied that the latter were still obliged to comply with them. Nevertheless, a large and influential body of Jewish Christians never assented to the release of the Gentile believers from the requirements of the Jewish legal system, and actively sought to impose their point of view on Paul’s converts.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, 452.
Historically, decades—even centuries—prior to Christ’s advent, there were certain faithful souls who had maintained faith in a coming Redeemer.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were promised a Redeemer following their fall from grace. In fact, they hoped that the power of redemption would be vested in their firstborn.
Moses, who forsook the pleasures of sin, communed with his Redeemer on a regular basis and knew Him to be the salvation of Israel.
Abraham, who “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” “command[ed] his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Hebrews 11:10; Genesis 18:19).
Job “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 11). Even in the midst of his tremendous afflictions, Job maintained his faith in his Redeemer. “And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21, 22). Even when provoked by these three “miserable comforters,” Job maintained his faith by declaring, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Enoch is another example of one who foresaw a coming Redeemer. Jude wrote of him, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’ ” (Jude 1:14, 15).
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—all the Old Testament prophets—maintained faith in a Messiah to come. However, by the time the Messiah actually appeared, centuries after the last book of the Old Testament was written, faith in the atoning blood of a self-sacrificing Saviour had shifted to faith in the blood of bulls and goats.
Thus, when a Hebrew, a member of the established church, chose to turn from the centuries-old ritual of animal sacrifices and follow this radical Upstart who claimed to bring salvation through faith rather than force, that converted soul indeed suffered reproaches and tribulations—even to the point of execution.
My personal experience confirms the validity of Paul’s assertion. When I accepted the Advent truth, I faced extreme opposition from my wife—who eventually filed for divorce, and from my employer—who threatened me with isolation and brought my refusal to work on the seventh day before the board of directors.
Not only did I suffer reproaches and tribulation for my decision to follow Christ, the young man who introduced me to the truth, with whom I became a Christian brother in the fullest sense of the term, a “companion so treated,” suffered as well. He eventually had to seek employment elsewhere and resign his position.
Incurring this kind of treatment is not a pleasant thing to experience. Were it not for the cautions in God’s word that warn us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), we would easily be caught off-guard and dislodged from the path of truth and righteousness.
In my particular case, I was not familiar enough with Scripture at that time to know the many promises God’s word contains nor the cautions it gives about the persecutions of Christ’s followers. And interestingly also, when I tried to share my newfound faith with professed Christians, I usually met the same kind of opposition that I had received from my wife and my employer. One faithful Sunday keeper, when I explained from Scripture that the true Sabbath was the seventh day, replied, “I just don’t think it’s that important.”
However, although we are cautioned about the determination of the enemy of souls to “devour” Christ’s followers, we are also given many wonderful promises in God’s word to enable us to endure his efforts—the reproaches and tribulations that seem to inevitably come with a decision to walk in the light.
One promise we are given that is especially appropriate is found in Isaiah 9:6, 7: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
“That time,” referred to in verse 7, could reasonably be reckoned to have begun with Christ’s presence on this earth when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It was confirmed when His apostles asked Him about the destruction of Jerusalem. We know that His answer addressed not only the fate of Jerusalem, but the events leading up to His second coming as well. There is a passage in The Great Controversy that summarizes that confirmation of “that time” very well.
“When Jesus revealed to His disciples the fate of Jerusalem and the scenes of the second advent, He foretold also the experience of His people [Who are “His people?” We are not left in doubt about that. They are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12).] … He foretold also the experience of His people from the time when He should be taken from them, to His return in power and glory for their deliverance. From Olivet the Saviour beheld the storms about to fall upon the apostolic church; and penetrating deeper into the future, His eye discerned the fierce, wasting tempests that were to beat upon His followers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution. [538–1798—the 1260 years of Daniel’s and John’s prophecies.] In a few brief utterances of awful significance, He foretold the portion which the rulers of this world would mete out to the church of God.
“ ‘Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. [That happened during the Dark Ages when the Catholic church ruled the world—at least that part of the world that played a role in the great controversy, and it will happen again just before Christ’s second coming.] … For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened’ (Matthew 24:9, 21, 22).
“The followers of Christ must tread the same path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity that burst forth against the world’s Redeemer would be manifested against all who should believe on His name.” The Great Controversy, 39.
We are warned about that troubling path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering throughout Scripture. Let’s look at just a couple of the most familiar ones.
In Philippians 1:29 Paul tells God’s people, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul advised Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” However, in the previous verses, Paul had preceded that hard saying with words of comfort: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me ” (verses 10, 11).
We have that same promise that the Lord will deliver us out of all persecutions, afflictions, and trials. We who are Christ’s faithful followers have that same assurance that the Lord will deliver us out of them all! There are many confirmations in Scripture and in the Spirit of Prophecy that give us that assurance.
One of the strongest is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This promise can be claimed by anyone who is facing difficulties of any kind in their daily walk, whether it is the enemy of souls seeking to devour you or persecution for your faith in any form.
One of the most uplifting assurances of divine assistance in our daily walk with Christ is in The Desire of Ages:
“In all ages, angels have been near to Christ’s faithful followers. The vast confederacy of evil is arrayed against all who would overcome; but Christ would have us look to the things which are not seen, to the armies of heaven encamped about all who love God, to deliver them. From what dangers, seen and unseen, we have been preserved through the interposition of the angels, we shall never know, until in the light of eternity we see the providences of God. Then we shall know that the whole family of heaven was interested in the family here below, and that messengers from the throne of God attended our steps from day to day.” The Desire of Ages, 240.
There is also an especially reassuring promise in the devotional Maranatha.
“In the day of fierce trial He [Christ] will say, ‘Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast’ (Isaiah 26:20). What are the chambers in which they are to hide? They are the protection of Christ and holy angels. The people of God are not at this time all in one place. They are in different companies, and in all parts of the earth.
“I saw the saints leaving the cities and villages and associating together in companies, and living in the most solitary places. Angels provided them food and water, while the wicked were suffering from hunger and thirst.
“During the night a very impressive scene passed before me. There seemed to be great confusion and the conflict of armies. A messenger from the Lord stood before me, and said, ‘Call your household. I will lead you; follow me.’ He led me down a dark passage, through a forest, then through the clefts of mountains, and said, ‘Here you are safe.’ There were others who had been led to this retreat. The heavenly messenger said. ‘The time of trouble has come as a thief in the night, as the Lord warned you it would come.’
“In the time of trouble just before the coming of Christ, the righteous will be preserved through the ministration of heavenly angels; but there will be no security for the transgressor of God’s law. Angels cannot then protect those who are disregarding one of the divine precepts.
“In the closing period of earth’s history the Lord will work mightily in behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. … In the midst of the time of trouble—trouble such as has not been since there was a nation—His chosen ones will stand unmoved. Satan with all the hosts of evil cannot destroy the weakest of God’s saints. Angels that excel in strength will protect them, and in their behalf Jehovah will reveal Himself as a ‘God of gods,’ able to save to the uttermost those who have put their trust in Him.” Maranatha, 270.
“Trust in Him” is an essential key to the fulfillment of God’s promises in your life. Another essential key—maybe even more important—is obedience to His will.
There is a passage in Christ’s Object Lessons that brings to view a third key to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
“To human beings striving for conformity to the divine image there is imparted an outlay of heaven’s treasure, an excellency of power, that will place them higher than even the angels who have never fallen.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 163.
Thus, we see three essentials to a successful Christian walk: trust, obedience, and striving—personal effort. Scripture makes it clear that we have divine in each one of those essentials.
Let’s continue by looking at a few of the wonderful promises from God’s word. These are only a few of the hundreds or actually, thousands, that it contains.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Who are those whose minds are “stayed on” God? Again, they are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12).
One of the most wonderful promises for maintaining the peaceful assurance of God’s protection is contained in Philippians 4:6, 7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Peter gives an equally assuring promise in 1 Peter 1:3–5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Claiming these promises by faith, and acting on them, will enable us to say with confidence, as Paul wrote to Timothy in the last letter he wrote before his execution, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
How could those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus not love His appearing, as Peter referred to in his last epistle—an event that will end the sin and suffering of this corrupt world and bring an absolute end to sin and affliction forever.
[All emphasis supplied.]
[All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.]
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.