(See also Matthew 24 and Mark 13)
Luke 21:16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
Susie: Shortly after Jesus’s death on the cross, His resurrection, and His appearing to His disciples for forty days, grave persecution of His followers began. In Luke’s second book, The Acts of the Apostles, we see Stephen stoned to death due to accusations from fellow Jews. Then Paul persecuted Christians. All but one of the remaining eleven Apostles were martyred. Jesus’s prophecy of suffering because they bore His name was came to pass immediately.
Susan: Most of the time a Bible prophecy has an immediate fulfillment and a future one as well. As the time draws nearer for Jesus’s return, there will be, and already is an increase in persecution of believers. As recently as a week ago Christians were massacred in Nigeria. Here is a link to a report from March 19, 2019:
Susie: The persecution is widespread and increasing. Voice of the Martyrs published an updated version of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs in 2007 which includes the accounts of martyrs up to the time the book was compiled. I am quoting from the forward of that book:
. . . I must tell you that persecution of Christians is more common in our generation than ever in history. The oft-quoted statistic is that more people died for their Christian faith in the past century than in all the other centuries of recorded history combined. (David B. Barrett, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January 2007).
Luke 21:17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
Susie: Believers were despised by Jews and Gentiles alike as confirmed in Acts:
Acts 28:22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.
Susan: Christians are vilified for testifying to the truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). What we share out of love and concern for all of humanity is twisted to sound like hatred for those who believe differently than we do.
Luke 21:18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
Susie: Does Jesus contradict what He just said above, that many of them would be put to death? Absolutely not! For those who believe and place their lives in His hands, death here is a momentary doorway through which we pass to be forever with the Lord. He promises that we are securely held forever:
John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Susan: The second that we breathe our last in this life, our body, our earth-suit, we are instantaneously with the Lord:
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Luke 21:19 In your patience possess ye your souls.
Susie: The King James Version was a little difficult to understand, but we found some help in this commentary:
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers as quoted at https://biblehub.com/luke/21-19.htm
(19) In your patience possess ye your souls.--Better, By your endurance gain ye your lives. The verb, unless used in the perfect tense, always involves the idea of "acquiring" rather than "possessing," and the command so understood answers to the promise, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved," in Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13. Some of the best MSS., indeed, give this also as a promise, "By your endurance ye shall gain."
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Susan: These verses are not teaching that we must persevere or endure by our own strength. The Lord is the One who saved us, keeps us saved, and will empower us to persevere.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Romans 14:4b (NIV) To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Susie: The bottom line is this: We are saved, we are being saved (sanctification), and we will be saved (perfected in Heaven); but we contribute nothing to any of it. It is all the work of the Lord in and through us, and He cannot fail. Once we surrender our lives to Him, He will finish what He starts in us.
Ponder this and Apply it: Reflect on the earlier verses in this chapter. Even in the middle of persecution or if we are called to face a martyr’s death, the Lord will fill us with tenacious strength and voracious courage even filling our mouths with the words to speak until the day we leave our earth-suit and He changes our address to our eternal home. We need not live in fear.