Matthew 10:23, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Here, Jesus warned His disciples they should expect opposition and persecution against the proclamation of the Gospel, even to the point of torture and death. When we read, “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes,” most interpret this as meaning the Son of Man will return before the disciples finish their ministry in Israel, but that is not what He is saying here. Given the urgency at which Jesus sent His disciples out on their mission in 10:5-6, what this actually means is that the disciples will not finish their mission in Israel. Persecution will prevent them from finishing their mission, Jesus warned. Eventually, they will be killed.
What does this have to do with you and me? In one sense, nothing, since these words are specifically spoken to the disciples. Yet in another sense, everything—for those who are proclaiming the Gospel. For some of us who are called to proclaim the Gospel, we might face persecution before the Son of Man returns. That is, we might face torture and even death before the Son of Man returns. Indeed, this is already happening in our contemporary context, as it has been happening all throughout history.
This is not happening in our American context currently, but there is nothing that guarantees this won’t change. We are blessed to be protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but laws can be rewritten, as they often are. No one saw the Holocaust coming, yet it came anyway. I am not saying there is going to be a Christian holocaust in America, but nothing save God alone can prevent that from happening. Liberals in America are already seeking to eliminate the 2nd Amendment. They might succeed; they might not. Will it be any surprise, then, if or when they begin to seek alteration to the 1st Amendment?
Even though we do not face persecution in the U.S. and even though we might eventually face persecution in the U.S., God may call certain individuals among our brethren to venture into a place where Christians are persecuted. Indeed, many Christians are born and raised in persecution, under threat of life every day. Few of us are extremely blessed not to face persecution all our lives for our faith. These things must happen before the Son of Man comes.
Yet do not despair. Do not forget we already have the victory in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39). When the Son of Man returns, all persecution will be reversed, and He will have vengeance upon His enemies who have persecuted Him (cf. Acts 9:4-5); and all the persecuted will rise to meet the joy of the Lord.