How We Taught the New Testament in the Past: Lesson 45: “He That Overcometh Shall Inherit All Things”
Because I have such personal difficulty wringing any meaning out of the book of Revelation (I know, I know – other people can do it, but I cannot), I find little value in past lessons that assert without explanation the meanings of various symbols in Revelation. The lesson below, from Lowell C. Bennion’s Teachings of the New Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1956), used in seminaries and institutes, discusses the ideas – “To help class members understand some of the blessings that will come to those who overcome the trials of mortality through their testimony of Jesus Christ” – purportedly found by the writers of our current manual in miscellaneous verses of Revelation.
Patience for Righteousness’ Sake
In your patience, possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19)
Jesus Christ Rejected
There is one aspect of Christ’s life to which we have made only incidental reference. While he was followed by multitudes and loved by many, he was understood by few and not too well by these. In a sense, he walked alone, save for the Spirit of the Father and the Comforter which were with him. His teaching was too lofty for men. They twisted it after the image of their own ignorant and selfish natures. they imputed to him vainglory and selfish desires, which were not his, but their own.
Jesus taught the truth. He laid bare the hypocrisy, the greed, the selfishness of men. this kind of truth hurt. It wounde4d the pride of men. when they heard it and did not “sorrow unto repentance,” they turned on the offender and crucified him to save face.
Jesus knew what lay in store for him. He predicted his death to the Twelve. He must die.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
Men would kill him because he had declared to them their sins. Little did they know that his death would in all ages to come move men to overcome sin and receive forgiveness. But that is another story.
In the end, Jesus Christ was taken “by wicked hands” and slain. Throughout his ministry he was under suspicion and attack. He had enemies. They twisted the meaning of his words, and sought to trap him. Finally they roused the unthinking rabble against him. It is interesting, as well as tragic, that the son of God, whose heart was so filled with love and compassion for all men, who loved the truth and the right, who was the revelation of God himself to man, should suffer such an ignominious death.
It was all in the wisdom of God that his Son should die and thus bring to pass the resurrection and redemption of the children of men. But men were not predestined to crucify the Savior. They did it freely for reasons already suggested. It is clearly evident on the pages of history that men are persecuted and killed for truth and righteousness’ sake. Jesus and Socrates are the classic examples though not the only ones. Stephen, James, and likely Peter and Paul, and Abinadi are others in antiquity.
Jesus Predicted Suffering for His Disciples
When Jesus called his disciples to establish his work, he promised them great blessings.
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30)
He promised them and all men who would come unto him the wonderful blessedness described in the Beatitudes. he promised the woman of Samaria that she would never thirst if she drank of the water that he would give her. (John 4)
Jesus also assured his followers, however, that as his disciples they would suffer many things. When James and John asked, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on the right hand, and the other on the left hand, in thy glory,” Jesus said unto them:
… ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. (Mark 10:38-40)
When Jesus sent them forth to teach his word, he predicted persecution:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the4 councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. …
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. …
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to act a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (Matt. 10:16-18, 22-23, 28, 34-36)
The last of his eight Beatitudes implies persecution and suffering for those who believe on him:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12)
The Apostles Suffer for Christ’s Sake
The apostles could not have been disillusioned in the Savior’s prediction of the fate which awaited them. Persecution began at once (see Acts 4) and continued until their deaths. Little is known of most of them, but Paul’s suffering and persecution are told in exciting detail in the book of Acts. He was “expelled from cities,” stoned, and taken out of the city, “supposing he had been dead.” (Acts 14) In Macedonia, Paul healed a soothsaying damsel, which act destroyed a business built on the superstition. the ruined businessmen dragged Paul before the magistrates bearing false witness against him and Silas.
And the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24)
The Disciples Teach patience in Suffering
As we have already noted, persecution of Christians in the first century was always a reality or a threat. Membership in the pristine Church frequently brought a person’s life into jeopardy. Still all of the disciples taught a patience and longsuffering in the name of the Christian faith. Paul wrote:
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (Rom. 12:12)
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (II Cor. 4:8-18)
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of truth by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (II Cor. 6:3-10)
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution.
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (II Tim. 3:10-17)
In I Peter the saints are counseled to be sure that their suffering is for righteousness’ sake and not for evildoing. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Peter 3:13. Note vss. 8:18 and also 4:12-19)
In Hebrews the Christians were asked to remember how
… Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Heb. 12:2-40
Then, quoting the Old Testament teaching that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” it is said that our fathers in the flesh correct us “after their own pleasure, but he (God) for our profit that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Heb. 12:11-14)
James saw the value of trial and temptation and pleaded for patience:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Suffering and Patience for Righteousness’ Sake Today
In the nineteenth century Latter-day Saints were subjected to a great deal of suffering and persecution. Like the pristine Church of Christ, they were not without martyrs. Now things have changed. Except in countries where there is little or no religious liberty for any Christian denomination, Latter-day Saints worship God without jeopardy to life or limb. Prosperity and favorable publicity make it easy to belong to the Church.
A number of factors have contributed to the change. The Western world has become increasingly tolerant of religious differences. The free mingling and abundant intercourse among peoples of all faiths have paved the way to an atmosphere of increased permissiveness, if not tolerance and appreciation one toward another. A second reason for absence of persecution may be religious indifference. Perhaps a majority of Christians today are only so nominally. They are not burning with conviction. Hence the specific character of the convictions of others is to them also a matter of indifference. A third source of tolerance toward the Saints may lie in their accommodating themselves to the world. No more are Latter-day Saints set apart, a noticeably peculiar people, building a society markedly different from surrounding cultures. They live much as others live except that a larger number usually do not smoke and drink; and a larger number do go to church.
This lack of persecution, with its attendant suffering, may be a good thing. Certainly there is little point in suffering for its own sake and no point in bringing it upon ourselves needlessly. sometimes hate and animosity are brought upon us by our own self-righteousness, by our lack of humility and love.
Wherein are Patience and Perseverance in Christian Living Especially Needed Today?
The attack on the religious life today is seldom violent and physical, but more often subtle and indirect. Clever advertising of commercial interests undermines character. Some individual thinkers and writers, without religious and sometimes even without moral conviction, but with facility of expression, cast reflection on religious faith and moral ideals. A prosperous world, full of enticing pleasures, competes favorably with faith and love, which must be won with much greater effort and sacrifice. Well did Nephi predict of our day,
And others will he [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. (II Nephi 28:21)
Today, as much as in any day, men are challenged to do their own thinking, to be informed about the issues of the day, and to speak the truth when and where it needs to be spoken. As government, business, education, the military, and other social institutions become larger and their leadership farther removed from the people, the more necessary it is for individuals to exert their freedom, sense their responsibility, and participate intelligently in these social institutions which concern them. Otherwise their freedom may be lost in the overwhelming bigness and remoteness of these institutions. The less important the individual’s role, the more he must strive to maintain it. We had to fight to win freedom. We are learning that we also have to fight to keep it.
Certainly we need patience and longsuffering in our efforts to inspire loyalty and faithfulness to the faith in our children. We must learn that we cannot violate their freedom to build faith in freedom, nor can we build faith in love by force and compulsion. Sometimes we must wait with faith, or even with hope, that in the long run those we love will come to appreciate the gospel of Christ as we feel we do. this is true in both husband-wife and parent-child relationships. It is also true of our efforts to win friends, neighbors and associates to the faith. It takes patience, humility, love, and more patience.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. (I Cor. 3:5-5)
Mencius, famed disciple of Confucius, said: “From the man of Sung who tried to help his corn grow faster by pulling it up, we should learn patience in the development of character.”
In life as a whole we should have the faith to conform our lives more nearly to the Christian ideal. We should live more simply, more modestly; and we should pursue things of the spirit more than material things. To pursue such goals would bring us into disrepute “for that which is highly esteemed among men,” said Jesus, “is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16;15) And, as Paul said so effectively:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
What Attitude Should One Take When He Feels He is Wronged;
When He Suffers for Righteousness’ Sake?
Often, when people are misunderstood or illy treated, they are offended and feel deeply hurt. They develop the serious malady of self-pity – the greatest waste of human life we know. They feel sorry for themselves and hate themselves and those who “wrong” them. There was no self-pity or cynicism in the life of Jesus that we can discern. Following each rebuff he continued his positive, compassionate, and loving ways. His replies to the Pharisees and high priests toward the end of his life were just as calm and sagacious and free from personal grudge as they were at the beginning. Great and Christian is the person who can be offended with or without cause and keep his spirit sweet, his sense of values straight and unimpaired by persecution and evil from without.
Certainly the Apostle Paul took his suffering in stride. Thrown in jail, as reviewed earlier in this chapter, he sang hymns and prayed and converted the jailer and all his household. There is no self-pity in that account. When threatened with shipwreck on his voyage to Rome, Paul said to the men: “Be of good cheer.” (See Acts 27)
Whatever patience we may need in life, whatever suffering we may be called to bear, let them be exercised in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ – in meekness, love, and good cheer. then are we Christ’s disciples indeed. then and only then can we “rejoice and be exceeding glad.” (Matt. 5:12)