Why didn’t the Apostles flee the persecution from the religious leaders? Acts 7 details how Stephen was the first martyr after the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension. According to Acts, the young church appears to still have been staying within Jerusalem at that point. It was only a few years after the Lord’s Ascension in the mid 30’s AD and that was all about to change.
Acts 8:1,3 ~ 1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death.
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
That was the day that started a great persecution. Interestingly, all of the believers fled Jerusalem except the Apostles! Why?
Fleeing persecution would’ve seemed like the logical thing to do. The rest of the church did. Yet, the rest of the church was almost entirely new believers. Most of them were people that gave their lives to the Lord after his Ascension. Maybe they did not remember (or even know) the words of Jesus like the Apostles did. After all, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John would not be written for a few decades. It’s important to remember how much Jesus emphasized to the faithful 11 that they abide in his words and keep his words. Immediately before he went to the Cross in John 13-17, he gave them very profound promises that not everyone else heard. Let’s recall some of the words of Jesus to shed some light on this mystery…
WHAT SHOULD THEY DO ABOUT PERSECUTION FROM THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS?
Remember immediately before “The Olivet Discourse” when Jesus rebuked the religious Jewish leaders and warned them about the destruction of the Temple? Consider one of the things he prophesied to them at the end of his “8 woes” warning ~ “You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?”34Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city…” (Matthew 24:33,34)
Around 30 AD about a week before the Cross, Jesus prophesied that they (those religious leaders listening) would kill some of his Apostles. At this point, he was not speaking to his disciples. Surely they were listening, but they were not being addressed. The Religious leaders alive at that time were the ones being directly spoken too.
Then in next chapter, in the middle of the actual “Olivet Discourse”, Jesus warned the soon-to-be Apostles that the religious leaders would kill some of them. It’s important to notice that all of “The Olivet Discourse” was spoken directly to the Disciples in response to their questions regarding his warning in the previous chapter. (See Matt.24:1-4 for context)
Matthew 24: 9“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” (Also see John 15:18-25 & John 16:1-4 for his warnings to the faithful 11 during the “Last Passover Supper”)
Doesn’t sound very promising does it? Yet in all of this, they were not instructed to flee. Not yet, at least…
WHAT ABOUT TRIBULATION FROM THE WORLD?
Also tucked away within the middle of the “Olivet Discourse” was Jesus’ warning that they (the soon-to-be Apostles, that were currently listening to his words) would be persecuted by the worldly leaders. Interestingly, there was an order to Jesus’ prophesy. For whatever reason, neither Matthew nor John recorded this, but Luke and Mark provided unique insight.
Mark 13:9 A ~ “So be on your guard. You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues…”
First ~ The councils (Jewish) and synagogues. We saw this against Stephen in Acts 7 , but also specifically the word council was used in Acts 5:17 -27 . when Peter was imprisoned, miraculously released, brought before the council and publicly beaten.
Recall the words of Jesus, to the religious leaders in Matt.23:34 “Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues…”
These prophecies were so accurate it’s amazing. But it gets even more profound when we finish the last half of Mark 13:9, which I began to quote from above. ~ “So be on your guard. You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues. On My account, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.”
After they would be handed over to the councils and beaten in the Synagogues, they would stand before the worldly rulers. Watch as we see that, once again, Acts confirmed this prophecy happened (even in the exact order) as Jesus had declared.
Church historians agree that this took place in the early 40’s AD. Acts 12 ~ “1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.”
So everything was beginning to go down exactly as Jesus prophesied. Yet, nowhere in Acts do the Apostles flee Jerusalem! Because, there was one crucial element that all 3 synoptics agreed on. Immediately after the warning about persecution from the Jewish leaders and the worldly leaders, all 3 declared the same thing would happen! But first, Let me again emphasize, that all 3 recorded these words after Jesus’ prophesied they would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders and stand before the worldly leaders. ~
WHAT WAS THE SIGN TO FINALLY FLEE?
Matthew 24:15 ~ “Therefore when you shall see ‘the abomination of desolation,’ having been spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place—the one reading, let him understand— 16*then* those in Judea, let them flee to the mountains”
Mark 13:14 ~ “So when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
The final warning sign was “the abomination that brings desolation” (as Daniel 12:11 had prophesied). Yet, once again, Luke had a slightly different vantage point concerning the same event. Please understand that I am not undermining their varied perspectives, but attempting to bring unity by adding clarity. ~
Luke 21:20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.21“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city…
Matthew and Mark said the sign to flee was “the abomination of desolation”. Luke said the sign of Jerusalem’s “desolation” was when the city was surrounded by armies. I am sure that you have heard just as many weird teachings that I have concerning “The Abomination of Desolation” in our future. Yet Jesus made it very clear to them that all of this would go down in their lifetime.
Matthew 24:34 ~“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
In Matthew thru John, Jesus was recorded using the word “generation” exactly 28 times. 27 of those times were rebukes or warnings directly towards those people living at that time. Here is a list that I have taken the time to personally compile of those 27 times. You will have to read the surrounding verses for yourself to better consider the proper context.
The Truth is that the Apostles clearly believed Jesus’s words, even when the rest of the church did not!
The Apostles endured the predicted persecution from the Jewish leaders and did not flee Jerusalem. They defied the worldly leaders and did not flee. Yet, they had all fled before Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. Why?
Because according to Luke and the Apostles actions, the abomination of desolation was understood to be connected with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem. John Wesley, was among many other Christians who have studied these events within Scriptures and ancient writings to reach the same conclusion. These included Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Eusebius (263-339) Athanasius (296-372), Augustine (379), Chrysostom (379), Jerome (347-420), and Remigius (437-533).
According to Secular and Christian history*** it is believed that the Christians fled Jerusalem when many abominations occurred Rome attacked first attacked Jerusalem in 66AD. Rome inexplicably retreated after only 2 months of battle according to Josephus. But Rome returned and 3.5 years later (yes, 42 months or 1,260 days for those of you who recall specific times frames referenced in Daniel and Revelation). Jerusalem was finally overcome and destroyed by Roman armies and Jewish zealots. The harlot was burned from within and from without.
Not all of the Christians believed Jesus’ words at first. Some fled at the first sign of persecution. But the Apostles obeyed completely to the end. Even to “The end of the Age”. They faithfully declared the end of the age and destruction of the Temple “in their generation” and God proved himself faithful because it happened within 40 years (one generation) of Jesus’ words.
LINKS AND CREDITS ~
***FLIGHT FROM JERUSALEM In this link we see that many Christians throughout church history are aware of this truth. Names like ~ John Gill, Thomas Newton, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney and John Lightfoot. Adam Maarschalk goes into even more detail here.
Thanks to Dr. Jonathan Welton at Welton Academy for clearly teaching this. Also for his free E-book “Raptureless” for introducing me to Preterism. Click here for the Link to “Raptureless”
Thanks too Adam Maarschalk and “Pursuing Truth” for his extensive research and articulate teachings at AdamMaarschalk.com.