“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, and he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the son of man comes." (Matt. 10:21-23)

In sending out his disciples and students to teach the teachings that Jesus was handing down to them, Jesus warns of the reactions of the people and how they will persecute them because of their teachings and their following of Jesus. He is also indicating a historical event that was to unfold in their lifetimes that would affect their ability to go from town to town to preach.

Within about three decades of Jesus' passing, many years of brutal wars broke out between the Romans and the Jews. While these are often called the "Roman-Jewish wars," it was more of a genocide. The Romans, quite simply slaughtered the mostly unarmed Jewish people. They burnt down many of the Jewish towns and temples, and decimated the Jewish society.

Now the bulk of the genocide began in 66 A.D. (and continued for several decades), but in the years leading to this, there was great political pressure, and many persecutions of Jews. This formed an environment where family members would betray family members in an attempt to escape being thrown in jail, slung up on a cross or tossed in the coliseum and eaten by tigers or otherwise murdered. These were going to be desperate times, and Jesus was warning his disciples about what they would be facing as they went from town to town preaching.

Why did Jesus tell them that "all men will hate you"? This is because Jesus' teachings do not sit comfortably with most people because most people wanted (and do to this day) to enjoy the physical body and the physical world. Jesus' message was that materialism does not make us happy: Only loving service to God makes us happy.

Jesus also clarifies here what being “saved” is. Many in the Christian world believe that being “saved” is professing our allegiance to Jesus in a proclamation that states something like “I surrender to Jesus.” This proclamation is often portrayed emotionally as a moment when a person theoretically gives their life to Jesus. Does this actually happen? And what is "giving their life" mean to them? In many cases, it simply means the person joins a particular sect or denomination and starts going to church every Sunday, where they give their tithings, sing hymns and contribute to the church bake sales or other fund-raising events. For others more dedicated, it might mean going to another country and giving away Bibles.

Meanwhile little else changes in their lives during the other six days of the week.

While these activities are certainly commendable, "surrendering to Jesus" means to follow his teachings. It means to apply his instructions, first to one's life, and then pass on those instructions. And what was the central instruction of Jesus?

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

As Jesus clarifies in his statement above, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” This “standing firm” requires passing the tests of faith that will be put before us. These tests are put before us by God as part of re-establishing our relationship with God. In other words, do we love God more than we love ourselves? This is, in fact, the instruction of Jesus. To "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" means to love God more than we love ourselves. And this world is always giving us a choice: Do I put myself first or God (and others) first?

The tests that Jesus spoke of were particular to that time, place and circumstance. However, as Jesus himself clarifies in his statement here, all of us who wish to return to God and resume our relationship of loving service will have to pass many tests. Some of us will be tested through temptation. While most of us in the western world will not suffer physically for our faith, some of us will be otherwise challenged about our faith. Some of us will be ridiculed or emotionally abused for being steadfast in our determination to serve God. A person who chooses to serve God without joining an ecclesiastical church might be ridiculed for their lack of denomination. Many other tests will be presented to us, should we proclaim that we have surrendered, or want to surrender to God.

This is because God wants us to be serious about loving Him. It is not a whim. This is no different than any other relationship that was squandered in the past. An old girlfriend or boyfriend won't whimsically take us back if we broke up with them before. They will require us to show that we are serious, and won't whimsically leave them again. God is no different. We squandered our relationship with God, and He put us in the physical world to play out our desires and to teach us that we will never be happy without Him.

We may not pass all of these tests. We may not have the kind of strength that John the Baptist, Jesus, Jonah and some of his disciples had. (Remember, John the Baptist’s test, which resulted in him being beheaded. He gave his life for his service and relationship with God, just as Jesus did.)

Note that Jesus’ prediction came true for many of his disciples, as many were jailed and persecuted.

Whether we pass our tests or not, we must emerge from each test with humility and full faith in God's love for us, and an understanding that God is testing us to strengthen our determination and prepare us to return to His loving service.

The final point made in Jesus' statement above is, "I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the son of man comes.” What does this mean?

The word "comes" here is translated from the Greek word, ἔρχομαι. This is also the same word used in the last verses of Revelations - which also supposedly indicated this concept of a physical "second coming" of Jesus. This Greek word ἔρχομαι has three possible meanings according to the Greek lexicon. The first is "to come from one place to another, and used both of persons arriving and of those returning," or "to appear, make one's appearance, come before the public." The second meaning is to "come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence;" or "be established, become known, to come (fall) into or unto." Now the third possible meaning is "to go, to follow one."

We can now summarize the meaning of ἔρχομαι using a better perspective of not only the situation but the overall meaning of the word. If we use the third meaning ("to go, to follow one") this would mean following Jesus. In the second meaning, it would mean that Jesus would appear to them. In the first meaning, we have Jesus moving from one place to another, meaning an arrival from one destination to the next.

Now let's look again at the context of the statement. Jesus is telling his disciples to go from town to town and preach his teachings to the people. He is warning them that they will be persecuted, and as they do, they should flea to the next town. Then he says that they will not finish going through all the cities of Israel until the "son of man comes." So what point in time (with respect to the disciples going from town to town) could this be: "the son of man comes?"

Within the context of this statement, as well as the context of the statement in Revelations (22:17, 22:20) and many others in the Books of the New Testament that use the same word ἔρχομαι, the proper translation of ἔρχομαι in this context is the time of death for a person's body, and their subsequent meeting up with Jesus after death. When a person who has devoted their life to Jesus' teachings dies, Jesus comes (appears) to them, and escorts them back to the spiritual world.

At the time of death we each are met with a judgement upon our lives, and then an escort to our next destination. If someone has focused their lives on selfish ambitions and the chasing of physical pleasures, they will be escorted into a new physical body to suffer the consequences of their actions in this lifetime. If they used their life to re-establish their relationship with God, and help others, as the disciples of Jesus were doing, then they are met by their teacher - in this case Jesus - who will escort them home to the spiritual dimension to be again with God.

As we will find from other statements by Jesus, the "coming" of the "son of man" is the coming of the time of death and the meeting up with Jesus at that time. This is revealed also in Matthew 24, as Jesus discusses the Roman-Jewish "wars" in more detail, together with the coming time of death, and what different people will face at that time of death. Consider this statement by Jesus: "No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36) This is the time of death.

Consider, by contrast, the many predictions of the "second coming" by ecclesiastical Christian teachers over the past 2,000 years:

Hilary of Poiniers: 365 AD (the date predicted)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
The Shakers (Ann Lee): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent.

Have any of these teachers been correct? No. They have, in other words, misled their followers. Should we then trust the rest of their interpretations of Jesus' words then? If they got this central issue wrong, what can we say about the rest of their interpretations?

In the meantime, each of us has a particular moment in time when our body will die, and we will be judged for our status and our life's activities. This is the "second coming" that Jesus is referring to, and trying to prepare his disciples for.

Are we ready for our time of death? Are we ready for our own personal "judgement day?"

This article is republished from The Real Teachings of Jesus.