On the night in which the Lord was betrayed, He met with His disciples to observe the Passover. At some point after the meal, and before He led them to Gethsemane, the Lord spoke in some detail on many topics of importance. Of all the gospel writers, only John recorded the Lord’s words during this conversation with them. At the end of this discussion the Lord made a statement that foretold the challenges that these men would face once He had returned to His Father in heaven.
In Jn. 16:32, 33 the Lord said, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
The Lord had on previous occasions predicted that His disciples would be persecuted for proclaiming the gospel, but this statement is particularly poignant for at least two reasons. First, that very night the twelve, minus Judas, would indeed be scattered from the Lord as He was taken into custody in the garden. Second, the Lord’s words suggest the ongoing presence of tribulation so long as the world stands. He said, “In the world you have tribulation.” In other words, as long as they were in the world the disciples would have challenges to their faith. The record of the book of Acts suggests that these men finally came to understand the Lord’s meaning as they went about the business of preaching the gospel. They knew they would experience tribulation and they were prepared for it whenever it came.
The attitude of the apostles and the early Christians about the challenges they faced because of their faith stands in contrast to the expectations of some professed believers in more modern times. At some point in the last 300 years or so, with the rise of Premillennialism, some believers have come to expect a time of peace and tranquility on the earth. They believe this will occur when the Lord comes to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem, from which they say He will reign on earth for 1,000 years.
As wonderful as this expectation may be, it is not consistent with what the Bible teaches. Foremost in this regard is the fact that the Lord is already reigning in His kingdom, and has been since the church was established on the first Pentecost after His resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:38-41; Col. 1:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:20-28). Since the Lord is already reigning in His kingdom, the expectation that he will establish a kingdom on earth at some point in the future is a false expectation.
A second, and equally powerful point is that the earth is not the place where God’s people will experience the peace and tranquility that we all desire. In Rev. 21:3, 4 the scripture says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
The time of peace and tranquility for God’s people will only come at the end of time when He has taken them home to the place prepared for them in heaven. In the meantime, while we are in the world, we have tribulation, but we may take courage because in Christ we overwhelmingly conquer! (Rom. 8:39).