In my previous study concerning Jesus coming to judge those who were persecuting his servants, I showed how the context of Matthew 16:21-28 unveiled the fact that Jesus intended to judge those responsible for his own death and the deaths of those, whom he sent to the Jews. I compared similar verses in Matthew 21 and 23 that exposed the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem, as the ones responsible for all the righteous blood that was shed in the first century AD. Not only was this so, but Jesus laid upon that generation of Jews the blood-guilt of all the righteous who were slain since the beginning of creation.
It is interesting to note the context of Matthew 16:21-28, and the part the conjunction for (gar (G1063) plays in causing the full meaning of the text to come together. Matthew said that it was at that particular time that Jesus began to tell his disciples that he must suffer at the hands of the Jewish authorities and be killed, but rise again on the third day (verse-21). Peter had just made his great confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:13-20). The disciples’ coming to understand this permitted Jesus to unveil his suffering and death to them.
Immediately, Peter, took Jesus aside to tell him such a thing, i.e. his suffering and death, could never occur (Matthew 16:22). Why did Peter say this? He wasn’t taking into consideration what Jesus warned him about in Matthew 16:5-12, namely, the leaven or doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (verse-12). Peter was reiterating what he had been taught by the very people who would persecute and kill Jesus. If Peter believed them, he would have to (with them) reject Jesus as the Messiah and renounce the great confession he had just made. The chapter begins with the Pharisees and Sadducees seeking a sign from Jesus to prove he was the Messiah (Matthew 16:1-4), but Peter confessed Jesus was the Messiah without being given a sign. Rather, he simply listened to the voice of God (verse-17).
Jesus then told his disciples that, if they wished to come after him, they would have to deny themselves (i.e. their lives), and take up his cross, i.e. the cross of the Son of Man (verse-13) and follow Jesus (cf. Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). In other words, there is a cost to discipleship, and that is to become like one’s Master, bearing his shame (Matthew 16:24). Then Jesus gave three reasons why one should ‘bear the shame (cross) of the Son of Man:
- For trying to hold onto life, one loses it, but letting one’s life go for the sake of Christ, one gains life (verse-25)
- For what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and then lose his life? (verse-26)
- For the Son of Man (whose shame his disciples bear) will come in the glory of the Father with his angels and render every man according to his works (i.e. reward his servants for their faithfulness, and vindicate them by taking vengeance upon their persecutors. (verse-27
- “Verily I say unto you” for emphasis sake, Jesus said all this would be done and some listening to him on that day would see it fulfilled! (verse-28
Do you see how the conjunction for (gar – G1063) puts Jesus’ coming in verse-27 in the context of vindicating the suffering of his servants? Now consider what Paul says concerning these same things:
For these are a plain token of God’s righteous judgment, which has in view your being deemed worthy of admission to God’s Kingdom, for the sake of which, indeed, you are sufferers. A plain token of God’s righteous judgment, I say, since it is a righteous thing for Him to requite with affliction those who are now afflicting you; and to requite with rest you who are suffering affliction now–rest with us at the re-appearing of the Lord Jesus from Heaven, attended by His mighty angels. He will come in flames of fire to take vengeance on those who have no knowledge of God, and do not obey the Good News as to Jesus, our Lord. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, being banished from the presence of the Lord and from His glorious majesty, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His people and to be wondered at among all who have believed, including you–because you believed the testimony which we brought for your acceptance. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)
Who were the persecuting agents (cf. Acts 17:5-9)? They were the same who had persecuted and killed the Lord, the Jewish authorities, and now they persecuted those who identified with the Son of Man, bearing his shame (2Thessalonians 1:5-6; cf. Matthew 16:21, 24).
Notice what Paul said about the suffering of the Thessalonians. It was a “plain token of God’s righteous judgment, since it is a righteous thing for Him to requite with affliction those who are now afflicting you” (2Thessalonians 1:6; cf. Matthew 16:27).” Paul then told the Thessalonians to rest, waiting for the appearing of the Lord from Heaven with his mighty angels (2Thessalonians 1:7; cf. Matthew 16:27). And, notice that Paul was speaking to them, i.e. the Thessalonians who were being persecuted. He told them to rest and wait for the appearing of the Lord with his angels. In other words, he told the Thessalonians to expect Jesus’ coming in their lifetime (cf. Matthew 16:28)! And, Jesus did come, keeping the promise he made (Matthew 16:27-28), when he came in the person of Titus, the Roman general, whose armies conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple (cir. 70 AD), thus bringing the Old Covenant to an end and establishing the New Covenant with the Church.