“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child ..." (Matthew 10:21-23)

“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." (Matthew 10:21-23)

What is Jesus warning about?

In sending out his disciples and students to teach the message that Jesus was handing down to them, Jesus is warning them about their future persecution at the hands of the Roman and temple officials.

He is also discussing the effects of the brewing violence in the decades to come against the Judean people by the Romans, in what historians refer to as the Jewish-Roman Wars.

During those years, the Romans burned Judean towns and cities and murdered thousands if not millions of Judean citizens in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and cities. It was a massacre of massive proportions - during which Jerusalem was burned to the ground - and the Judean people scrambled to stay alive. This sometimes pitted them against their own family members as the Romans began interrogating people, looking for rebel instigators.

Have some teachers misled us about the end of the world?

Yes. Just consider a shortlist of the many sectarian teachers who have misled their followers about their interpretation of the "second coming" of Jesus and impending apocalypse. They have been wrong for over 1,600 years:

Hilary of Poitiers: 365 AD (the date predicted as the second coming and end of time)
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
Ann Lee (The Shakers): 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.

These misleading ("false prophet") predictions have continued to this day.

Why do we continue to believe these false prophets and their predictions? It is because they base their prediction on an erroneous interpretation of Jesus' statement here and elsewhere.

What does 'before the Son of Man comes' mean?

Jesus is speaking of what will come for his followers in the decades to come. We know he is talking about an event that will occur within decades, because he says, "you will not finish going through the cities of Israel ..." This is not describing an apocalypse to come thousands of years later. It is describing something that will occur for them personally, in their generation.

Indeed, this statement would make no sense unless Jesus is speaking of something that will occur within a short time from the time he is saying it. When Jesus says, "you" he is speaking to those around him. Obviously, he is speaking of events that will occur during their lifetimes.

What event will be occurring within decades that bears this appearance of Jesus? And how does this relate to his disciples completing going through all the towns of Israel? And how is it connected with the coming persecution of his disciples, which Jesus is saying that "he who stands firm to the end will be saved"? What does Jesus refer to when he says to his disciples "to the end"?

Many have proposed that Jesus is speaking of his "second coming" - construed as a time somewhere in the distant future when he will return when the end of the world comes and gather all his faithful and bring them to heaven. They usually depict Jesus arriving on the clouds - sometimes on horseback - carrying a big sword to chop everyone's heads off.

This is speculation. Jesus never described such an event. In this conversation, Jesus is speaking specifically to his disciples, as he instructs them to go out and pass on his teachings. He knows that he will soon be departing his body and returning to the spiritual world, and he wants his disciples to continue spreading his teachings. Remember that just before this he says:
"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matt. 10:19-20)
So Jesus is instructing his disciples how to deal with the coming events they will each directly deal with as they speak on God's behalf.

The word "comes" is being translated from the Greek word ἔρχομαι (erchomai). This word can mean "to come" or "to appear" when used in a practical, physical sense according to the lexicon. But when used metaphorically as Jesus is speaking, it can mean "find place or influence" and to "be established."

Jesus is not speaking to people thousands of years into the future as some would like to imagine. Rather, he is speaking of something that would happen in the coming decades, as the Romans slaughter the Judeans.

Jesus is telling them that his teachings and influence will become established and will arise as things get heavy with the Romans. As they scramble for survival, they will take refuge in Jesus' teachings. His teachings will provide them with refuge, and a pathway back home at the time of death.

Was Jesus speaking of their time of death?

Jesus is telling them that his teachings and influence will become increasingly established. As they teach, and later scramble for survival, they will increasingly take refuge in Jesus' teachings. His teachings will provide them with refuge, and a pathway to God at the time of death.

The phrase "the Son of Man comes" is better translated to "the Servant of Humanity will arise." (Here is an explanation of the translation to "servant of humanity")

Jesus is speaking of both possibilities with this metaphorical reference. If they survive, he will provide them with the solace of his teachings. But if they are killed, he will be there for them at their time of death - as he will escort them back to the spiritual realm.

In modern language, we often use a similar type of metaphor. We may say, "your time will come" when something will happen to them that they deserve. Or one may say, "when the opportunities arise." In either case, what will transpire in the future is conceptual. It is related to influence or occurrences in the future.

Remember that Jesus says before this, "All men will hate you because of me." In other words, he is telling them that if they stand firm in their conviction to Jesus' teachings, even though they will be hated and persecuted because of it, he will be there for them. This can happen as they withstand persecution or at their time of death if they get killed. In either case, Jesus will be effectively saving them.

Jesus' statement is connecting their coming persecution to his teachings providing refuge to them "in the end" when he says, "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another."

What does Jesus mean by 'in the end'?

Yet they will not be able to "flee" "in the end." What does this mean? This means their body will eventually be killed.

In this way, Jesus is specifically connected with their persecution and potentially death at the hands of those who "hate you because of me."

Instead of simply saying they will be killed, he uses the word "arise." Why?

Jesus did not teach that when the body dies, it is all over.

He also did not teach that we would wait around in some imaginary purgatory state for some speculative time thousands of years in the future when the end of the world would come.

He taught that the spirit (the self or personality) within the body moves on after the physical body dies. This can be observed scientifically because when we see a dead body, the life (the self) is gone from that body. The body becomes lifeless because the spirit-person self has left. And for those who have dedicated their lives to following Jesus' instructions, he will be coming for them after death.

The fact that we leave our bodies at the time of death has been scientifically confirmed in clinical death experiences. In many of these cases, many have described the same event: Being met by Jesus after their time of death.

This means that Jesus appeared to them at the time of death.

Jesus also clarifies here what being “saved” is. Some sectarian institutions and their teachers often teach that being “saved” means professing our allegiance to Jesus in a proclamation that states something like “I surrender to Jesus.” This proclamation is often portrayed emotionally in a public place for everyone to see, qualifying that person to be accepted by their fellow church members. In other words, this act is often used simply to gain the respect of others.

Jesus describes clearly how a person is saved: "he who stands firm to the end will be saved." He is telling his disciples that despite being persecuted, ridiculed and threatened, the person who remains committed to following Jesus' teachings will be saved. This means having determination. It means follow-through.

Will we be saved if we proclaim that we surrendered to Jesus?

Consider Jesus' view of the public proclamations of "I surrender to Jesus" currently encouraged by many sectarian institutions:
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
So it isn't enough to make proclamations about Jesus. It isn't enough to do lofty deeds in the name of Jesus, even if they include healing people, driving out demons, and other 'miracles.'

What matters to Jesus, and what ultimately saves a person is described clearly by Jesus:
"only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
A person who does the will of another wants to please that person. This is love. Love means wanting to please someone else. Jesus wants his disciples - and all of us - to learn to love the Supreme Being and live to please the Supreme Being.

According to Jesus, if we "stand firm" in our efforts to devote ourselves to God, we will ultimately be saved.