By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Oftentimes critics of postmillennialism will go to NT passages such as Matt 10:22 to discredit postmillennialism’s long-term optimism. That passage reads:
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
Since postmillennialism expects a future in which Christianity reigns supreme, and in which righteousness and peace will prevail throughout the world, texts such as this one must be explained. Postmillennialism cannot be true if Christians will always be hated and the only hope we have is our bare endurance.
But does this passage teach such? I do not believe that it does. We must read the verse in its context to grasp what our Lord is actually declaring.
In Matt 10 Jesus appoints his disciples as apostles, investing them with great authority (Matt 10:1–2). And at this stage of his ministry he limits their outreach to Israel alone: “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matt 10:5–6). Of course, this is not the way it was always to be, for later at the end of his ministry he commissions his church to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19).
Furthermore, immediately after his limiting their mission to Israel, he teaches them what they are to preach: “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt 10:7). This also shows the early phase of his ministry. The kingdom has not yet come, though it is close at hand.
He then directs them to go from city-to-city in Israel to preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, and so forth (Matt 10:8–15). He notes that he is sending them “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt 10:16). And in doing so he warns them: “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (Matt 10:17–18). This clearly speaks of their ministry to Israel, for it mentions the trouble they will experience from the synagogues.
He further warns that “brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death” (Matt 10:21). Then we read the verse that raised our question: “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt 10:22).
Then following this warning he promises: “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes” (Matt 10:23). We must ask: “Whenever whopersecutes you?” Contextually, it is speaking expressly of Jewish opposition.
What Matt 10:22 is declaring then is that as his twelve disciples (who are all dead by now!) engage the mission to Israel, they must hang tough, they must endure through the raging of Israel against Christ and his followers. Not only so, but he promises he will come in judgment against Israel before they have finished going through all the cities of Israel. This refers to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the specific “end” in view.
A similar statement to Matt 10:22 is found in Matt 24:13: “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” And again, the context points to the time preceding the fall of Jerusalem, for he is answering a question about the coming destruction of the temple (Matt 24:2–3).
Thus, Matt 10:22 (and Matt 24:13) do not speak of relentless persecution to the end of history (are you persecuted to death?). Rather it is referring to Jewish persecution of the Christian faith that leads up to AD 70.