On Monday we continued our look at some scriptures which seem especially important for the days we’re living in. Here are the notes:
The Scripture: Luke 21:18
10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost.”
Why it’s essential:
Every human since the beginning of history has faced a world where tragedy is a possibility, and death is inevitable. Christians especially face a set of dangers which are even more pointed because of persecution. In our day we are seeing an amplification of these things, and we may find them drawing near to us personally within our lifetime. And yet, we often affirm that God protects us. What do we mean when we say this? This scripture gives us an important way to think about what it means when we say that God protects us.
The issue in Luke 21:18 – It seems to contradict or ignore verses 10-17, especially 16b.
Other verses with this theme:
Luke 12:4-7 There is a greater danger than dying – it’s God’s power over the soul.
Rev 2:10-11 Being faithful till death, Jesus gives the crown of life.
John 11:25-26 If you believe, and die, you’ll live. If you live and believe, you’ll never die.
So, what do we mean when we say that God protects us?
The Dilemma: No final lasting harm to Christian, but things do happen to us.
Jesus seems to imply that no final, lasting harm can ever come to a Christian. Everything, down to the individual hairs on our head, is safe. But we know from scripture (and from life) that all kinds of things do happen to us. Right now, everything from death by martyrdom (we’ll call that ‘the worst’) to all sorts of other (less intense) things are happening to Christians. Even in our own personal social circles we have all kinds of sickness, injury and loss. So Luke 21:18 must mean that Jesus guarantees some other kind of safety, some other kind of protection, than avoiding those things. In other words, the way God makes sure that not a hair of our heads will be harmed is not by keeping bad things from happening to us.
This is Physical, not just spiritual protection.
Some people interpret Luke 21:18 to imply “spiritual” protection. By this I think they mean that even if something can harm our body, it cannot harm our spirit. Our spirits are safe with Jesus. And this is true, as far is it goes. It’s kind of related to what Paul writes in Romans 8:36-37. But that’s not really what Jesus says here—He could have said, “Don’t worry, your soul will be saved.” But instead he talks about exactly what we worry about—our physical body. And he says we won’t even lose one hair of our head. So he wants us to think about more than simply a “spiritual” safety. And that’s probably because, as humans, we can’t really think of a “spiritual” safety, with no safety for the body, and be comforted. I know they can’t hurt my spirit, but what about my head? No—Jesus assures us of a physical protection.
Jesus is talking about the resurrection body.
These first two points, taken together, point us to an answer—Jesus is speaking of the resurrection body which is promised to Christians. This body is physical (see 2 Cor 5:1) as well as spiritual. This body is always depicted as being whole, recognizable, glorious, and perfected. In other words, you’ll have all your hair.
Our lives are viewed as including eternity.
This tells us about how Jesus thinks about our lives—He views our lives across their entire “timeline.” But his timeline includes eternity. So when Jesus says, “Not a hair of your head will be lost,” he can say it from the perspective of our final destiny. He himself paved the way for us. He went through death came out on the other side, with a resurrected glorious body, totally alive and totally whole. He secured the same path for us. So when he speaks to us of the fact that he cares for us, watches over us, protects us, he is thinking of that final end.
A Definition for God’s Protection.
This gives us a definition for what God’s protection means: God’s protection means that God personally protects anyone who is in Christ so that, no matter what trials and hardships they go through, they will be brought to the place where they are resurrected, living in the new earth, forever, never again to be harmed. God promises that nothing can stop this, break his protecting power over you, or ruin your final destiny. Thief cannot break in and steal it. Locust cannot eat it away and rust cannot corrode it. Sickness cannot weaken it. Abuse cannot ruin it. Rape cannot stain it. Torture cannot break it. Mockery cannot shame it. Prison cannot hold it. Chains cannot bind it. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus which is safeguarding us, so that, even though we will go through all kinds of difficult things, they will not keep us from standing on the shores of the new earth, with bodies unsinged by the fire. So they will do all kinds of things to many of us. And life will bring all kinds of things our way. How can we trust God to protect us if he lets all these things happen to us? His answer is, even if they take off your head, you won’t have a hair out of place in the new earth.
Adjusting our expectations for God’s protection.
So we need to adjust our expectations for God’s protecting care. We need to see that God allows us to go through all kinds of things. But we should remember the word, “through.” The Christian can always know that he or she will pass “through,” and ultimately come out the other side. This will keep us from ultimate despair when life gets bad, and from anger at God because we thought he’d keep bad things from happening to us. And it will keep our faith strong, so that when something bad does start going down, we aren’t thinking, “He’s gonna stop this any minute now…”
Getting excited about the resurrection
We also need to get very excited about the resurrection. Otherwise we won’t be willing to go through what God may allow in our lives. We’ll just want a great life here and now, in this fallen world. And anything that touches that life will feel like it’s too much to ask. But if we have eternity in mind, the way Jesus talks about life starts to make total sense.
The good news.
I said something in my definition which you might not understand. I said, “anyone who is in Christ.” What does “in Christ” mean? It means that you have trusted Jesus Christ as the only one who has the power to save you from the inevitabilities of life, especially death. You believe that he himself conquered death by dying and rising again. You admit your sinfulness, which is why he had to die. To accept his forgiveness. The bible days you are then given new spiritual life within, and you are united to Christ spiritually. This is called being “in Christ.”