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Mark 13:9

ESV “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.
NIV You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.
NASB But be on your guard; for they will hand you over to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.
CSB "But you, be on your guard! They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them.
NLT When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.
KJV But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.

What does Mark 13:9 mean?

"Be on your guard" is from the Greek root word blepo. Literally, it means to see or watch. But it also means to look at events with a discerning eye and determine what the real meaning is. In this chapter, Jesus does not mean for us to be on our guard passively or to just analyze events so we can determine when He will return. He means for us to consider what is going on and determine what our response should be, including trusting God over family (Mark 13:11–13), fighting misinformation (Mark 13:5), continuing the work of spreading the gospel (Mark 13:10, 34–37), and staying alive when possible (Mark 13:14–16).

Jesus identifies two groups who will persecute His followers. "Councils" refers to both local Jewish councils and the Sanhedrin which is responsible for determining if Jews broke the Mosaic Law. They do not have the authority to execute someone—for example, Stephen's execution in Acts 7 was illegal. However, they can arrest and excommunicate people from their local synagogue. "Governors and kings" refer to civil authorities in whichever region the disciples happen to be. They, of course, often do have the authority to execute criminals, up to and including crucifixion.

The first recorded fulfillment of this prophecy is found in Acts 4:1–22. While Peter and John preach and speak to the people in Solomon's Portico, on the Temple Mount, the priests, Sadducees, and guards arrest them and take them to the Sanhedrin. That council demands to hear how they healed a lame man (Acts 3:1–10). Peter responds in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the apostles get away with a warning. But the next time they are arrested, after some miraculous interventions, the apostles are beaten before being released (Acts 5:40). The violence quickly escalates; in Acts 7 Stephen is stoned and in Acts 12:2 James is beheaded.

One of the most successful persecutors of the church is a Jewish man from Tarsus named Saul (Acts 8:1–3). He does everything in his power to stop the spread of the gospel until Jesus meets with him. After he accepts Christ, the man starts going by the Gentile version of his name, Paul (Acts 9). He spends many years of traveling through Roman territory, evangelizing and planting churches. Due to an altercation in the temple, Paul is held imprisoned by Governor Felix (Acts 23:23–35) and held until Governor Porcius Festus (Acts 24:22–23) introduces him to King Agrippa (Acts 25:13). While arrested, Paul is able to tell both governors and the king about a saving relationship with Christ, as well as many in the prison guard (Philippians 1:13).

Where the ESV says, "to bear witness before them," the International Standard Version says, "in order to testify to them." Christians throughout the church age have shared the gospel with those who put them on trial. Here, however, the phrase has another meaning. To stand before those who persecute you and to remain firm in your faith is to testify that following Christ is possible and good. It declares that those who reject Christ are in the wrong. Noah did this when, out of faith, he built the ark, proving that in that wicked generation it was possible to follow God (Hebrews 11:7).

Depending on our circumstances, we also have this opportunity, contributing to Jesus' promise that the gospel will spread around the world (Mark 13:10). Many believers around the world are persecuted and killed for their faith.
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