“IN YOUR PATIENCE POSSESS YE YOUR SOULS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Lord, in His renowned Olivet Discourse about end-times prophecy, announced in Luke 21:19: “In your patience possess ye your souls” (King James Bible). Various interpretations have been offered as touching this allegedly “obscure” declaration. Unfortunately, modern English translators, equally puzzled concerning how to properly render this verse, have not actually enlightened the average English reader either. As always, provided we handle it dispensationally, we have no problem.
We start by reading the context: “ And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?  And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.  But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.  Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:  And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.”
The Olivet Discourse describes what will happen while the Lord Jesus Christ is away in Heaven (between His First Coming and His Second Coming), what occurs at His Second Coming, and what follows His Second Coming. Matthew chapters 24–25, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21 should all be examined to see the big picture. As the curses of the Law of Moses are meted out on sinful Israel (Leviticus chapter 26; Deuteronomy chapter 28), there is also the persecution and martyrdom of the Little Flock or Messianic Church (see Revelation 6:1-17, especially verses 9-11). Unbelieving Jews mistreat their believing Jewish brethren. The Antichrist oppresses, tortures, and beheads those in Israel who trust and support Jesus as Christ (see Revelation 12:11; Revelation 13:15; Revelation 20:4). Keep reading the Olivet Discourse:
“ But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.  And it shall turn to you for a testimony.  Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.  And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.  But there shall not an hair of your head perish.  In your patience possess ye your souls.”
Again, how do they “possess [their] souls?” The statement is quite challenging to “scholars” of modern English versions—and even their readers. For example, the following re-translations have been offered: “You will win life,” “Save yourselves,” “Win your souls,” “You will live forever,” or “Gain your lives.” Here is one of the many places where the so-called “easier-to-read” contemporary versions do nothing but introduce additional confusion. Of course, individuals will then use such perversions to promote a works-oriented “Gospel:” “You need to strive to be saved, you should keep trying to merit God’s favor, you must persevere to be saved,” and so on. (The Calvinists and the Arminians particularly lean toward that idea of perseverance.)
Provided we are mindful of the context—Daniel’s 70th Week, not our Dispensation of Grace!—we will not have any difficulty leaving the verse as is: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” To amplify it, let us consider some contrasting passages also related to end-times events. Read Matthew 16:26: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37 has it this way: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Finally, Luke 9:25 reads: “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” If you read the contexts of these verses—Matthew 16:27, Mark 8:38, and Luke 9:26—you will see how they are connected to Christ’s Second Coming. Therefore, they are cross-references to the Olivet Discourse. Obviously, to “possess” your soul would be the opposite of “lose” your soul. If we can establish exactly what it means to lose the soul, then we could deduce the meaning of possess the soul.
In the above verses, Christ taught His audience not to become so focused on this temporary world that they lost sight of eternal matters. To “lose the soul” is the idea of one’s soul permanently damned in the afterlife. Those who die in their trespasses and sins are fully given over to their everlasting effects—the soul decaying, deteriorating, breaking down. As the curse of sin decomposes our physical body into a horrid form, so it decays our spiritual body to irreversibly render it a monstrosity. Unless we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, our eventual lot is to be cast into the Lake of Fire where we are fully given over to sin and its eternal punishment.
Satan’s evil world system—active on Earth since Genesis chapter 3 when Adam relinquished to Satan his God-given power over creation—will take on a special arrangement during the end-times. It will be personified in one man, the Antichrist, the counterfeit Messiah or fake Christ, one who claims to be God and seeks worship as such (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Since Israel refused the genuine Messiah (Jesus) and nailed Him to Calvary’s cross in unbelief, she is punished with a false Messiah, a devious man she will be deceived into supporting (John 5:43; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). There will be great economic rewards for following the Antichrist—and, conversely, severe economic penalties for declining him (Revelation 13:15-18). Psalm 37 should be consulted here.
In light of what we have read from the Bible thus far, 1 John 2:15-17 was penned: “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Believing Israel, the Antichrist’s rejecters, are in verse 17. Draw your attention to verse 15 now. Those who “love the world” are the Antichrist’s followers (yet future from us, remember). Sin has conquered them. Once they worship the Antichrist, worship his image (idol), or receive his mark, they are damned. Revelation 14:9-11: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Here is the loss of the soul about which we learned earlier!
Now, let us continue into verse 12, Israel’s believing remnant: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Did you notice the clue to answering our original question? This “patience” is that of Luke 21:19!! Read the Luke passage again: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” That is, by the Little Flock patiently awaiting their true Messiah (Jesus’ Second Coming), thereby refusing to give in to the immense pressure to follow the Antichrist (worship him or be executed!), they are spared the loss of their souls in Hell and the Lake of Fire (places they will avoid entirely). If we want to see the opposite attitude, the materialistic or worldly outlook, we can study Matthew 6:19-24, Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, Luke 9:23-25, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 19:18-23, and Luke 21:34-36. All these verses furnish Jesus’ audience in Israel with information they need to survive Daniel’s 70th Week in faith. Any unbelievers in Israel are thereby warned about their eternal outcome, losing their souls in Hell and the Lake of Fire, if they fail to believe God’s Word to them (particularly Matthew through John, and Hebrews through Revelation).
» What does “pernicious” mean?
» What is the “mark of the Beast?”
» Why is “666” the number of the Beast?
» “My kingdom is not of this world?”
» Is the Antichrist alive right now?
» “We are in the world, but not of the world?”