This phrase has multiple origins, who knows which is real. But the message behind the phrase is pretty consistent. The “hill” represents some idea or argument and the part “to die on” is suggesting that the “hill” is so valuable you would fight to the death to defend it. So in full descriptive English, you might say the above graphic this way. “The right truth is something worth spending all your resources to defend until your last breath.”
We Christians can often get caught up in arguments that simply are just not the right hill to die on. One pastor often referred to these as “open hand” beliefs. These are beliefs that can hold significant meaning to you personally, but do not impact your personal salvation or the salvation of others… Therefore, the “hill” may be important or even valuable, but not worth fighting to the death.
One such “hill” many Christians seem eager to die on (and shouldn’t) is the concept of ‘pre’, ‘mid’, or ‘post’… tribulation. In other words, when will those who already believe be brought up to Heaven. Will it be before the tribulation begins? Will it be somewhere in the middle, before it gets really bad? Or will we be left to endure the entire thing? People in all three camps point to scripture that seems to ‘back up’ their argument. But the truth is, this is simply not something that impacts salvation. So why die on that hill?
Jesus in fact has statements in a single sermon that seem to support all three. In Matthew 24, Jesus preaches on the Mount of Olives about the end times. He first warns people that as the beginning signs appear, this is not actually the tribulation but “are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matt 24:8) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (v14)
Yet immediately following this, He says, “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (v22). Most scholars look at this as saying the tribulation time would be shorter for the elect. We will still be in part of the tribulation but not all of it.
Then He ends with this. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (v29-31)
Now I realize this is in no way a complete exhaustive study on the topic. After all, there is so much more about this throughout the New Testament. But it’s worth nothing that in one message, there are comments from Jesus Himself that could be taken to support all three “hills”. Why is this? I think He answers that in the same sermon.
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (v36) Even while giving this sermon, this knowledge is limited only to the Father. So if the Son of God, our Messiah Himself, did not know the answer… and was fine with not knowing. Shouldn’t we be?
So what’s the response? Be prepared as if it’s any moment. Share the Gospel message like it could be any day in the future. And work to build a lifelong ministry as if it is a lifetime away and your ministry must withstand generations.
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