In a world where statistics surface on an hourly basis, it is easy to become insensitive to the deluge of numbers, which are to inform us of important trends. In spite of the deluge of numbers, I would like to wet your intellect with a few more.
- 8000 is the number of Nigerian Christians murdered for their faith over the last few years, by Boko Haram, and Islamic terrorist group.
- Tens of Thousands, is the
- Tens of Thousands, is the number of Iraqi Christians martyred or displaced by the brutality of Isis terrorists.
- 22 is the number of Egyptian brothers in Christ who were violently beheaded by Isis in a February 22 2015 video. Zero is the number that denied their Savior.
- 1 stands for Saeed Abedini, and Iranian born American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran for 8 years for his faith in Jesus Christ. Zero is the number of things the U.S government has done to free him.
- Thousands is the number of Iranian Christians imprisoned for our killed for the sake of Jesus.
- Too many to count is the number of North Korean Brethren who have been killed, tortured, starved to death, or experimented on by their deranged and demonic national government.
This is only a small sample size of what is happening around the world against the Church of Jesus Christ. Up until recently American Christians did not hear much about these numbers. It was only recently Christians in the U.S. have awakened to the possibility of being in the tall of martyrdom. This past year we have seen 9 saints gunned down at a church bible study. We have witness a wicked and blasphemous turn against God with the legalization of homosexual marriage. We have witnessed believers being put out of business for refusing service (which is their right as private business owners) to homosexuals. Not only have they been fined, but also threatened with jail time, if they don’t comply. For any follower of Jesus with a shred of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, it is as if the whole of our world is on fire against us. For us who live in America the numbers and knowledge of them has shaken us terribly.
In this shaking we have talked about God judging the nation in which we live, while still hoping for a turnaround of some kind, in order to preserve our way of life. Seeing this hope is only a mirage, many have begun to have more than just discussions about rising up and defending ourselves. This is such a troubling and un-Christ like thought. We ought to learn from our brethren the world over, who fight this battle not with might of arm or human weaponry, but as Jesus did, who loved His persecutors till the end. The New Testament was written to people who were being persecuted, beginning to feel persecution or would soon begin to feel persecution. In all those Holy Spirit inspired scriptures one thing can be seen as our response “they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved their lives not even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). In II Timothy 3:12 Paul, with prophetic unction declares, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” and this lines up perfectly with Jesus own words in
John 15:20-21(NKJV) Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
The question is how great and encompassing is the persecution, and do we have any hope of avoiding it? Maybe for a time, but it seems to me that “all who live godly” means “all who live godly”, so unless you want to pretend to not be a believer, or live below God’s calling, it is only a matter of time. In Romans 8:36 the apostle Paul, quoting from the Old Testament and trying to reconcile a church of Messianic believers and Gentile believers writes, “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”. Let me step out on a limb here and declare as we move closer to the return of Jesus this scripture applies to us all. This should not be a surprise for any of us, as Jesus declared we would be hated by all nations. It is alarming how fast the encroaching darkness is covering the face of the earth not only with the brutality of persecution but also base immorality. Our days resemble those of Noah’s time, where every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually evil. Jesus declared in Matthew 24 this condition would be present before His return and Revelation 12 declares it would be known by a new holocaust.
THE DEVIL IS FILLED WITH WRATH AND IT WILL BE EXPRESSED
Revelation 12 happens to be an interlude or in theological terms a parenthetical. This simply means the whole chapter does not follow the basic timeline of the book. Chapter 12 happens to be an overview of the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ (the Child) through the nation of Israel (the woman clothed with the sun) and the Devil’s (the fiery red dragon) efforts to thwart the plan through persecution. As we read further there is a point where Satan is expelled from heaven, during a war with God’s holy angels. Some conjecture this preceded creation. My contention is that this takes place sometime after creation, and after Jesus had been incarnate and completed His mission of redemption. The enemy is referred to as “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and in Revelation12:9 he is cast out to the earth with his angels. At this point we hear a severe warning in verse 12 where it declares “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows his time is short”.
After the results of this war in heaven we read of the Devil, now cast down to earth, going on a rampage to destroy Israel (the woman) who gave birth to the Child. We see how Israel is kept over the ages, and how Satan with a flood spewing out his mouth tries to bring final destruction to the Jewish people, only to have his plan thwarted by the rest of the earth (probably referring to the nations). At that point we read a chilling sing of the last days…
Revelation 12:17 (NKJV) And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
In 1948 Israel became a sovereign nation again. The world declared it would never allow the satanic hatred of Hitler to wreak havoc on a people as it had. Now it is true that anti-Semitism still exists, as racism will until Jesus return, but since that time the world would not tolerate another plan to eradicate the Jewish people, although they will join in the one to eradicate another as we see from Revelation 12:17. If we were to do the math, we would find that the rate of Christian persecution has increased exponentially since 1948, and now in the world there is almost no place on earth where the lives of those “who keep the commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ”, are not at risk. In America we are only seeing the beginning stages of this war against us from Satan, but now we can understand the weight of Romans 8:36 “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”.
WE MUST NOT BE DISMISSIVE OR GIVE INTO FEAR
Interestingly the above verse comes from one of the most argued over chapters in the whole of the New Testament. Romans Chapter 8 has been used in error to argue different things such as the sovereignty of God, the fore-knowledge of God, who are the elect and differing opinions on whether a believer can ever lose their salvation. I have said in error because chapter 8 was not written to win any of the above arguments. Chapter 8 was written in the broader context of Paul delivering a message to reconcile two warring factions in the Roman Church: the Messianic followers of Jesus and the Gentile followers of Jesus. Throughout the Lord is relaying to them both that they are equal in the sight of the Lord, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, no male or female, no free or slave in the kingdom of God. This is undertaken by showing both factions they are equal at the cross of Christ for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:23)—This is undertaken by showing both parties that Jesus death and resurrection empower His call to yield unto righteousness and not unrighteousness (Romans 8:11)—This undertaken by showing them their relationship to God begins and is maintained by faith (Romans 11:16-24).
There is one more vital piece that Paul presents that displays the equality of both Jewish and Gentile believer in Christ. Perhaps the greatest condition that was to show these warring factions they were actually one in the same, was the terrible nature of persecution. In verse 18-25 the apostle relays that although persecution is painful, the suffering can’t be compared to the bliss of our eternal reward in Christ. In verses 26-27 we are instructed that when trouble arises, because of our faith and we would come to an end of human strength, the Holy Spirit will empower us to pray and continue to live for Christ. In verses 28-30 we are told that God will use all things for our good, whether trial or triumph, whether directly ordered by God Himself or the evil machinations of some devil or devil inspired human. In verses 31-39 we are given a list of many very painful conditions, personages and plans arising from persecution, in order to encourage us that so long as we hold to Him nothing can come between Jesus and His own. When the rubber meets the road, persecutors care not one bit if you are a Messianic Jew or a Gentile Christian, they hate with the heart of the same Devil. And we love and are held together by the same Spirit.
Over the centuries our desire to prove who is right about assurance has clouded this truth, and led to factitious western Christianity. We are often blinded to the true source of our greatest joy, which is His love and power by His presence, in the midst of our suffering on Christ’s behalf. Romans 8:13-16 declares how both factions in the Roman Church were to overcome persecution by His Spirit.
Romans 8:13-17 (NKJV) For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
In the above verse the Lord is laying the ground work for how we are to overcome in spite of and in the midst of persecution.
We are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We really need a refresher course in this one. This does not mean being led by reading the Bible. As long as we have access to the written word of God we should cherish it and ingest it into our soul, but in times of persecution the written word becomes scarce, in fact in the early church they did not have bound copies of the scriptures. The leading of the Holy Spirit will never be contrary to what is written, but it is more than reading the Bible.
The leading of the Holy Spirit is not the amplification of our intellect either. The leading of the Holy Spirit is the voice of God leading us in where we go, what we do and what we say. It is incumbent if we are to have this encouragement we must begin to practice Proverbs 3:5-6… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your “. This begins as we undertake the call of verse thirteen to put to death the deeds of the body.
We are not to give into fear
We are not to give into the slavery of the fear of what will become of us, or those we love in this life. We are not to give into the fear of threats from those who hate our Savior and us by proxy. It is the pain and possibility of that pain that drives us to our Father. We do not give into fear, but cry out to Abba. He will give us the provision we need and the grace necessary to live and die on behalf of the One whose love is stronger than death.
We are to rejoice in His assurance to us
Here is the whole point of this writing. We live in a world that is against us, there can be no denying that. The prospect of our suffering for Jesus in the near future has never been more apparent or possible than right now. How are we to cope? How are we to survive? How are we to overcome and not collapse and give in to our fleshly desire to avoid trouble and pain? The answer is simple… We listen for His voice calling us. His voice says “You are My child, My heir through Jesus Christ, you are suffering with Me, You will be with Me in glory”.
Many a soul has brashly pronounced, “I will not deny You” just as Peter did. These folks have myriads of reasoning’s. “The Bible says I am more than a conqueror”, “No one will take my reward”, “I have power over the devil”, “I am tough, I can take it for Jesus”. There are probably more than that, but here is the point, there is only one statement that matters, and it is God’s profession of “You are My Child, if You suffer with Me, you will be with Me in glory”. Life has taught me some valuable lessons about the faith I have in Jesus, none more profound than this: What I declare, vow or profess means very little, but what Jesus has to say about me is all that matters. Regard Matthew 7:21-23, where some folks were professing all their faithfulness to “Lord” Jesus. All their positive professing did not matter, but what He said did “Depart from me you that work iniquity. I never knew you”.
When the chips are down, there is only one voice that really matters. Consider the testimony of Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of the Voice of the Martyrs. This brother spent 14 years in a communist prison in Romania for His faith. The suffering and degradation he and many others suffered is almost unspeakable in its perversity and lust for violence. This very capable preacher, writer and leader endowed with wonderful intellect, forgot how to write, read, and recognize colors. A man who had hid the word in His heart, had forgotten most of the memorized verses he knew. What he did not forget was that Jesus Christ was God, who came in human flesh and died for His sins and rose from the dead. He also hear the voice of “Abba” saying you are Mine, I am with you. He herd this voice above the blasphemous insults of his torturers, the screams of those who were tortured with him, even his own fleshly doubts, fears and unbelief. He cried “Abba” and he heard “Abba” say your My Child.
There is no way around it my beloved brothers and sisters, we are now entering the fiery trial which is to try us. Yes we will feel as though all day long we are led as sheep to the slaughter, but remember, the Lamb of God is more than sufficient to meet our needs, comfort us in affliction and keep us in any difficulty, for He is with us and He is speaking who we are… Children of the highest God.