Hi everyone, it’s good to be blogging again. Today is a tough subject, but I hope to dispel any fear you might have concerning this topic. If you have Christian friends or family members that are afraid, please share this blog with them. Especially the Bible texts. I once read “all press (media) whether good or bad, furthers the cause of God.” (Early Writing, EG White) Persecution is a very good example of what EG White was talking about.
Let’s bow our heads in prayer. Father God, what a privilege it is to come before Your throne to give You glory and honor. Be with each of us as we look at the topic of Christian persecution. It can be a very fearful prospect, but You have shown us, down through the ages, that we need not fear. Make that clear to us through the power of Your Holy Spirit and Your Scriptures. Help us understand the purpose of persecution and how You use it toward the saving of souls. Thank You, Father! As You have led us in the past You will continue to lead us in the future, come what may. In Jesus saving name, Amen!
Many Christians follow history back to the 1st century AD when talking about the persecution of Christians. This is understandable because we were not called Christians prior to the ascension of Jesus. But, I would like to go back to the beginning of time…all the way back to the great deceiver because God’s children were persecuted. Eve was successfully tempted to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Satan persecuted Eve in the sense that he took her freedom and eternal life from her. He know he was telling her a lie – that she would be like a god. (Genesis 3:1-13)
The next persecution talked about in Bible is when Cain was jealous because God favored Adams sacrifice above Cain’s. Adam sacrificed according to God’s directions but Cain did not. His jealousy led to him murdering Adam. (Genesis 4:8)
Next, I will list other examples of God’s children being persecuted, leading up to Jesus’ 1st coming. (https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/p/persecution-in-the-bible.html)
- Old Testament Israel was the agent of persecution of nations (Judges 2:11-23 ; Leviticus 26:7-8 ).
- Israel’s fate in Egypt (Exodus 1-3 ) and in the Exile (Psalm 137:1 ).
- Saul persecuted David (1 Samuel 19:9-12 )
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were persecuted because they refused to worship the image of the king (Daniel 3:1 ).
- Daniel in the lions den. (Daniel 6:1-28)
- Jezebel persecuted the prophets of the Lord, and the prophet Elijah persecuted and killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:1 ).
- The prophets—Amos (1 Kings 7:10-12 ), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:19 ; Jeremiah 15:15), and Urijah (Jeremiah 26:20-23 )—suffered persecution preaching the will of God in adverse circumstances.
This list just names a few examples of persecution recorded in the Old Testament. I didn’t go into much detail, but I wanted to point out that persecution has been around throughout earth’s history. I do want to give more detail concerning the martyrdom of persecuted Christians. The most important Martyr is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let’s take a closer look at how He acted during the atrocities delivered to Him. I am going to list the events of Jesus’ trial and death because I feel He set the pattern for future persecutions and martyrs (Matthew 27: 15-54)
- During His time before the Jewish leaders, Jesus remained calm and quite. 27:13,14
- The priest’s stirred the crowd to cry out “crucify Him,”Jesus remained silent 27:22-25
- Pilate had Jesus flogged, no response from Jesus 27:26
- Pilate’s guards stripped Jesus, put a scarlet robe on Him, spit on Him, mocked Him. and hit Jesus in the head several times. Jesus remained quiet. 27:28:30
- They hung Jesus on a cross on the hill of Golgotha. 27:33
- Jesus asked God to forgive them for they didn’t know what they were doing. Luke 23:34
- The soldiers gambled over Jesus’ clothing and placed a placard over His head which read “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” Still Jesus is calm and silent. 27:35-37
- Mocked Jesus, saying save yourself. Jesus’ focus was on the thief next to Him and saving his soul, still ministering through all the pain. Luke 23:43
- Jesus cries out to God – not man. My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? 27:46
- Jesus cries out again with a loud voice and dies. 27:50
“He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as One from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10) Jesus set the example for how we can follow in His persecution footsteps. Persecution is not something that any of us ask for as we serve the Lord. Yet Jesus tells us we will share in His suffering. You, like myself, might be thinking, there is no way I can go through anything like that. However, I do know that God will be with us each step of the way if He allows persecution and martyrdom to come our way. Let me share, with you, the deaths of the 12 disciples. (from Christianity.com)
- Peter was in Rome about 66 AD when he was crucified. He requested to be hung upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus.
- Andrew went to what is now the Soviet Union. He started the Christian movement there and it is said he was crucified.
- Thomas preached in east for Syria and as far as India. It is said he died when pierced through with the spears of 4 soldiers.
- Matthew ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some say he was not martyred and others say he was stabbed to death.
- Bartholomew’s ministry took him several places – India, Armenia, Ethiopia, Arabia. He was martyred but the accounts do not tell the method.
- James son of Alpheus ministered in Syria. He was stoned and clubbed to death.
- Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia. He was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
- Matthais – chosen to replace Judas – ministered in Syria with Andrew. He was burned to death.
- John the beloved was the leader of the church in Ephesus. Later to was exiled to the island of Patmos where he received visions and wrote the book of Revelation. It is believed that he died of old age.
- Philip ministered in Carthage in North Africa and in Asia Minor. He converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. The proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.
- James the son of Zebedee was executed by Herod in 44 AD
- Thaddaeus, also known as Judas son of James, was killed by an ax and clubbing.
Paul was in Rome at the same time when Peter was martyred – Paul was beheaded in 66 AD. Stephen was stoned to death shortly after giving a history lesson on the 1st coming of Jesus and saying, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7) Other than the two statements I quoted, Stephen accepted his path and fell asleep in the Lord. He died still witnessing and forgiving – in the likeness of Jesus.
All of the disciples went to their deaths praising God and peacefully accepting their death as a tribute to Jesus’ sacrifice in their behalf. Just like Jesus and Stephen, they prayed for their executioners and the body of believers. I believe they were able to bravely face what lie ahead because of the indwelling Spirit of God and the covering blood of Jesus. Our heavenly Father is the only Being capable of such a miracle as to remove all fear and pain from them. Also, we must keep in mind that they all died the first death – the one Jesus referred to as sleep. (story of Lazarus, John 11:1-12:9) Whereas, Jesus died the 2nd death – the eternal death, because that is the death payment for the wages of sin. (Romans 6:23) Revelation tells us that the price was paid through the 2nd death. (Revelation 21:8) Jesus’ disciples are asleep in the grave waiting Jesus’ return.
Down through history we have accounts of Christian martyrs singing songs of praise, witnessing to the crowd, praising God, quoting Scripture. During the Dark ages, the Waldenses, also known as the Waldensians, were grievously persecuted by the state church of their time. “Known as ‘people of the Book,’ scripture is what embodied the faith of the Waldensians – they lived by it and died for it.” (waldensiantrailoffaith.org) They were described as a peaceful group that eagerly shared the Gospel message brought to them by the disciples of Jesus. (58-59 AD) In 1165, the Waldensians fled to the Alps and hid in a cave system for many years (some references saying as much as a thousand years, The Great Controversy, EG White, p 66) – in order to avoid persecution halting their missionary endeavors.
During the Dark Ages, Bible were outlawed and burned. The Waldensians would hide pages of Scripture by sewing them into the lining of their coats. Young adults would be sent out into the world to be missionaries to the lost masses. They would share the pages as they were led by the Holy Spirit to share – often leaving the Scriptures in the paths of truth seekers. Many of them painstakingly copied the whole Bible or portions of it so as to preserve it. By their example of faith, they show that: “All fear of death was banished. They could now covet the prison and the fagot (bundles of wood used to burn them alive) if they might thereby honor the name of their Redeemer.” (The Great Controversy, EG White, p. 76) They were hunted down and slaughtered in the most vial of ways. Their blood watered the seeds they had planted for many generations. It is thought they planted the seeds for the Reformation. Even during the most horrendous times of persecution, they continued sending missionaries out into the world. The Waldensians started a movement that has carried forward into our time. For a people willing to suffer all things for “the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9)
“The martyrs are a heroic minority. They don’t represent a huge popular swelling. We don’t have tens of thousands of people being martyred. What we do have, is tens of thousands of people admiring the few who are martyred.” (The Martyrs, pbs.org) Where as martyrdom consists of a “heroic minority,” persecution has been a prevalent problem from the beginning of time. “In just the last year (2020) there have been:
- Over 260 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution.
- 2,983 Christians killed for their faith.
- 9,488 churches and other Christian building attacked.
- 3,711 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.” (opendoorsusa.org)
All this violence going on right now, yet James says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-4) This is the message many of us hear and witness when Christians talk about persecution because they follow Jesus. We must always remember that God promises a way to worship, to proclaim His soon return, to persevere through the ridicule and suffering because of our faith. The purpose of persecution is to tempt you to forsake Jesus. “But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Martyrdom is a tool of Satan’s, a result of Satan’s anger toward Jesus winning the war on Mt Calvary, it is a result of his leadership over evil. Yet, as I quoted earlier, ALL news – events, good and bad, promotes the cause of God. Many souls have been won to Jesus because of the heroic calmness and steadfastness of His persecuted and martyred followers. In the face of persecution, we do not forsake Jesus, in the face of ridicule we do not forsake our beliefs, in the face of martyrdom we praise God for the light our sacrifice show others.
Right now, in the USA, we are being persecuted for our belief in Jesus, our desire to worship with like believers, and to share the Gospel. Our constitutional right to freedom of religion is being threatened. I firmly believe, if any of us are called to be martyred, that Jesus will be right there with us, taking away our pain and speaking through us words of hope and promise, praising His Father on high. We are not alone, stand firm, stand confident in the redeeming grace of Jesus.
Here are a few scripture to read and pray over:
- “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12)
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10)
- “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10)
- The fifth seal, shown to John in vision, depicts the souls of those who had been martyred because of their witness for Christ. “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer” (Rev. 6:10-11)
- “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants…Hallelujah, the smoke from her goes up forever” (Rev. 19:1-3)
I pray I have shared information that will calm your heart and help you understand that persecution is inevitable but endurable because of the saving grace of Jesus. We will get through every test Jesus calls us to experience because of His power, not that of our own. Keep the Faith, in Jesus name, Amen!
Until next time, May God bestow upon you His power to overcome. Psalms 27:1 & Isaiah 41:13