Saturday, November 2, 2013

Faithful Until Death: The Glory of Martyrdom for Christ

It's one thing to give your life to Jesus, but how much greater it is to give your life for Jesus. Many have given their lives for the gospel down through the ages.  This is the highest act of love for God.  These people did not love their own lives even to the point of death.

And we're in those last days when more believers than ever are doing so.  More Christians were persecuted in the twentieth century than in the entire previous 1,900 years of history combined.  And this trend will only continue accelerating as we approach the soon return of Christ.  In fact I have published an article about one such recent case of persecution with a miraculous ending. There's an army of martyrs arising! 

The Blood of the Martyrs is Seed
Tertullian, the founder of western theology, wrote: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”   He was arguing that when saints are killed for the glory of Christ, it only results in many others turning to Christ.  When people witness the love and devotion that believers have for the Lord Jesus, they are touched to the depth of their souls. They realize that if Jesus was worth dying for to those saints, and they laid down their lives willingly for Him, then He is real and they want to serve Him, too.

In Foxes Book of Martyrs, it is recorded that during the reign of Serverus, “Rhais had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was Marcella her mother....Potainiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.”

Whenever there has been great persecution, it has also brought great revival and many people into the kingdom of God.  This has been true since the first church, as recorded in the book of Acts.  When Stephen was stoned to death, Saul of Tarsus gave approval to it.  Then he went about ravaging the Church, and many Christians were scattered.  But they went about preaching the Word (see Ac 8:3-4).  And Saul later came to know Christ himself, taking the name of Paul.  He realized when he met Jesus in person that when he persecuted Stephen and other disciples, he was persecuting the Lord Himself.  That really got him, and he was never the same after that.  He became a fiery preacher that made disciples all over the known world, and wrote half the books of the New Testament. Tertullian was right! The blood of the martyrs is truly the seed of the Church.

Those Who Would Not Accept Their Release
For Christ, some believers must experience the life of refugees, mockings, scourgings, chains, prison, torture, dismemberment, lack of decent clothing, financial destitution, affliction, being treated badly, homelessness, and constant fleeing from danger. The apostle wrote about it, describing what they suffered, and said some would not accept their release from torture, since they preferred a better resurrection:

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (Heb 11:32-40)

Those who are martyred will obtain an even better resurrection.  The wicked will be resurrected to eternal damnation, but the righteous to eternal life.  And those who die for Christ will receive the greatest glory in the resurrection among the saints in heaven.   The greatest reward awaits those who will lay down their lives for the Savior.

Resist to the very end like the three Hebrews
When the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar forced his subjects to bow to an idol in honor of him under the threat of being thrown into a blazing furnace, the three Hebrew young men refused to bow.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Dan 3:16-18)

Let’s trust the Lord to deliver us, but let us also have the same attitude as these courageous teens, who said, “Even if our God does not deliver us from the blazing fire, we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image.”

A Certain Number of Believers Must be Killed
Did you know the Scripture teaches that there is a certain number of saints who must be killed? 

The apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation about the souls of the martyrs in heaven: “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” (Rev 6:9-11)

Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote to the Colossians about his sufferings filling up a cup of affliction, so to speak.  "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Col 1:24)

He taught that we as the Body of Christ are called not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for Him.  The afflictions of Christ on Calvary were all that was needed to pay for our eternal salvation.  But if we refuse to suffer for Him, then we do not have true saving faith to begin with.  And if we could use the analogy of a cup of affliction, then we could say Christ's afflictions went into a cup, which His Body on earth continues to fill up.  Whenever someone persecutes the saints, they persecute Jesus (Ac 9:4; Mt 25:40,45).  Until He returns, that cup is still not full yet.  So any afflictions we endure for Him are added to the cup and help to fill it up until it reaches the full measure that God has appointed.

Some Believers are Destined for Captivity, Some to be Killed by the Sword
Scripture makes it clear that it is the destiny of some believers to go into captivity for the Lord and for others to be killed by the sword.  "If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints." (Rev 13:10)

Faithful Even to the Point of Death
We are called to be faithful, even to the point of death.  Jesus said to the church in Ephesus: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev 2:10)

Betrayed to Death by Family Members
In some cases, people are betrayed to death by members of their own family.  "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. (Mat 10:21)

War Against the Saints
The beast will make war with the saints and overcome them: "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him." (Rev 13:7)

Those who do not worship the beast will be killed
"And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed." (Rev 13:15; cf., 14:11)

Beheading the Saints
One form of execution for those who refuse the mark of the beast is beheading . "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."  (Rev 20:4)

Witnesses Overcome and Killed
The beast will even overcome the two witnesses and kill them: "When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them." (Rev 11:7)

Whoever Loses His Life for Jesus’ Sake Will Find It
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Mat 16:25).  Are you willing to lose your life for the sake of Jesus?  Start doing so now on a daily basis, and then you'll be ready to lose your physical life.

Fear the Lord, not those who kill the body
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  (Mat 10:28)

Present your body as a sacrifice to God
Paul told the believers in Rome to offer their bodies as a sacrifice to God.  “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Rom 12:1). 

In fact, many Roman Christians literally did this, offering their bodies during the days of persecution.  Many were tied or nailed to stakes and then the Romans poured boiling substances over their heads. There were also twilight executions where Christians were nailed to a cross and burned alive as torches to light the arena of the Colosseum. Still others were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.  They preferred to die rather than deny the Lord to save their lives.

Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”  (Mat 10:32-33)  There is great glory awaiting those who are martyred.  But everlasting shame and disgrace for those who deny Him.

Flee from Persecution
Nevertheless, when faced with persecution, our Lord taught us to flee, just as He always avoided those who were plotting to destroy Him (Mt 10:23; Joh 7:1).  We should beware of human pride, and not actively seek a martyr's death, by making self-confident statements or purposely trying to be arrested.  Among those who have done this in history, some have denied Christ, including the apostle Peter (Mt 26:33-24). We don't seek death.  We are already crucified with Christ, and we seek to be made like Him in His death (Phil 3:10).  We seek to do the will of God (Mt 7:21), and then accept whatever the consequences may be for doing so.  We do not shrink back to destruction, but live by faith (Heb 10:38-39).

Putting it All Together
At this moment, around the world, many believers are being persecuted for Christ, and some even unto death.  The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the church. For Christ, some believers must experience the life of refugees, mockings, scourgings, chains, prison, torture, dismemberment, lack of decent clothing, financial destitution, affliction, being treated badly, homelessness, and constant fleeing from danger. Some believers are destined for captivity.  Many end up in concentration camps or in prison for their faith. Some are destined to be killed by the sword.  There is a certain number of believers who must be killed.

We are called to be faithful even to the point of death. In some cases, people are betrayed to death by members of their own family. Don't let that catch you by surprise, because the Lord told us in advance that it would happen.  Some people will do anything to save their skin.

The Word explicitly says the beast will make war with the saints and overcome them. Those who do not worship the beast will be killed.  One preferred method of execution will be beheading. 

Persecution is almost upon America.  The Lord said to sister Deborah Rennier on September 9, 2009, “'Remember MY saint Corrie ten Boom and what she endured? This is almost upon you. Whoever denies ME before men, I will deny before MY Father.'” For more on sister Deborah's encounter, see America’s Destruction is at Hand.

We must not deny the Lord, but confess Him freely and offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.  Whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.  This is not a message to put the fear of death in you, but the fear of the Lord.  These days, there is very little talk about fearing the Lord. Yet Jesus said, we must fear the Lord, not those who kill the body.  

We live in perilous times, dear saints.  This is the most serious period in the entire history of the earth.  It's time now to get your heart right with God, and daily fortify your spirit.  Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation when the devil comes to tempt you.  Teach your children to become martyrs. Be prepared to take a stand for Christ, even unto death.  This will require perseverance and faith on the part of the saints.

There's a better resurrection for those who do so. The glory of the martyrs is a greater glory than other saints receive. A crown of life awaits the martyr.  Let's encourage one another while it is still called Today.

We cannot do this in our own power, and the Lord doesn't expect us to.  He will give you the grace to do whatever he asks you to do.  Trust Him to do that.  Grace and peace to you!

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note I invite you to also read these related articles of mine: Mark of the Beast (666), America’s Destruction is at Hand, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Angelic Escape from Terrorist Assassins, Hiding Place, Holy Fire Baptism, Pope Frances Supports Homosexuality, Covenant Prayer, and Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice. My daughter has written a poem related to this same topic called Die or Deny. You may also visit our Signs of the Times Directory, and access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master. For a look at actual stories of martyrs, I suggest reading Foxes Book of Martyrs.  For current events related to persecution of the saints, visit Voice of the Martyrs. The "Crown of Life" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

3 comments:

  1. Just last week a man who attends a study at our church asked me if I thought he might have to die for his faith in Jesus. He specifically asked about taking the mark and if he refused, wanted to know what would happen to him. I told him he would be killed and most likely beheaded. However, I told him there would be great joy in that moment because the blade will come down in seconds and he would be transported to the Throne Room with God just as quickly. So just as quickly as he felt the pain, would be the measure of time he would be with God.

    Through much of my life there has been suffering, even medical procedures and surgeries without pain medication and I had to endure. I believe God prepared me for future events, knowing that this suffering for Christ will not last forever and to learn to endure now so that we can do so later when it counts more than I can say. Blessings, KB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We will see Gods face due to us enduring difficulties. I am getting ready for that experience though weakness comes my way to oppose my walk with God.

      Delete
    2. You are right and have a great attitude about it. God bless you. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

      Delete