“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10)
Our Lord spoke these sobering words to us in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24 . Something in us does not want to accept the idea that in the end times all nations will hate and persecute Christians.
This seems like a non-reality to us and something that could never happen because we live in such religiously tolerant countries such as Canada, United Kingdom and America. We would like to edit our Lord’s words and abbreviate them with a softer less harsh reality.
But this will not change the truth our Lord said would happen.
We live in cultures that shun away from pain of any kind, there are pills and remedies for even the slightest discomfort in our bodies. In such an environment persecution and suffering in our bodies for the faith of Jesus Christ seems even more absurd. There is not only a confusion over these things but there is a danger of complacency and comfort that will have us unprepared for the time that will come upon us.
I recently watched a short documentary on the sad events of the 2004 boxing day Tsunami that hit Indonesia that caused almost a quarter of a million deaths.
The video showed the Tsunami spreading to different regions and hitting the shores of heavily populated areas. What struck me with the complacency of the people in the different areas, even the amusement of it all. At one beach they see a white crescent on the distant horizon spreading across the entire large bay. People watch mesmerized as this white crescent comes nearer and nearer. When the save swallows up 2 ships in the bay some of the watchers realize the magnitude of the event that is about to strike but for most it is too late. In another shoreline people smile and laugh in amusement as the entire bay is emptied of water and ships are beached. It begins a spectacle that is full of fun and amusement as people take pictures and as the water comes back in their consider it something fun to watch. Yet when the wave came into that shoreline so many were caught unawares and their running was in vain, multitudes are screaming as they are swallowed in the waves and dragged back out to sea never to return.
I was watched the video a sobriety came over me not just over the deaths of so many people but of what is about to come upon the world of Christians and some of us not being aware of the times are living in.
Many of us do not believe this could be the end of times we are living in.
Just as the Tsunami came without warning and even came with a delusion or spectacle, so the coming of the end times persecution will come upon many Christians unawares. I am not arguing for any type of position of the rapture of the church if it either pre or post in this short article. Yet I believe firmly that we will all feel like we are in the great tribulation when this end time persecution wave hits the church. The birth pains will become worse and worse and many of those that have believed in a pre-tribulational rapture that would have them escape from all suffering will be 100% unprepared for what is going to come upon them.
Persecution of Christians has not diminished but world wide has been increasing yearly.
More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. Most of the apostles (Philip, Matthew, Mark, Peter, Paul …) were martyred. Many were martyred in the Middle Ages (Huss, Jerome, Joan of Arc …). Between 1540 and 1570 some one million Protestants were publicly put to death in various countries in Europe. Overall, some 50 million were martyred by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for ‘heresy’ between 606 AD and the middle of the 19th century. Protestant reformers (More, Tyndale, Latimer, Cranmer …) were martyred. Some 20 million were martyred during the 70 years of Russian atheism and communism. And some theologian just over 100 years ago in a land were persecution does not exist promoted a theology that the end times church will not suffer and be taken away before all these things happen.
This is not only a sad mistake in dispensational theology it is resulting in many Christians in our day to not be aware of the coming persecution.
The Apostle John said to the church in his day that they should not be surpassed if the world hated them (1 John 3:13). Our Lord Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke that all men will hate us not just nations (Luke 21:17). But also gives us the comfort in these words: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18). May we prepare in our minds to suffer for the Name of Christ in our bodies (1 Peter 4:1). May we be aware of the times and seasons that are coming upon us.
I offer a few practical suggestions:
One to start with is to read the lives of martyrs in the Christian faith from such as the great book “Foxes Book of Matyrs.” Develop a theology of suffering from the Scriptures and don’t allow small inconveniences and pains to disturb you. Study the Scriptures towards the theme of martyrdom especially in the book of revelation. May we also be bold to stand for the Name of Jesus Christ and therefore not be ashamed before Him before others (2 Timothy 3:12).