By Nathan Jones
In the first part entitled "The Last Act" of this Shadows article series we looked at what the Bible has to say in Revelation chapters 7, 9 and 20 concerning the incredible amount of persecution believers will endure during the 7-year Tribulation. Those believers who will come to know the Lord as Savior after the Rapture will suffer terribly.
We looked at the reason why the Tribulation Saints will be hunted down and slaughtered by the millions — they're used as scapegoats for the wrath God will beset upon the planet, their refusal to take the Antichrist's loyalty mark, and primarily because Satan hates those who follow Jesus Christ.
We asked, "Was the cost worth it?" The scene of joy displayed by the worshipping martyrs in heaven and the love and protection God will provide them eternally leaves the reader to only conclude emphatically — "Yes!"
We continue to explore what the persecution of believers during the Tribulation will look like. We don't have to look too far past the daily headlines of today to see shadows of the Christian persecution to come.
A Shadow in Iraq
For our second look into the nightmare world of Christian martyrdom, let's focus on the country of Iraq. The country is a powder keg of Muslim violence as Sunnis and Shiites vie for power and Kurds look to form a country of their own, all under the veil of the newly established democracy. Under this new democracy, formed ironically by the historically Christian United States, there is no room for the Christian population. In Iraq, Christians make up 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, or about 800,000. Many Muslims in Iraq want Christians out.
Persecution.com reports on some chilling stories of Muslim persecution against Christians in the town of Mosul.
"On Oct. 4 an armed group of suspected Islamist extremists assassinated a man named Hazim Thomaso Youssif in front of his clothing shop, and Ivan Nuwya was shot to death in front of his home, located near a mosque in the Christian-majority neighborhood of Tahrir. Meanwhile on Oct. 6, a disabled 25-year-old shopkeeper was shot and killed in the neighborhood of Karama. Four other Christians, a pharmacy employee, a disabled man who owns a spare-parts store, and two day-laborers have also been killed.
Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped and killed by gunmen in March following Mass. His body was found dumped on the streets."
Persecution.com further reports that the reason behind the persecution of Christian leaders, churches and businesses in Iraq that have been targeted by Islamic extremists is "an effort to wipe out the Christian community's economic activity and drive out believers from the area." Mosul is just where the most recent activities have been committed, as the Christian population has been facing great persecution since the United States began the campaign to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein. That persecution's purpose appears to be working successfully towards its goal, as many Christians have fled Iraq, including half the Christian population of Mosul.
During the Tribulation, a key strategy to removing believers in Christ is economic warfare. Like those behind the Iraqi persecutions trying to cut off the Christians' ability to make a living, the Antichrist punishes Tribulation believers for not accepting his loyalty mark by cutting them off from commerce (Rev. 13:17). Believers during the Tribulation will need to find alternative means of economy like bartering with fellow believers.
The Tribulation persecutions will differ from today's Christian persecutions in that there will be nowhere for the Tribulation Saints to flee. The whole world will be against them (Rev. 7:9). This will result in many more being slaughtered as they find no refuge to escape the onslaught.
Jesus stated in Matthew 24:9 concerning the last days, "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." Christians have indeed been persecuted and have suffered terribly since Jesus' first advent. Today is no exception, as millions of believers in Christ have died over the last century due to the workings of satanic principalities and powers that are behind human activity.
But, persecution during the 7-year Tribulation will be the worst in human history. Jesus continued his description in verse 21, "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again." As bad as it is now, it will be the worse ever then.
Like the darkest darkness before the dawn, though, the Tribulation will be the darkness before the light of Jesus Christ's return. When Jesus returns, the nations aligned against Jesus will be obliterated. Satan, the ruler of the spiritual forces behind the evil in this world, will be banished and later sent to the Lake of Fire. Jesus will usher in an era of peace, righteousness and justice where all of mankind can know freedom and peace. Love will permeate the world.
Believers can rejoice with those who will be martyred awaiting justice at the throne of God, and put their hope in Jesus Christ's promise of his return.