By Nathan Jones
What price did the Apostles pay to bring people to salvation in Jesus Christ?
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista, Evangelist Don McGee of Crown & Sickle Ministries, and I will look at the eighth end times sign of Christian persecution prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:12-19.
Martyrdom of the Apostles
Vic Batista: Again, we see so many of the signs of the end times just coming together. Nathan, we are also seeing so much of these signs happening right before our eyes, especially the persecution of Christians, right?
Nathan Jones: This century is unprecedented when it comes to the persecution of Christians. Some would think persecution was only back during the early days of Church History, but Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian persecution watch ministry, recently wrote an article where they claimed, "More Christians have died for their faith in the 20th Century than in the 19th Century leading up to it, but as bad as the 20th Century was, the 21st Century is starting to make that look like a Sunday picnic."
When you see the scope and the breadth of the persecution of Christians today and the amount of Christians who were slaughtered over the 20th Century, it's scary to think we're only 14 years into the 21st Century. This century is making the martyrdom of the 20th Century look pale by comparison. We are indeed living in a time of intense Christian persecution.
Vic Batista: Don, you know the situation with ISIS and Boko Haram murdering and maiming seemingly every Christian they encounter. Even in our time, we see so much suffering of Christians transpiring right before our eyes.
Don McGee: We do indeed. As Americans we are somewhat insulated from that kind of persecution, but even in our own country — a country that is founded upon a document called the United States Constitution which guarantees the practice of our religion — we are not really far from suffering. We have seen some degree of persecution as Christians. Just look at it in sports and politics, business on free enterprise, and academia. It doesn't matter; you choose the field and you can find Christians being persecuted for their faith.
I believe that any protection of Christians is going to change when the Church is taken out in the Rapture. Those who are left behind will have no constitutional guarantees. Those who want to study the Bible, even though many will become Christians during that time, they will undergo severe persecution, even to the point of even having to give their lives. That's even here in America!
Nathan Jones: When Jesus gave the answers to those three questions, He was covering three different time periods. The first was the fall of the Temple, which happened in 70 AD. The Apostles knew persecution. Only one of the Apostle didn't die from persecution, and that was John. The Romans tried to boil him alive, but he somehow survived.
Let's look at how the Apostles died for their faith:
- James the son of Zebedee was beheaded.
- Matthew was killed by a halberd.
- James was beaten to death by a club, then crucified, and then stoned.
- Matthias was stoned and beheaded.
- Andrew was crucified.
- Peter was crucified upside down.
- Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified.
- Thomas was killed by a spear out in India.
- Simon the Zealot was crucified.
- Paul as we know was beheaded in Rome.
The Apostles knew death. They were willing to die for their faith in Christ. And, throughout the centuries since, we have seen Christians die for their faith in Jesus Christ.
As Jesus answered the Apostles' three questions, we learn that as we get closer to the Rapture that the persecution of Christians will increase in frequency and intensity.
We are told that even greater numbers will give their lives for Jesus Christ during the Tribulation. They in particular will be persecuted beyond measure by the Antichrist. As a matter of fact, we can go to Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:9 concerning the Fifth Seal Judgment. It reads, "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long sovereign Lord, holy and true until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?'" And it goes on, "A great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." During the Tribulation, when someone gives their life to Jesus Christ, no matter where they are in any part of the world, they are going to be subject to persecution and likely martyrdom.
Vic Batista: Don, you did mention to us that persecutions are going to continue to get progressively worse. Of course, right now most people have no idea what the Tribulation is all about, especially when it comes to the of persecution Christians and Jews.
Don McGee: They do not. Even those of us who study prophecy regularly cannot imagine what it's going to be like. Jesus said that it is unprecedented. There's no event in the history of humanity that can even approach the bloodshed and the horrors that are going to be experienced during that period of time. Sure, we've gone through some bad situations. We've had the Inquisitions and then the Holocaust and what is happening even now to the people in the Middle East who are Christians. We have seen bad things. But, even that isn't a real marker for the depth of the degradation and persecution and hatred that will be poured out on the Christian people during the Tribulation time period.
Vic Batista: Absolutely! As you know, Don, that's why we also encourage everyone to come to the arms to Jesus Christ right now while there is still time. The Tribulation events are going to happen for real, sad to say. Sometimes people think Bible prophecy is a game or a joke, but we know that the window is going to close. The Rapture of the Church will take place we believe very soon, and then what's coming is going to be a really, really horrific situation.
Witness During Persecution
Vic Batista: Nathan, you're talking to us about the sign of persecution. We opened up in Luke 21. What are some of the other things that Jesus said would transpire during persecution?
Nathan Jones: One of the things about the persecution that we read about in Luke 21:12 is interestingly what Jesus says in verse 13:
"This will result in your being witnesses to them; but make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, they will put some of you to death, all men will hate you because of Me but not a hair of your head will perish by standing firm you will gain life."
It's interesting that even though persecution is as horrible as it is, that God turns what Satan plans for evil into good. People get saved. Just look at the Apostles and the way they died. Look how the people witnessed their deaths and must have said, "Hey, they are willing to die for their faith, so I should accept Jesus as Savior as well."
We are seeing the same in this day and age as the Christians in the Apostles' day. Christians in Nigeria are being slaughtered by Boko Haram. ISIS beheads all the people throughout Syria and into Iraq. There are all these other places in the Middle East where Christians are being persecuted. Reports are coming in that because of their Christian witness, Muslims are coming to know Jesus as their Savior. They see these Christian people willing to die for their faith, and God uses that faith to bring their persecutors to Him.
In the third segment of our discussion on the end times sign of Christian persecution, Vic, Don and I will discuss if Christians in the West should prepare for persecution.