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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Martyrdom of Saints

The martyrdom of saints is something we have recently seen nowadays. It has become more real for us as new technology has shown us in our times. Yet, the martyrdom of believers isn't something new at all. Fox's book of Martyrs documents the lives of believers who have been killed from their faith. The martyrdom of saints has been part as long as the people of God (people of faith in Yahweh) have been part of this world.

Hebrews 11 is the chapter dedicated to those with faith in God (and Christ) whose lives have been persecuted and eventually experienced martyrdom. The life of a witness (martyr) of Christ considers persecution and death as part of faith. The Apostle Paul expressed this in Philippians 1:21: "For it has been given to you on Christ's behalf not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for Him." (ESV) Paul's desire was to be like Christ, including his suffering and death (Philippians 3:10).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer who also died for his faith said:

"Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God. Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others he does not allow to be tempted above that they are able to bear. But it is the one and the same cross in every case."

"Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact it is a joy and a token of his grace." - The Cost of Discipleship

My son and I have been reading and discussing Pilgrim's Progress on a weekly basis. This week the chapters dealt with a man called Faithful. Faithful and Christian walked together for a while until they reach Vanity Fair. There they both experience persecution for their faith, are incarcerated and Faithful is unjustly put to death. Here is brief description of it:

"And so they did. Faithful was condemned to be returned to his prison cell and there to be put to death by the cruelest method they could think of. So they led him away, to do with him according to their law. First they scourged him, then they beat him, then they lanced his flesh with knives. After that, they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords, and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. And so Faithful came to his earthly end. Now I noticed a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for Faithful beyond the crowd. As soon as his adversaries executed him he was taken up into the chariot, and carried directly up through the clouds with the sound of a trumpet, taking the most direct route to the Celestial Gate. "

Christian's Response clearly tells us that the death of any believer is not the end. It is a sign of judgment of those who oppose the Gospel and a sign of salvation for believers.

"As he went he said, "Well, Faithful, you have faithfully professed unto your Lord, with whom you will be blessed. When faithless ones, with all their worthless delights are crying out under their hellish plights, sing, Faithful, sing, and let your name survive. For though they have killed you, yet you are alive." "

Our 21 young brothers who were just martyred in Lybia are not dead, they are alive more than ever. So are the many others before then (all of Apostles except one were martyrs as well). They are part of the chorus of believers who call upon God to avenge their blood. (Revelation 5:9-11) The time for it isn't until the number of saints is complete whose lives will also be killed by evil men.

Until then we join them in their prayer to the Lord to come quickly and execute his righteous judgment. At the same time, let us live with the sobering thought that are lives are not our own and could well experience persecution and death because of our faith. It isn't a shame. It is the greatest privilege.

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