A Coming Time of Martyrdom

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A Coming Time of Martyrdom

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During June arsonists desecrated two more synagogues in the north of London. It's rather hard to believe that more than 100 British synagogues have been attacked in the last four years. Yet this has happened in the green and pleasant land which, since the 17th century, has had a long history of basic tolerance toward the Jewish community.

As Jewish author Simon S. Montefiore observed in The New Statesman: "11 September and Iraq have sparked the return of a medieval anti-Semitism" (June 28, 2004). In many countries the Jews in general are now falsely seen as a unified and dangerous political cabal, hatching all manner of conspiracies against the Palestinians in particular and mankind in general. Some are ludicrous in the extreme, but still readily believed by all too many gullible people.

A long history of persecution

In the wake of a wave of anti-Semitic attacks involving looting and murder, Russian Jew Menachem Ussishkin lamented the long history of Jewish misfortunes before Allied statesmen at the Paris Peace Conference on Feb. 27, 1919, following World War I (1914-1918).

Speaking in Hebrew, he said: "Nowhere have we found rest for our weary spirit nor for our aching feet. Persecution, expulsion, cruel riots, unbroken distress—such have been our lot during all these generations in all of the countries of the world, and in these very days—when the wielders of the world's destiny have proclaimed the liberation of the nations, the equality of the nations and the self-determination of every separate nation—Russian Jewry, which I represent here, is undergoing fresh torrents of murder and rioting, the like of which were never known even in the Middle Ages" (quoted by historian Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History, 1999, p. 41).

The Bible records accounts of anti-Semitism. Remember the book of Esther? Haman plotted to kill all Jews, old and young, throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus (Esther 3:6-13). Haman even managed to obtain the king's signature on his decree of destruction, but God intervened and prevented it through the heroic efforts of Queen Esther and her guardian, Mordecai.

The Jewish connection with Christianity

Regrettably, mainstream Christians have all too often been guilty of anti-Semitism. Far too much of their fundamental theology has been based on rejecting key points of God's law revealed in the Old Testament—the sacred book whose preservation the Creator committed to the Jewish community (Romans 3:2; Matthew 23:2).

Although German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was deeply anti-Semitic, the main thrust of his writings were directed against Christianity. He wrote: "The Jews have made mankind so thoroughly false that even the Christian can feel anti-Jewish without realizing that he is himself the ultimate Jewish consequence" (quoted by Irish author Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Suspecting Glance, 1972, emphasis added throughout).

Along with the rest of mankind, the Jews have always had their problems. After first confronting the bad behavior of the gentile peoples in chapter 1 of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul followed by indicting the Jewish people for not living up to their sacred legacy in chapter 2. Yet he concluded by saying: "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2).

Later Paul devotes three whole chapters of Romans (9 through 11) to the eventual redemption of the Jews. "All Israel [including the tribe of Judah] will be saved" (Romans 11:26).

But this key biblical passage at the beginning of Romans 3 shows us the respect the Jewish people should be accorded for their highly significant role in history, and most especially by Christians. British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), perhaps the principal architect of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (a benchmark development in the eventual founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948), "was an intellectual with a strong sense of the Jewish contribution to religion and morals, philosophy and the arts."

Secretary Balfour said in a parliamentary speech in 1904: "The treatment of the [Jewish] race has been a disgrace to Christendom, a disgrace which tarnishes the...fame of Christianity even at this moment" (quoted by Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Siege, 1986, pp. 27-29).

Jesus Christ Himself plainly said to the Samaritan woman: "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Later the apostle Paul explained that "he is a Jew who is one inwardly" and not of the outward flesh (Romans 2:28-29; compare Jeremiah 4:4).

Clearly Christianity is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Old Testament, which Christ and His apostles frequently quoted, paraphrased and alluded to in the New Testament Scriptures. After all, the Church is the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). There is no way to justify "Christian" anti-Semitism.

A martyrdom of Christians

The book of Revelation—the final book of the Bible—is almost entirely about the future, about both good and bad events yet ahead of us. The bad comes first, followed by infinite and everlasting goodness in the Kingdom of God.

Like the Olivet prophecy recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, Revelation contains several frightening passages about the persecution of God's people. The first is historic and possibly prophetic as well.

This message came directly from Jesus Christ and was directed to the church of Smyrna. "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Please note that 10 days most probably means 10 years, since a day can mean a year in prophetic symbolism (Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34).

Human beings persecute others under the unseen but very real influence of Satan the devil and his demons. They neither know nor understand the evil power that is motivating them.

The apostle John also saw in vision a prophetic martyrdom for the end time. As the blood of Abel figuratively cried out to God after Cain murdered him (Genesis 4:10), others who have been martyred symbolically cry out to their Creator for judgment (Revelation 6:9-11). They are told, however, that "they should rest a little while longer [death is pictured as a sleep in the Bible], until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed" (verse 11).

And in the future, the prophetic Beast "opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue and nation" (Revelation 13:6-7). Please read that again—especially the part set off in italics!

A martyrdom of Christians is on the way and there will be no escaping by fleeing from one nation to another one as some of the fortunate Jews were able to do prior to World War II. Apparently all nations will be caught up in the grip of this Beast power. Only those whose names are written in what Scripture calls "the Book of Life of the Lamb [Christ]" will understand what is really happening (verses 8-9).

Remember Jesus said to His disciples that the time would come "that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). But those who are so deceived have no real spiritual knowledge of either the Father or the Son (verse 4). They are motivated by the unseen Satan.

A commandment-keeping people

Thankfully, however, there is more to the story. Revelation 12 speaks of a way of escape for the Church "into the wilderness." Figuratively, the Church is likened to a woman in the Bible. When some are taken to a place of safety, it says "the dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17). True Christians are going to become supremely unpopular in an increasingly disobedient world.

The true people of God, the commandment-keepers, do not practice or approve homosexuality, same-sex marriages, abortion and many other vile habits that some mainstream Christian churches are increasingly party to. Those who observe God's commandments will never tell you that the Creator's law is done away. "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

Talking about the eternal and everlasting city of God, the Bible says: "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Clearly commandment-keeping is an important theme running through the book of Revelation.

A new (so-called) translation of the Bible has recently been published that twists the Scriptures to encourage fornication and other biblically unlawful practices. News reports say that a few of this world's leading theologians are already encouraging people to read it. If you value your salvation and future life in the magnificent Kingdom of God, you will avoid following any such ungodly advice whose ultimate source is the unseen Satan, the archdeceiver of all nations (Revelation 12:9).

A dangerous time for God's people

Speaking of the end time, Jesus Christ said: "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). This is a blunt warning from our Savior. By definition true love includes observing God's commandments—the diametric opposite of lawlessness. "For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

Almost everywhere one hears a message about how it is sometimes OK, depending on the circumstances, to play fast and loose with the commandments of God—the Ten Commandments. You view it in the movies and on television, you hear it on the radio, you see it when you visit your news shop—it's everywhere. It's a message of situation ethics. And, in spite of all that you see in the Bible such as those verses quoted in this article, many churches preach messages that claim God's laws are no longer binding today.

A Christian lives in a world dangerous to his or her salvation. He or she has to actively avoid evil influences to survive spiritually. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," says the apostle Paul, adding that God will help you to do it (Philippians 2:12-13).

The last generation of Christians that successfully overcomes the world and triumphs over these evils with the help of God is sure to become very unpopular to the point of blatant, undisguised hatred.

Persecution in its extreme forms is sure to happen, just as it has to the Jewish people throughout much of their history, and particularly during the period of the Holocaust. Jesus said: "And the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:14).

Although true Christianity is never easy and we only enter the Kingdom of God after many trials and tribulations (Acts 14:22), the rewards in the family of God will far outweigh both our present and future difficulties. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).