Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prophecy, Persecution, and Perseverance

The Prophet Daniel was honored with a vision about the end:

  • "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
  • Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (27)
However, he was troubled by what would have to precede this everlasting kingdom:

  • As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. (21-22) … He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (25)
Daniel therefore concluded:

  • "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me… This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale… (15, 28) 
I too am troubled as I see the decimation of my brethren in Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and North Korea. I knew the prophecies but couldn’t imagine the extent of the horrors. Troubled? No! I am tormented, even enraged at the West for winking at these worst horrors imaginable.

What is there to say to our “civilized” world? There is nothing I can add to the horrid photos that have escaped the Islamic world to occasionally emerge in the Western media. No logic or reason that will shame the West into action. Even our churches have fallen to political correctness and pragmatic silence.

Why, oh Lord, have you allowed the oppressor to “oppress [Your] saints?” Why have you “handed over” your saints to carnage?

I don’t completely get it, but I am convinced that this is according to plan – a gracious plan. But how do I endure this? This is something I have contemplated for a while now, and here are some of my thoughts:

I need to know that persecution is according to God’s plan:

  • In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
  • "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also… All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. (John 15:18-20; 16:1-2)
Persecution is inevitable:

  • "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9) 
I need not avenge; God will:

  • Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) 
I also need to remember that our Lord is fully in control:

  • "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
There is also work for us to perform in the midst of this great persecution. We need a proactive, not a defensive, vision:

  • Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:27-29)
He will keep His people in the midst of the greatest persecutions:

  • For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24)
  • My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
He will also provide for us in the midst of it:

  • But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)
           He can also grant us courage, as many testimonies have demonstrated.

We will endure by looking at the example set for us by Jesus:

  • Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
I will go to be with the Lord:

  • Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
I need to submit these verses to memory. Only then can I stand and preach the Gospel unafraid to them who would behead me.

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