Persecution is horrible. Nobody should have to live under persecution, but it’s been around a long, long time. The Jewish people have always been persecuted, but so have Christians. Jesus said it would happen.
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
Persecution plagued Jesus all of His life. Jesus had begun His life among mankind humbly in a manger. Not exactly where one would expect to find the King of kings, but when the shepherds looked for Him, they knew exactly where to find Him. They had been given the good news by angels who told them where to find their Messiah. Later, Joseph moved the family to a house where the magi from the East paid a visit. They presented the Child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and those expensive gifts would support the family as they fled to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Christian persecution began early.
When Jesus began His ministry, He had a small band of Jewish followers. Those men saw many miracles and heard the Gospel from God’s own lips. Those first followers of Christ faced persecution. Life in the Jewish community revolved around the Temple, and the Pharisees had decreed that anyone who followed Jesus would be banned from the Temple. That meant business connections were severed, as well as friendships, family ties, and other necessities of their daily life. One Sabbath, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. Rather than rejoicing over the healing, the Pharisees condemned the healing on the Sabbath and wouldn’t even believe the man was born blind. They called in his parents, who confirmed he had been born without sight.
“But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9: 21-22). Persecution was growing.
Things continued to get worse after the Resurrection. Those who followed Christ and were absolutely sure that He was the Messiah wouldn’t deny Him. The persecution these people faced caused them to pull together. Since they were no longer welcome among their Jewish family, they drew close together and took care of each other.
“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).
These first believers cared about each other during this time when persecution was taking away jobs and fellow Christians needed food. Their agape love was evident as they supported their fellow Christians. The persecution that was meant to break Christianity only strengthened the bond.
Then persecution became deadly. It began when Stephen was arrested on a false charge of blasphemy. Stephen was a man who had strong faith and didn’t hide it.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8).
Wouldn’t it be marvelous if every Christian could be described in such a manner? That’s exactly what got him in trouble with the Jewish authorities. Stephen defended himself by giving a history lesson which showed how the Jewish people had always missed God’s work the first time. Stephen was about to tell them they had missed their Messiah on His first coming when, in a frenzy, the Sanhedrin stoned him. It was an ugly scene, and a young man named Saul held their cloaks.
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
The persecution in Jerusalem was the catalyst which began to spread the Good News from Jerusalem into the world. The strong bonds of brotherhood that were formed in the first days of Christianity weren’t broken but were strengthened because of the persecution. When the Christians fled, they found themselves in faraway places such as Damascus where they began reaching out to others and witnessing for Christ. At first, they sought other Jewish groups. Instead of turning their backs on Christ, they witnessed to those Jewish men and women, and Christianity began to spread. It was the persecution that gave them the push, but the Holy Spirit led them.
Saul wasn’t satisfied with just stoning Stephen, and his desire to persecute any Jewish person who embraced Christ was strong. So, he went after those who had fled from Jerusalem.
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
Persecution was growing stronger against Christians, but God had other plans. On the way to Damascus, Saul was confronted by Jesus. There was a bright light that surrounded him and a voice was heard.
“And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” (Acts 9:4).
Jesus got to the heart of the matter. It wasn’t the people who were being persecuted, but it was Jesus. People like Saul saw the Christian faith as the problem instead of seeing Christ as the solution. Because of the mercy of God, Saul repented and his life was totally changed. Instead of persecuting Christians, Paul (Saul) became a powerful missionary who spread the Gospel far and wide.
Brothers and sisters, persecution is coming to America very soon. Remember, it’s not us they hate. They hate Jesus. Somehow, we need to show His love to the lost.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
Jesus says that we need to love those who persecute us. That settles it.
You might believe persecution couldn’t happen in America. After all, we have a Constitution which guarantees us the right to assemble peacefully and speak freely. It seems that those rights only protect the liberals of today who embrace Satan’s lies. It seems as if it’s perfectly within the constitutional rights to riot and destroy property but not to meet in church and sing. We can read and hear liberal news and posts on social media, but just try to promote conservative views and you’ll be banned from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Satan has successfully gagged preachers, stopping them from teaching God’s view of homosexuality and other government-sanctioned sins by giving tax exemptions to those who are willingly silenced.
Today there’s a virus that Satan is using to separate Christians and silence us. That evil creature is successfully closing our places of worship and stopping us from publicly praising our Lord. This virus blindsided Christians who willingly isolate, refuse to shake hands, and won’t greet each other with a warm embrace even though Scripture directs us to just that. Christians need to listen to the words of Peter, who was told not to preach in the name of Jesus, or face prison.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
True believers will honor God, even in the face of persecution. It’s becoming harder and harder to tell true believers from those who are just pew-warmers. Scripture tells us to greet each other with a holy kiss…or a handshake and a hug. Scripture says not to stop assembling together. Scripture tells us that when we are sick to call for the elders to lay hands on us and pray. Have you done any of those things lately, or are you cowering in fear?
God never changes. Jesus existed before the beginning of creation and He will be the same through eternity.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
People haven’t changed, what with our fallen nature, our selfish desires, and our pitiful way of twisting God’s truth to fit Satan’s lies. Many Christians mimic the fallen world and embrace sin, so only God knows if their faith is real.
“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
You might avoid persecution by espousing the ways of the world, but in doing so, you deny God. If you’re travelling the same direction as Satan, he won’t bother you; so if you don’t feel persecuted, then perhaps you need to pick up your Bible and start applying it to your life. Many Christians around the world face persecution and the very real threat against their lives because of their faith. If Christians in America don’t start standing on God’s truth and speaking up, we will become as persecuted as those in other nations. Peter and the other Apostles wouldn’t be silenced. They had no fear of what man would do but had faith in what God had done. In spite of persecution, they would not be silenced.
Brothers and sisters, if you study your Bible, you know that we are rapidly approaching the end of days. Daniel’s 70th week will hold many horrors that have never been seen before. What is restraining the evil from being unleashed? Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and His supernatural power within us restrains the supernatural evil of Satan. Christians quench the power of the Holy Spirit by ignoring Him and embracing the ways of the world. That might keep you from being persecuted, but it denies God. God has not weakened, but there are fewer people who are willing to face persecution rather than deny God.
One day very soon, all Christians will be Raptured. That’s when literally all hell will break loose. Satan will no longer be restrained, and his evil will permeate all of mankind.
“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
The Greek word “katecho” is translated “withholdeth” and “letteth” and means to “hold back, restrain… that which hinders the Antichrist from making his appearance.” When Christians are Raptured, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will be no more. The Holy Spirit will still work during those final seven years, and it will still be possible to accept Christ for salvation, but if you aren’t willing to face persecution for Him today, you certainly won’t be willing to be beheaded for your faith then. Don’t live in a “gray area.” Put full trust in Jesus today.
Persecution isn’t new, but it does separate true believers from those who just give lip-service to Christ. In times past it forged unbreakable bonds between Christians and served to spread the Gospel. What will it do today? That’s up to each Christian. Will you stand upon God’s word in spite of persecution, or will you hide your faith under a cloak of fear? Be sure your choice is the Biblical choice.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.