Prophecy - Signs
Monday, October 31, 2011
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); (Revelation 2:8-9)
The Church of Smyrna is alive and well in the world today. Oh, you won’t see their Sunday sermons on the church channels with a fancy jacketed, smooth talking televangelist promising spiritual gifts for financial donations. They don’t have rent-a-cops directing traffic in and out of their parking lots on Sunday mornings. They don’t have the full ensemble band with accompanying choirs that belt out the newest gospel hits on stage. No, you’ve probably never heard of the cities these churches are in, and you may have not even heard of the countries they’re in either. But everyday, men, women, and children are killed, tortured, and thrown into prison, for their faith in Jesus Christ.
There are different kinds of persecution ongoing in the world today. In the parts of the world where there is dictatorial rule or Islamic theocracies, a physical tyrannical persecution exists, that actively engages in barbarous acts against Christians. It is a tearing down or crushing of the saints. An attempt to stamp it out through force, and pain of death. Although Christ said that the gates of Hell would not prevail over the Church (Matt 16:18), He did promise that we would have tribulation in this life (Jn 16:33).
I like this definition of Smyrna that the MacArthur New Testament Commentary provides:
“The Greek word translated ‘Smyrna’ was used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew word for myrrh, a resinous substance used as a perfume for the living (Matthew 2:11) and the dead (John 19:39). Its association with death perfectly pictures the suffering church at Smyrna. Like myrrh, produced by crushing a fragrant plant, the church at Smyrna, crushed by persecution, gave off a fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God.”
Sticks and Stones
Here in the West, it is not so much a crushing of the saints, as it is a wearing down. Increasingly frivolous lawsuits and hostile legal, political and economic policies are intended at making Christianity as popular as the Bubonic Plague. Mainstream media and cultural arts belittle and make light of our salvation and our Savior by mean spirited sarcasm and blasphemy to the point that those under this intense kind of scrutiny may prefer death rather than the mental and emotional anguish that accompanies those it targets.
This type of persecution is purposeful, insidious, and is to be expected. Although it doesn’t cost believers in a life or death sense of the word, it overwhelms one with the feeling of compromising for the sake of getting along, which is really the goal. In this sense, power is attributed to a name or label that conjures up such vile repugnancy, that a person would do or say anything to avoid being labeled as such. Instead of standing up for your beliefs, you remain either silent or ambiguous, or retract your afore statements to appease those who are “offended”.
Stand your ground, and your name, reputation, and livelihood are likely to be ground into the mud. This is increasingly reaching it’s tentacles into the pulpits of America.
Remember the old saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’? Well, if your in Pakistan, and some Imam labels you as a blasphemer of the Koran, well, those words are enough to stir an angry mob your way that will probably do more than just break your bones.
It’s becoming that way here as well. If you dared to preach the Gospel in the midst of a group of young angry liberal folks these days, you’d most likely have to have the police intervene to save your skin. Same angry mob.
Since the 19th century, an intense battle has been waged for the hearts and minds of seminary students here in the US and in Europe. So much compromise has been introduced into the church, that whole generations of pastors have had a deadening effect on spiritual growth in the west.
Augmenting the liberalization of the church, was the 80 year marginalization process of the church and believers here in the US by way of education, television, movies, and popular music, Christianity (or at least Judeo-Christian ethics) is going the way of the DoDo.
Year after year, well meaning and good intentioned families, pastors, and parishioners stood by and did not stand up for the family, or for marriage, and both today are up for grabs as to what they mean. Christians stood back and let the courts allow abortion on demand to become the law of the land, and now, 50 million abortions later...we could easily stand in condemnation by the ancients Phoenicians who made their children pass through the fire as they worshipped Moloch. (Lev 18:21, Jer 32:35). It was only a matter of time before the tide turned against Christianity again. This time, it’s happening in the last bastion of free earth.
Reminds me of what Martin Niemöller once said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
Although not persecution in the classical sense of the word, false and heretical doctrines poison the churches wherever they are allowed in. There is an intense effort afoot to force the evangelical christians to recognize the Mormons and others that do not hold to orthodox Christian views as, Christian. This comes by having to join forces on social issues (California’s Proposition 8, DOMA, Pro-Life movements, Immigration) that cause the Church to set aside their orthodox differences and stand up against the rising tide of the secularist or national agendas.
Either way, Satan uses a double-edged sword on this. On the one hand, he stirs up the masses to cast off Christianity (salvation/ethics/morals) and on the other, he forces Christians to compromise on the Gospel message to combat rising secularism thereby weakening the message by watering it down.
"and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."
What do you gain if you join forces against rising secularism with morally righteous, but equally as evil, cult and heretical movements? What business does light have with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14) At least with paganism, or secularism, you know where they stand on issues. The pseudo-”christian” religions are much more deceptive and therefore more dangerous than those who wear their damnation proudly.
The Gospel isn’t about promoting conservatism, nor to win back the government for the Republicans, but is about saving the lost. When you compromise with the pseudo-christian cults, you lend credence to their legitimacy, thereby opening a foothold into what is true Christianity.
On the Way
I do not see widespread physical persecution here in the United States or Europe before the time of the Tribulation. But the ground work is most assuredly being laid. Once the Holy Spirit’s Restraining influence is removed, the gloves come off so to speak against those who are left here after the Rapture of the Church.
There is much debate about whether those Gentiles remaining can be saved after the Rapture of the Church, or if there still remains time. Needless to say, salvation should not be put off either way. Paul emphatically states that today is the day of Salvation (2 Cor 6:2)
Persecution is coming, more so than any other time period in the history of mankind. It will make the Holocaust seem minuscule in comparison. How do I know? Because Jesus said so, in fact, it will be so terrible, that if He didn’t cut it short, ‘no flesh would survive’. (Matt 24:22). Those Tribulation saints will be cut down in so much that Satan’s man, the Antichrist, will be allowed to overcome the saints. (Rev 13:7). During the Fifth Seal, we have the cry of the martyrs (Rev 6:9-11) as a testimony to the intense outpouring of Satan’s wrath on believers then.
The Holy Spirit is who draws men and women to Christ for Salvation. The Holy Spirit is omniscient, and is everywhere at once, but took on a singularly particular role in indwelling and sealing the saints of this age (Eph 1:11-14, 2 Cor 1:21-22).
My opinion is that we are unique in this sense, unlike those believers who lived prior to the age of the church. Similarly, those who come after will have to maintain their righteousness and will be judged by God on accepting the message of the Gospel, refusal of the Mark of the Beast, and their treatment of the Jews. It will be exceedingly tough indeed.
The persecution that we see today in places like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia is just a microcosm of what believers after the Rapture can expect. But take heart, because God is a God of not only perfect righteousness and justice, but of love. He doesn’t wish that any should perish, and if God never changes, then the Tribulation will be no exception. Those that will come, will. (Rev 8:1-5)
If you could know ahead of time, what your life would hold as far as persecution went, whether physical or societal (or both), would you have chosen your life? If you knew what lied ahead, beyond the realms of this life, (2 Cor 4:17) I don’t think you would.
And although it doesn’t seem fair, that others suffer more then we here in the west, or that we shouldn’t suffer as much as we do, God works ALL things out according to His will and His plan for our lives.
Continue to pray for those who are currently suffering for their faith around the world. Support those groups who keep their finger on the pulse of these issues, because the secular media has all but forgot (intentionally)...and be faithful until death, and He will give you the crown of life.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)
About Pete Garcia
Last week: The Eighth Day
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