Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.
Any Christian who seriously takes God’s command to be light and salt in this dark and decaying world needs to understand you may not always receive justice but you are guaranteed to receive persecution.
Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The writer of Hebrews notes that believers “were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (11:35-38).
When we read passages like that, we try to assure ourselves that we won’t have to go through that kind of suffering because we live in a different time in history. Yet more Christians around the world died as martyrs in the twentieth century than all the other centuries combined. The reason we in the West, and America specifically, feel immune from this kind of suffering is we live in a bubble. We’re not aware of what is happening to Christians around the world today. For example, Iraqi Christians have been frequent targets of Islamic extremists. Today more Christians are imprisoned in China than in any other country in the world. The only legal churches allowed by the Chinese government are those controlled by the government. Those who meet in house churches not sanctioned by the government risk torture, imprisonment, and death.
The Bible also predicts that in the years before Christ’s return, Christians will experience unprecedented hardship. The apostle John describes a large group of believers who will be slain during the Tribulation: “I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Revelation 6:9). Of course, the instigator of this persecution will be the Antichrist. In Revelation 13:7 John says, “It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” The special target of Antichrist’s persecution will be Christians. The Bible is clear that there is coming a time of great and intense persecution.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “When Persecution Comes” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.