For more than two millennia, the enemy has tried in vain to extinguish Christianity from the earth by slaughtering believers. God, in His sovereignty, has used what the enemy meant for evil to accomplish beautiful good. The blood of the martyrs cries up from the ground. They carry on the legacy of Stephen who, with his last breath, prayed for his own killers in Acts 7. Such deaths are profoundly convincing testimonies to the gospel. No one dies for something he or she knows to be a lie. Given the choice between recanting their proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus and being allowed to live, they choose the former and see glory open before them. While martyrdom is not exclusive to Christianity, no martyrs have sculpted history the way Christian martyrs have sculpted it and continue to sculpt it.
We must not speak in the past tense when describing the killing of Christians. As you read this, there are brothers and sisters in Christ awaiting execution for their testimony of belief in the exact same gospel you profess. There are currently Christians fleeing persecution, or living with the knowledge that it could be at their doorstep any moment. Lift these believers up in prayer now. As you pray, take a moment to thank God for something you may have taken for granted before. Many of our churches use amplification so that everyone in the room can hear the Word of God. Meanwhile, believers across distant shores teach the same Word in whispers so as not to be overheard and arrested. Be emboldened by the freedoms you may possess to evangelize freely. Do so without being intimidated by mere social awkwardness – Christians are to evangelize at the risk of their very lives if necessary!
God is in control and undaunted as his children follow the footsteps of their Savior to the cross. Experientially, we can only imagine what this moment is like for the martyr, but the opening of the fifth seal in Revelation may provide some insight. Revelation 6 peals back the curtain so that we can see martyrs in heaven humbling appealing to the Lord to avenge their blood:
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the people slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “Lord, the One who is holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until the number would be completed of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been.
See God’s heart toward the martyrs of the great tribulation as Isaiah chapters 49 and 25, respectively, are quoted in Revelation 7:
These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.
They washed their robes and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary.
The One seated on the throne will shelter them:
16 They will no longer hunger;
they will no longer thirst;
the sun will no longer strike them,
nor will any heat.
17 For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne
will shepherd them;
He will guide them to springs of living waters,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The blood of modern martyrs-in-waiting runs through their veins as you read this. Lift up your brothers and sisters in Christ who are in prison awaiting execution and lift them up with verses from 1 and 2 Peter. These books were written to Christians under the persecution of Nero in the first century and their Spirit-inspired words still fulfill their original intent: they point the eyes of future martyrs heavenward. The books we have studied this quarter are ever-relevant! Here is a beautiful and practical way you can use these texts in accordance with their original context right this very minute: