We have heard of the times of old when people were persecuted for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many in the early centuries even gave their lives because of their love of Him. They would not recant their belief in the Lord and were therefore “purged” from society by death. Their deaths were often gruesome and would take days to complete. Some were starved; some were bled; others were tortured in the most heartless of ways. These brothers and sisters in Christ are an example to us of defiant love for God. Yes, defiance towards the worlds system. They too lived in the world system, but the world system during their time would actively persecute them by hunting them down to put them to death. It was a holocaust beyond belief.
Many know of the “holocaust” of the Jews by Adolf Hitler in the late 30’s and early 40’s. It is claimed that over 6 million Jews were exterminated from the earth. Adolf was a Catholic with Catholic support and this explains why the pope didn’t lift a finger to condemn Hitler’s evil plan. Hitler tried to eradicate the Jews from Europe, but what really was transpiring was a fanatical rebellion against God.
Long before Adolf Hitler and his national socialist’s followers, there was another holocaust. This one was of the followers of Jesus Christ. It was performed primarily by none other than the Catholic Church. At that time, it was legal to kill Christians. In fact, it was viewed that if you caught a Christian and turned them in to the state, you were doing society a favor. Under these difficult conditions, some of our brothers and sisters died gladly for the Lord; they exchanged their life for eternity. Many others exchanged the lives of their loved ones because they would not deny the Lord Jesus Christ. They endured their persecution well.
There was an instance where a woman was hung over the side of a bridge by a rope tied to her feet. With her hands tied behind her back, she was lowered just enough that her head hung submerged in the water below. Struggling, she would bend her head out of the water just to take a breath of air. At first it was not too difficult, but as the hours went by, she became more tired and it was very difficult to lift her head out of the river to catch a breath. During her time of persecution, her husband was forced to watch. Their crimes? They were Christians and were caught. Because her husband would not deny Jesus Christ and bow to kiss the ring of the Catholic bishop, she would die. In between breaths, as his tired wife would lift her head out of the water, she would cry out in encouragement to her husband, “I am more than happy to give my life for Him who gave His life for me. Husband, do not bow to the pope!” After many hours, she died. Then her husband was burned at the stake. As the faggots fed the flames, he cried, “May the Lord Jesus Christ forgive you for doing that which you know not!”
There are instances where the Catholic soldiers would come into a town and take the young Christians children from their mothers. The soldiers would throw the children into the air and then make sport of trying to catch them on the tips of their spears as they came down. Why? The mothers would not deny Christ and replace Him with the pope as the king of their life.
“Well,” you might say, “All of that happened back then. I am glad this doesn’t happen in the world today. We are all much more civilized then they were back then.” Brethren, don’t be deceived. The world and its system has not changed. It still cannot tolerate anything or anyone else being superior to it. It must make Christianity ineffective. It can do this by directly attacking it or it can infiltrate it and dilute it so that it becomes “worldly” in its nature. That way, Christianity will be so watered down, and would be no more of a threat to the world’s claim for the top spot. This has been its main tactic in this century. But, there are places in this world where direct attacks to Christianity still take place. The world has never been void of it. There are still Christians dying for their faith in the Lord. Some such places are: the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and others.
Recently, I read of a possible death sentence for an Iranian pastor all because he is refusing to renounce his Christianity. Iran has an “utter disregard” for religious freedom with an extreme and radical hatred of God. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 32, is being forced by the Iranian authorities to renounce his faith in Christ. Over the past four days he has been in an appeals court and expects a ruling by the end of next week. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.
When asked to repent, Pastor Nadarkhani stated: “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied.
“I cannot,” Nadarkhani said.
Nadarkhani, a pastor in the 400-member Church of Iran, has been held in that country’s Gilan Province since October 2009, after he protested to local education authorities that his son was forced to read from the Koran at school. His wife, Fatemeh Pasandideh, was also arrested in June 2010 in an apparent attempt to pressure him to renounce his faith. She was released in October 2010, according to Amnesty International.
Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy last September based on religious writings by Iranian clerics, including Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the fact that there is no offense of “apostasy” in the nation’s penal code, Amnesty International reports.
There are still Christians that are facing death in exchange for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should never get too complacent with the world and its hatred for God. We may be faced with such a persecution. I certainly hope not. Like most of you, I hope I get to go home to be with the Lord long before I would ever be faced with watching a loved one be tortured to death for the Lord. The little things which I call “persecution” that I have experienced in my life seem to be miniscule when compared with facing the death penalty. May God come quickly and may his judgment be swift upon man.