By John Barnett
Read, print, and listen to this resource on our website wwww.DiscoverTheBook.org
As we open to Revelation 2:8-11 we are opening to the second of Christ's seven personal letters to individual churches of the late 1st Century. We looked at them as a group, but now we are taking a look at each individual church.
As we read these words, the historical context is that the Church at Smyrna was going through the second wave of persecutions that the early church had to endure.
A Short History of Early Church Persecution
Someone told me this week they could save the first half hour of my messages by just “Google-ing” what I talk about, and implied they wanted me to just stick to reading the text of the Scripture. But for the rest of you that are willing, if you will bear with me, I’d like to give you a sanctified mind’s analysis of Church History: something that they could never get on Google.
The reason I share with you the background details of each passage we study is to show it to you through the lens of Scripture, and with my own lifetime analysis of these facts, what is vital to increase our understanding. That is actually one of the elements of expository preaching, which is my lifelong pursuit.
Church History records three notable waves of persecution from the Roman Emperors:
• Wave #1: Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) This persecution was sporadic and limited mainly to Rome, sweeping up Paul and Peter to execution .
• Wave #2: Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) This persecution was wider than Nero’s, across some of the Roman Empire’s provinces, and hitting both the church at Smyrna and exiling John to Patmos.
• Wave #3: Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) This persecution was the greatest of any Roman Emperor against Christ's Church. Diocletian, who was one of the most administrative of all Rome’s rulers, began a systematic purge of Christianity, through an Empire-wide eradication of the Church, and he almost succeeded.
For the final nearly 10 years of Diocletian’s reign he systematically decimated Christ's church. The main reason that there is not one single complete manuscript of the Bible today, and all we have are 20,000 fragments and partial manuscripts is because of this one very powerful man.
Under Diocletian’s wave of persecution: every church meeting place that could be identified was pulled down; every pastor that could be found was killed; and every copy of God’s Word that could be discovered, was destroyed.
The church came closest to extinction in those years.
Why are they called the Roman Catholic Church?
Have you ever wondered why the Catholic Church is called the Roman, Catholic Church? The answer comes right here in this third and final wave of persecution.
The result of this Empire-wide extermination of Christianity era was the rise to power of Constantine, who legalized Christianity. When the Roman Emperor Constantine designated Christianity as the State Church, he also merged all of Rome’s pagan worship establishment into this State Church. This blending or syncretism of truth (the early church) and error (the pagan religions of Rome), are what actually prompted the birth of what we call Roman Catholicism today.
The Roman part of the Catholic church was the merging of traditions, vestments, orders, practices, buildings, superstitions, and priests from paganism into the early New Testament church.
Now open with me to Christ's letter to this church under this next wave of persecution, and listen with me to His Voice speaking to them through these words:
Revelation 2:8-11 “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: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 “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.” ’
SMYRNA WAS UNDER A WAVE OF PERSECUTION
This second wave of persecution that broke over Smyrna had its start way back during the Life of Christ. The Emperor in Christ's last years was named Tiberius and in 26 AD an altar to Emperor Tiberius was built there in Smyrna (just 40 miles north of Ephesus). This was the official start in that city of Emperor Worship.
To stay a happy part of the Empire one had only to stop by the Temple and scoop a pinch of incense and put it on the fire. Then a certificate was given, like our auto license renewal stickers. That event and paper called a libelli, verified that you had passed. It was an annual homage to the Emperor that became the one action that unified the masses of people in the Roman Empire.
Today we see the shadow of intense, falling across the church at Smyrna. In about 94 AD Domitian says, get the Christians to go with the flow or pay the price. Can you imagine the pressure?
The whole city is lined up, one by one they come through the archway leading into the Forum area. Soldiers stand guard, the city clerk sits with the registry of names, his pen, and a bowl of incense in front of him.
The stream of citizens walk by, take a pinch of the power, drop it onto the coal fire burning in the censor and taking their certificate—walk out into another year of peace and security.
There you are in line, if you just go with the flow, your children, wife, husband, friends, job, home—all are secure.
But if you refuse, if you believe that only Jesus is Lord, if you say that Caesar is not God, Jesus Christ is the Lord, then the slow grind of that efficient machine called Rome will begin to hunt you down and either force you to recant, or take your life.
So with that historical backdrop:
THE BELIEVERS AT SMYRNA LEARNED HOW TO SUFFER AND DIE
The most important decision you will ever make in life is how you want to die!
The saints at Smyrna wanted to die in Jesus. They learned the lesson well because, after the letter arrived from Jesus in Revelation 2, their pastor went on to die a martyr’s death.
Let me give the last moments of this pastor at Smyrna, who was the last living person from this period that had known the apostle John personally and face-to-face.
The Jews in Smyrna were violently opposed to Christ’s Church and were blaspheming and persecuting the Christians. This event is not mere speculation because history has left us with an account of the death of Polycarp, the pastor of the church in Smyrna. Here is the record of his death:
“It was during the time of the public games; the city was crowded; and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: Away with the atheist; let Polycarp be searched for. They came to arrest him, but not even the police captain wished to see Polycarp die.
On the brief journey to the forum the officer pled with the old man: What harm is it to say, “Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice to be saved?
But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord. When he entered the arena [the] proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar or death.
“Eighty and six years have I served Him,” said Polycarp, “and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
So the crowds came flocking with burning coals from the workshops and from the baths, and the Jews, even though they were breaking the Sabbath law by carrying such burdens, were foremost in bringing wood for the fire.
The soldiers were going to bind Polycarp to the stake, but he said, “Leave me as I am, for He who gives me power to endure the fire, will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.”
So they left him loosely bound in the flames. Pastor Polycarp faithfully died for Christ.
That was just one incident in the life of the church at Smyrna as they endured the second great wave of persecution.
There is a clear lesson for each of us whether we face such direct persecution, or lesser, but equally persistent trails:
HOPE IN JESUS WHEN LIFE IS PAINFUL
The message Christ gives is so simple in verse 10:
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The entire message to this church is: fear not.
The most important lesson for each of us from this church is: fear not.
No matter what lies ahead in our daily lives, health lives, career, finances, or anything else, the message is simply fear not.
God does not give us a spirit of fear, the world, our flesh, and the Devil do, but God does not.
Fear not, instead in v. 10 Christ says: be faithful, trust Me! Why?
Because look back at:
V. 8 JESUS WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR SINS
Look again at v. 8 and the very name of this church is written as: “Smyrna”. This word is not only the name of this assembly, Smyrna is also the Greek word translated “myrrh”.
It is a substance taken from a thorny tree and was the chief product of this city, the seaport of Myrrh. Myrrh is always associated with suffering and death, because it is produced by injuring the bark of the tree, each cut made by knife or machete is healed with the resin from which is refined myrrh.
Think of the symbolic message of this spice and the life of Christ:
• At Christ’s Birth while coming in the form of a servant He endured being born into poverty for us, according to Matthew 2:11, wise men came from the East and brought Christ gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• At Christ’s Crucifixion as He suffered the weight of sin, and separation from God for us, according to Mark 15:23, He was offered wine mixed with myrrh. It served as an anesthetic. His crucifiers were trying to dull His senses so the pain wouldn’t be so bad.
• At Christ’s Burial He was placed in a tomb wrapped in myrrh after suffering the wrath of God for our salvation, according to John 19:39: a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight, was used to prepare the body of Jesus Christ for burial in a borrowed tomb.
• At Christ’s Return in Glory He shall be presented with gold, frankincense but, not myrrh according to Isaiah 60:6. Jesus came only the first time as a suffering servant, His Second Coming is as King of the Universe!
Isaiah 60:6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land. The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord.
Then He will appear as the mighty Sovereign Lord, not the Suffer. Myrrh is only associated with the suffering present at Christ’s birth, death and burial. So, from the very name of this city, and their suffering, we can learn that
HOW TO DIE TRIUMPHANTLY
And unless Christ returns soon, all of us face the inevitability of death. Are you ready?
Have you planned for the spiritual aspects of your death? So many only get the funeral arrangements and life insurance in order. There is so much more to plan and prepare for as a Christian.
The Bible teaches us much about Dying Right! In the Scriptures we find some good ways to die, as modeled by saints who have gone before us:
JACOB DIES TRUSTING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Genesis 47:29; 48:15-16
• HE LOOKED FOR THE LAND OF PROMISE TO THE END! Genesis 47:29 "And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:" (KJV)
• HE FOLLOWED HIS SHEPHERD ALL THE WAY! Genesis 48:15-16 "Then he blessed Joseph and said, "May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (NKJV)
JOSEPH DIES POINTING TO THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD
Genesis 50:24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (NIV)
DAVID DIES EXHORTING HIS FAMILY TO FOLLOW GOD
1 Kings 2:1-4 "When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. "I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: `If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'" (NIV)
STEPHEN DIES PRAISING GOD
Acts 7:59-60 "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep." (NIV)
PAUL DIES FINISHING THE PLAN GOD GAVE HIM
2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)
PETER DIES REMINDING THE SAINTS ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD
2 Peter 1:12-15 "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things." (NIV)
CHRIST DIES POINTING THE WAY FOR ANOTHER TO COME TO GOD
Luke 23:43 "And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (NKJV)
Smyrna was in great persecution and stood fast through it; true believers discover Jesus is all I have, and need. By faith they remain faithful to Him, no matter what the price they have to pay.
We like them can be purified by persecution, and be faithful to the Lord. Christ's message for them and to us today is: Trust Me to the end; Stay true to the end; Suffer for Me.
A TRUE TEST
“A person who claims to be a Christian and who does not give up his faith in the midst of trials and difficulties is a true Christian. His very perseverance proves the reality of his relationship with Jesus Christ. Pliny, Roman governor in Asia Minor in the early second century, was so puzzled about the Christians who were brought before him for trial that he wrote his famous letter to the Emperor Trajan asking for his advice. This was the kind of thing he found himself up against:
A certain unknown Christian was brought before him, and Pliny, finding little fault in him, proceeded to threaten him.
“I will banish thee,” he said.
“Thou canst not,” was the reply. “For all the world is my Father’s house.”
“Then I will slay thee,” said the governor.
“Thou canst not,” answered the Christian, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away thy possessions,” continued Pliny.
“Thou canst not, for my treasure is in Heaven.”
“I will drive thee away from man and thou shalt have no friend left,” was the final threat.
And the calm reply once more was, “Thou canst not, for I have an unseen Friend, from whom thou art not able to separate me.”
What was a poor, harassed Roman governor, with all the powers of life and death, torture and the stake at his disposal, to do with people like that?
The shadow of a sixty-year-old man was silhouetted against the canvas of the tent. The flickering candle cast a golden aura inside as he knelt beside a small wood and canvas cot. Rhythmic tropical rain lightly pelted the tent as he prayed beside his bed. The prayer was one he had written out many years before. If you were able to hear that night what God heard it would have sounded much like this:
O Lord since Thou hast died,
To give Thyself for me,
No sacrifice would seem to great,
For me to make for Thee.
Outside the native porters, guides and cooks who had followed this man for nearly 20 years through the jungle heard the low sound of his voice communing with God as he always had done before bed. Then the candle flickered out and they also retired to sleep through the rainy night.
The next morning the cold and stiff body of David Livingstone was still kneeling beside the cot when his beloved native brothers found him. He was so thin from the countless bouts with malaria, his skin darkened by the years of Equatorial African sun was loosely draped over the bones of his earthly tent now vacant. His spirit had soared immortal, making its flight from the darkness of a disease ridden, weak and failing body to the realm of light and life in the presence of Jesus his King to whom he had consecrated his life.
WHO WAS DAVID LIVINGSTONE?
• David Livingstone  was born in the Scottish city of Blantyre in 1813.
• At age ten he began working fourteen-hour days in the cotton mill to help support his impoverished family. There he learned by snatching sentences from a book on his spinning jenny, followed by two hours of night school. These disciplines kept him from being totally uneducated.
• He was converted at twelve, and had a profound spiritual awakening at twenty and resolved to be a medical missionary in China. From that point onward Livingstone studied Greek, theology, and medicine at Glasgow, returning to the mill during vacations to help pay expenses.
• Qualified in medicine, he was sent by the London Missionary Society in 1840 to South Africa, since the Opium War had closed China. Livingstone’s heart had been fired by missionary Robert Moffat’s words about having seen "the smoke of a thousand villages" where no missionary had ever been.
• Livingstone and his wife, Mary, Moffat’s daughter, stayed in three homes in three years, ever moving further up-country. He was evangelist, doctor, teacher, builder, gardener, shoemaker, and carpenter. But all the time his eyes were on the "unknown north" beyond the fearsome Kalahari Desert.
• In 1852 Livingstone sent his wife and children home before he embarked on a four-year, six-thousand-mile journey that took him to Angola’s Atlantic coast, then east to the Indian Ocean at Mozambique. During long weary journeys, debilitating illnesses, danger from wild animals and hostile tribes, he never relaxed his self-imposed discipline, but made observations, studied languages, kept his famous Diaries, and prepared scientific reports that brought him fame. He retained his humility, writing in 1853: "I will place no value on anything I have ... except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ."
• When Livingstone’s wife died in 1861, he threw himself fiercely into his work. He disappeared from sight for ten years; and when found by Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald in 1871, Livingstone refused to go home. Two days later he wrote in his diary: “March 19, my birthday. My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.” A year later his servants found him on his knees in his tent -- dead.
• David Livingstone, the renowned and noble missionary to Africa, wrote  in his journal, People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called sacrifice, which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? . . . Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory, which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not talk when we remember the great sacrifice, which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.
• At his death in 1873, such was their love for him that his native assistants bore his body fifteen hundred miles to the coast. One of them was among the huge crowd at the funeral in Westminster Abbey. Some words on Livingstone’s tombstone there summarize his achievements: "For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa."
With that background listen again through the tent as you can dimly see in the dark jungles of Africa the shadow of a sixty-year-old man silhouetted against the canvas of the tent. The flickering candle cast a golden aura inside as he knelt beside a small wood and canvas cot. Rhythmic tropical rain lightly pelted the tent as he prayed beside his bed. The prayer was one he had written out many years before. If you were able to hear that night what God heard it would have sounded much like this:
O Lord since Thou hast died, To give Thyself for me,
No sacrifice would seem to great, For me to make for Thee.
Lord send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart.
Lord Jesus my King, I consecrate my life Lord to Thee!
I only have one life, and that will soon be past;
I want my life to count for Christ, What’s done for Him will last.
I follow Thee my Lord, And glory in Thy Cross;
I gladly leave the world behind, And count all gain as loss.
Lord send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart.
Lord Jesus my King, I consecrate my life Lord to Thee!
We aren’t ready to live until we are prepared to die. And we live best when we know what counts when we die. Along that line I have enjoyed the systematic repetitive reading of God's Word for many years. In fact for the past twenty-eight years I have read the Bible through at a rate of twice through the Old Testament and three times through the New Testament each year. In these repetitive readings I have always looked for something. One of the areas that has fascinated me over the years as I have read and reread God's Word is the way the Lord records the end of the earthly lives of His beloved saints. I searched each page of God's Word for the closing scene and the recorded words of God’s saints. What a study.
In the context of Smyrna we need to learn about Ending Well: How to suffer and die Triumphantly.
A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON PERSECUTION OF BELIEVERS
First, Persecution is inevitable for Christians:
• Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
• Mark 10:29-30 "So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,30 “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life."
• 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 "and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know."1 Peter 4:12,
• 2 Timothy 3:12 "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
• 1 Peter 4:12 "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;"
Second, we are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ:
• Acts 5:41 "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."
• Philippians 1:29 "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,"
• Philippians 3:10-11 "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
• 1 Peter 2:20-23 "For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;"
• 1 Peter 4:12-16 "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter"
Third, God's Word promises wonderful treasures for those who face persecution:
• DEATH WILL BRING PEACE AND REST. - Isaiah 57:1-2 "The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness."
• GOD WILL BRING JUSTICE WHEN JESUS RETURNS. - 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7 "All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels." (NIV)
• LEADS TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY. - James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (NIV)
• PERSECUTION EARNS US HEAVENLY REWARDS - James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (NIV)
Fourth, God uses persecution for His purposes:
• PERSECUTION OFTEN SPREADS THE GOSPEL TO OTHER PLACES. - Acts 8:1,4 "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (NIV)
• PERSECUTION IS TO REVEAL JESUS IN US. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." (NIV)
• PERSECUTION ENCOURAGES OTHERS TO BE MORE COURAGEOUS IN THEIR TESTIMONY. - Philippians 1:12-14 "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (NIV)
• PERSECUTION OF SAINTS ALWAYS GLORIFIES CHRIST. - 1 Peter 1:7 "These [all kinds of trials] have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (NIV)
FIFTH, WHAT ARE PROPER RESPONSES IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION:
• LOVE AND PRAY FOR THE ONES WHO ARE PERSECUTING BELIEVERS. - Matthew 5:44-45 "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV) 1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (NIV)
• CALL YOUR CHURCH TO PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED. - Acts 12:5 "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him."
• SHOW AS MUCH CONCERN FOR THE PERSECUTED AS FOR THOSE IN YOUR OWN LOCAL CHURCH. - 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 "so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (NIV)
• AS YOU PRAY, REMEMBER WHO THE TRUE ENEMY IS. Ephesians 6:12-13, 18 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand... And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (NIV)
• REJOICE OVER THEIR STEADFAST LOVE OF GOD. - 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9 "Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" (NIV)
• EXHORT OTHER CHRISTIANS BY THE FAITH AND EXAMPLE OF THE PERSECUTED BELIEVERS. - 2 Thessalonians 1:4 "Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring."
• STAND SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE PERSECUTED BELIEVERS. ACCEPT PERSONAL LOSS IN ORDER TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THEM. - Hebrews 10:32-34 "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."
• REMEMBER THE PERSECUTED AS IF YOU YOURSELVES WERE SUFFERING. - Hebrews 13:3 "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (NIV)