Ezekiel 38 speaks of massive forces whom God brings against his apparent defenseless own people (v16) only for them to be destroyed. Revelation 20:8-10 reveals more with Satan being the chief instigator of this move to destroy his church in the last days. This spiritual battle has been going on since the incarnation but will culminate in the Antichristian kingdom under Antichrist but the outcome is not in doubt. Christ will just speak and Satan, Antichrist and his forces will be overthrown (2 Thess.2:8,9) and his saints will enter their eternal rest of pure joy.
November 1, 2020 Standard Bearer preview article
November 1, 2020 Standard Bearer preview article
Reformed Free Publishing Association
October 23, 2020
This article was written by Pierre Viret (1511-1571) and will be published in the November 1, 2020 issue of the Standard Bearer.
A letter of comfort to believers*
To all those who suffer persecution for the name of Jesus, greetings.
Grace, peace, and mercy from God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord, who desires to comfort and strengthen you by His Holy Spirit in the midst of the trials and afflictions of this miserable world, in order that you might not faint, but instead persevere with great steadfastness of heart in the grace in which you were called, casting the anchor of your hope upon Jesus, who reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father Almighty, who does not allow a single hair of our head to fall to the earth apart from His will (Matt 10:29–31). He alone does all He pleases, and wills nothing which shall not serve to His own honor and glory and to the salvation, edification, and consolation of His elect, for whom He makes all things work for good (Rom. 8:28).
My dear brethren, seeing that we are members of Jesus, we must not be surprised or astonished if we are partakers of His cross and suffering. For if we desire to reign with Him we must likewise suffer with Him (2 Tim. 2:12). Seeing that He is our Head and we His members, the Head cannot travel by one road and the members by another, but the entire body and all its members must follow the head which guides and governs it.
If then our Head was crowned with thorns, we cannot be a member of His body if we do not feel their pricks and if their pain does not pierce our heart. If our King and sovereign Master was naked and bloodied, covered with reproaches, disgrace, and blasphemies, and nailed to and hanged upon the cross, we must not expect to slumber ever at our ease in this world, and to be exalted with honors and dignities, dressed in purple, velvet, and silk (as the wicked rich man), having all our carnal pleasures and sensual delights met in this world below (Luke 16:19).
If the Lord Jesus in His great torments, after having shed His blood, being near to commending His spirit to His Father, was not even given water to drink, but instead His thirst was quenched with nothing but vinegar, gall, and myrrh, are we surprised if we do not daily enjoy rich and sweet wines and sumptuous meats to satisfy the carnal desires of our flesh?
There are precious few things we could endure that would come close to what the Lord Jesus suffered for us, who, recognizing the weakness of our flesh, does not place upon our shoulders a weight too great or pressing for us to bear. For as the apostle said, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor. 10:13), but will give a good end to the trial, which shall yield a goodly fruit. The heavenly Father who holds us in His safekeeping and protection knows and understands what we lack better than we ourselves, and when He visits us with adversities and gives the rein to tyrants to afflict us, He only allows or permits this for our great good in order that our faith—which is more precious than gold (1 Pet. 1:7)—might be tested and well proved in the fire and furnace of tribulation, in order that the dross and all false metal might be separated.
We know also that, just as the fire consumes the rust if it is not put to use, so likewise the Church and believers immediately become corrupted and prone to slumber in this world if they are not roused and exercised by sufficient troubles. For the flesh is always flesh, and possesses no cure within itself, and thinks no further than of itself and its carnal pleasures, forsaking heaven to remain on earth, and preferring the worldly pleasures which suddenly perish over heavenly and eternal goods. Therefore the Lord wills through many ways to test and prove us, to reveal to us our true selves and all the evils and miseries of this world, that we might not rest our heart and hopes upon it, nor make it our paradise, and that our flesh might not be intoxicated with it, but to the contrary that we would recognize that all is corruptible and fleeting, that nothing is permanent, but that all passes away as the wind and vanishes as a vapor, that man’s life (which is much worthier of being called war and continual death than life) passes as a shadow. We must seek another life; we must set our hearts on high, and with Abraham lift our eyes from the earth to fix them upon heaven, and there seek a permanent and eternal city in which there is no change, poverty, misery, tears, weeping, grief, worry, or sorrow, but eternal happiness and bliss, where the Lord dries and wipes away all tears from the eyes of His children and servants, where there is no night, and the sun never sets (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:16–17; 21:23).
This, my well-beloved brethren, is a lesson which must be learned in the school of persecution and in tyrants’ prisons and dungeons, from which the children of God learn and profit more than the students of the philosophers and sophists in their schools….
My brethren, let us thus regard the afflictions and persecutions that we endure in this valley of misery, for they are great blessings of God to instruct us how to mortify our flesh, to crucify and put off the old man in order that the new might be endued with greater vigor, and to humble our sensual and carnal flesh—so prideful and rebellious against the will of God—that we might be made obedient and subject to the Spirit (2 Cor. 5:1–5, 14–15).
Indeed, if persecution were not a singular blessing of God, we would be constrained to look upon God our Father as bitter, harsh, and severe toward His children because He allowed His servants the prophets, apostles, and martyrs—indeed, even His own Son Jesus Christ the King and Ruler of all—to be thus treated by wicked and unbelieving men.
Although the flesh complains because it knows not to await life in death and blessing in cursing, nevertheless faith teaches and persuades us, and by experience we recognize and see that though we are forsaken by all the world and humbled to the very gates of hell, we feel the powerful hand of God reclaiming us, which makes our blood cry out as that of Abel, and terrify the murderers (Gen. 4:10; Matt. 23:34–35), declaring that those who suffer and die for Him do not die at all, but instead conquer death and become victors, and with Samson kill more by their death than by their life (Judges 16:30). Their death is stronger and more powerful than the life of the wicked and reprobates, who live trembling upon the earth as Cain, fearfully awaiting the judgment of God as the worm of their conscience continually gnaws away at them, driving them to despair, so much so that quite often they are (like Judas) their own executioners and murderers. They seek death, and it flees from them.
*Taken from Letters of Comfort to the Persecuted Church. Pierre Viret. R.A. Sheats, transl. (Monticello, FL: Psalm 78 Ministries, 2015). Used by permission. For more on this man and his labors on behalf of the French Reformation, see Rev. Jacob Maatman’s article, page 56.
When you Pass Through the Waters
This meditation was written by Rev. James Slopsema in the February 15, 2000 issue of the Standard Bearer.
- But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
- When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:1–2)
Isaiah was the prophet of God to Judah in her apostasy.
We read of this apostasy in chapter 42. Judah had trusted in graven images and said to molten images, Ye are our gods (v. 17). Not surprisingly, we find harsh words of judgment for Judah. Because of her unfaithfulness the Lord would give Judah over as spoils to robbers (vv. 22–24). This was a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity that would soon uproot Judah from the land.
Now follow words of comfort and hope. “But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not….”
How important these words were to Judah as she faced the harsh realities of captivity under God’s judgment.
And how important these words are today for the church and her members as she faces the harsh realities of life.
Passing through water and fire!
Water and fire speak of God’s judgment upon the wicked. Thus, for example, the world in Noah’s day was destroyed by the waters of a universal flood. This was God’s judgment upon a wicked world that had filled the cup of iniquity. In turn, the destruction of the world by the waters of the flood serve as a type or picture of the final judgment of God upon the wicked by fire (2 Pet. 3:5–7).
To pass through the waters and to walk through fire, therefore, is to live through the time of God’s judgment.
But water and fire are also connected to persecution of the church. Thus, for example, in the time of Israel’s persecution in the bondage of Egypt, Israel was required to walk through the waters of the Red Sea as Pharaoh pursued them out of the land. For their refusal to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, the three friends of Daniel were thrown into the burning, fiery furnace.
To pass through the waters and to walk through fire, therefore, is also to live under the persecution of the world.
When thou passest through the waters. When thou walkest through the fire. It’s not a matter of “if,” but of “when.” Certainly we will pass through the waters and fire of God’s judgment. For the judgment of God is upon the world in which we live. This dreadful judgment comes in the form of natural catastrophes (earthquakes, tornadoes, famine, etc.), plagues (AIDS), wars and rumors of wars, lawlessness and the breakdown of society…. The very fact that we live in the midst of an evil world under these judgments of God means that we too pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon sinful society.
But sometimes the judgment of God falls directly upon the church. For repeatedly the church and her members stray into sin. The judgment of God is also upon the unfaithfulness of his own people. This was the case with Judah in the time of Isaiah. For her departure from his word the Lord took Judah into captivity. No less is this true for the church and her members today. In judgment God has taken his word from many churches that have refused to honor it. The judgment of God also falls upon individuals and families in the church for their personal sins, judgment such as marital and family problems, poverty, sickness, etc. Through these waters of God’s judgment every one of us passes sooner or later.
But the saints must also pass through the waters and fires of persecution.
The wicked world always hates and opposes the church. For the church is Christ’s church; and the world hates this church for Christ’s sake.
Consequently, the church will always walk through the fires of persecution. The Old Testament church of Israel did. She was repeatedly attacked by the surrounding nations. And although this was often the judgment of God upon Israel for her unfaithfulness, it was also the attempt of the wicked world to destroy the church of God. Even today there are places where the church is severely persecuted for Christ’s sake. Also in this country the world attacks the church of God and her members through slander, mockery, limiting our business and career opportunities….
When thou passest through the waters….
When Old Testament Israel passed through the waters, they were often afraid. Certainly the true Israel that believed the prophecy of Isaiah concerning captivity in Babylon was afraid. What would become of the nation? What would become of God’s covenant and his promises?
We also tend to be afraid when we pass through the waters. We often fear when war looms; when we are opposed for Christ’s sake; when we see the moral decline of the nation and the consequences for the church of the future; when there is lingering, debilitating sickness; when there is death.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.
What a dreadful thing, to pass through the waters alone. Imagine having to deal with war, poverty, sickness, death, and all the harsh realities of life alone! This is what the world does. They pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon their sin alone. Consequently, the waters overflow them. The fires of God’s wrath set them ablaze and burn them. In other words, they perish under the judgment and wrath of God.
But the Lord promises to go with us, his people.
When we pass through the water of God’s judgment, whether that is God’s judgment upon the world’s sin or our own, the Lord will go with us. And when we walk through the fire of affliction and persecution, we walk with the Lord at our side.
For that reason the waters will not overflow us, nor will the fire set us ablaze so that we are burned. This does not mean that we will never suffer earthly or physical loss. We may lose many things, even our physical life, as we pass through the waters. But because of the Lord’s presence we will never be overcome spiritually. As we will walk through the fires of persecution, we will never lose our faith or our salvation. As we pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon sin, we will not suffer the eternal ruin of the world.
We are safe and secure.
For the Lord our God is with us.
The Lord is he that created Jacob and formed Israel.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, calling them into being out of nothing. Part of this creative work was to form man carefully out of dust of the ground. What an astounding work! It is a work that magnifies the greatness, power, and glory of God.
In a similar manner the Lord also created and formed Israel.
He created Israel as a nation by leading them out of the bondage of Egypt and organizing them into a nation by the laws of Sinai. More importantly, by these same laws the Lord formed Israel into a spiritual nation, a covenant people. This is to be compared to the original work of creation, making something glorious out of nothing.
This great work of creating Israel as his covenant people became a reality as the Lord redeemed Israel and called her by her name.
I have redeemed thee. To redeem is to deliver from the power of another through the payment of a price. Years before, the Lord had through Moses redeemed Israel from 400 years of bondage in Israel. That redemption from Egypt’s bondage was of greatest importance in that it pointed Israel ahead to her deeper, spiritual redemption through one who would be greater than Moses, namely, Jesus Christ. Even as the Lord redeemed Israel from earthly, physical bondage through Moses, so the Lord would one day redeem the same Israel from her spiritual bondage to sin through the Christ that was to come. I have redeemed thee. Although this great redemption lay in the future, it is described as already having taken place, in order to indicate its certainty.
I have called thee by thy name.
The nation of Judah was known by the name of its first father. The father of the nation was called Jacob, meaning “heel holder,” to indicate that he was the one who sought by faith to lay hold of the birthright blessing. Later Jacob’s name was changed by God to “Israel” to indicate that Jacob had prevailed in his quest for the blessing of God.
I have called thee by thy name. Through the call of the gospel that came through the prophets the Lord made the nation that which he had called her, namely, a nation who seeks the Lord’s blessings in faith and prevails.
Indeed, the Lord had created the nation.
And so she belonged to the Lord.
Could the people ever pass through the waters alone, or walk through the fires alone? The Lord their Creator, their Redeemer, would certainly go with them.
The church today is not an entity different from Old Testament Israel but a continuation of Israel in the New Testament era.
She too has been created by the Lord and formed by his hand to be his own. This has been accomplished through the work of redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ and the great call of the gospel which forms the church into those who seek the Lord’s blessings and prevail.
The church and her members belong to the Lord. Certainly he will also go with us as we pass through the waters and walk through the fire. Nor will the waters overflow us; the fires shall not consume us.
We are safe and secure in the Creator and Redeemer who accompanies us.
Notes from sermon preached in Dowanvale Reformed Presbyterian Church, Glasgow on 30/10/2016.
Text 2 Cor. 12:1-10
“10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
In the context of contentment in all circumstances Paul says, ” I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Phil.4:13.
It is the indwelling Christ who empowers the believer to endure all things, the word “can” means the power of his grace. The word used in the opposite circumstance was when “no one could” (no one had the power) to restrain Legion, the demon possessed man.
Abiding in Christ: objectively we are grafted into him by faith, subjectively we must look unto him (like a runner to the finish of his race) not being distracted but trusting him.
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.
The feet shot with the sandals which are the preparation of the gospel of peace are folk prepared to suffer for Christ.
This readiness of heart to stoop to the cross evidenceth a gracious heart. And a gracious spirit, I am sure, is an excellent spirit. Flesh and blood never made any willing to suffer either for God or from God. He that can do this, hath that ‘other spirit’ with Caleb, which proves him of a higher descent than this world, Num. 14:24. Truly thus lively and ready is the gracious heart in anything it is called to do or suffer. Pure love to God, obedience to the call of his command, and faith on the security of his promise, facilitate the work, so that, be it never so burdensome to the flesh, yet it is not grievous to their spirit. It is ever ready to say, ‘Thy will be done, and not mine.’ The apostle makes this free submission to the disclosure to the disposure of God’s afflicting hand to evidence a son’s spirit, ‘If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons,’ Heb. 12:7. Observe, he doth not say, ‘If you be chastened,’ but, ‘If ye endure chastening.’ Looking with a cheerful eye at the reward when we come to have it taken off by that hand which laid it on, all which the word imports. it. And the evidence thereof must needs be a comfortable companion to the soul. especially when Satan useth the afflictions which lie upon it as an argument to disprove its child’s relation to God. If I be not a child, how could I so readily submit to the Lord’s family discipline? This is no small mercy.
Second. This frame of spirit makes him a free man that hath it, free from slavery to what the world offers, fleshly lusts. Pleasures, money, honours, so poor-spirited that they cannot enjoy themselves if they have not the cap and knee of all they meet. Such a slave was Haman, the great favourite of his prince. Who but he at court? At the expense of a few words he could get the king’s ring to seal a bloody decree for the massacring of so many thousands of innocent persons, against all sense and reason of state, merely to fulfill his lust. Had not this man honour enough put upon him to content his ambitious spirit? No, there is a poor Jew at the king’s gate will not make a leg to him as he goes by, and so roils his proud stomach, that he has no joy of all his other greatness, ‘Yet all this availeth me nothing,’ saith the poor-spirited wretch, ‘so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate,’ Esther 5:13.
A third sort are as much in bondage to their pleasures. They are said to ‘live in pleasure on the earth,’ James 5:5. Their life is bound up in their pleasures. As the rush grows in the mud, and the fish lives in the water, they cannot live without their pleasures. Take them from their feasts and sports, and their hearts, with Nabal’s, die like a stone in their bosoms. Now this frame of spirit we are speaking of breaks all these chains, and brings the Christian out of every house of bondage. It learns him to like what fare God sends, honour or dishonour, abundance or want, life or death. Third. This readiness to suffer, as it ennobles with freedom, so it enables the Christian for service. It is a sure truth [that] so far and no more is the Christian fit to live serviceably, than he is prepared to suffer readily. Because there is no duty but hath the cross attending on it; and he that is offended at the cross, will not be long pleased with the service that brings it. Prayer is the daily exercise of a saint. This he cannot do as he should, except he can heartily say, ‘Thy will be done.’ And who can do that in truth, unless ready to suffer? So God told Ananias (about Paul), ‘that he should bear his name before the Gentiles,’ and ‘suffer great things for his name’s sake,’ Acts 9:15, 16. And if the gospel did not please the ungrateful world out of Paul’s mouth, who had such a rare art of sweetening it, it were strange that any who fall so far short of his gifts to move in the pulpit, and of his grace to win upon the hearts of men when out, should, if they mean to be faithful, think to go without the wages which the world paid him for his pains—reproach and contempt, if not downright blows of bloody persecution, as he met with. And is not this shoe needful for the preacher’s foot, that is to walk among so many hissing serpents? Who but a Paul, that had got over the fond love of life, and fear of a bloody death, would have been so willing to go into the very lion’s den, and preach the gospel there, where in a manner, he invited death to come unto him? —I mean at Rome itself, the seat of cruel Nero. ‘So much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also; for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,’ Rom. 1:15, 16. In a word, it is the duty of every Christian to make a free profession of Christ. Now this cannot be done without hazard many times. And if the heart be not resolved in this point—what to do; the first storm that riseth will make the poor man put in to any creek or hole, rather than venture abroad in foul weather. ‘Among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue,’ John 12:42. Poor souls, they had not courage enough to bear a little scorn that threatened them. O what folly is it to engage for God, except we be willing to lay all at stake for him! Fourth. This readiness of spirit to suffer, gives the Christian the true enjoyment of his life. A man never comes to enjoy himself truly, in any comfort of his life, till prepared to deny himself readily in it. It is a riddle; but two considerations will unfold it. When we are prepared to deny ourselves in any comfort we may enjoy, then, and not till then, is that which hinders the enjoyment of our lives taken away; and that is fear. Where there is, ‘there is torment.’ The outsetting deer is observed to be lean—though where good food is—because always in fear. And so must they needs be, in the midst of all their enjoyments, on whose heart this virtue is continually feeding. There needs nothing else to bring a man’s joy into a consumption, than an inordinate fear of losing what he hath at present. When once, however, the Christian hath got this piece of armour on—‘the gospel of peace’—his soul is prepared for death and danger. He sits at the feast which God in his present providence allows him, and fears no messenger with ill news to knock at his door. Yea, he can talk of his dying hour, and not spoil the mirth of his present condition, as carnal men think it does. The Christian, that hath this preparation of heart, never tastes more sweetness in the enjoyments of this life, than when he dips these morsels in the meditation of death and eternity. Holy David, Ps. 23:4, 5, brings in (as it were), a death’s head with his feast. In the same breath almost he speaks of his dying, ver. 4, and of the rich feast he at present sat at, through the bounty of God, ver. 5. To that however he was not so tied by the teeth, but if God, that gave him this cheer, should call him from it to look death in the face, he could do so and ‘fear no evil, when in the valley of the shadow thereof,’ Ps. 23:4. And what think you of the blessed apostle Peter when he could sleep so sweetly in a prison, the very ‘night’ before Herod ‘would have brought him forth’ in all probability to his execution! This was no likely time (one would think) to get any rest; yet we find him even there, thus, and then, so sound asleep, that the angel who was sent to give him his gaol delivery smote him on the side to awake him, Acts 12:6, 7. I question whether Herod himself slept so well that night as this his prisoner did. And what was the potion that brought this holy man so quietly to rest? No doubt ‘this preparation of the gospel of peace.’ He was ready to die, and that made him able to sleep. Why should that break his rest in this world, which, if it had been effected, would have brought him to his eternal rest in the other? The more ready and prepared the Christian is to suffer from God, or for God, the more God is engaged to take care for him, and of him. A good general is most tender of that soldier’s life who is least tender of it himself. The less the Christian values himself and his interests for God’s sake, the more careful God is of him, either to keep him from suffering, or in it. Both of these blessings are meant, ‘Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it,’ Matt. 16:25. Abraham was ready to offer up his son, and then God would not suffer him to do it. But if the Lord at any time takes the Christian’s offer, and lets the blow be given, though to the severing of soul and body, he yet shows his tender care of him, by the high esteem he sets upon their blood, which is not more prodigally spilt by man’s cruelty, than carefully gathered up by God. ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ Thus we see, that by resigning ourselves up readily to the disposure of God, we engage God to take care of us whatever befalls us. And that man or woman, sure, if any other in the world, must needs live comfortably, that hath the care of himself wholly taken off his own shoulders, and rolled upon God, at whose finding he now lives. The poor widow was never better off than when the prophet kept house for her. She freely parted with her little meal for the prophet’s use, and, [as] a reward of her faith—in crediting the message he brought from the Lord, so far as to give the bread out of her own mouth, and child’s, to the prophet—she is provided for by a miracle, I Kings 17:12, 13. O when a soul is once thus brought to the foot of God, that it can sincerely say, ‘Lord, here I am; willing to deliver up all I have, and am, to be at thy dispose; my will shall be done, when thou hast thy will of me;’ God accounts himself deeply obliged to look after that soul!
Heidelberg Catechism LD 47
Hallowed by thy name
Texts: Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.(Isaiah 8:13-18)
but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:15-18).
This is a command and a prayer.
The need to do so: Assyria was coming like a flood, a confederacy of states. Just as Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, the ecumenical movement and even secular humanism join forces and stumble at the Stone (Christ) and oppose his true church. Do not fear the false church (Israel).
The sphere: hallow the Lord in your heart, God triune, separate from all else and cultivate holiness in all of life, in church, society, work, marriage, persecution.
Manifestation-Keeps us from fear, corruption, compromise leads to worship, godly living and speech.
Why is the burning bush (Exodus 3) emblem adopted by so many Reformed and Presbyterian churches worldwide?
It was first adopted by the Huguenots (French Calvinists) in 1583 . “Burning but not consumed” – suggests the symbolism was understood of the suffering church that nevertheless lives, but given the fire is a sign of God’s presence, he who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) the miracle appears to point to a greater miracle: God, in grace, is with his covenant people and so they are not consumed. This is God’s preserving grace-JK. (Wikipedia).
Promise and Persecution by Kenneth Harrod, paperback 142 pages, published by Release International 2018, £8.
As a basic theology of persecution this is an excellent starter. Harrod traces the root of persecution back to the mother promise of Genesis 3:15 and outlines much of the Biblical history of persecution from Abel to the apostles. His aim is for the reader to respond in a Christlike way, “A solid, biblical understanding should lead to a godly, biblical response on our part.” He rightly states that this promise not only explains the reason for persecution, namely the God-ordained malice of Satan, his demons and the reprobate wicked, but also declares the promise that Christ and his beloved church have the ultimate victory, hence the title. He has much truth to share on the spiritual reason for this inevitable aspect of Christian experience and also much good overarching biblical theology. We already appreciate this part of our Protestant Reformed heritage and treasure this vital knowledge e.g. the covenant, Old Testament typology, redemption through judgment, the individual and corporate dimension of persecution, yet he admits wrongly, to being ignorant as to when the ultimate working out of the curse pronounced to Abraham will unfold and that “we cannot fully understand why God allows his people to suffer”. This is the most glaring omission in the book because Scripture DOES tell us much about God’s purposes in these things! Reading of the Bible reveals that God uses persecution to purify his people, wean them from the world, unite them, encourage prayer and the sharing of needs, increase our hope and dependence upon him and witness to the world and our persecutors. In other words we fill up the cup of suffering while the wicked fill up the cup of iniquity and when both are full, Christ ushers in eternal bless for us all.
All men are welcome to next CPRC Men’s Bible Study on Acts 7:54-60, the death of Stephen. Scheduled for Saturday January 12th, 8pm my place. We shall also seek to answer these questions on PERSECUTION
Why are Christians persecuted? Give three reasons and Scriptures.
What is God’s purpose?
What is the Christian’s need in persecution?
What should our response be and what can we do for fellow believers?
And believe me folks it is coming!
Why is there persecution of Christian believers in the world?
The answer is the Antithesis (Gen.3:15, 1 Peter 5:9, Is. 63:9, Acts 9:4, John 15:20) There is a cosmic-wide war going on, centred on planet earth with God’s arch enemy Satan (and the seed of the serpent are all the reprobate wicked) versus Christ (the seed of the woman and all his elect sons and daughters i.e believers in every age), Satan’s henchmen the fallen angels and the reprobate wicked versus the elect angels and the righteous in Christ, the false church versus the true church, and on the human level the basic reason is because our lives and words testify against the wicked. Jesus stated that because he was hated his followers would be hated too (Matt.10:22).In the first Scriptural case of persecution Abel (Gen 4:3-15,Heb.11;4, I John 3:12, Amos 5:12) is murdered by his brother Cain because of jealousy and his corrupt religious practice (offering a bloodless sacrifice). Persecution can be traced throughout Scripture. Ultimately persecution will bring horrible judgement on the persecutors but it is part of the cup of iniquity that has to be full when Christ returns. (Gen.4:10-16, I John 3:12, Rev.6:10, Ps. 10:2, 94:5,23, 119:86, 161, Jer.17:18) conversely the persecution is part of the cup of suffering Christ’s church must fill up too. The very end times will bring unprecedented persecution on the church through Antichrist who will demand obedience (taking his mark) and worship from all on earth. The followers of Christ will not comply just as the three Hebrews declined when faced with being told to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Antichrist will then persecute Gods people to death through which they shall be delivered just like the myriads burnt at the stake, hanged and mutilated by evil men in previous generations of history. Jesus warned his disciples that just as he would be hated and persecuted, so would they. David, a type of Christ, in a previous age complains about all who persecuted him including Saul and Absalom in many of the Psalms. We will see God’s reasons for decreeing persecution later.