“And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.”
Revelation 13:7-10 NLT
These last days will be an uncomfortable place for Christians to be in. In John’s vision he saw that the “beast“, the global governmental system, was “allowed to wage war” against “God’s holy people”. And, worse, Christians everywhere were to be “conquered”. What does all this look like?
First of all, God has to provide His permission to allow the devil to do any of his malevolent acts. We see that from the story of Job. In Job 1:9-12 we read, “‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has’? …. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger’ …” In John 16:33 we read that Jesus said, “‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’” When Jesus had been arrested and was standing before Pilate, this incredible conversation took place, “‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’” (John 19:10-11, emphasis mine). Throughout history Christians have suffered for their faith. We pilgrims were never promised an easy ride by choosing to follow Jesus. In fact being counter-cultural in a secular society will be difficult. I think there is a hint about why this should be in James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
The world system was given permission to overcome Christians everywhere. And I have no doubts in my mind that this is something happening today, with increasing severity. Even in Western societies, supposedly more focused on equality and diversity, societal animosity against religions often emerges. Laws can be passed that outlaw attacks on minority groups but that does not stop the violence, verbal or otherwise, from happening. And the availability of social media provides an apparently anonymous platform for abusers to exploit. Attacks against some religious groups invokes a violent backlash, making many wary of exposing their vitriol and hatred towards them, but Christians have always been a soft target, because they adhere to a policy of non-violence and forgiveness. But in other parts of the world, persecution against Christians is extreme, to the extent that anyone professing a faith in God has to be eliminated.
So whether we like it or not, on 21st Century Planet Earth, there is a partial global governmental system in place that is waging war on Christians. It is not yet total, but it seems as though each year sees an increase in the reach of the authorities into the lives of Christians, with increasing persecution. One day, as John saw in his vision, it will be complete. Total anti-Christian mayhem.
But what does Revelation 13:10 mean? It says, “Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.” To me, this verse seems to be saying that there is a predetermined destiny for every human being, beyond their abilities to choose. In absolute terms this is true, because mankind will one day come to the end of their lives. We cannot choose not to die. But on our journeys to the tomb we do have choices, very limited for some, but less restrictive for others. The ultimate choice we make is whether or not we wish to follow God, but this will by itself bring about consequences we might not like. In the End Times, the resulting persecution of Christians may well lead to imprisonment and death, but we are reminded in John’s vision that patience and faithfulness will result in the right conclusion – eternal life with our wonderful Heavenly Father.
Dear Lord and Father, we thank You that You are always there for us. You see what we suffer and are always there to help us and strengthen us for the journey through difficult times. We praise and thank You today. Amen.