“This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!””
Revelation 14:12-13 NLT
The third angel continued throughout the earth with his grim message of the consequences for those who decided to follow the beast and his ways. For those who do there may be a short term freedom from difficulties, persecution or worse, but they would then find that their position before the Great Judge would one day be untenable. Their defence counsel, even if there was such a person, would find nothing to offer in mitigation.
The beast’s demands included, firstly, worshipping the apparently-living effigy of the first beast, the one with the fatal wound that was healed, and, secondly, being marked with an ID on their hands or foreheads. Those who resisted the beast’s demands were finding that their ability to live God’s way was becoming more and more difficult. They found that going about their daily business of working to earn a wage to support their families was getting harder and harder. Not having the beast’s ID was cutting them off from all the benefits of being in society. We get a hint of the difficulties they will encounter by looking at the situation here in the UK for those who neither have a permanent address or a bank account. Such people end up living on the streets and rely on charities to provide the occasional meal, hot drink and clothes. But in these desperate times of the beasts, such charities would be discouraged I’m sure.
God’s holy people, Christians, were being marginalised by the new world order. We must remember that there is no compassion at all in the ways of the devil and his minions. Nothing but cruelty, wickedness and evil. Non-conforming people would end up facing the stark reality that they would eventually starve. Can you imagine the scene, with someone trying to use what little money they had remaining to purchase some food, and being turned away because of the lack of the beast’s mark? Desperate times for God’s holy people indeed.
But John saw all this in his vision, and he marvelled at the fortitude of those Christians who still held out, refusing to bow their knees before the beast and his ways. They had the spirit of the three Jewish men, that we read of in Daniel 3. The key verses that have echoed throughout the ages right through to these desperate End Times days. We read in Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Jesus gave His disciples a sobering hint of what these days would look like. In Matthew 24:9-10 we read, ““Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are My followers. And many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other.”
In his musings, John heard a voice from Heaven. A voice of encouragement and pride. Pride in the fact that there were people on earth who would rather die than sacrifice their faith on the devil’s altar. And the reward waiting for those who stood firm to the end was far more valuable than the short term gain of conforming to the ways of the beast.
I have heard Christians say that they were very concerned that they are not strong enough to be able to withstand such persecution. But many millions of Christians over the world, in today’s world, do suffer terrible persecution and they stand firm regardless. Sometimes we underestimate the help and support that our Heavenly Father offers those who choose to follow His ways. Jesus encouraged us with His words from John 14:26-27, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid“. Not only will the Holy Spirit be close to us, helping us, giving us the right words to say, but He will also give us an inner peace, something that will be missing from those who don’t know God.
If anyone suffered persecution, it was the Apostle Paul. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong“”. We pilgrims have chosen a hard road, and it will get harder in the End Times. But regardless of where we are in our journey, God is there to help us. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble“. (Psalm 46:1).
Dear God. We praise and thank You for Your grace and mercy, Your loving kindness, Your provision. Troubles may lie ahead in our journey to our Promised Land, but we know You are joining us in every step. Amen.