Throughout the ages, suffering has always been synonymous with being a Christian.
Not until the 20th century did the Church begin spreading the teaching that following Christ was synonymous with a life of ease, prosperity, wealth, and self-absorption. American preachers and pastors found that their bank accounts grew wildly with such teachings. They readily preyed upon their own sheep, promising that if they gave their money, God would bless them in return with whatever they wanted or needed. Very soon churches in America began to operate as businesses with the benefits of a tax-exempt 501-c3 — so long as they kept their mouths shut about topics contrary to the State. The Church took the bait and boomed, and slowly messages about sin, damnation, repentance, and the like were largely forsaken. Mega-churches and ministries of every kind sprang up, especially in the Bible Belt, with missionaries who spread these doctrines. Soon the mission field was filled with the promises of monetary gain if you followed Christ. Such preachers and pastors quickly gained international notoriety.
This brand of Christianity spread with ease, and it spread vast. For the 20th century Christian, suffering and persecution had been all but officially abolished — and ironically, Christianity suddenly became a way to escape it.
Sadly, the nominal 21st century Christian in the free world today has little to no knowledge of what suffering and persecution really look like. What’s more is they are not readily prepared for it should it come to them. Heretical teachings promise the LORD would never allow such things to happen to His bride, who is the Church, because He loves them. Predicated by that standard, the early Church and every other Christian who has suffered and died would be thought hated by Him.
Yet coming, it is.
Suffering and persecution are promised to the believer. Sadly, those who believe heretical doctrines that promise otherwise have been robbed and stripped of the very truth that will prepare them to stand in the face of such sufferings for Christ’s sake. That truth is able to arm and equip them with the same joy and hope the early Church readily embraced in suffering for their LORD.
How did we get here?
Throughout the Church age, Christians all over the world have faced suffering and persecution unto death. It was expected. It was the norm. When you claim to know God intimately — to hear His voice, teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that you’re a sinner who must repent of your sin or you will suffer damnation — you become a perceived threat to a lost and dying lost world. One must admit, Christianity is not an easy or soft doctrine when biblically presented. It readily offends. Jesus Christ did not soften His message for those who could not receive it. They had to make a choice for which there was no spiritual middle ground. You were either for Him or against Him. You were either saved by Him, or you would suffer condemnation. You were either a sheep or a goat. Yet He loved you regardless of that choice you made, and He protected your freedom to make it.
Leaders and laity alike did not take kindly to Jesus Christ’s message.
Early Christians branded themselves as belonging solely to Christ. They understood their allegiance was to the LORD and the Kingdom of God. They were not of this world, and they did not embrace fear. That kind of allegiance was interpreted as being defiant, hostile, rebellious, and non-conformant. Christians were viewed as dangerous rogue entities who threatened a stable government and civil state.
Yet despite the intense persecution against the early Church, it grew. Entire regions of Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Africa were evangelized. When people are willing to suffer and spill their blood for the truth — it’s in the very least compelling, and the power God demonstrated among believers did not disappoint. Miracles abounded. The early Church left a path so cluttered with miracles that earthly leaders and government powers became afraid of them. The only way to control the spread of this Gospel was to kill them.
And kill them, they did. In the most brutal and barbaric of ways.
306 AD – Enter Constantine the Great.
That trend in persecution did not cease until the Church and State collaborated in an effort to control the masses under a very tyrannical fear of God coupled with prolific wealth, as instituted by Constantine during the Byzantine Era. The plan worked: people were easily subdued and they conformed. As such, Christianity was no longer a choice. It was something you were born and baptized into by default. This was not about following Jesus Christ as an act of free will. Quite the contrary. You obeyed the Church and submitted to the State. Many who did follow Jesus Christ eventually found themselves at odds with the Church and State. The power of God demonstrated through them brought about rife persecution. They were tried as heretics, or as being insane with devils, and were burned at the stake.
As Christianity spread throughout the region, the Roman Catholic Church grew and evolved into a power all its own, propagating its own man-made doctrines via the Papacy, and the Vatican at Rome was born. The Catholic Church grew so powerful it controlled every element of society. Albeit, the teachings were heretical, being leveraged to control and subdue the people at will. Religious freedom was nonexistent, and the Word of God remained chained. No one but the scribes and priests had access to the scriptures. The masses were illiterate, and the Church and State were quite happy to keep them that way. The scriptures were transcribed and translated in Latin, which was a dead language by the 6th century. People blindly followed this incorporation of Church and State without question. This collaboration was one that operated by tyrannical fear. Fear of the Church. Fear of God.
The scriptures were wielded against the people in an effort to maintain law, order, and a civil society. Ironically, the Dark Ages, wherein the Church came to its pinnacle of power, were some of the most brutal.
1483 AD – Enter Martin Luther.
When Martin Luther helped translate the Word of God from Latin to English, what he really did was open Pandora’s Box. He wrote 95 Theses by which he disproved the Church doctrines as heretical. An entire reformation broke out, which began during Henry VIII. The Geneva Bible, which was largely transcribed phonetically in Jacobean English for the illiterate, went viral by today’s standards, and was completed in 1560. In that wake believers suffered intense persecution, even unto death as they revolted, namely against Mary I of England (Bloody Mary) who succeeded the throne.
The Church went postal and the State spiraled out of control, losing its grip. The Church turned the world upside down and inside out– all over again. People learned the truth of the scriptures for themselves. Bibles were suddenly in homes. The revolt sent waves throughout the United Kingdom and Europe until the King James Version was authorized for the masses, being completed in 1611.
With the Protestant Reformation the Church was proven to be heretical. However, with the publication of the King James, the Church and State were able to maintain its order, giving the people what they wanted. But it didn’t last long. Religious freedom remained quelled.
1776 AD – Enter America.
Following its initial discovery in 1492, pilgrims and early pioneers of the 16oo’s found the New World to be an incredible feast of possibilities. It offered what so many had long hoped to obtain: Freedom. The freedom they sought was religious: the ability to worship and serve God unhindered — apart from any threat or control of the State.
Yet, to have freedom of religion you need freedom of thought and belief. To have freedom of thought and belief, you need freedom of speech. With this in mind, the Constitution and our First Amendment was thus drafted.
America did what none other had ever done: we defeated Great Britain, which was the greatest monarchy at that time — and we did it with a grass roots army supplied and assisted by France (also a longstanding defender and champion of liberty).
It was an absolute miracle.
The Revolutionary War of 1776 secured our Independence from Great Britain once and for all — who, at that time, was a tyrant seeking universal world power.
With the Independence of America, there was a transfer of wealth and power bestowed upon us by none other than God Himself. Great Britain was no longer at the helm, and America soared to power.
America was founded as one nation under God. No other nation had ever dared do it. When America proclaimed the separation of Church and State heralding religious freedom, it was a bold proclamation that had never been done in the history of mankind. It was an epiphany — and the Christian masses flooded to our shores… along with many others who sought greedy gain.
The Apostle Paul says:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead,” (Philippians 3:7-11, KJV).
2021 AD – Enter the Church and State.
Will our religious liberties in America perish? Will there continue to be a separation of Church and State? Will our country continue to be one nation under God?
This is where we are. It’s time to take your place. With whom will you stand? For whom will you stand?
As we move forward, and in due time, no doubt we will find ourselves upon the precipice of a new one-world government that will have no respect for God or those who serve Him.
Suffering and persecution are coming. It is promised. The reprieve America offered to the world was abused and taken for granted. We forfeited the opportunity to spread the true Gospel of Christ in exchange for fleecing the sheep of God. We squandered our wealth. We lived in our bubbles, insulated from the world. In many ways we brought shame to the name of Jesus Christ. The heresy and hypocrisy was all too evident to the masses, yet hidden from those of us who wonder why Christianity is so hated.
Is it still because we preach salvation from sin can only be found in Jesus Christ? Is it because we preach repentance from sin, and the reality of damnation? Or is it because so many of our churches are full of hypocrites, charlatans, and heretics? While there are so many who suffer for Jesus, who die for their faith in Christ, and who are persecuted for the Gospel — on the other side of the world?
Will God allow persecution to come to America? It’s already here. Are you prepared for it, and will you endure? Jesus Christ tells us the world will hate us; that we will suffer for His name’s sake. How that will look for each believer is going to be different.
We must understand that we are called to the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. We are called to endure to the end. We are called to know Him, even in His sufferings, and to drink the same cup He drank.
Know today, that if you are a Christian, suffering and persecution are part of knowing Christ. We are told to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that we are counted worthy of Him, and that our names are written in heaven.
Love not your lives to the death.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Skitterphoto | Pixabay