Christianity has a common ailment whenever and wherever it’s tried. It’s an affliction among those who reject the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Gospel – the Word of God – is preached, people either accept it or reject it. When they cover their ears and harden their hearts, Satan has a field day. They become his playground, and useful idiots for his purpose, which is to discredit and destroy God. Satan’s people then – through their own poor choice of turning away to the dark things of this world – often decide it makes good sense to persecute God’s elect with whom they disagree.
Paul recounts this kind of situation in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. He tells them in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 that what he had previously experienced wasn’t wasted:
But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
Undergoing persecution caused him to harden his resolve and become even more bold. Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps someone says you can’t do something, or you are defeated in some endeavor. What is your response? Is it to just give up and walk away? Or is it to squint your eyes and make a thin line with your lips as you determine to succeed?
You can’t do this. “Oh, yes, I can!” You’re a loser. “Not a chance. I’ll do whatever it takes to triumph!”
This was Paul coming to Thessalonika after being run out of Philippi by men determined to humiliate him. But, unlike in human endeavors, his determination and strength came from the Lord.
What Paul communicated rang true with the people in this church because they related directly to what he said. He reiterated to them in 1 Thessalonians 2:14:
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews…
Just like Jewish believers in Israel, these Gentile believers had likewise been the target of those opposed to God. Paul says, “Opposition to the truth of Christ isn’t anything unusual. The Judean churches suffered from it, I did as well, and so have you.”
Given the long history of antipathy toward the true Gospel that all men are sinners and need a Savior, who is only found in the Person of Jesus Christ, it should come as no surprise to us that we also will encounter opposition in our faithful walk with the Lord. For years, we’ve seen how our brothers and sisters in Christ in the 10/40 Window have been persecuted, suffered greatly for their faith, yet stood boldly for Christ regardless what men did to them. Did we think we were immune to this? I think that many in the church did.
For a number of years I’ve been associated with the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) (https://www.persecution.com/). In the early years there were a number of opportunities to present the story of the suffering church to various congregations. Over time those openings to speak for VOM dried up. No one wanted to hear about persecution of other believers. It was too hard for their Western sensibilities. But, just because many didn’t want to hear the message didn’t change the fact that our brothers and sisters continued to be persecuted. I always came back to the same question regarding the church in America: Was ease and comfort the only persecution that we’d have to endure?
I think it’s becoming clear that the hostility toward the Gospel seen in other countries is coming our way. When the anti-God forces, such as Marxists, rise to power in a nation, those who form political opposition are usually the first to be attacked and muted. If the church wakes up and some stand against the tide of repression, those true believers are quickly targeted. This is when people in the church must make a decision.
Will the many who are nominal in their faith stop straddling the line between the world and heaven? Or will they run to the arms of the enemies of God and become wolves? Will those who truly believe stand firm despite the cost? The price may not be as high for us as it has been for those in hostile and restricted nations, but there will surely be a point of decision. Do I capitulate to the State so as to feed my family or have a roof over my head? Or do I trust God that He will provide just as He promises that He will?
The confidence, hope, and joy that we have as pre-Tribulation Rapture believers is that whatever period of time we must endure is only light and temporary. Those who oppose God have a fate that Paul declares in 1 Thessalonians 2:16. They will fill up the measure of their sins. Because they hate God and His children, wrath has come upon them.
The wrath of God is worse than anything we can imagine, certainly worse than any suffering we might be asked to endure until the coming of the Lord. Knowing this should cause us great urgency with those around us who don’t know Jesus. Time is exceedingly short. Will we work while it’s still day? Will we reach out to those who are lost, and through the power of the Lord, rescue some from the fire?
When we are obedient in these small things, we can be assured that God is pleased. Better than that, we know that because we have occupied until He comes, He will reward us with crowns for our faithful service.