Can our theology embrace a Christian holocaust?
The other day, due in large part to my own spiritual dullness, I was sobered during a video teaching by Ray Comfort regarding Jesus’ death on the cross. What would it have been like to be with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and take our Lord’s body down after His crucifixion? He was naked, beaten beyond recognition, impaled by spikes, speared in the side... torn, ripped and shredded like a piece of meat savaged by animals. This would not have been the renaissance painting of a melancholy Jesus judiciously draped with a cloth wrap and oozing token droplets of blood. This crushed body would have indicated the seriousness with which God views our sin and the price required to atone for it. Yet did not Jesus warn us, His disciples, that in many cases we would be treated as He was treated? Have you been reading about the graphic details of the world-wide persecutions of the saints currently making the news?
Our deaths will not be atonement for sin, as we are not the perfect Lamb of God. Only Jesus could pay that price and He paid it once and for all. But our deaths can be redemptive in God’s plan to restore His creation. The Bible says that all creation has been turned over to futility and is groaning as in pains of childbirth for the revealing of the sons of God.
The great multitude which no one could count who emerge victorious from great tribulation at the sixth seal of the Book of Revelation are not so obviously, much as we would like to think, the raptured Church. Nor are they so obviously those unfortunates who were "left behind" when the "true" Church was previously raptured. I believe the Bible suggests they are Christians martyred prior to the harvest. They emerge following the declaration to the already martyred saints under the altar at the fifth seal, that a similar killing of more of their brothers would be required before God would begin avenging their blood. And that avenging of their blood, the Bible indicates, does not begin until the first trumpet judgment. Between the fifth seal and the first trumpet judgment emerge this great numberless multitude who precisely and logically fit the description and timing of these additional brothers who must be killed. And if they cannot be numbered, then they are obviously greater in number than the two-hundred million of the sixth trumpet judgment who can be numbered. Death and Hades of the fourth seal, representing most likely the antichrist and his false prophet, are given authority to kill one-fourth of the earth’s population. In today’s numbers, that works out to about one and one-half billion people. I believe this numberless multitude who emerge victorious from great tribulation, having washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb, are Christian martyrs potentially in excess of one billion in number.
Can our theology of a loving Father who only gives good things to His children embrace such a scenario? If faced with this reality, would we stumble and perhaps fall away or find our love growing cold as Jesus said many would? Why did Jesus question if He would find faith on the earth when He returns? I believe the intensity of the times that are coming upon us is why He spoke those words. Anything less than total trust and abandonment to Him and His purposes, as exampled by the steadfast faith of Job, will result in our collapse under the pressure. The flesh will not survive what is coming...not spiritually, and in many cases, not physically. Why should it? Is our faith somehow relying on the survival of our flesh? Is that our "blessed hope"? The Bible says we are as sheep to be slaughtered. Can our theology embrace that? Do we understand the redemptiveness of such slaughter in the Father’s plan to glorify Himself through His Church? Or is this raving "fundamentalist blood and gore" as some call it? I think not. It comes from a literal reading of the Bible.
We must understand that our Father is going to demonstrate His wisdom in the form of the cross of Jesus Christ through His Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:9-11). We must align ourselves with His purposes and get our theology in order so that we can stand without shrinking back during the challenging times coming upon us...times designed to test and establish our worthiness for the Kingdom of God. I didn’t say it, the Bible said it. Salvation is by grace. But worthiness for the Kingdom (that’s what the Bible says!) appears to be a process to be worked out in part by sharing in the suffering of our Lord. If He was perfected by His suffering, how much more need we be perfected by our suffering? This would particularly hold true for those at the end of the age destined to be a bride without spot or wrinkle.
This is not a message of gloom and doom. It is a message of glory and eternal joy, of transformation into the likeness of our Savior. Jesus likened that transformation to the birthing of a child. We must look beyond the temporary pains of childbirth to our eternal joyous transformed life with Him. A birthing involves birthpains, hence the events coming upon the world in the form of wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and even the killing of the saints, are described as "birthpains" that we are counseled to endure through.
For additional discussion, please refer to the sixth chapter entitled "A Theology of Suffering" found in the on-line book "Restoring the Vision of the End Times Church" at www.restoringthevision.com. The burden of this teaching is that we might endure through birthpains to the harvest at the end of the age that Jesus insisted that His disciples endure to. Christian bookstores are plentifully stocked with reading material teaching that we won’t have to endure to the end of the age, but Jesus is the authority in this matter, and we should be listening to Him. The nature of our eternity depends on it.