As you wake up this morning in a nice warm bed, thinking about what you might have for breakfast; as you stand in your nice warm shower and think of what you might do with your friends; as you get dressed in your beautiful clean clothes and consider how much money you have to spend on your activities today, think of where some of your brothers and sisters in Christ are waking up. Because of the name of Jesus they are waking up in prison cells, cut off from their families, friends, churches. Some will face execution today, and no one will ever know. No one will honour them today. But they will be honoured by Jesus.
Not many of us realize how much of the Church is being persecuted in the world. Not many of us realize that more martyrs are being produced now than at any other time in history. And the world keeps on with its busyness without so much as a mention of those dying for the name of Jesus. I think even the Church is turning a blind eye whereas we should be leaping to our feet and applauding those who stand strong and go to the end of the matter in Jesus' name. Theirs will be a special reward, a special recognition before all of creation. We should also realize, they have been rescued.
During Isaiah's time there was a king who was so vicious, so terrible, so murderous that Scripture records him as filling Jerusalem with blood, from one end to another. Good, God-fearing people were being murdered, martyred. They refused to bend their knee to another god and they paid the price and no one defended them. Isaiah wrote:
The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil. (Isaiah 57:1)
Isaiah presents a perspective with which many of us may struggle. He puts forward the notion that the righteous were being rescued from the evil that was falling on Judah. Under the king, Judah was becoming a wretched place, filled with idolatry and all the evil that came with it and here Isaiah was saying that the righteous were being taken away from it. Perhaps to rescue them from temptation?
The problem is that we see death as robbing us of life. We see it to be the end of something instead of as a beginning. We see it as a door being shut instead of a door being opened. There is a reason that Jesus did not refer to people as being dead but simply as sleeping. Not everyone will escape the blow of death but those who are in Christ Jesus will escape the sting of death. Isaiah writes:
He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds,Each one walking in his uprightness. (v. 2)
The righteous of Isaiah's day were taken from the evil of the land, rescued, and brought into peace. Some who are reading this will also be rescued from the evil that is descending on our lands; evil that is being introduced by leaders set up to defend us. It is only the beginning and many will escape the full brunt of it through martyrdom. We cannot ignore the passages that refers to the great crowd of people who stood around the throne, dressed in white, the martyrs; those who died because of the name of Jesus. Scriptures say that they will have the honour of serving Jesus in the new Jerusalem. Their reward will be great.
If they are honoured there then they should be honoured here by those of us who understand. Perhaps in Isaiah's day "no man takes it to heart" but today, with the ease of the internet, we will take note of them and rise to honour them. We shall applaud and yell "Well done" because they have run their race and will enter their peace with Jesus. This place does not deserve the likes of them for they are too awesome for this world. They set for us a great example to stand up under persecution, to continue praising the name of Jesus, clothed in his righteousness. No matter the cost, we stand for Jesus, and as we forgive those who persecute us and love them to the end, may they discover how much Yahweh loves his enemies.