It is no secret that yesterday a video was release in which ISIS is show beheading 21 men by the Libyan sea. These 21 men were 21 redeemed by the blood of Jesus and killed in a flurry of unspeakable darkness on a eerily serene beachfront. These 21 are our brothers, and I do say “are.” They have not ceased to exist but are, right as I type, with their Portion. They see now, more than ever, the Christ is the goal of salvation, the point of history whose glory is the end of all things, temporal and eternal. What do we do this this? One, we weep. It is no day for chipperness. This is a day to cry. This is a day for what Christon Gray calls “Good Mourning.” But we do not mourn like this is our home. Are we not sojourners? Is our life not hidden with Christ? The worst they can do is kill us. And we were once dead anyway, now alive to God who is our daily bread, our life. I’d like to simply meditate on Revelation 6 for a minute. We must see God’s design and intention in the blood of martyrs: both our joy, and His glory.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV)
Why Christians Get Killed
The gospel is offensive. It is fundamentally opposed to the elementary principles of the world and to the flesh. Paul says in Romans 8 that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God and cannot/will not submit to God. The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is this gospel that could cost us our lives. Let me say this clearly: we will never be killed for our doing of good deeds, social justice or etc. This is the weakness of the deeds before creeds mantra (ok well one of the many weaknesses). Our deeds are not often offensive, quite rarely offensive unto death. Nonbelievers can be very moral. Their problem is a heart that hates God, who refuses to rest in and be satisfied by all God is for us in Christ. The message of the Cross is that we are dead and under the wrath of God and that it took Christ as a ransom to redeem us. It calls us out, tells us we are accountable to One. Since the church began brothers and sisters have died because they have testified to the gospel of God’s grace. They have not been killed by trying to bring the Kingdom (as if they could) but by bearing witness to the coming Kingdom and even more so to the King of that Kingdom. It is the Word of God that got them killed. Confidence and delight in the Bible may cost us our lives as we are committed to proclaiming what it says.
The Martyrs Cry: “O Sovereign Lord!”
These martyrs are saying this on the right side of death. They know God perfectly, having seen Him as He is (1 John 3:2). See what they call Him! Sovereign Lord! There is no temptation to pass the blame over to Satan and paint a picture of God who is in the corner wringing His hands. God does not sin but He is sovereign over the evil of the world (without sinning). They call Him sovereign while ascribing truth and holiness to His eternal, perfect being. There is no sin in God but He does use the sin of responsible men to accomplish his purposes (let us be humble ourselves under biblical, hard truths). In short, these martyrs praise the transcendent character of God. God could stop the martyrdom. At any time he pleased. Yet God doesn’t. We do not know why, other than that God does all that He does for His own name’s sake. This is our greatest good and joy! Jesus will be sufficient in life and death. God’s sovereign grace is our only hope to stand in the face of evil.
What is Coming to Unrepentant Terrorists (Any Anyone)
God will not be mocked. Retaliation is not ours. We don’t triumph with the sword. We see that our end should have been the same as that of a terrorists. Is not our sin equally offensive before God? At the very least, the most minute slight of God’s glory is enough to deserve infinite Hell. In ourselves, we had the capability to do any evil under the sun. But in the Son, God has gifted us with faith and repentance, giving us eyes to see His glory. God’s grace is not limited, His arm is not so short that He cannot stop a terrorist in his tracks and call him effectually to Himself (Like Paul in Acts 9). But to those who God has left in their sin, who have willingly murdered God’s church will wish that we did fight back. The glory of God is of infinite worth. His wrath will allow no one to stand. Vindication of God’s justice is for God. May ISIS repent and believe!
Those Left to Die
There are more of us who will die for the name of Christ. These martyrs, even the 21 who just died, are resting but a little while longer waiting for the full number of martyrs to be complete. God has planned this. This could be our Jeremiah 29:11 type plans that God has for us. Our souls will prosper because Christ is our life. Following Jesus, as Matt Chandler reminds us, may end badly for us in this life. The book of Revelation is a future reality and is as certain as the God who inspired the text. Many more will die. Things are not getting better. But God is not surprised. Romans 8:28 is not nullified by our deaths at the hands of evil men. All things means all things! Even a martyrs death is for their good and the glory of God. Only a heart that can say “whom have I in heaven but you and none on Earth I desire besides you,” can stare death in the face with great joy. Our hearts and flesh are failing but God is our strength precisely because He is our portion, all we need to be satisfied forever. For others to be saved, it may cost us our lives. Like yours. Maybe mine. But since Christ has given His life as a ransom for many and his righteousness as ours by faith alone, we can go and die. For to live is Christ and to die: gain.