that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:35–38, AV)
“Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” is a classic record of multitudes of Christians who were persecuted for their faith from the first century until the time of Queen Mary who took the throne in 1556 A.D. Queen Mary is known as “Bloody Mary” because of her fierce persecution of protestant Christians in her effort to turn back the tide of the reformation. She apparently had over 280 protestants burned at the stake.
While Foxe’s book covered martyrdom up through the reign of Mary, this was by no means the end of the persecution of Christians. According to Open Doors, last year there were 2,983 Christians killed for their faith, 3,711 were arrested and detained without trial, and 9,488 churches and Christian buildings attacked worldwide. On top of this, many other forms of persecution against Christians are happening worldwide as well. Persecution for our faith is a reality.
I often wondered what would happen if we, in the United States, encountered such persecution? Would we stand firm? I wonder about this for myself. I can only hope that by God’s grace that we all would stand firm in our faith.
The writer of Hebrews, in speaking of the heroes of the faith, writes about many who by faith endured persecution. He lists some of the types of persecutions that they endured. They experienced physical torture and death, cruel mocking, imprisonment, impoverished, and caused to be homeless on the earth. How did they endure? They endured by faith. The author wrote that they “were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”
This is perhaps the one of the greatest expressions of true faith imaginable. Facing torture and death, they refused to turn from the Lord. All they needed to do was renounce their faith or even keep it in a closet. Yet, they refused to do so. The reason? They believed God existed and was a rewarder of those who would diligently seek Him. They had their spiritual eyes focused on that which their physical eyes could not see. They by faith sought a better place in heaven. They trusted the promises of God. The glorious future was of greater importance to these martyrs than any earthly pleasure.
Paul wrote, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, AV). This is what those of faith understand and it is this confident expectation that keeps them going in the midst of severe persecution. I can only hope and pray that we professing Christians, by God’s grace, will experience the faith to endure if severe persecution comes our way.