There were twenty-one Christians (Egyptian Copts), kneeling on that Libyan beach wearing orange jumpsuits. By now, most of us have seen the video footage. Behind the Christians stand ISIS terrorists, covered in black – brandishing their knives.
About to cut off the heads of The Twenty-One.
The Twenty-One had most likely been given an opportunity to forsake Christ and to embrace Allah and Mohammed. None denied Christ. They knelt, going faithfully to their deaths – and to eternal joy with their Savior.
Can you envision The Twenty-One now?
“Under the altar were the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held…”
These brothers now standing with all the Christian martyrs as described in the opening of the fifth Seal in Revelation 6:9-11?
They remind me of the faithful Apostles who all died martyrs’ deaths (except John, who was exiled to Patmos). Even though, in the garden the night Jesus was betrayed, each of His disciples fled in fear, the Lord drew them back. After Christ’s death on the Cross, and after they had witnessed the risen Christ, each Apostle faithfully proclaimed the Good News. And each one was tortured and killed, and received their eternal reward.
I also believe that, like those early martyrs, The Twenty-One also saw the Risen Savior as they faced the moment of their death.
The Apostle Paul longed to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” He desired to be “conformed” to Christ, even in Christ’s death, because Paul longed to know the undiluted power of the Living God – namely, the resurrection glory of Jesus. To do that he understood he also needed to be willing to enter into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings – even to the point of death. The Twenty-One were also willing to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings – and into the fellowship of the Apostles in their martyrdom.
Smyrna’s overseas partners are increasingly entering into that fellowship as well.
Last week one of our African partners saw eight of their church members burned alive in a church bus, apparently by Boko Haram. I thank God for your financial gifts and support which enabled us to send assistance to these martyrs’ families). And I ask you to continue to intercede for these families.
In my estimation, we are experiencing the beginning of World War III. Consider the threat from Iran, ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, Hezbollah, and Hamas – just to name a few. Too many of our leaders downplay the Islamic threat for political reasons. We can’t depend on earthly authorities to defend us. Our hope is in the Lord.
“Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.” (Psalm 70:5)
As the rumor of war and the suffering of peoples across the world intensifies, I pray that we will be prepared to enter into the suffering of Christ. I pray that our attitude and desires will be just like Paul and the other Apostles – just like The Twenty-One – and our eight brethren on the bus in Africa.
Faithful unto death.
Are we willing to take up our crosses, whether it means living sacrificially every day or whether it may mean literally dying for the Name of Christ?
The ISIS terrorists who beheaded The Twenty-One on the beach in Libya called them “People of the Cross”. Are we willing to embrace the Cross of Christ no matter the cost? Are we willing to be truly named “People of the Cross”?
Only with God’s help are we able…but He is mighty.
Praying with you for boldness and courage,
– Bill and the team at Smyrna
Bill serves as the Executive Director of Smyrna. He is a retired Navy Captain, and his 27 years of experience in the Navy, including a tour as commanding officer of a naval aviation squadron, have equipped him well for the myriad challenges inherent in ministry work. He has traveled to Ghana, India, Bangladesh, Jordan, Syria, and beyond, building relationships with faithful believers who are persecuted for Christ at the hands of Islam. He and his wife have 3 wonderful children and 7 precious grandkids who do their best to keep them young.
Smyrna Insight is an e-commentary on current events involving Islamic persecution, Christian ministry in the Islamic context, and other topics dealing with the Persecuted Church under Islam. Smyrna does not necessarily endorse all of the views and opinions in the news stories we share.