And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 6:10)?”
I am a writer for the persecuted church and I can tell you that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in the previous 18 centuries combined. In fact, an estimated 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ since the Lord’s crucifixion. Here are a few statistics that caught my attention concerning the number of Christians martyred in more recent years. (Stats provided by David Barrett in an article for Christianity Today and used in a Good News article written by Bob Woods).
200,000 Christians and foreigners killed in the Boxer Rebellion in China from 1898 to 1900
700,000 Christians killed in communist China between 1950 and 1980
300,000 Christians martyred under Idi Amin in Uganda between 1971 and 1979
600,000 plus – Sudanese Christians murdered by Islamic government in 1963
1,200,000 – Catholics and ‘underground church’ Christians died in Soviet Union in 1925
200,000 plus – Ukrainian Orthodox in Soviet Ukraine in 1927
100,000 plus – Lithuanian Christians killed by the Nazis, then Soviets from 1940-1980
450,000 plus – Yugoslav and Serbian Orthodox & others by Nazi and Soviets up to 1990s
125,000 plus – Lutheran Confessing Church, Catholics and others by humanist Nazis
1933-1945 200,000 – Christians executed during Korean War and by North Korean Communists
1950-2000 520,000 – Christian Hutus and Tutsi killed each other in Rwanda’s 1994 civil war
300,000 plus – Evangelicals killed in Colombia’s ‘La Violenza’ civil war 1948-58
Such faith can give us courage–or make us want to run and hide. Now, I don’t like to picture in my mind even 100 Christians dying a gruesome death for their faith. At first glance, it sickens my heart and I ask the question, as I’m sure you have, would I have been faithful to the end? Am I willing to die a martyr’s death?
Let me encourage all of us to get the eternal picture, instead, in our hearts. Let’s read what the Apostle John saw in his visit to the future last days:
9 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 testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed (Revelation 6:9-11).
That’s right, John was told there is a certain number of fellow servants and brethren that will be killed for their faith. I have no more to say on that except God said it and I believe it.
Someone could wonder why we keep praying for the persecuted church while the number of those martyred keeps growing? While it is right to want the persecution to stop and to minister to our suffering family in Christ, is it possible that we need to grow up and be mature in our perspective on prayer for them?
The Lord is currently impressing me that our highest prayers for the martyrs of 2015 should be:
- That each Christian martyred will be faithful to the death
- That God will remove the terrible sting of death and, like Stephen, see Jesus before they cross over from here to heaven
- Endurance to finish their race well until the day of their death
- Boldness to declare the wonders of God and the Gospel of Jesus until that time
- That the enemies of the cross will believe in Jesus, especially as Christians love their enemies and do good to them that despitefully use them
- That the wicked one (satan) will be overthrown by the saints in the earth
The martyrs are indeed filling up the altar of God in heaven and, dare I say, they are grateful now in eternity for what they suffered here on the earth. Let’s save our greatest sorrows for those who are marching toward the cliff of eternity without Christ, for their pain will be eternal and their suffering endless.
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 13)!