After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 Once more they cried out,
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. –Revelation 19:1-10 [ESV]
I know better. But I wish it were not so. Christians suffer. Dedicated Christ-followers faithful pray-ers, committed Christians all have been subjected to trouble, torture, and even death because of their faith. It’s happened throughout the centuries. Whether by the hands of Nero, Diocletian, Stalin, or many unnamed persecutors, honorable, honest, godly, gracious, and innocent people have been subjected to insult, persecution, and death. I wish it were not so.
I don’t think I should have to endure such troubles. My life is fairly safe and secure. I don’t worry that someone is going to burst into our home and demand that I deny my Savior. Even when we’ve traveled to Russia, Kenya, or Tanzania, I’ve not feared for my life. Perhaps I’ve been naive. Maybe there have been enemies of the gospel lurking, seeking an opportunity to discredit the gospel or bring me harm. But I’ve seldom felt threatened because of my faith.
One occasion, however, we did feel the danger. We were in China visiting churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries (though they asked us not to use the “M” word). We were constantly accompanied (or should I say surveilled?) by members of the Communist Party’s Religious Affairs Bureau. They schmoozed us, told us that China is an open country with great religious freedom. But we learned otherwise. When we thought we had distanced ourselves from them, they caught up with us and directed us to a hotel of their choosing – rather than the hotel we had thought we would stay in.
At 2:00 AM, a knock came on our hotel room door. I got up and went to the door and discovered two very young and attractively-dressed women. They were laughing, and were obviously offering us (Diane and me?!?) their services. We believe they were sent by the RAB to discredit us, revealing our moral complicity. I told them, “Go away!” And, thankfully they did.
Such is the tip of an iceberg of compromise and duplicity to which we are tempted daily. And Satan wants to leverage that any way he can.
Here, however, we have a picture of the end of such deceivers, persecutors, tormentors, and tempters. They suffer utter doom. They are completely vanquished. And the hosts of heaven rejoice in their demise. They realize how destructive those are who attack followers of Jesus. They realize how much Christians have suffered for the faith. And now that it is ended, they rejoice in God’s vindication. All the pain, tears, troubles, and disappointments have actually happened. There is no guarantee of a painless life for Jesus’ followers. In fact, the opposite is true: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” Jesus says (John 15:20).
But all persecution – as real, horrific, distressing, and terrible as it may be – will come to an end. The world, the devil, and our flesh may attack. But God’s people will be saved. And we will join all the redeemed in praising the One who has saved us. Hallelujah!