The persecution of Christians (and Jews) by Muslims has filled recent news accounts. Some recent persecutions have been “seasonal” in nature; that is, December, the month Christians celebrate the incarnation of God in human flesh (the birth of Jesus Christ, John 1:1-3, 14), has historically been filled with such persecutions. This past December, persecutions were reported in Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, to name just a few countries. The Jerusalem Post recently quoted Italian journalist, Giulio Meotti, stating, ”After the ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1948 from the Arab countries, Islamic fundamentalism is now trying to push away the Christians from the region. They want to establish a pure Islamic environment and the mass exodus has already begun under our noses.”The President of North Sudan, Omar al-Bashir,
recently stated, “We will take legal procedures against pastors who are involved in preaching or evangelistic activities.” The warning in a Jan. 3 letter to church leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) arrived a few days after the President told cheering crowds on Jan. 3 that, following the secession of largely non-Islamic south Sudan last July, the country’s constitution will be more deeply entrenched in sharia (Islamic law).” The impact on Christians living in the Sudan? Persecution, to the point of eradication in the North Sudan and on areas bordering the divide between north and south Sudan.
According to CNSNews.com (December 22, 2011), Islam is threatening Christianity with near eradication in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt: ”Despite long-term U.S. military occupations aimed at establishing representative governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Christianity now faces the real threat of eradication in those countries because of severe and persistent persecution of Christians there, according to the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Similarly, despite the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Egypt earlier this year, the survival of Christianity is also threatened in that country because of the escalating persecution of Christians.”
According to the Christian Post World (February 2, 2012), the Franklin Graham Heiban Bible College in Nuba Mountains, Southern Sudan, which has started over 168 churches in Sudan since its founding ten years ago, was bombed by the Sudanese Air Force. The Samaritan’s Purse website reported that eight bombs were dropped and two buildings were destroyed on February 1, 2012, the first day of classes for the pastor’s college.
Of course, persecutions by Islam are not limited to Christians. Persecution occurs within Islam. The two primary sects of Islam, Sunnis (85% of the world’s Muslims) and Shi’ites (the minority sect — 10% of the world’s Muslims), are often in conflict with one another. Sunnis have historically been the predominant sect within Islam for no other reason than sheer numbers. Shi’ites have been persecuted by the stronger Sunnis all the way back to their massacre at the Battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. Shi’ites commemorate this battle, annually, at the festival of “Ashura” in October. Annually, Sunnis ”bring out their swords” as Shi’ites conduct annual pilgrimages to Karbala, Iraq, the site of the 7th century massacre.
Although not the subject of this post, Daniel 2:41 prophesies of a “divide” for the last empire present in King Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream. Islam fulfills this characteristic (divided) as well as all others found in the prophecy. Daniel 2:43 prophesies of a ”strong part” and a “weak part” (Sunnis are the “strong” part and Shi’ites are the “weak” part), a “combining in the seed of men” (Shi’ites ”combine” through the seed of Muhammad; only blood descendants of Ali and Fatima (Muhammad’s daughter) qualify as “legitimate” Imams of the sect); and, an inability to “adhere to one another” (also fulfilled by Shi’ites). (See Islam the Cloak of Antichrist for a detailed review of Islam’s fulfillment of each of these characteristics).
The question we must ask is whether the persecution of Christians (or Jews), as a specific group, is found in Bible prophecies of the last days? If it is, what significance does it have to the interpretation of modern day events?
Throughout Bible prophecy, there is a common thread present in each prophecy: the persecution of the children of God (Jews and/or Christians) by a kingdom at enmity with God. Revelation 12:17 states, “The dragon [satan, Revelation 12:9] was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The phrase ”the rest of her children” is defined by the text – those “who … hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Clearly, the text is referring to followers of Jesus Christ, and the prophecy is that the dragon, satan, will wage war against them.
Revelation 12:17 is not the only Bible prophecy that Christians (or Jews) will be persecuted by a kingdom at enmity with God (italics supplied by author):
- Revelation 13:7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
- Revelation 17:6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.
- Revelation 17:14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.
- Revelation 18:24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.
- Daniel 7:21-22 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
- Daniel 7:25 He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, . . .
- Daniel 8:24 His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree And prosper and perform his will; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
The point is that Bible prophecy specifically states over and over again that the “saints,” the “witnesses of Jesus,” or the “holy people” will be the objects of conflict in the end times. Each of these conflicts is waged by a ”king” or his “kingdom” targeting a specific religious group. The conclusion logically formed by multiple conflicts against specific religious groups is that the end-times conflicts will be religious in nature, i.e., “holy war,” as opposed to a political or national war.
In addition, Revelation 13:7-8 adds an additional characteristic that helps identify the offensive force waging the conflicts. It states, ”It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” The text states that the world will ultimately come under the dominion of this empire; and, that the world will “worship him, everyone whose name has not been written … in the book of life of the Lamb…” Worship is what people give their “deity.” The first beast is not an individual, but a false deity that deceives the world that he is the one, true God. This conclusion is further supported by the identity of the group that refuses to worship this “leader.” Christians do not worship him. Why? Because Christians will not apostasize even under threat of death (some will, however, – 2 Thessalonians 2:3). Many Christians will die (Revelation 13:15). They will join their fellow martyrs (Revelation 6:10-11) because they refuse to be identified with the religion of the beast (the “mark,” 666, is only symbolic of having converted to his religion). Those Christians who apostasize and receive the “mark of the beast,” will be punished eternally in the Lake of Fire reserved for the dragon (satan), the beast (the false deity of the false religion), and the false prophet (the individual Antichrist). Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20-21; 20:10.
So then who fulfills these characteristics? Islam does. Who is the ”first beast” of Revelation 13, the deity of the false religion? Allah. Islam is the instrument through which satan has been waging “holy war” against the children of God for the last 1400 years. Revelation 13:2-4 tells us that satan is “behind” Allah, the first beast:
- Revelation 13:2-4 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon [satan] gave him his power and his throne and great authority. . .; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; …. (Italics supplied for emphasis)
Satan gives his power and throne and authority to the beast, Allah. He is a demonic being masquerading as the one, true, God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Satan has given Allah his power, throne, and authority for the purpose of deceiving the world at the price of subjugation to satan. This is exactly what satan attempted to give Jesus but Jesus refused (Matthew 4:8-9).
How does that relate to the modern day? Because in the end-times, the kingdom of the beast will be united and led by the Antichrist (Revelation 17:10-11, the 8th head of the scarlet beast), and will wage war against the Lamb in a final assault that will ultimately end with its defeat (Revelation 17:14). But before the defeat occurs (at the second coming of Christ), many will die. The world, other than Christians (and Jews) will submit to the beast and worship him (Revelation 13:7-8). In the midpoint, Christians will be raptured (Revelation 13:5, Daniel 9:27, 12:1) prior to the pouring out of the wrath of God.
Do modern day persecutions of Christians matter? Yes. Particularly if you know who is behind them – Satan. How do we respond, as Christians, to what the Bible says is coming? That will be the subject of my next book.
Praise God — we know who wins the war!
In the meantime, I know a good book to fill in some of the details: Islam – the Cloak of Antichrist.