If you know much about Christian history or have even read through the Book of Acts, then you are aware that saints have shed their blood, spent time in prison and/or died for the cause of Christ. The truth is, even at this point in time (2008), there are Christians suffering and dying like this, especially outside the USA. Such a mentality of commitment to death is virtually lost in today's church world of ease, comfort, pleasure, ear-tickling sermons, entertainment, amusements, softball ministries, the ecumenical movement, rampant lukewarmness and Scriptural ignorance.
To many church people martyrdom is nothing more than how it was for the apostles, who went above and beyond the call of duty, in serving God. Is that the truth or just another dangerous concept generally embraced in our day?
Are all Christians called to be martyrs? Are any Christians not called to be martyrs? Can you be a faithful Christian and not be willing to die for Christ?
Let’s go to the Scriptures and look for answers. Are you ready for the results?
The Greek word translated witness in many reputable English translations of the New Testament can actually be translated martyr. The Greek word is martus. It has various definitions, but is clearly shown at times to refer to one who remains faithful to the point of death. Here are three of the clearest passages showing it refers to martyrs:
And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him. (Acts 22:20)
I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. (Rev 2:13, KJV)
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (Rev 17:6, KJV)
Specifically, Stephen, Antipas and the unnamed of Rev. 17:6 were all martyrs. Others were too such as John the Baptist and James, who also died for the cause of God.
Martyrs of the last generation who face the antichrist are also referred to here:
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Rev 20:4)
Could martyrdom be also referred to here?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat 16:24-26)
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
When the Lord Jesus openly told people they would have to take up their cross to be his disciple and to be worthy of him, they understood the cost could and would often mean physical death. They also knew to be the Lord’s disciple and to be worthy of Jesus is the language of salvation:
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:38)
Also, the Lord also often spoke of persecution and suffering that his followers would face. It is clear that suffering to the point of physical death goes with being his disciple and if you are not his disciple you are on the road to hell:
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mat 12:48-50)
How Early Saints Viewed Shedding
Their Blood For Christ
Ponder this passage in light of the fact to be flogged is to be beat bloody:
... They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:40,41)
The saints of the past knew remaining faithful to the very end was a salvation issue (Mt. 10:22; 10:33; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11) and, therefore, willingly experienced things such as the following during their earthly lives to remain faithful:
Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (Heb 11:35-39)
Dear reader, you might have to go through similar things in the future to remain faithful to God! It is worth any price now to die in Christ and be with him forever. To miss this is the greatest danger and worst thing that could ever happen. The fires of hell are eternal and hot.
Remember for those who lived for Christ, physical death is gain and better by far:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (Phil 1:21-23)
For someone to kill a Christian because he is a Christian is to send that person immediately home to a paradise kingdom in God’s presence.
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