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True And False Martyrs
The present-day definition of "martyr" is usually that of "someone who suffers persecution or death for a cause or principle." The translated word "martyr" is also used that way, three times, in the King James Version.
"22:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by [see also Was Paul Among Them?], and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." (Acts 22:20 KJV)
The Greek word, pronounced mar-toos, that is sometimes translated as "martyr," is found many more times (over thirty) in the Holy Scriptures however - where it is translated as "witness," according to the actual meaning of the Greek word. "Martyr" literally means witness. Very often, it was for their "witness" to the Truth that God's people were "martyred," meaning killed. Ironically however, the very same word was used, for example, for the liars who testified against the Christ so that they could kill Him - they were "martyrs of Jesus" in a Satanic way, as in false witnesses against Christ.
"26:65 Then the high priest [see also The High Priest's Deal With The Devil] rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? [mar-toos, "martyrs"] behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy." (Matthew 26:65 KJV)
"Ye are witnesses of these things"
The principle of a true "witness" was established long before the New Testament era. The Greek word mar-toos ("martyr") was used by Jesus Christ (see also Translation Of Translations) "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established," which was a reference to "19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deuteronomy 19:15 KJV).
"18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church [see What Is The Church?]: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." (Matthew 18:15-17 KJV)
The apostles were witnesses of the coming of the Messiah, in fulfillment of all that was prophesied about Him.
"24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me [see The By-The-Book Messiah].
The last instruction that The Christ gave to His people before His ascension was "ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
"1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Just as false "martyrs" (witnesses) testified against the Son of God, so too they testified against His people, including when they "set up false witnesses" against Stephen, who is referred to as a "martyr" in the verse quote above ("when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed"). In both cases, the actual word is the same, mar-toos.
"6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 6:9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
The final "witness" of the true Gospel of The Kingdom of God will be made, as stated by Christ, by "my two witnesses" - the "my" being an important distinction because there will also be, at that time, just as there have already been for centuries (as we've read from the Scriptures already quoted), many false witnesses who are not of Christ.
"11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Fact Finder: What is it that causes the false "witnesses" to exist?