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Thursday, May 10 2012

Why Does The LORD Permit Persecution?

The people of the Church of God (keeping in mind that "church" means people i.e. "called out ones"; see The Church Today) have been persecuted throughout the ages, not because the LORD did it, but because the LORD, at times, for a time, permitted it. Consider what happened to Job, and why:

Job Restored To Prosperity

"2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD [see Appearances Of The LORD God], and Satan [see Who's Hiding On Your Wall?] came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou?

And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

2:3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.

2:4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 2:5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.

2:6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.

2:7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. 2:8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

2:9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. 2:10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?

In all this did not Job sin with his lips." (Job 2:1-10 KJV)

After all was done, the LORD blessed Job more than He had at the beginning. The persecution wasn't permitted for Job to lose what he had, but rather to be given more, in due time.

"42:12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 42:13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 42:14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. 42:15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.

42:16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. 42:17 So Job died, being old and full of days." (Job 42:12-17 KJV)

The Church of God (see also Where Are The Seven Churches Of Revelation Today?) are not the only people who face religious persecution. People of other religions, including the Roman Catholic and various Protestant religions, have suffered great persecution at the hands of each other - but never from the true Church of God, the people who understand that true Christianity cannot be forced upon anyone; it comes when the LORD permits it to happen, by means of His Holy Spirit (see The Eighth Day: What Does It Mean?).

On the other hand, the true Church of God has been subjected to horrendous religious and political persecution (keeping in mind that the Church of Rome, and its "Protestant daughters" who have kept all of Rome's antichrist doctrines, was a creation of a Roman Emperor, as the official state religion - those who refused the state religion were regarded as committing treason, not merely heresy; see A History Of Jerusalem: Constantine and Muhammad and Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy).

Those of the true Church were strengthened in character by the persecution ("out of weakness were made strong" see below), and will, in due time, like Job, be restored. Those who sought to weaken them made them stronger instead, if not in this mortal life, then surely when salvation comes, "that they might obtain a better resurrection" (see When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin).

"11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 11:34 Quenched the violence of fire [see Nero's Torches], escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 11:36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 11:38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:32-40 KJV)

"Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word"

One of the most brutal of such persecutions of Christians was the martyrdom of Stephen - a witness of Christ, to whom both God and Christ permitted, and witnessed, his martyrdom i.e. "he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (see The Stoning Of Stephen).

The Stoning Of Stephen

"7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:54-60 KJV)

In Stephen's martyrdom is revealed another purpose, another good, that comes from the LORD permitting persecution to happen. Rather than slowing or stopping the Truth, it makes the church grow deeper and wider i.e. "they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."

"8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death.

And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." (Acts 8:1-4 KJV)

As stated above, the Pharisee Saul (see The Passed Over Pharisees) was among those who killed Stephen. Not long afterward however, while Saul was on a journey of persecution, the LORD struck Saul down, not dead, but into a Christian - into one of the very people that he had been persecuting. He thereafter became known as the apostle Paul (see Straight Street).

Straight Street In Damascus

"9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus [see also Damascus In History And Prophecy] to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?

And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 9:8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9:9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.

And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

9:11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 9:12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 9:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 9:16 For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus." (Acts 9:1-19 KJV)

Much of Paul's ministry was driven by his being persecuted. For example, when he was forced out of Thessalonica, he took the Gospel to Berea (see The Berean Lesson); when he was forced out of Berea, he went to Athens - not to hide, but to preach the true Gospel (see The True Gospel Of Christ).

Paul In Athens

"17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 17:20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 17:21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)" (Acts 17:16-21 KJV)

Paul's rejection by some of the people of Judah was driving him toward the purpose of the ministry that the LORD had given to him - to the Gentiles. Athens made him realize something that he didn't see before.

"17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

17:29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:22-31 KJV)

As everywhere else, persecution always caused Paul to press ahead, after he had taught those who were given to hear i.e. "certain men clave unto him, and believed." The persecution was the manure that made the first harvest of salvation grow.

"17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 17:33 So Paul departed from among them. 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." (Acts 17:32-34 KJV)

Paul next arrived in Corinth, and was joined by Aquila and his wife Priscilla - who had been persecuted out of Rome. They became preachers of the Gospel when they never were before, and where they never were before, because of the persecution against them.

Temple of Ancient Corinth

"18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 18:3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." (Acts 18:1-4 KJV)

Then came the dedicated beginning of Paul's ministry to the Gentiles, "from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles."

"18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 18:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." (Acts 18:5-6 KJV)

Persecution, when it comes, is not easy ("shepherds" must respond to it in a different way - when the wolves attack the sheep, the shepherd attacks the wolves; see Hireling Shepherds and Who Has A Spirit Of Confrontation?). But it has a two-fold purpose; it makes us much stronger in the LORD than we would have otherwise ever been, and it causes the Gospel to go to places where it could not otherwise have gone. Paul's warning to the end-time is also an encouragement for the church of all time.

"3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 3:9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

3:10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 3:11 persecution, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecution I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:1-17 KJV)

Fact Finder: Why is perseverance vital to faith?
See Lessons Of Perseverance And Faith and The Berean Lesson


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This Day In History, May 10

70: During the Siege of Jerusalem, Titus, son of emperor Vespasian, opened a full-scale assault on Jerusalem (see A History Of Jerusalem: Titus And The Zealots).

1285: King Philip III of Spain was succeeded by Philip IV.

1307: Robert the Bruce, Scottish king fought an English attacking force of cavalry under Aylmer de Valence at the battle of Louden Hill in Ayrshire.

1497: Amerigo Vespucci left Cadiz, Spain for his first voyage to the New World, which would be named "America" after him. In geographic and political reality, all of the people of America, from Canada at the northernmost point of the continent of North America, to Argentina in the southernmost point of the continent of South America, are "Americans."

1503: Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands.

1655: Jamaica was taken by the British after being held by the Spanish for over 160 years.

1774: King Louis XV of France died of smallpox. He became king at the age of five on the death of his great-grandfather, Louis XIV.

1794: Elizabeth, the sister of French King Louis XVI, was beheaded.

1796: Napoleon's Army of Italy defeated the Austrians under Baron Beaulieu at the Battle of Lodi, southeast of Milan. Over 2,000 Austrians were killed or wounded.

1798: British explorer George Vancouver died. He sailed with Captain James Cook to Australia and New Zealand and to the west coast of North America where Vancouver Island and Vancouver B.C. are named after him.

1857: The Seepoys of India revolted against the British rule.

1865: Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, was captured by Union forces.

1871: France and Germany signed a peace treaty in Frankfurt by which France ceded Alsace-Lorraine.

1881: King Carol I, Romania's first king, was crowned ("Carol" and "Carolus" are the Latin basis of what later became the name Germanic and English name Charles).

1933: Nazis in Berlin burned books by Jewish authors, including those by Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein (see also Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion).

1940: Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands. Neville Chamberlain resigned as British Prime Minister; Winston Churchill, then first lord of the Admiralty, formed a coalition government with Conservative, Liberal and Labour members.

1941: Nazi government member Rudolf Hess flew a Messerschmitt fighter from Augsburg, Germany and parachuted out near Glasgow, Scotland, with his unauthorized "offer of peace" with Britain. He was imprisoned for the rest of his life.

1994: Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first black President.

2005: In Tbilisi, Georgia (one of the fifteen former republics of the Soviet Union), a hand grenade thrown at visiting U.S. President George W. Bush landed a few feet from him - but the old Russian-made RGD-5 grenade failed to detonate. The attempted assassin, Vladimir Arutyunian, an Armenian who was born in Georgia, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.





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