What if... we actually were put to death because we are Christians? What is our attitude about this? Consider Paul's attitude:
"For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:19-20).
Paul's view of "deliverance" is interesting, isn't it? He says here He's confident that he will be delivered, and he includes within the scope of that deliverance both life and death. Deliverance even by death? Yes. He was looking not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen (II Corinthians 4:18). Whether by living another day to tell others about Jesus or dying and going home to be with Jesus, the Christian is confident of being delivered through and from evil.
Further, Paul wrote, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (II Timothy 4:18). Paul considered that being rescued from every evil deed was ultimately fulfilled by being brought safely to the Lord's heavenly kingdom. In other words, the Lord taking us from this world and bringing us to Him is being rescued. It is deliverance. There is no greater deliverance.
The idea here, that through physical persecution and death one may be brought safely into eternity, is powerful. It is a message of faith and hope. While we tend to think we aren't safe here unless we have some physical way to arm and protect ourselves, the real safety is found in such a relationship with God that when we are taken from this life, even if violently, we will be brought safely to His heavenly kingdom.
Perhaps, then, Christians ought not to think, "we are not safe." If we are in fellowship with God, then we are safe, no matter how much violence and evil the world will throw at us. Why? Because we see a much bigger picture of deliverance than merely being spared our physical lives. True deliverance, ultimate deliverance and safety, is found in our eternal home.
"If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name … Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (I Peter 4:16, 19).
Further Passages to Consider
- "But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives" (Luke 21:16-19). Notice that Jesus said some would be put to death, yet not a hair on their head would perish because by their endurance they would gain their lives.
- "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up"" (Daniel 3:16-18).