Calvary Road Baptist Church

“KINGS AND PRIESTS UNTO GOD”

Revelation 1.6

 

Persecution is something Christians have been subject to throughout Christian history, except for the last two hundred years here in the United States. Because of the influence of Christianity in our country, finding wonderful expression in our nation’s Bill of Rights guarantees of the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion, American citizens have all but forgotten the concept of religious persecution. However, persecution is an important theme in God’s Word, the Greek word diwkw being found forty-three times in the Greek New Testament, and more often than not referring to hunting down or persecuting someone.[1]

Since the religious climate in the United States is changing for the worse so rapidly and becoming increasingly hostile, it is appropriate that we pay attention to what the Word of God says about persecution, and how the child of God is supposed to deal with it when he experiences it. Matthew 5.10-12, where the Lord Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount,

 

12     Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

13     Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

14     Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

Then there is John 15.20, where the Savior said to His disciples, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” Next, Acts 7.52, where Stephen preaching to unbelieving Jews said, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” Paul writes these instructions to the Christians in Rome, in Romans 12.14: “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” In First Corinthians 4.12, he relates the experiences he and his co-laborers endured: “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it.” Then, in Second Timothy 3.12, he counsels the young pastor with these words: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

So you see, not only is it a fact of Christian history for these last two thousand years wherever the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has been preached, but it is also a prominent feature in God’s Word. The child of God does not always suffer persecution, though the child of God usually suffers persecution. Solomon counseled prudence. In Proverbs 22.3 and 27.12, we are told that “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Therefore, since Christians have historically suffered persecution for our faith, and since the religious climate here in the United States is heading south at an alarming pace, it behooves anyone who claims the name of Christ, and anyone who is pondering the salvation of his eternal and undying soul, to count the cost of knowing and living for Christ.

To that end, I would like you to turn to the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Before we stand and read from God’s Word, allow me to provide you a bit of background. This last book of the Bible is titled The Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the book of the Bible that, more than any other book in God’s Word, reveals Jesus Christ to the reader.

You may be aware that there are widely differing schools of thought concerning the interpretation of this book of the Bible. Some are of the opinion that this is a book of history, with virtually everything in it referring to events that have already occurred, while I am one who subscribes to the notion that the first three chapters contain history with the rest of the book containing prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. However one approaches The Revelation of Jesus Christ, so long as this precious book of the Bible is understood to be scriptural truth and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, it serves as an invaluable aid and comfort for the persecuted Christian.

If you have located Revelation chapter one, stand and read along with me before you can come to understand how this book, and how our great Savior, equips the believer to deal with persecution:

 

1      The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2      Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3      Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

4      John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

5      And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6      And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7      Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8      I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

 

Keep in mind that the Apostle John penned this portion of God’s Word. Revelation 1.9 informs us that he was himself suffering persecution on the Isle of Patmos, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. We also note that those in his immediate audience are also suffering persecution, being his brothers and companions with him in tribulation.

How, then, are Christians facing persecution supposed to deal with their suffering for righteousness’ sake? Four things:

 

First, THE FOCUS ON OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST’S IDENTITY

 

Writing to Jewish Christians who faced great discouragement, the writer to the Hebrews counseled in Hebrews 12.1-3 with these words:

 

1      Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2      Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3      For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

 

The same approach is encouraged by the Apostle John to his readers, as he attracts their attention to the Lord Jesus Christ by calling attention to five facets of His identity:

First, Jesus is the Anointed One. That is, He is the Christ, which is to say that He is the long-awaited Messiah promised by God to the children of Israel in fulfillment of His covenant to Abraham. He is so identified at the outset, in verse 1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is so identified again in verse 2: “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He is identified as the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah, yet a third time in verse 5: “And from Jesus Christ.”

Next, Jesus is the faithful witness. Verse 5 is where He is identified in this way. “He was the faithful witness of the whole will of God before his death, and in death, and remains such in glory.”[2] Thus, as Jesus said in John 14.6, that He is the truth, so His veracity is confirmed and affirmed by the Apostle John. What the Lord Jesus Christ says can be relied upon because He is faithful, worthy of every sinner’s confidence and trust.

Third, Jesus is the first begotten of the dead. One of the realities of persecution is the possibility, if not the likelihood, of death by martyrdom. As the Lord Jesus Christ calls upon His disciples to die to self, there have been and will continue to be many cases in which dying to self very literally means you will die for the cause of Christ. However, do not think this is the same as dying for Buddha, or dying for Vishnu, or suffering martyrdom for Allah. Dying for Christ is a whole other thing, in that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ not only died, but He also conquered death and rose from the dead. However, the Apostle does not point out that Jesus died and rose. He points out that Jesus is the first begotten from the dead, meaning that as Jesus rose from the dead a conqueror over death, so those that are Christ’s at His coming will experience resurrection from the dead, as well.

Fourth, Jesus is the prince of the kings of the earth. The Romans were given to think that Caesar was all-powerful. The Egyptians were given to think Pharaoh was all-powerful. The Babylonians and Persians were given to think their emperors were all-powerful. Which of them rose from the dead? The fact of the matter, you see, is that the Lord Jesus is the ruler over all the kings of the earth, and there is coming a day when He will show them the full display of His might and majesty, demonstrating that He is the prince of even the kings of the earth.

Finally, He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. He is eternal and Almighty. Do you realize the implications the Apostle is leading us to draw from what he has written? The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal and sovereign God, Who has experienced everything His servants could conceivably go through . . . and more. Therefore, nothing happens that He does not allow. And nothing will be allowed to happen that will not in the end redound to His glory . . . because of Who He is.

 

Next, THE FOCUS ON WHAT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE FOR HIS OWN

 

5      And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6      And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Notice, first, that He loved us. This is not a feeling, but a demonstration. John 15.13 says it all: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He showed how much He loves us by suffering the cruel death of the cross for our benefit.

Notice, second, that He washed us from our sins in His own blood. Hebrews 9.22 declares that “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sin. Therefore, Jesus shed His blood for the remission of our sins. Not the covering of our sins, but the removal of our sins.

Then, following that, He made us kings and priests. Verse 6: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” No wonder the Apostle finishes that statement off with an Amen! Though we are subjected to the cruel treatment of this wicked world, those who are spiritually blind do not realize that we who know Christ have already been crowned kings and have already been anointed priests unto God and His Father in the kingdom that will come. Thus, we see, even if worldlings do not yet comprehend, that what we are is not reflected in how we are treated. So, what are you to believe, God’s Word, or the misguided spiritually blind who are led by the spiritually blind of this world? Amidst persecution for righteousness’ sake, keep your eyes, first, on Who Jesus is, second, on what Jesus has already done, and,

 

Third, FOCUS ON WHAT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WILL DO IN THE FUTURE

 

There are three things the Apostle draws our attention to that our glorified Lord Jesus will do:

First, He will come in glory. Verse 7 begins, “Behold, he cometh with clouds.” Clouds are oftentimes associated with glory. There were clouds atop Mount Sinai when God gave the Law to Moses. Jesus ascended to His Father’s right hand in dramatic fashion before His disciples in the clouds. Likewise, when He comes again He will come in clouds of great glory. You may remember that our Lord responded to a question asked Him by the high priest hours before His crucifixion. He answered, in part, by saying, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”[3] The high priest’s reaction illustrates the significance of our Lord’s statement: “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.” Whatever you are suffering for Christ’s sake, remain steadfast. Why so? Because Jesus is coming again. He may or may not come before you die a martyr’s death, but He is coming still, the King in all His glory, to make things right and to redress all our grievances.

As well, when He comes He will come visibly. Revelation 19.11 tells us what the Apostle John saw when Christ’s second coming was revealed to him: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” However, Revelation 1.7 shows us that what the Apostle saw will, when the time comes, be seen by everyone. “every eye shall see him.”

Finally, when He comes He will come against His enemies. Notice how the Apostle emphasizes that not only “every eye shall see him,” but also that “they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Writing in this way, emphasis is placed on the certainty that when Jesus comes again those Who pierced Him will see Him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Why so? Because when He comes again He will come to exact vengeance upon those Who pierced Him, and those who are His enemies. No wonder, then, they shall wail because of Him. Wait a minute. What about us? What about Christians? We are sinners, just like the lost. Why will Christians not wail because of Him? Why only the Christ-rejecters? Because “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” First John 1.7. And because of what Hebrews 8.12 declares: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Is it not wonderful to be a Christian? Is it not glorious to be forgiven? To be sure, persecution and suffering is no fun. However, when seen against the backdrop of eternity, it is obvious that Paul was dead on when he wrote in Romans 8.17-18:

 

17     And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18     For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

 

In Light Of Who Jesus Is, What He Has Done, And What He Will Do, HOW SHOULD YOU AND I RESPOND TO PERSECUTION SHOULD IT COME TO US?

 

Revelation chapters two and three contain seven letters written to the angels of seven different churches, pastors of seven different churches. Let me briefly lift from those seven letters the particular response the Lord Jesus Christ urged upon them in the face of impending persecution or persecution that had arrived:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus, found in Revelation 2.1-7, our Lord commends him and then rebukes him. The admonition for each of us to learn from? Revelation 2.4-5: “because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Repent. You have left your first love. Turn back to the Lord Jesus Christ as in days gone by. Go back to your first love.

To the angel of the church in Smyrna, found in Revelation 2.8-11, our Lord encourages them to fear none of the things they shall suffer when the persecution comes.

To the angel of the church in Pergamos, found in Revelation 2.12-17, our Lord rebukes them for tolerating erroneous doctrines and immoral behavior, and commands them to repent.

To the angel of the church in Thyatira, in Revelation 2.18-29, their works, charity, service, and faith are all commended. However, their toleration of a woman exercising authority is rebuked and they are urged to hold fast in the face of such apostasy until He comes.

To the angel of the church of Sardis, Revelation 3.1-6, those who are just about spiritually dead are encouraged to be watchful, to strengthen what remains, to remember doctrine, to hold fast, and to repent.

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia, Revelation 3.7-13, their works, their weakness, and their faithfulness to God’s Word is complimented. To them the Lord Jesus promises several things to encourage steadfastness in the face of persecution.

Finally, there is the angel of the church in Laodicea, Revelation 3.14-22. These are those who are neither hot nor cold, but are spiritually lukewarm and nauseating to our Lord. Since they have such a high opinion of themselves, and do not realize that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” our Lord issues no directive (they would not listen in any event), but is content to offer some advice. What advice is given to those who are satisfied though lost? Revelation 3.18 is, in my opinion, advice for them to repent and be saved. Verse 19 is a rebuke, I think, to the saved to repent. Overall, though, verse 20 shows us the entire congregation needs to let Jesus in. In these last days, there are many congregations that are a shell of what they once were, with the Savior no longer playing any significant role in their activities.

 

This message has obviously been something of a superficial survey of the Christian’s response in the face of persecution. It is needful because persecution in some form will certainly come to us. How you are to respond, whether to repent or hang on for dear life, depends on where you are in your Christian life, and how severe the persecution happens to be, if it has begun or if it is merely anticipated.

In any case, be mindful of two things: First, persecution is going to increase in the world as we draw closer to the end. The enemy’s opposition to the gospel message will grow more and more fierce, not less as time advances. Secondly, be mindful that, as a Christian, you have a Savior to look to who has been through it all Himself, has already done so much for you, and will do even more in the future.

Therefore, for Christ’s sake, who He is, what He has done for you, and what He will do when He comes again, persecution is something we are called upon to face up to and to conquer by our steadfastness by God’s abundant grace. Remember, Christian, that you have already been made kings and priests unto God and His Father. To Him, then, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen? Look ever and look always to Jesus.

However, what if you are not a Christian? What are you to do? In addition, when Jesus comes back, consider what will happen to you where you presently stand, on the wrong side of this great issue. Therefore, let me invite you to discuss this matter of your eternal and undying soul, so that you will be prepared, properly prepared, when Jesus returns in power and in great glory.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 515.

[2] John Wesley, Notes On The Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[3] Matthew 26.64



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org