by Bill Somers
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Ps. 116:15
Jesus asked one of his disciples, "... Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?" (John 13:38)
In Mark 10:38 He asked "... can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
Romans 12:1 asks us to present our bodies, a living sacrifice. 1 John 3:16 tells us we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. In Rev. 2:10 we are told to be faithful unto death. In Rev. 2:13 we are reminded of the faithful martyr Antipas.
Personally, I never expected to be caught away as an escape from persecution or tribulation. The Lord has told us to expect persecution and tribulation. These verses here are a strong indication that He expects us to be ready to give our lives for the Kingdom. After all we are not our own, but are purchased with His blood and must be at his disposal. If He requires our death, at any time, He should be obeyed without hesitation. We really don't even have the right to ask why! But there is a God in Heaven that reveals secrets!
As I said, I never expected to be caught away as an escape from persecution or tribulation, I expect that somehow, somewhere I would die in the persecution! In John 7:16-17 we read "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." This implies that the Lord reveals his will to the willing. That He opens an understanding of His Word to those who are ready to obey.
Because of my willingness to obey Him in this, He has shown me something of Why the death of the saints precious to God? That is, that in some cases, MARTYRDOM CONTRIBUTES TO THE HARVEST. And of course the harvest is a major purpose of God. My first exposure to this idea came during a message I heard shortly after I got saved. Here it is.
The following text is transcribed from a taped sermon given by T. George Koshy, an Indian national pastor. I hope you can excuse his awkward English, which I try to quote as correctly as I can. This was given at Reserve Church, Nov 17, 1985. Brother Koshy was preaching on Living in Holiness. The text was Daniel 9:20-23. This is how he closed his message.
"Brothers and sisters, circumstances which we are in, its not favorable for you and me to serve the Lord. But don't blame the circumstances. In the midst of the strained circumstances, you and I can take a stand for God. I think 6 or 7 years ago, in a state in the northern border of India, that state passed a law against worship. That means if I convert a man from Hindu to Christianity, that means the government can fine me three thousand rupees and put me in the prison.
In that state an around 18 year old girl, a tribal Hindu girl, accepted Jesus as her personal savior.
Her mom, dad, brothers and sisters; all the relatives, all the tribe of people tried their best to bring her back to her old religion. She said "No, I'm not going to deny my Jesus, I'm going to serve Him!"
The entire tribe of people gathered in one open place and brought this girl. They tried to persuade her to deny Jesus. She said no. They hanged her upside down on a tree. They beat her up. Then her father, mother, brothers, sisters, everybody implored her, "Please! Deny Jesus!" She said "NO!"
They put enough wood and things underneath, and put the fire on that wood, while she was hanging, burned and give her life for Jesus.
It is easy for me to say that. If the same thing happened to me I don't know how I'm going to stand and face
Brothers and sisters, the entire tribe is in Pentecost right now.
While she was burning, heaven will be calling her 'thou art greatly beloved.'
Brothers and sisters, take a stand. If you have to give your life, don't hesitate, don't turn back. Tradition says when they tried to hang Peter, he escaped. But then he came back and said, "Hang me upside down, let me kiss the foot of my master, and I'll die."
If that happened today, ... how many will say ... I'm going to give my life ... for the one who hanged on the cross ... and gave his life for me. And heaven will say, 'thou art greatly beloved'.
My prayer, ... there was a prophecy towards me when I received the baptism. 'God will send me around the world as a witness'... that happened ... and second, 'I'll be slain for the sake of the Gospel!' And I pray every day, God, if I'm going to go through that kind of torture, ... give me the grace not to deny ... but to give my life "
I have included some ... pauses ... in my transcription of the tape to indicate the emotional content of Koshy's closing remarks. All of us there were very touched by depth of feeling he showed.
One comment of his stayed with me, though he quickly passed over it. And it seemingly went unnoticed by the congregation. That was when he said, "Brothers and sisters, the entire tribe is in Pentecost right now." This is to say, they all have been saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost! How or why was never mentioned. Yet here is a case where martyrdom apparently contributed to a harvest of souls!
Jim Elliot and four other American missionaries were killed in the late 1950's on an outreach to the Auca tribe in Ecuador, South America. Subsequently, the entire tribe converted to Christianity. And the very first converts were the men who had killed the missionaries. These missionaries gave their lives in a futile attempt to evangelize a tribe of savages. Their mission was apparently a total failure! Yet their deaths contributed to a harvest, for that tribe totally converted to Christ! Now why or how does this happen?
Here is another case. From Last of the Giants by George Otis page 157 Divine Visitations in Algeria
In the early 1980's, a truly remarkable incident took place in a North African village located some 125 miles east of the city of Algiers. According to testimony, on one unforgettable night in 1983 - with no prior warning and for no immediately discernible reason - God sovereignty descended upon this coastal township with gracious bounty. Moving from house to house, and communicating through a combination of dreams, visions and angelic visitations. He did not rest until every member of this Muslim community was properly introduced to His only begotten Son, Jesus. As might be expected, come daybreak, nearly every villager had a story to tell.
As the Holy Spirit lingered and these simple citizens managed to piece together the magnitude of what had happened to them, a sense of spiritual awe settled over the entire village. In the weeks that followed, their conclusions led to a dramatic wholesale conversion involving some 400 to 450 Muslim villagers - a nearly eighteen fold increase in the size of the Algerian national church!
When amazed mission workers, who had had no direct involvement in this extraordinary development, began to investigate possible reasons for this sovereign visitation, they came across a stunning piece of information. It was at virtually this very site that, in June 1315, Raymond Lull, a Spanish missionary from Majorca, had been stoned to death by frenzied Muslims after preaching in the open market.
The blood of martyrs, it has often been said, represents the seed of the Church. Lull, who is generally considered to be the first missionary to the Muslims, certainly believed this. In his book, "The Tree of Life", he wrote that Islamic strongholds are best conquered "by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood." In retrospect, it appears that it was precisely this formula that summoned the recent supernatural events in Algeria. Falling into the ground on that summer day in the fourteenth century, the seed of Raymond Lull's poured-out life was subsequently watered by the tears of generations of pious intercessors.
Faithfully tending their cause, these saints waited patiently until, some time in the late twentieth century, the golden vials of heaven overflowed and God was released to summon forth fruit in its due season.
Adding even more luster to this marvelous story is the fact that it has apparently triggered a book of Acts - style revival throughout other parts of Algeria, which continues to this day. During the summer of 1990, I had the high privilege of meeting with several dozen former Muslims who had come to faith in Christ within the previous eighteen months. Nearly all reported some type of supernatural intervention. Churches are spreading like wildfire, particularly among the Habyle Berber people living in and around the Atlas Mountains. One recent Arabic speaking visitor described as many as several thousand new believers meeting for Bible studies and marathon prayer sessions in homes and on mountaintops.
On a recent trip to Rochester, New York, I spoke with a middle aged missionary who in the late 1960's led a team of young Americans in prayer on the very site of Raymond Lull's fourteenth century martyrdom in Algeria. Praying that God would redeem the seed of Raymond Lull's poured out life and send a move of His Spirit, the team helped to lay the groundwork for a sovereign outpouring of divine grace fewer than twenty years down the road. How and why does this happen?
George Otis's explanation is that "strongholds are best conquered "by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood."
In the late 1980's the Exodus II movement began under the leadership of Steve Lightle. One day in '88 the Lord showed him he would be involved with the harvest in Arabia!
I shared this one day with an Arab Christian minister from Kuwait. According to this prophecy, Steve Lightle was told he would one day preach the gospel in Mecca. Abdul Rahman (not his real name) told me that in the 1920's a Christian had penetrated Mecca and had actually gotten into the Kaba (a famous shrine) to pray. The Muslims found him there and killed him on the spot. (No further details were offered.)
I expressed a belief that the Lord would somehow honor that death and make use of it. He replied that the shed blood of the saints is never wasted.
Has this unknown 'Martyr of Mecca' become the seed for a future outpouring of the Spirit, following the same pattern as in the Algerian village? Do those who are interceding for the Muslims water this seed? Are both of these contributing to a future harvest, fulfilling the prophecy given to Steve Lightle? I believe so.
It looks like, whenever Satan kills one of God's people, it costs him something.
American missionary David Hogan, heading up Freedom Ministries, based in Laredo Texas, is a man moving in the anointing of a pioneer apostle. The Lord has used him, like Paul, in numerous miracles, especially raising the dead. Hogan in fact, claims to have lost count of the number of times he has raised the dead. His testimony includes an interesting incident related to our topic. While traveling on foot to a remote Mexican village his party was suddenly accosted by a pair of communist gunmen. His immediate proclamation went something like this. 'Devil, if you kill me, I'm claiming 100 more just like me to come take my place!'
The gunmen lowered their arms and disappeared into the brush! Every time the devil kills one of God's people, it costs him something. Apparently, in this case, being confronted first hand with this high cost, the devil backed off.
Jesus gave his disciples authority over all the power of the enemy. He gave us the power to bind and loose in spiritual warfare. Scripture teaches us to use the authority of His Name over the forces of Satan. Experience shows that this works, when the anointing is there.
Jesus also taught that when a strong man is bound his house can be entered and his goods taken. In the cases above, the Algerian village, the Hindu tribe and the American Indian tribe were all harvested. They were harvested in a total and dramatic fashion that indicates a spiritual breakthrough. These souls were taken away from the strong men, demonic rulers, who formerly held them captive. Somehow martyrdom contributed to these harvests.
We know that prayer can bind the strongman, but is there scripture showing that martyrdom can do so? We see that it is highly effective, even crucial in some cases. So how and why does this happen? My speculation is that the 'death of the saints', plus prayer, gives the Lord a reason to move. It provides justification for bringing judgment on the demonic powers. ("Ye shall die like men" Ps. 82:7). And clearly demonic powers have to be broken for this type of harvest to occur.
Suzette Hattingh (a teacher on intercessory prayer) gives the example of a policeman signaling for a truck to stop, as an example of authority in spiritual warfare. The prayer warrior, dressed in the armor of God, is like the policeman in his uniform. His authority is obvious because he is wearing the uniform. The Truck driver knows that he will be in a lot of trouble if he ignores the policeman and fails to stop.
Now consider what kind of trouble the trucker is in if he runs over the policeman and kills him! Every cop in town will be after him! If you translate this into the spiritual realm you can see what this means. This illustrates the power and effect of martyrdom. The Devil is in big trouble whenever he kills one of the saints. Whenever Satan kills one of God's people, it's going to cost him something sooner or later.
The scriptural key to the effect of martyrdom is as He says in Romans 12, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21)
More simply put, Martyrdom gives place to wrath. And then eventually vengeance comes. And then harvest comes. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay." This verse is so often taken as a warning to the believer not to avenge himself. But look to the second part, "I will repay" and see that as one of God's promises! HE WILL REPAY! Not he might, and not he ought to and not he'll think about it. He WILL repay! You know our battles are not with flesh and blood, our enemy is spiritual. It is the vengeance that the Lord executes in the spiritual realm that breaks enemy strongholds, and brings such glorious results.
And so this summarizes my understanding of how martyrdom contributes to the harvest. I am reminded of the words of Medhi Dibaj, the recent Iranian martyr who said: "It is a terrible waste for a Christian to die a natural death!
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