There are many who say that the Christian church (hereafter referred to as the "Church") did not suffer from significant persecution, and that the idea was made up by the early Christians. Similar arguments are seen from those who deny the reality of the Jewish holocaust of World War II. The allegations, in both cases fail to hold up to the historical evidence.
Prophecies of persecution
Jesus predicted the persecution of the Church before His death:
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you... (John 15:18-20)
An even more specific prophecy concerning the persecution of Christians is indicated in the book of Matthew:
"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name." (Matthew 24:9)
Second century fulfilled prophecy
An chilling example of fulfillment of this prophecy came at the hands (and writings) of Pliny the Younger as governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. He wrote (In his Letters 10.96-97) to Emperor Trajan regarding the early Christian church, their devotion to Christ, and how he persecuted, tortured, and murdered them:
"They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god... Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.... Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished."
Pliny readily admits that they "were denounced to me as Christians" ("they will deliver you to tribulation") and executed ("and will kill you") just for "the nature of their creed" ("on account of My name."). This is a chilling fulfillment of prophecy, which testifies about the persecution of the early Christian church. These Christians knew the truth of the gospel and were willing to die for it.
The remarkable thing about the persecution of the Church is that no matter how bad it was during the early days, in the 20th century alone, more Christians have died as a result of persecution than in all of the previous 19 centuries combined. Currently, the majority of persecutions is occurring within the 10/40 window, primarily in China and the Moslem countries.
A recent concern of the Church is the persecution of Christians in the Sudan. Samaritan's Purse has been reaching out throughout the world to those in need of medical help. They have provided volunteer doctors, nurses, and other medical staff along with the equipment and supplies necessary to run a hospital. They are in need of funding and medical staff to help those who are suffering in the Sudan. For further information, contact their organization.
- THE U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
- State Department Report on International Religious Freedom
- International Christian Concern
- International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
- The Persecuted Church: Shackled But Not Gagged (Focus on the Family)
Last Modified April 28, 2006