Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. – Hebrews 11:35

martyr-paintingAfter seeing these who were resurrected from the dead by prophets, apostles, and by Jesus Himself, we are reminded that others were not raised from the dead. In fact, they did not just die, they were put to death. They were tortured for their faith. They were beaten and killed for refusing to reject Christ. The word used for torture refers to being tied to a post and beaten relentlessly. There are those who we may not ever know about until we meet them in heaven who are right now under the Throne of God pleading for His vengeance because they were murdered for their faith in Jesus (Revelation 6:9-11).

These that we read about in the Scriptures and know about from history refused to accept deliverance. This does not mean that they wanted to die or were unwilling to cling to life. It means that they were offered ways to prevent persecution, ways to alleviate the torture and lessen the pain, and those things would have been a compromise and so they refused. Often this was done by Roman persecutors as they demanded that followers of Christ declare “Caesar is Lord.” Of course no true Christian could do so for only Jesus is Lord. They refused to worship Caesar as if he were a god. They would be enticed, offered rewards for this proclamation from their lips. Others saw their wife and children killed before their eyes being told that if they professed that Caesar was Lord then their lives would be spared. And they refused. They would only declare that Jesus is Lord. They and their families would be tortured and killed for treason.

Accounts in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs show us over and over again the price paid for loyal loving obedience to Christ. These in the Hall of Faith whose names we do not know, and others that we are familiar with, declared with their lives and their blood that they belonged to Jesus Christ. One of the most moving accounts is that of a 10 year old girl who was tortured and killed, having watched her family dismembered before her very eyes all the while she was told to deny Christ. She stood firm to the end. She at the age of 10 saw all of this and declared that Jesus is Lord and that she would see Him and her family in heaven! Her torturers killed her brutally. She is even know with Jesus.

Every Christian should read through Foxe’s Book at least once. It will make us uncomfortable, and it will help remind us that this is still going on in the world today. We in the West are at peace, we are apathetic. We are perhaps too free. We have little knowledge of the price that our brothers and sisters in Christ are paying for their faith in other parts of the world. We do not know what persecution is. It is not for us a danger to profess publicly faith in Christ – we are not threatened with the loss of our jobs or even our lives if we openly express our love for Christ.

Every Christian in the church in the West should also subscribe to The Voice of the Martyrs, and get information regularly from other such groups in order to keep in front of our eyes the truth about the cost of following Jesus being paid by members of our body, Christ being the Head.

These who were tortured and who refused deliverance did so desiring to obtain a better resurrection. You see, those who were raised by Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, Peter, and Paul all eventually died again. Those who died for their faith here in the latter part of the verse did so looking toward a “better” resurrection, that is the final resurrection, after which there will be no more death.

Rather than be spared persecution, rather than be raised from the dead after dying under persecution, instead they desired to go be with Jesus and await the resurrection when Jesus returns for His Church and the End of the Age. They knew, as do we, that when we are finally raised and glorified there will be no more death, no sorrow, no sickness, no sin, no temptation – only life with Jesus.

On this topic I often have commented that some zealots who lack knowledge are quick to declare for all to hear that they are more than willing to die for Jesus. However, they often resemble Peter before the death and resurrection of Christ. You know, the Peter who declared, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” The Peter who drew his sword in the garden after proclaiming, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” This same Peter later denied even knowing Jesus because of the questions of a little girl (Matthew 26:57-75). People like this are often willing to die for Jesus when they talk the talk, but then they fail to walk the walk. Like I have said, if you are not willing to live for Jesus then please do not tell me about being willing to die for Him.

The truth we must take from this verse is that we are responsible to pray for the Body of Christ, to love the saints, even those we do not know and will never meet until we get to heaven. For the Church, His bride, is suffering, and we who are free must take the time to pray for those in danger. Pray that their faith will be proved and strengthened. Pray that He will purge those in His body who are lazy and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the truth. Can our brothers and sisters who are facing torture and death be assured that we stand with them? Can those who refuse deliverance and look for the better resurrection trust us to stand in the gap and pray for them? Do we pray for the persecuted church?

(tomorrow: Chains and Imprisonment)