There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on the blogosphere, on evangelical forums, and in sermons preached around the world regarding the coming persecution.
It is clear – at least to growing numbers of us – that persecution in the hitherto Christian-friendly West is not merely a future possibility. It is now inevitable. The question is no longer “if?”, but “when?”.
It is painfully obvious that the culture around us has reached a critical point. There is growing active hostility toward the gospel. This is an important distinction. The hostility is no longer passive, but an active, energetic, determined and confident opposition to all that falls under the banner of Christ.
And this hostility and immorality has fallen upon our culture with amazing speed. Any comparison between a hundred years ago to today reveals the difference that a mere hundred years can make. A mere hundred years. Just one century! Think of it. There are people today that are over a hundred years old. Those people have witnessed during their long life span the catastrophic transition of our society from a predominately Christian one, to a post-Christian, virtually pagan one. And this tidal wave of rebellion and godlessness shows no signs of slowing. It is increasingly expanding around the ever-shrinking moral residue of Christian thought and practice.
The general moral attitude of 1916 is as different from that of 2016 as night is from day. To illustrate this, compare these two covers from the fashion magazine Vogue. Both come from the April issue, but one was published in 1916 and the other 2016:
The cover from 2016 is regarded as modest by community standards today. Yet, in 1916, it would have been considered a scandalous and immoral portrayal of a woman. In fact, it would probably have been deemed pornographic and titillating.
The Atlantic magazine has published a beautiful set of historic photographs of New York City, including several of beaches and public swimming pools. Take a look at them, and consider the attire of people in different contexts. There is an entirely different atmosphere of modesty on display there from what we would expect in 2016.
And it is not just fashion that has experienced a tectonic shift. It would have been unthinkable, a hundred years ago, for there to be any such thing as same-sex marriage. There was even widespread efforts to combat alcohol, much less the constellation of drugs that now plague our cities. Consider that in 1919, prohibition of alcohol in the United States became a constitutional amendment as a consequence of the enormously successful temperance movement. Even in countries outside of the United States, temperance movements were influential and widespread. Below is a picture of temperance pledge signed by a young Australian in 1916.
Note the influence of Methodism, which was once such a force for social improvement. Methodism promoted godly living with unashamed vigour and passion. It makes it all the more remarkable that Methodism – or, at least, what is left of it – has lapsed into liberal theology, homosexual marriage affirmation, and every other contemporary trend. It marks the sad eclipse of its former strength with a melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.
In our generation we have to acknowledge that the secular programme is winning. Evidence of this abounds in every direction. For example, the list of unsayable truths grow ever longer. Hate speech codes are refined to punish people for uttering words, which as Orwell told us in 1984, is the ultimate tool to stop the thoughts that give rise to them.
Adjectives like “bigot”, “intolerant” and “[something]-phobic” are now dangerous accusations, and with a little more time, the accusers will be given the legal force to punish those who are so described. Churches that uphold the scriptures and God’s teaching regarding godliness are vilified and increasingly threatened with state censure.
The sexual revolution will result in the dismantling of democracy as we have known it, because it must. In fact, this process is in full swing already as the freedom of speech is gradually eroded to protect the sexual revolution. This is inevitable because sexual passions are enormously strong and always wreak havoc against the weak. They acquire galloping strength and pervasiveness when unrestrained by law, by marriage, and by the unified recognition of a community that sexuality must be practised according to the commandment of our Creator.
Discard God and a pornographic society results. There have been many pornographic societies like this in the past. For example, some of the monuments and works of art uncovered in Pompeii are so indecent that they have been stored out of public view in a chamber in the British Museum ever since.
Yet in our time, the unleashing of sexual forces on a scale unknown even to ancient pagans will prove to be so destructive to families, to children, to stability, to the economy, to politics, and to virtually everything else. In all such societies the greatest victims tend to be women and children. And minorities who speak out against it become targets.
The time will be upon us soon in the West when faithful Christians will be persecuted for the stance we take. The suffering will be real. We shall need to learn to live with less; and we shall need to find greater joy in Christ and the Heavenly Realms. The church will thin out. But it will more brightly illumine this world than it has perhaps for many a decade.
We need to get ready while the sun yet shines. What can we do? Here are seven things that I believe a person can do to get ready for coming persecution:
- Develop a soldierly discipline in our spiritual march: get serious about deepening one’s communion with God. Learn to pray as on a battlefield. Learn to pray regardless of cold or heat; summer or winter. Learn to pray in all environments. Listen to Leonard Ravenhill’s teachings on prayer. Read up on the Puritan’s practice of prayer. Imitate the Lord Jesus’ example of prayer.
- Intercede for the suffering church: Learn to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” in prayer for the suffering church. Use what wealth one has to support the suffering church (i.e. Voices of the Martyrs). Be active in giving to those who suffer now. It may well be that we shall receive one day our offerings back again from those we have nourished today. Be generous in giving to others. “He who gives to the poor shall lack nothing” (Proverbs 28:27). “He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord shall repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
- Learn and memorise the scriptures: The day will come when they may try to take your Bible. But as the persecuted saints of the past have so often reminded us, they cannot take the scriptures that are stored up in one’s mind and one’s heart. Many a saint has languished in a cold, damp, filthy dungeon with no script, but has drawn great comfort from reciting the word of God deeply hidden in their heart. The word of God brought the creation into existence; the word of God will nourish his faithful servants until the final fulfilment of all things.
- To the best of your ability, get debt-free as fast as possible: The state will enforce some of its censure of Christians, but part of the new tyranny is that it is predicated on a shared set of beliefs throughout the community, and therefore is self-enforcing by the society around us. Speak up and you may lose your job. Your employer will do the work of threatening you or silencing you. Speak up and you may be taken to court and be fined. The work will be done by someone in the community indignant that you have opposed the darkness, and they will film you and report you to the police.
Under such conditions, indebtedness becomes a powerful tool the world can use to get our compliance. There is real pressure to compromise or remain silent when we know that we might not be able to make the bills if we hold the line for Christ. While time permits, therefore, get the debt under control (ideally, live debt-free) so that there can be greater liberty in the coming evil days. It may even be better in the circumstances to come to live in a small and simple abode without debt, than to be indebted in a McMansion.
- Be prepared: It may sound paranoid – perhaps on the level of the infamous “preppers” – but it is not unwise to have a bag prepared in your house for a speedy flight, whether this is due to terrorism, to government persecution, or just a natural disaster. The bag should contain some emergency food, medical supplies, batteries, torch, candles, matches, perhaps even a sleeping bag and essential documents.
When the Romans besieged Jerusalem and slaughtered much its population in 70 A.D., Eusebius, an early church father, notes that the Christian church at Jerusalem had evacuated before the outbreak of the war, in obedience to a revelation (Book 3, Chapter 5:3). They were, every one of them, spared. In fact, according to the Eusebius, Jerusalem was treated as if it were utterly destitute of holy men – which of course it was, since its entire population of Christians had left it. He writes “the judgement of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men“.
What is the point? The point is that the Christians at Jerusalem were prepared to leave the city in accordance with what our Lord prophesied in the scriptures, and perhaps even in response to a supernatural revelation given to that faithful church. They believed the Lord; they stood ready; and they went. Be prepared to flee!
- Get a passport: In the Old Testament the saints were not unafraid to relocate even to different countries when it seemed wise to do so. If things get bad in the local region, it is wise to keep a valid passport ready so that one may do precisely that and leave for a city, for a region, or for a country that is somewhat more friendly to the gospel (though they be in short supply even today). “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes“.
- Cultivate deep love and fellowship with other believers: You should know enough fellow believers and be on such good terms with them that you could have a clandestine service under a bridge at midnight if you needed to. The days will come when believers will need to depend on each other, and will need to suffer together. Be serious about fellowship. Be serious about friendship with God’s people. Be serious about loving other believers.
- Support immigration into our countries from non-secular lands: We can slow the rot by supporting the immigration of non-secularists into our countries. People who believe in God – even if their religion is not true Christianity and therefore false – still possess a sense of moral responsibility that a secular population does not. The more these people are allowed into the community, the harder it will be for secularists to pursue their agenda.
Of course, we cannot ever find common cause with non-Christians, but the presence of people who at least have a sense of reverence and fear of God is surely far better than those who have no respect for the Almighty at all.
- DO SOMETHING!: Preach the word, in season and out of season. Not everyone may have the courage to do street preaching (and not everyone is called to it), but anyone can give out tracts. Buy a load of them and place them in letterboxes throughout the community. Run a blog. Make gospel videos on Youtube. Write letters to Members of Parliament or Congress imploring them to uphold righteous standards. Write letters to the editor of the local newspapers. Raise godly children. Invest serious time into training and teaching your children the word of the Lord. Be deliberately and consistently joyful in your workplace. Put your talents to good work. Volunteer in the community and perhaps drop a word in season about the Lord. Read your Bible in a public place. Leave a tract in a library book.
Whatever you do, do something to build the kingdom. Don’t just be a bump on a log trundling off to church and developing nothing more than swollen head full of knowledge that never makes a difference to anyone else. Be salt and light; be kind; be compassionate; be strategic in how you labour for the Lord.