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Persecution and the Last Days of the Church Age- Part I
Larry Shepard

Persecution and the Last Days of the Church Age- Part I

Pugh Research statistics (see the video below entitled, "These Christian Stats Are Shocking") compiled from 2010-2015 reveal that Christianity is declining in America and around the world.  Animosity toward Christianity is rising and people are leaving the Church in record numbers.  These stats also reveal that all other religions (except Buddhism) are growing and that 40% of Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050!  As we approach the end of the Church Age and the second coming of Christ, how will the Church respond to these trends?  This article will explore what we have done to contribute to this situation and what we should be doing now. 

 

The Rise of Persecution and the Decline of the Church

The number of people in the world who identify themselves as Christian and believe in the God of the Bible is declining.  The attitudes of people towards "evangelical Christians" is becoming more and more hostile in America and abroad.  Here are a few highlights from the Pugh Research report mentioned above:

  • Only  56% of Americans say they believe in the God of the Bible
  • Only 45% of Americans in the 18-25 age group believe in the God of the Bible
  • Only 26% of Americans have a favorable view of evangelical Christians
  •  In2010-15 4.9 million people switched into the Christian faith, 13.9 million switched out Projected out to 2050, the net loss is 66 million
  • During 2010-15, every other religion (except Buddism) recorded a net gain 
  • Most (77%) converts to Islam during this period, were raised "Christian"
  •  By 2050, 40% of Christians will reside in sub-Saharan Africa

 These statistics reveal a worldwide move away from belief in the God of the Bible.  They also reveal a growing animosity toward Bible-believing Christians, who adhere to the belief that Jesus is the way to God and that no man comes to the father except through Him (John 14:6).

American Culture Trending Towards Marxism

As America drifts towards Marxism (Progressivism), we are seeing attacks on the three "C"s (The Constitution, Christianity and American Culture).  Marxism cannot flourish in a society based on biblical principles such as God-given individual liberty.  Since the U.S. Constitution is based on biblical principles, Marxists must attack it and marginalize Christianity and reduce, if not eliminate, its impact on society.  American Christians have not experienced the levels of persecution and genocide that exists around the world, however, persecution is on the rise.  For an in-depth look at this issue, see the article below entitled, "Why Marxism is On the Rise".

The World Is Not Becoming A Better Place

There are Christian groups in the world that believe that Christianity will save the world (see the article below, "What Is Kingdom Now Teaching?).  These sects actually believe that the world will get better and better due to Christian influence.  The Bible does not support this theology!  The Bible predicts that many people will never accept God's free gift of redemption and that mankind will actually grow worse and worse as we approach the end of this dispensation.  Carefully consider the following passages:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 [a]Because narrow is the gate and [b]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. [a]Because narrow is the gate and [b]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."  Matthew 7:13-14

 

 But know this, that in the last days [a]perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  2 Timothy 3:1-5

 

 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the [a]elect’s sake those days will be shortened. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the [a]elect’s sake those days will be shortened."  Matthew 24:21-22

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 [a]Because narrow is the gate and [b]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

Persecution: A Biblical Perspective

The fact that Christians are being persecuted in America and around the world should not be a surprise to anyone that studies the Bible!  As a matter of fact, persecution is an indicator that true Christians are serious about their faith and are working to accomplish what God has commanded them to do! 

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived2 Timothy 3:10-13

 

The Persecution Principle

 
Key Study Principle (Read); Jeremiah 18:18 

 

Those who choose to obey God, do so at great cost.   Men who do not want to be corrected by God's word will devise plans against those who carry the message!  

 

Living a godly life that is submitted to Jesus' teachings, always results in persecution.  This principle can be seen throughout the Bible and is highlighted in theNew Testament.  The very people (Israel) who were given God's law, rejected it and persecuted those sent to remind them of God's goodness.  This truth is magnified in the murder of Jesus and Stephen.  These are the words of Stephen as he is being killed:

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One (Jesus), of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”   Acts 7:51-53

God Challenges and Empowers Believers to Endure Persecution

The Bible declares that "where sin abounds, grace abounds even more". Those who trust God and are steadfast in times of trouble are empowered to persevere.  

 

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:7-11

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 
Romans 8:35-37

 

The power to stand in the midst of persecution is only manifest in believers who are intimate with God and are committed to His revealed purpose in their lives.

 

And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure1 Corinthians 4:12

 

Believers are actually called to bless those who persecute them (see Romans 12:14).  This is difficult for non-believers and even carnal Christians to understand.  God displays hIS power in the attitude and behavior of those who do His will.  This is not always obvious.  An example of this is the Apostle Paul, a man who persecuted and put Christians to death.  In time, Paul became a believer and became one of the most effective Apostles of Jesus (See Gal 1:10-17).

 

This is the end of Part I

Be sure to check out the related links and videos below!  In Part II of this article, we will explore God's agenda for the last days of the church age and the challenge that exists for the Pastor/Teacher.

 

 

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Larry Shepard

Larry ShepardLarry Shepard

Larry is the founder and visionary of the Parable Power Network. His mission is to ignite a passion for God's word and to see the Power in the Parable elevate people to exemplary living.. Larry has served in various Christian ministries for over 40 years; including teaching in Bible Schools and as a Senior Pastor.

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Full biography

Larry Shepard committed his life to Jesus Christ over 40 years ago. During those years, he worked in evangelistic radio and publishing ministries. He has served as an Education Director, Special Ministries Director, Associate Pastor and as a Senior Pastor. Larry has studied and taught at Cornerstone Theological Seminary. He also developed and taught classes at The Texas Institute of Biblical Studies. Larry worked in Corporate America as an IT professional and developed software for numerous small businesses. He lives in Houston, Texas, and is married and has two children and two grandchildren.

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