While many of us trust in an almighty and gracious God, Who has shown us His love in Jesus Christ, life at times in this fallen world still feels brutally painful.
Almost daily the news channels and social media are flooded with reports of fresh atrocities, people being beheaded, crucified, burned alive. We want to cry out in protest to Heaven, ‘Why? How long must this continue?’
Not that this is the first time a totalitarian regime has persecuted minorities. Many can still remember the concentration camps and gulags of last century.
And much of the Bible was written against a background of cruel oppression. The Old Testament Israelites suffered as slaves under Pharaoah. Jesus advised His disciples that they would be resented and badly treated just like Him. Peter would later write that it was an honour to be identified with his Master – ‘If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ (1 Peter 4 v 16)
He urged his readers not to be surprised at the trial, but patient, trusting that God is working out His plan of grace. Christ’s suffering brought salvation to the world. ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise,’ wrote Peter, ‘He is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3 v 9)
The last book of the New Testament was written near the end of the 1st century AD, when Imperial Rome was instituting a harsh programme of persecution against Christians. It assures us that Christ is risen victorious over death and reigns over all. He is ‘coming soon’ in glory to end evil and gather His own to our resurrection inheritance.
It hurts, but not for too much longer.
For those who may be hurting and struggling today as we wait for our Lord, these words of comfort are for you.
‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
Who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb.’
And …one of the elders…said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,
‘they are before the throne of God
And serve Him day and night in His temple;
And He Who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
Never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
Nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their Shepherd;
He will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7 v 9-10 +13-17)
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!