How badly will Christians suffer?

Question

I watch the news. It appears Christians are being attacked more and more. Freedoms are being lost – and I fear will soon disappear for good. Freedom of religion and speech are on the chopping block. The media is bought and paid for by those that have evil agendas. Babies are being murdered. Sins like homosexuality are being legitimized by various governments. Vicious animals (Americans?) are attacking the U.S. capitol. Are my family and I going to be next? Are Christians going to suffer?

Answer

Your question is one that may loom in the minds of many as we look for hope in what could be a gloomy future. I can’t offer you hope in the leaders or governments of this world. I can't offer hope in honest information through news and media. I can’t even give you hope in your church or pastor. There’s only one in whom our hope should reside – Jesus!

There is no doubt that Christians will suffer. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). This has been the case since the Fall (cf. Gen. 3:15). The time is coming and, in some respects, is already here, that Christians will begin to suffer more and more. The spirit of the antichrist is alive and at work (1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). Our "adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). (Please see "Anti-Christ a Human?" below.) Remember that Jesus also said, "‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).

God's people in the Old Testament suffered (Heb. 11:23-38), and those who followed Christ in the early church suffered. The apostle Paul went through tremendous persecution and suffering (2 Cor. 11:23-29). So, did the other apostles (Acts 5-8). Look at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), Galatia (Gal. 3:4), Philippi (Phil. 1:29), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:14), and Asia Minor (1 Pet. 4:12) and elsewhere (Heb. 10:32). Everyone who followed Jesus suffered – "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12).

We may be called to face persecution and even death for our beliefs, but there is no need to fear (2 Tim. 1:7; cf. Rom. 6:5). In the power of God, we need to be prepared to suffer (2 Tim. 1:8) having the mindset that it is an honor to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29) and knowing that it is part and parcel of the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:57-62). We weren't promised a luxurious, cozy life in a rose garden. That’s just not the gospel (Rom. 8:35-39).

We need to be prepared to endure suffering without compromising our integrity (2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:19), and we should not be surprised or caught off guard by suffering (1 Pet. 4:12). Rather, our eyes should remain fixed upon Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3) and surprise our tormentors by being prepared and rejoicing in suffering (1 Pet. 4:13; cf. Acts 16:25-40). We are to love our persecutors and pray for them (Matt. 5:43-47). We should not seek revenge (Rom. 12:14-21). While trusting and relying on God, we can respond by doing good (1 Pet. 4:19) and helping others (2 Cor. 1:3-7).

We Christians don’t willingly go through all of this because we enjoy pain. We do it because Jesus did so much for us and he is so worthy. We delight in being identified with him in his suffering (Phil. 3:10). We understand that all suffering, even death itself, is only temporary. And considering the glory that awaits us (2 Cor. 4:16; Rev. 20:4-6), suffering is nothing to fear. We can even embrace suffering! It is a gift. Therefore thank God that you have been counted worthy to suffer for his name (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:14, 16). One day – perhaps very soon – all suffering will be gone forever (Rev. 21:4).

Please don’t think for a minute that enduring and persevering is easy, because it isn’t! It’s literally a battle in which there is injury and even physical death. This battle may become more difficult in the coming days as more Christians are unjustly charged – as Jesus was. Jesus was ridiculed beaten and jailed – as we may be. And some may even be put to death – as Jesus was.

We need prayer. Lots of prayer (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Without employing all our spiritual strengths (Eph. 6:10-18) we will fail in battle. Now, right now, we need to be in God’s Word and on our faces in prayer. The enemy is at the door. Are you ready? If your answer is no, then begin preparing right now. If you think you are ready, then pray and study more. Only in Christ’s mercy and grace will we be able to endure.

Related Topics

Anti-Christ a Human?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).