crucified lordAfter the brutal murder of twenty one Coptic Christians we have to look again at martyrdom. This is not long ago and far away. It is here. It is now. It is on your screen. John Allen’s excellent The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution explores the world wide phenomenon of the persecution of Christians. Today my latest article for CRUX explores the mystery of martyrdom.

What is it that causes such hatred of Christians?

While it can be put down to the clash of culture, the clash of religions, or the clash between political and religious loyalties, there is a hidden dynamic that underlies the outward conflict. The key is in the Book of Revelation.

The prophet sees that the battle is between the followers of Jesus Christ and “the Beast” or the anti-Christ. The effort to identify the anti-Christ as a particular world ruler has been the pastime of prophetically minded Christians from the beginning. Was the anti-Christ Nero? Mohammed? Attila the Hun? Napoleon? Hitler? Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? In fact, they were all anti-Christs. And the list could go on, because the spirit of the anti-Christ is forever being manifested somewhere in the world. The Beast wars against the Spirit of Christ, and those who love and follow Jesus Christ, will always be the ones the Beast wishes to stalk, attack, and devour.

As we approach Lent we must always remember that the Devil is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Martyrdom is real. It’s ugly and it’s with us today.

The cross of Christ is with us today. It’s real and it’s ugly.

Let us pray for all who face persecution and death and ask the holy martyrs of Libya to pray for us.