Jesus Christ's Martyrs
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78. Jesus Christ's Martyrs
Revelation 20.5-10

"But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years. When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations — called Gog and Magog — in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle - a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revelation 20.7-10)✞

Christian Confessors

Gog and Magog MapGog and Magog appear in Ezekiel 38.1-4, which says, "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army — your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords." This image of Gog and Magog as a fierce army overcome by God etched itself deeply in Jewish thought. Scholars think that Gog and Magog were the European nomadic tribes, the "Khazars, Huns, Scythians, and Mongols." They also appear in the "Qur'an" as "Yakub and Majub." Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, is to launch a significant attack upon Israel and is to be utterly destroyed in the end. Gog has connections with the Scythians whose invasions and horseback riders everyone fears.

Gog and Magog

Gog statueAs time goes on, in Jewish thought, Gog and Magog come to stand for everything that is evil and against God. The rabbis teach that Gog and Magog would assemble themselves and their forces against Jerusalem and fall by the Messiah's hand. Under the Devil's leadership, these hostile armies would come up against God's people and the beloved city, Jerusalem. In the event, fire from heaven consumes their armies. God casts the Devil into the lake of fire and brimstone like the beast and the false prophet, and the triumph of God is complete.✞

The First Resurrection

First ResurrectionRevelation describes the first resurrection of those who die and rise after death. After the resurrection, Christ shall reign. God raises only the martyrs and those who have suffered for the faith in the "first resurrection." The general resurrection, which followed the first resurrection, will not occur until after the thousand years when Christ reigned upon the earth. The "First Resurrection" was a special privilege for those who had shown great loyalty to Christ, and they reigned with him. Those who were to enjoy this privilege belonged to two classes. First, the martyrs of Jesus Christ proved by giving up their lives for him that they are loyal to Christ. The word used for how they die "to behead with an ax," denotes the cruelest death. Second, others are called "confessors" in the Early Church who did not worship the beast and had not received his mark on their hands or foreheads. Professor H. B. Swete (1835-1917 AD), the English Biblical scholar, defines "confessors" as, "Those who, although they did not die, willingly bore suffering, reproach, imprisonment, loss of goods, disruption of their homes and personal relationships for the sake of Christ."

Martyrs Killed

Superior Court JudgesThe twelve apostle judges appointed by Christ will sit on their thrones and judge with Israel's twelve leaders. Martyrs from the Greek word "martys" are "witnesses" like the first martyr Saint Stephen. They are persecuted, suffer, and die for their faith. We read in Acts 7.55-60, "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' At this, they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him." "Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep." Martyrs give their lives, but Confessors are those who suffer but not die for their faith. The English king Saint Edward the Confessor (1003-1066 AD) ruled for a long 24 years, and his nickname reflects the traditional view of him as "unworldly and pious." Confessors often suffer everything short of death for their loyalty to Christ.

Saints will Judge

Martyrs being killedBoth those who die for Christ and those who live for Christ will receive his or her reward. A chosen group of twelve apostle judges who are loyal to Christ are to receive the privilege of taking part in the final judgment. This idea appears more than once in the New Testament. Jesus says in Matthew 19.28, " 'Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'"

Final judgment

Ancient CorinthIn 1 Corinthians 6.2, Saint Paul reminds the Corinthians that the saints' destiny is to judge the world. He writes, "Do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?" The idea is that the world to come will redress the balance of this one. In this world, a Christian may be a person under judgment. In the world to come, those who thought they were to be the judges will be "the judged!"

"Jesus Christ's Martyrs"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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