about that time herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. he killed james the brother of john with the sword, [acts 12:1-2]
the ‘herod the king’ mentioned here has some famous relatives–his grandfather is ‘herod the great’, who murdered all of the males under two years of age– [matthew 2:16-18] he is also known as ‘herod agrippa’ this king sought gain political power by supporting the sanhedrin, the council of leaders that sought to remain in power by persecuting the new christian church. james, one of the three disciples closest to Jesus is the first to die, and violently. peter will also die a violent death for his faith, while john will write his gospel, epistles and his revelation in exile on patmos dying an old man, the way Jesus prophecied.
christianity grows amidst persecution–in the places where christianity is the hardest, it is exploding, in 1900, only 18% of christians were in the global south, but in 2020, 67% of christians were in the global south–places like africa and south asia, places where christianity may be illegal, persecuted greatly and at odds with other local religions, and it is estimated that by the year 2050, 77% of all christians will live in the global south. in 2020, there were 379 million christians in asia, and 667 christians in africa–when you combine these numbers, that is three times the total population of the united states.
so what do we do here in america, where it feels like sleepy american culture is giving away to a new secular religion of self? when it feels like christianity is being maligned and culture seems to have abandoned it, what must we do? the same thing that our brothers and sisters in christ have always done–stand firm in the faith:
for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [ephesians 6:12-13]
we must remember that kings and ideologies will rise, and may kill us with swords or by simply lulling us to sleep, but our real enemy are the spiritual forces all around us. we can battle–we but only in the Spirit, we can only fight when we stand in the presence of God–we don’t depend on the right president, the right senators, the right parents to rescue us from the present darkness, we depend on the work of Jesus Christ! let us stand in the presence of the true king–his sword will be swift and just!
then i saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! the one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. his eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. he is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. and the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. [revelation 19:11-16]
come Lord Jesus, fight for us!