Martyr’s Prayer – How Long
March 1, 2015

The Book of Revelation

“How Long”

Revelation 6:9-17

In 303 A.D., during the reign of emperor Diocletian, Andronicus was martyred for his faith. He said,

Do your worst, I am a Christian. Christ is my help and supporter, and thus armed I will never serve your gods nor do I fear your authority or that of your master, the Emperor. Commence your torments as soon as you please, and make use of every means that your malignity can invent, and you shall find in the end that I am not to be shaken from my resolution.”

Andronicus was unwilling to deny his faith, so he was imprisoned, whipped, tortured, thrown to wild beasts, and eventually killed with the sword. But he continued steadfast in the faith.

Thomas Hauker died in England in 1555. He was in prison the day before he was killed, and his friend next to him said,

Thomas, I have to ask you a favor. I need to know if what the others say about the grace of God is true. Tomorrow, when they burn you at the stake, if the pain is tolerable and your mind is still at peace, lift your hands above your head. Do it right before you die. Thomas, I have to know.” Thomas promised he would.

The next day, Hauker was bound to the stake and lit on fire. Hauker’s skin was burnt and everyone thought he was dead until all of a sudden he lifted his burning hands above his head toward the heavens and clapped three times.

The people burst into shouts of praise and his friend’s request was answered.

Chinese pastor and evangelist, Li De Xian, has been beaten unmercifully and put into prison on many occasions. In one six month period he was arrested 13 times for “illegal preaching.” He said,

Humanly speaking we know that no one likes to suffer physically. But I know that if the Lord leads me into it, He will give me the strength to survive it.”

Today we’ll be looking at the 5th and 6th seals Jesus breaks open from God’s Scroll of Destiny, His Last Will and Testament for humanity and the universe.

Read Revelation 6:9-11

Although there are several views as to who these martyrs are, their cry to God for me transcends time as this cry can be from any who died for their faith in Jesus Christ. If I could give you a rough translation it would read, “Lord, You who are holy and true, how long before you stop the injustice and evil.”

And while the debate continues as to who these martyrs are, who they are isn’t the important point, rather it’s that they died for their faith, and are special to God holding a special place before Him under the altar.

The idea of being under the altar is significant, because this is the altar of sacrifice. In the earthy temple this is where the animals were sacrificed and their blood poured out for the forgiveness of sin.

The specialness of this place is further seen in that it was at this heavenly altar where Jesus came, not with the blood of animals, but with His own blood, the blood He shed upon the cross to redeem us.

It’s here before God’s heavenly altar, at it’s very foot, that now stands all those who sacrificed their lives for their faith. They’re martyrs because they died for their witness of Jesus Christ.

During this time of tribulation the entire world will be completely antichrist, that is, it will be against everything that is of God, against His word and all those who live by His word.

Yet this is nothing new, at least for believers as we look at history

All the way back to the Babylonian captivity as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down the Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. When Nebuchadnezzar told them to bow or burn, they basically said, “Nebe, do your worst, and know that God can deliver us from your furnace of flames, but if he doesn’t, know that we’ll never bow.”

And so Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace and Jesus met them there and kept them safe and delivered them.

But not everyone who has stood their ground has been delivered; many faced persecution and even a martyr’s death. The writer of Hebrews tells us something of them. He said,

Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith.” (Hebrews 11:36-39a NKJV)

The same devotion was also seen in the first church when the religious authorities told Peter and John to no longer preach in the name of Jesus. Peter said,

“We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 NKJV)

And while Peter and John were delivered, others weren’t. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death when he refused to deny Jesus Christ and testified before a hostile crowd.

But throughout the centuries others have stood their ground and didn’t deny the faith and were persecuted and put to death.

 

There were 40 Christians Soldiers of the Thundering Legion in the fourth century. The governor commanded they make an offering to the Roman gods, which they refused. To change their minds he offered them money and imperial honors, but if they refused, then torment and death. They said,

You offer us money that remains behind and the glory fades away. You seek to make us friends of the Emperor, but alienate us from the true King. We desire one gift, the crown of righteousness. We are anxious for one glory of the heavenly kingdom. We love honors, those of heaven.”

You threaten fearful torments and call our godliness a crime, but you will not find us faint hearted or attached to this life or easily stricken with terror. For the love of God we are prepared to endure any kind of torture.”

This so infuriated the governor he was going to torture them slowly, so he made them strip and placed in the middle of a frozen lake. To increase their torment and turn them from their faith he placed hot baths around the lake.

One of them weakened and recanted his faith, making his way to the hot baths, but then a remarkable thing happened, one of the guards on shore stripped and took the man’s place crying, “I am a Christian.”

These stories of persecution are even found in our “civilized” world, a world that continues to reject God’s word and God’s people. Even in America the writing is on the wall. We see signs of this rejection as more and more people are, with greater intensity, rejecting, cursing, denying, ignoring, neglecting, disobeying, and disbelieving the God of the Bible. And not only is it becoming the fashionable thing to do, but now it’s politically correct.

But during this seven year Tribulation, the whole world will completely reject Jesus Christ and God’s word, and it would seem that there’d actually exist a new law, one against worshipping anyone except the Antichrist.

And so we get this prayer in heaven of the martyred saints. And as I see this prayer, it’s not one of vengeance as much as it is of vindication for God and His holy and righteous standards. They’re crying out for God to stop the injustice against His word, honor, and glory. And this is the same cry that His people have been crying out for all these years.

King David best summed this cry up in Psalm 94

“Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph? They utter speech, and speak insolent things; all the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.” (Psalm 94:2-3 NKJV)

We should never be about the business of revenge. Jesus taught us to forgive those who sin and do wrong against us, and if we don’t then our heavenly Father won’t forgive our sins. We should never seek to harm those who have harmed and done evil against us.

This is the Apostle Paul’s advice, and when you read this remember Paul was persecuted not only by Rome, but also by his own people, the Jews, and Christians as well. He said,

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21 NKJV)

To their cry as to how long they were going to have to wait, God answers that they should rest, because the time wasn’t yet.

We need to know that God will act, but according to His agenda, not ours. God will move, but His criterion is different. We often think of justice, whereas God is longsuffering wishing none to perish.

For myself I’ve found it best to walk with God, being a conduit of His grace and mercy, rather than to speak judgment and then be judged in the same manner.

So God tells them to chill and take advantage of the rest He has provided.

  1. A Rest from Their Labor

“‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13 NKJV)

  1. A Rest from The Wicked

 

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27 NIV)

  1. A Rest from Life’s Trials

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NKJV)

God hears the cries of His people and will avenge them. Jesus said,

And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8 NKJV)

The widow that Jesus was referring to cried for justice the same as these martyred saints, and while Jesus confirmed that God will avenge, His question is indeed penetrating for us. Will He find faith when He returns?

He’s warning us to remain faithful even in the face of wrongs and the evil in this world.

And on the heels of the martyrs’ cry, Jesus breaks the 6th seal, and the earth begins to reel under God’s judgment and wrath.

Read Revelation 6:12-17

We first see a great earthquake, the first of three during this time of Tribulation. An earthquake that will be beyond anything this earth has ever experienced. Along with this, and possibly because of this the sun will become darkened and the moon will turn blood red.

(Besides the dust that it will kick up into our atmosphere, there’s the potential of volcanic eruptions due to this earthquake, especially in the area known as the ring of fire, which contains those active volcanoes around the Pacific Rim.)

To top all this off, the earth will experience a meteorite shower of unprecedented proportions giving the impression that the stars of heaven are falling out of the sky. But the difference as I see it is that these will not just burn up in our atmosphere, but will make it through and strike the earth.

This whole scenario is something the prophet Joel predicted.

“The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness … The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” (Joel 2:10, 31 NKJV)

The prophet Zephaniah said it would be a day of wrath, distress, anguish, trouble and ruin. It’ll be a day of darkness, gloom, clouds, and blackness, Zephaniah 1:15.

To those who will be there it’ll seem as if the universe itself is shattering and fear will grip people’s heart like nothing before has, and they’ll wonder and cry out, “How long.”

Unfortunately this fear won’t last long, and that’s because when tragedies are over, and the problems solved, they’ll go back to the way things were before, being soothed by Satan’s lies that it wasn’t that bad, and besides Jesus hasn’t returned as they were told He would.

This is how it was after 9-11. People flooded the church to get answers, but after a couple of weeks these same people were nowhere to be found.

It’s like the guy who started to fall down a cliff. He caught hold of tree root near the top. He yelled but no one came. He then prayed and asked God to help saying that he would get his life right with God. At that moment a rope came over the edge and pulled him to safety. Afterwards he said to God, “Never mind, someone heard my call.”

So those who once feared for their lives fall back into their old ways, but the message for us today is to continue forward, despite the trials and persecution that will come.

Concerning this time period, John Walvoord, who was a past theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary said,

The Day of the Lord is a period of time in which God will deal with wicked men directly and dramatically in fearful judgment. Today a man may be a blasphemer of God, an atheist, can denounce God, and teach bad doctrine. Seemingly God does nothing about it. But the day designated in Scriptures as ‘the day of the Lord’ is coming when God will punish human sin, and He will deal in wrath and in judgment with a Christ-rejecting world. One thing we are sure of, that God in His own way will bring every soul into judgment.”

So the message is simple.

Reject Jesus Christ and stand before the white Throne Judgment of God, and experience God’s wrath against all unbelief, which is the Lake of Fire,

Or believe in Jesus Christ and receive His promise of rest and eternity in heaven.









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