Tribulation is coming. As far as the church is concerned it has always been present to varying degrees throughout history. God has never exempted Christians from tribulation, persecution or martyrdom. In fact we Christians ought to expect it.
If any pastor tells you that you should or can be living your best life now in terms of worldly success, he is lying to you.
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. John 16:2
I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev 1:9
When I say tribulation is coming, I have the West and specifically America in mind in this column. Note here that I'm not referring to the future seventieth week of Daniel. I believe that period will contain tribulation in its entirety; but this originates from God's wrath (Rom 2:8-9). I'm talking about tribulation in the present.
Some time after 2004, I listened to a few Chuck Missler briefings. In one of these, he warned that the church in America would soon be forced underground, or into smaller House Church settings. He attributed this to the increasing trajectory of anti-Christian activism from atheists, leftists and homosexuals.
Moving forward to 2015, Wretched Radio's Todd Friel produced a YouTube video ominously titled James White’s scary 5 year prediction for the church. White spoke on the issue of homosexuality and the consequences of the church's holding to biblical standards against the thought police.
White warned that it would inevitably result in heavy fines, tax penalties and possible seizures of church properties. He added that one day pastors of churches will have their sermons monitored by Government Thought Police in order to ensure they don't contain what is determined to be "hate speech."
Christians may lose their jobs if they decline to participate in supporting LGBT+ in workplace initiatives. Biblically faithful Christian Colleges will also face attacks, as we saw in the 2015 threat on The Master's Seminary's stance on homosexuality. Notably, that particular attack was led by a professing Christian.
We've seen this phenomenon occurring with Christian businesses failing because of heavy fines imposed by courts and threats of imprisonment. These have resulted from accusations of discrimination and hate towards protected groups. Recall also how the Chick-fil-A franchisewas publicly shamed by several mayors of cities for its president's stance on biblical marriage.
White observes that there have been victories against legislation threatening Christian speech. But the Bills will keep being lodged and may eventually gain traction.
More recently we saw a California Bill proposed which some took to threaten the expression of religious freedom of those who oppose homosexuality. This raised alarm bells about the possibility that it would lead to the banning of Bibles. And, of course, the fact checkers quickly poured cold water over it.
It's true that Assembly Bill 2943 does not directly address the sales of Bibles. But given that God's Word as found in the Bible is what drives "conversion therapy" and opposition to homosexual practices - one would have to be obstinately naïve to not see where this is all going.
The church is no stranger to persecution. Just read Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The Old Puritans understood suffering. Pastors lost their churches, were executed, exiled, imprisoned for their faith and defense of biblical preaching. If you think we now live in a happy world of tolerant enlightenment, and those days cannot return, you haven't paid enough attention.
Could Americans experience the type of anti-Christian control and oppression one currently finds in China and Vietnam? Don't discount it! Some of us see President Trump as a buffer or reprieve after eight years of the Obama administration. But the anti-Christian machine is still churning away. Furthermore, Donald Trump is facing his own wars.
In High King of Heaven Paul Washer points out the correct reason for Christian persecution. It shouldn't be the result of Christians behaving badly. Washer notes:
Why does Christ bring persecution? Well, the world hates Christ. The world hates the biblical Christ but loves the Christ of the liberal - a man who is not the Savior but a savior and teacher who loves everyone without judgment and truth.
In other words, the world wants to worship a god in its own image. Try telling it that the wages of sin is death and eternal punishment and that the only remedy is the cross. This is why Christians are persecuted.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Notwithstanding all this we are called blessed and told to rejoice when persecution comes.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mat 5:11-12 (See also Rom 5:2-3; Heb 12:5-6; James 1:2)
One of my favorite biblical characters is the apostle Peter. He went from a cowardly Christ denier to someone who willingly died for His Lord. The difference in the change was the Holy Spirit in his life.
Last year, and this year, have been particularly tough in our household. I know we aren't the only ones! I'm encouraged by the following advice from Washer:
Only when the Spirit transforms us, gives us a hunger for God's Word, and leads us into unceasing prayer will the unseen become more real to us than that which is seen, and the heavenly reward greater than anything this world could ever offer. Only then will we persevere in the face of persecution.
To the last sentence I would also add trials. Even so, Lord, come quickly!