Further signs of the End 1 Summary


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  • Persecution: a pointer towards the End

  • (also for prayer for the persecuted)
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  • Speaking of the Signs of the End, Jesus said “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (Matthew 24:9). (Our first reaction to it must be to pray for and support our persecuted fellow-Christians).
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  • There has been persecution throughout history but, in view of other passages about the End Times, it is reasonable to think that persecution will increase towards the end. Here are some figures from researchers:
  • ·         One Christian dies every 5 minutes due to persecution
  • ·         160,000 Christians died through persecution in 2000
  • ·         The figure has reduced to about 100,000 is subsequent years
  • ·         “More Christians were persecuted in the 20th century than in all the previous 19 centuries put together.
  • These figures can be debated because it is very difficult to be precise when much persecution happens in remote areas. But one thing is certain, there is a very great deal of persecution of Christians today.
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  • Researchers say:
  • ·         70 million Christians have been martyred since AD33
  • ·         There have been 6000major martyrdoms over the centuries: 76 with 100,000 martyrs each, 27 with over 500,000 and 15 with over 1 million.
  • ·         Sadly, Christians have martyred 5,539,000 other Christians.
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  • Obviously, many more Christians have been persecuted without being martyred.
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  • Researchers also say:
  • ·         Some 45 million Christians (of the total of 70 million since AD33) have been martyred in the 20th century (and they claim that this excluded those killed for national, ethnic or political reasons who just happened to be Christian but were not killed because of their being Christian).
  • ·         61% of the major martyrdoms with over 100,000 martyrs each have been in the 20th century (plus 2 in the late 19th century.
  • ·         87.5% of the major martyrdoms with over 500,000 martyrs each have been in the 20th century and
  • ·         66% of the major martyrdoms with over 1 million martyrs each have been in the 20th century.
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  • Again, these figures are controversial, including averages and estimates, and are incomplete but they probably show a reliable indication that persecution has very significantly increased in the last century or so.
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  • John Allen, writing in The Spectator in 2013 said: “The global war on Christians remains the greatest story never told of the early 21st century.” Professor Alan Johnson asked: “Why are we so quiet about Christianophobia?”  The International Society for Human Rights is quoted as saying that 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.
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  • The Archbishop of Canterbury said in the House of Lord (Dec 2011) of Middle East Christians: “the position of Christians in the region is more vulnerable than it has been for centuries.” The Pope warned in September 2007: “Churches in the Middle East are threatened in their very existence.” The AI Monitor in Lebanon commented: “Christians in the Middle East “are victims of a slow and masked form of genocide, one that has been ongoing for some time now.”

80% of all acts of religious discrimination are against Christians according to the International Society for Human Rights (a secular group).

Christians are persecuted in 139 nations (about 75% of the world) according to the Pew Research Center (compared with Muslims in 90 countries and Jews in 68 countries).

Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi, said in the House of Lords that attempts to wipe out Christianity in parts of the Middle East and the killing of Christians across much of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia amount to the “religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing” and is a crime against humanity.

Pope Francis said “I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church.”

In April 2014 David Cameron said: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

  • Is it all down to extreme Islamists?

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  • There is no getting away from the fact that much of the growing persecution of Christians happens in a Muslim context. HOWEVER: 
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  • ·         Islamophobia – a persistently negative and suspicious attitude towards Muslims - is not a Christian attitude.
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  • ·         Many Muslims disapprove of the persecution of Christians by fellow Muslims.
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  • ·         Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs said: “Today, the majority of victims of Islamist violence are Muslim, and shall we not shed tears for them, too?” Similarly, the Bishop of Exeter said: “the primary victims of religious extremism in the Muslim world are other Muslims.”  [Nevertheless: 75 per cent of all religious persecution in the world is carried out against Christians].
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  • ·         The western world bears major responsibility for the negative attitude towards Christianity by many Muslims.

  • Why have violent Islamist attacks on Christians increased

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  • In the House of Lords Lord Parekh gave 5 reasons why violent Islamist attacks against Christians have increased:
  • 1.      Countries want unity and so see the country as belonging to the majority faith group.
  • 2.      Religious minorities tend to relate to the current regime for safety’s sake, so when the regime changes they may be scapegoated.
  • 3.      Western foreign policy tends to encourage extremism.
  • 4.      Some governments encourage religious division for their own purposes
  • 5.      There are extremist groups such as Al Qaeda.
  • We can add another reason:
  • 6.      Antagonism towards Muslims converting to Christianity. This can lead to the convert being killed. It also means that Muslims are antagonistic towards ‘proselytising’ i.e. evangelism by Christians.
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  • I will refer to persecution taking place against Christians in 47 countries of the world. Most of them are Muslim but there is also persecution by Buddhists in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and by Hindus in India. Here I will give a very brief summary in the next few posts. Details will eventually be on my blog and I will notify you when that is the case.

  • Persecution of Christians today

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  • Yes, this is a pointer towards the Return of Christ but we must pray for them
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  • AFGHANISTAN: Violence and threats. The government does not intervene when families murder a family member for converting to Christianity.
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  • ALGERIA: Court cases and intimidation. Churches closed. Churches attacked.
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  • AZERBAIJAN: Worship must be registered and this can take years. Religious literature, including Bibles, censored.
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  • BANGLADESH: Muslim & Buddhist fundamentalists perpetrate killings, rape, torture, attacks on places of worship, destruction of homes, forced evictions and desecration of items of worship.
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  • BELARUS: Christian meetings raided and property seized.
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  • BHUTAN: Harassment and discrimination.
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  • BOSNIA–HERZEGOVINA: Harassment and attacks on churches.
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  • BURMA (MYANMAR): Churches closed, intimidation, registrations for places of worship blocked.
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  • CHINA: Registrations for places of worship blocked  and unregistered churches raided. Pastors imprisoned. Harassments, arrests, torture.
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  • CUBA: Some improvement but Christians are not allowed to work in education, health and social services. Confiscated church buildings not returned.
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  • DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Violence. Attacks on churches.
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  • EGYPT  BEFORE THE OVERTHROW OF MUBARAK: Churches destroyed, Christians killed. However some Muslims support Christians.
  • EGYPT UNDER MORSI: Churches attacked, Morsi publicly supported prayers for destruction of Jews and Christians. 100,000 Coptic Christians fled.
  • EGYPT SINCE MORSI REMOVED: The Muslim Brotherhood is still attacking churches and imprisoning Christians in their homes.
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  • ERITREA: Arrests, harassment, indefinite detention, torture (sometimes leading to death)
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  • INDIA: Violence by Hindu extremists. Churches attacked.
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  • INDONESIA: Intimidation. Churches destroyed. Militia groups trying to stop reconciliation between Christians and Muslims
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  • IRAN: Arrests. Churches attacked. Conversion dealt with severely.
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  • IRAQ: Continuing attacks against Christians. Half of Iraq’s indigenous Christians have left. In August 2014 Christians fled from Mosul, the largest Christian town in Iraq, when Isis conquered it. It had a population of 60,000 Christians. Open Doors says: “Christians in Iraq are on the verge of extinction.
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  • ISRAEL AND PALESTINE: Palestinian Christians oppressed in Gaza. Warned against public witness. Manager of Christian bookshop murdered. Messianic Believers (Jewish Christians) are persecuted in Israel (by threat to property rather than life) as traitors to Judaism.
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  • KAZAKHSTAN: Attacks on churches. Church registration very difficult to obtain. Evangelism forbidden
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  • KYRGYZSTAN: Worship has to be registered and cannot be in a home. But only 3 Russian Orthodox churches have gained registration. Christian literature incl. Bibles may not be distributed.
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  • LAOS: Arrests. Detention without trial. All religious activities must be registered.
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  • LEBANON: In 1926 84% of the population of Lebanon were Christians. Less than 50% of the population is now Christian (one estimate is 39%).
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  • LYBIA: Converts to Christianity can be imprisoned. Evangelism is illegal.
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  • MALDIVES: All non-Muslim religious activity and places of worship banned.
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  • MAURITANIA: Conversion to Christianity can lead to the death penalty. Evangelism and distributing Christian literature illegal.
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  • MOROCCO: Christians may practise their faith openly but evangelism is illegal.
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  • NEPAL: Evangelism is illegal.
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  • NIGERIA: Shari‘a law is applied in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Discrimination, false charges of blasphemy; Christian students and teachers being forced to leave schools; permits to build churches refused. Churches destroyed. Teenagers abducted and forced to convert to Islam.
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  • NORTH KOREA: People caught praying likely to be executed. Prisoners subjected to torture, murder, rape, medical experimentation, forced labour and forced abortion. Possessing a Bible is a crime that can carry the death penalty.
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  • PAKISTAN: False accusations of blasphemy against Islam and offences against the Quran have led to killings by mobs.
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  • PHILIPPINES: Bomb attacks on churches.
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  • RUSSIA: Many improvements but legal regulations for non-Orthodox Christians increasingly stringent, using charges of extremism in order to ban religious materials and restrict the right of assembly.
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  • SAUDI ARABIA: Public Christian worship banned. Christians arrested.
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  • SOMALIA: Christians beheaded.
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  • SRI LANKA: Violence and discrimination. Churches attacked.
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  • SUDAN: Christians had suffered terrible atrocities before the country was divided in July 2011 with a Christian state in the South. 700,000 Christians of southern origin still remaining in Sudan fear retribution.
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  • SYRIA: Unprecedented persecution
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  • TAJIKISTAN: Converts suffer harassment, beatings and arrest. Religious activity must be registered and churches find it difficult to gain registration.
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  • TUNISIA: Discrimination, evangelism illegal, attacks on churches.
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  • TURKEY: Rise of extremism. Bishop murdered. Evangelism banned. Registration of religious groups difficult to obtain.
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  • TURKMENISTAN: Harassment and restrictions. Even registered churches have been restricted. Registration difficult to obtain. Religious literature censored.
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  • UGANDA: "A new wave of persecution against Christians in Uganda."
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  • UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Conversion, evangelism and circulation of non-Islamic literature illegal.
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  • UZBEKISTAN: Imprisonment. Raids on both unregistered and registered religious gatherings
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  • VENEZUELA:             Plans to confiscate churches, schools and other religious buildings. Attacks on Christians.
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  • VIETNAM: Some improvement but still government harassment and excessive use of force.
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  • YEMEN: Sharia law is the foundation of the legal system. Growing influence of Al Qaeda. Expatriate Christians murdered because of missionary activities.
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  • I have only given you a brief outline of persecution throughout many countries. Full details are now on my blog http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422   (The shorter version which is all the material I have put out on Facebook is at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=518)

  • Are Christians in Britain being persecuted?

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  • I have written a paper on this which may be found at
  • http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/DiscriminationAgainstBritishChristians.pdf
  • (with Updates at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=179)
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  • In that paper I concluded:
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  • ·         That recent high profile cases of Christians being penalised for wearing Christian symbols, for sensitively praying with or sharing their faith with patients, for refusing certain involvement with homosexuals should not have happened.
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  • ·         That the new legislation on equality needs to be reassessed so that religious freedom is not undermined.
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  • ·          That some in the pro-gay lobby are using the gay issue not just to seek respect and equality for homosexuals but as a Trojan horse to marginalize Christians and churches which follow traditional teaching on gay sex.
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  • ·         That Christianity is being marginalised in judicial proceedings, employment, as well as in parts of the media.
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  • I don’t believe British Christians are being persecuted .... yet.  Some are being discriminated against and oppressed, and the future is likely to be even more difficult for them.” I find it rather difficult when Christians use the word ‘persecution’ of the relatively slight difficulties we Christians face in this country.

  • Conclusion on persecution

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  • Researchers claim that:
  • ·         200 million Christians face discrimination or persecution. 
  • ·         Persecution of Christians increased worldwide in 2012. 
  • ·         Over 75% of the world’s population live in countries which are closed to the gospel and where evangelistic missionary activity is prohibited.
  • ·         Christians were harassed by government officials or organisations in 95 countries in the year ending in mid-2010 and by social groups or individuals in 77 countries.
  • ·         [1]
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  • In conclusion, it seems clear to me that persecution of Christians has grown very significantly over the last century. One could argue that it could subside again but I do not find that convincing. So, although we none of us know how much more extensive persecution could become this ‘sign’ seems well on the way towards fulfilment.
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  • Worldwide evangelism – a pointer towards the End

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  • Jesus made it clear that one of the signs pointing towards his return was worldwide evangelism.  He said:
  • “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14).
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  • What did Jesus mean?
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  • ·         Preaching to every individual? Such a task could hardly ever be completed, even with modern communications.
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  • ·         Preaching to every people group? Researchers say there are between 11,294 and 16,791 people groups.
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  • ·         Preaching to every nation? Yet nations come and go over the centuries, or their boundaries change. Prof C E B Cranfield says it means “that before the End all nations shall have an opportunity to accept the gospel.” Dr Dick France agrees.
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  • It is probably wise not to be too precise geographically in terms of people groups, let alone individuals, in our understanding of Jesus’ words. The gospel certainly has been spread far and wide and we shall look at statistics about the present situation to see how far the world has been evangelised.
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  • Here are some statistics:
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  • ·         The US Census Bureau says there are 7.108 billion people on the planet
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  • ·         Researchers say there are some 2.3 billion Christians (about 32% of the world population) including 748 million Evangelicals and over 524 million Charismatic/Pentecostal (these two figures overlap to some extent)
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  • ·         Estimates of the number of unevangelised people in the world vary from 1.6 billion  to 1.75 billion, i.e. 22-25% of the world population..
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  • ·         Researchers say between 32.7% and 56.6% of people groups unevangelised
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  • ·         94% of the world’s population has the New Testament in language they can understand (not necessarily their own local language  - Wycliffe Bible Translators say that 2000 of the over 6,800 living languages do not have any Scripture translated).
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  • ·         Over 800 million adults are illiterate so they would need to have the message conveyed to them orally.
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  • ·         However, Christian radio is available to 99% of the world’s population, assuming good reception and the availability of a radio. Then there are Christian programmes on TV, DVDs etc.
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  • ·         In 2009 alone Campus Crusade for Christ reported that over 10 million internet users came to faith in Christ through their websites. They also received close to 4 million emails. However only about 34% of the world’s population (still a huge number) has internet access and the situation is worse in least evangelised areas.

  • Conclusion on worldwide evangelism

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  • It is impossible to be dogmatic about what in detail Jesus meant about the gospel being “preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” 
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  • It is also impossible to be dogmatic about statistics. However
  • ·         The gospel has gone out to all the nations
  • ·         The NT is available to some 94% of the population in a language they understand.
  • ·         Christian radio is potentially available to some 99% of the world’s population.
  • But there could be 1.6 to 1.75 billion or more (some say over 2 billion) unevangelised people in the world.
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  • So, the gospel has certainly gone a long way to being preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.”
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  • Jesus clearly taught that this was a pointer towards the End, and his return.

 



[1] Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, September 2012



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