Today the most preaching and personal prophetic words focus mainly on achieving personal success so that we can enjoy comfort and security. God wants you happy and blessed; there is a successful lifestyle waiting for you! There is nothing wrong with that. But if you conduct a study for yourself of the prophecies found in New Testament and the epistles, you will find only a few that prophesy a good life. Most dealt with chains, tribulations, and death that awaited those who would bring glory to God which is quite different from the prophecies of today.
It is been an easy thing to walk in the West as the follower of Jesus. But if persecution breaks out in the Western Church, I don’t think we are prepared or equipped for that day that might come upon us. Many prophets have been warning that where we walk we walk in peace and freedom of speech, there is yet coming a time, when even to speak the name of Jesus will bring such persecution that many of the saints and leaders of the church will count the cost and will not endure.
The question is: have pastors or other church leaders prepared the saints for persecution? The answer is only a small remnant has taught their congregations to suffer hardship for the sake of Christ. Most people have a lot of faith but no endurance or perseverance. They’ve been taught to prosper and build the finest buildings but this will not sustain us in the coming days. Christians should expect some kind of trouble.
Jesus Christ was honest in telling His followers what to expect. Likewise when Paul and Barnabas had preached the good news (Gospel) to that town and made disciples of many of the people, they went back to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, establishing and strengthening the souls and the hearts of the disciples, urging and warning and encouraging them to stand firm in the faith, and telling them that it is through many hardships and tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:20-22)
Therefore preachers and evangelists should be honest in promising people who come to follow Jesus that there might suffer some kind of tribulation. But they can cheer up because Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. We should acknowledge that persecution might happen. For instance, if a pastor has been removed from the pulpit, this can easily stop the functioning of a church. In fact a tactic of the communists when taking over a country has been to identify the pastor and all full-time workers and remove them from the areas.
If one’s pastor is suddenly thrown into jail, his spouse imprisoned for taking a stand against evil, or children removed from the home because God’s Word is taught, it is likely to shake the most grounded person. However, the mental shock will be much less to the individual who has acknowledged that this is likely to happen.
Examples were People were not Prepared
Pastors and religious leaders were oblivious to the Russian revolution that was about to take place. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, conferences were being held in two hotels on the Moscow Street. At the consultation sponsored by the Orthodox Church, clergy vestments, garments, and articles were the principle agenda.
In other meeting, Vladimir Lenin and his colleagues were finalizing plans to overthrow the existing regime. Could the churches in Western nations be in a similar situation? You bet! They are going about with their business as usual ignoring the impeding distress that is now settling in.
Richard Wumbrand (1909-2001) was a Romanian Jewish Christian minister. He was severely persecuted, tortured and imprisoned after publicly declaring that Communism and Christianity were incompatible. He wrote that:
Some regimes come to power without having real power….The initial situation does not last long. During that time they infiltrate the churches, putting in their men in leadership. They find out the weaknesses of pastors….They explain that they would make those weaknesses known. Then, at a certain moment the great persecution begins. In Romania such a clamp-down happened in one day. All the Catholic bishops went to prison, along with innumerable priests, monks, and nuns. Then many Protestant pastors of all denominations were arrested. Many died in prison.
Some Bible teachers believe that the Christians will be able to escape every kind of persecution. The problem is that most people have little knowledge of the persecution that is already going on across the world. In China the Christians were told, “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes, you will be “raptured.”Then came a terrible persecution and millions of Christians were tortured to death. Corrie Ten Boon heard a Bishop from China saying:
We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first.”Turning to me, he said, “You still have time. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when persecution comes—to stand and not faint.
Jan Pit in her book Persecution: It Will Never Happen Here says:
During the appalling Vietnam War, church leaders from a certain Christian group held their annual conference. The southern Vietnamese city resembled a fortress. There were soldiers everywhere, barricades, and a terrifying collection of weaponry. Daily attacks were being made on the city by the communist Viet Cong, yet the pastors continued to discuss the various activities which they would embark upon in the ensuing years. They even adopted a ten-year plan. Despite all the evidence, no one there thought it possible for South Vietnam to be overthrown. All were convinced the country would remain open to mission work. The church remained—unprepared.
The Possibility of Underground Churches in the West
Richard Wumbrand said:
It is not possible to give a course on the church underground, in a short time. I would urge you to put this question before your synod, before your denomination, and to ask absolutely that courses on the underground church be introduced.” …..We have to make the preparations now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything…..Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.
There are four ways churches or Christian businesses are likely to respond as pressure comes from government or other sources:
1. The church or business closes;
2. They attempt to co-exist with government regulations;
3. They resist and become a protest business or if it is a church;
4. They go underground.
In situations like that the Church faces two alternatives social-political compromise with anti-Christian forces or incur the wrath of a controlled political religious hierarchy if it refuses to compromise. But since most of these two alternatives have already been posed in many parts of the world, there is no reason to believe that it will not happen in the West. What then should we do? We need as Christians top prepare ourselves and be sure that our children have a clear example before them if their turn comes.
The Holy Spirit may lead different people and churches to respond differently. There are examples from Scripture of people who reacted in diverse ways. The House Church movement has been the means of great growth of the Body of Christ in China. When all churches were officially closed as a result of the Cultural Revolution in 1996, people began meeting in homes.
The number has varied through the years with only five or six people in some, hundreds in others, and thousands in a few. Denominational lines are gone so that the only question asked is “Do you belong to Jesus?” Sometimes believers came together at the same time with no prior announcement. They reported, “The Lord Himself told us to come.
When Idi Amin banned Christian sects and denominations in Uganda, people had to decide whether to join official churches or form house fellowships. It is reported In Persecution: It Will Never Happen Here?, that “within days of the ban, thousands of secret house fellowships had sprung up across the land.”
The type of church leadership which is widely accepted in Western society, with one man the centre of all activity, cannot continue in a repressive society. It is easy for the authorities to remove the key man and stop that church’s impact. Believers may have to worship alone, in their homes, or corporately but secretly.
I also agree with Chuck Missler who believes in Koinonia. He believes that real believers will increasingly meet in homes. The day may come that they don’t arrive all at the same time, but drift in singly, so as not to call to attention to themselves. We are locked in a very serious struggle in the West.