Sermons

Summary: Daniel anticipates persecution of 'the saints' to an extent that he describes it as war. Some commentators today have used the word 'war' or 'genocide' to describe persecution of Christians today. Daniel's prophecy seems to be fulfilled.

Today we move on to Daniel. We’re familiar with many of the stories in the first half of Daniel, the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, and so on. But we’re less familiar with the material in the second half. Daniel has a lot to say about ‘End Times’. One thing that Daniel tells us is that there will be persecution of God’s people, to the extent that Daniel describes it as ‘war’.

Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast … and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up … As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them … (Daniel 7:19-21)

A little further on Daniel tells us that this ‘horn’ ‘shall wear out the saints of the Most High’ (7:25). He also has a vision in which he sees a king who will ‘destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints’ (8:24).

Daniel’s prophecies are notoriously difficult. However what Daniel is saying here is clear enough. He uses the words ‘war’, ‘wear out’ and ‘destroy’ in relation to the saints. Could we describe the world today that way? The answer is ‘yes’.

Last year, Jeremy Hunt, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commissioned a report to guide the British government in how to respond to the worldwide persecution of Christians (the Truro Report). The report uses the word ‘genocide’ 57 times in relation to action against Christians, often in conjunction with the phrase ‘met the test’ or similar. The report tells us:

The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.

That looks like war, doesn’t it?

In 2016, a book was published entitled ‘The Global War on Christians’. The author, a journalist called John Allen, said he was hesitant to use the word ‘war’ in connection with the attacks on Christians around the world. But he finally decided that it was the right word to use.

I feel uncomfortable simply presenting these cold facts. They reflect murder, beheadings, torture, bombings, abductions, rape, forced marriages, discrimination and ostracism. We find hundreds of stories as soon as we start to look.

But to return to our purpose: we’re trying to understand the Bible’s picture of ‘End Times’. We understand that war against Christians is part of that picture. But Christians have been persecuted for the last 2000 years. If we’re saying that persecution of Christians, to the extent that it could be described as war, is a marker of ‘End Times’, then persecution of Christians must increase in End Times. Has persecution increased? Can we even measure it?

In preparation for the year 2000, Pope John Paul II set up a commission to research and catalogue those who died for the faith in the 20th century. The commission discovered that the “20th century has produced double the number of Christian martyrs [than] all the previous 19 centuries put together.”

Every book, article and report I’ve looked at says that the level of persecution is increasing. The Truro Report says that. Open Doors says that. Last year, Henrietta Blyth, Chief Executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland said: “Our research uncovers a shocking increase in the persecution of Christians globally.” One observer noted that when Islam expanded in the 7th and 8th centuries, Muslims didn’t try to wipe out Christians: they simply made them second-class citizens. But groups such as ISIS were “wiping Christianity off the face of Syria and Iraq.” That is a change.

Isaiah tells us about global environmental destruction. Jeremiah tells us about Babylon and in Revelation John relates it to a future Babylon. It isn’t too difficult to imagine an entity that fits the description. Ezekiel describes a future temple, and that is by no means inconceivable. Daniel tells us of ‘war’ on the saints. That’s happening. We’re putting ticks against a lot of ‘End Time’ markers…

Have a good day. And say a prayer for those for whom today is not such a good day.

Simon

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