Hank Hanegraaff, host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast, continues working through the beatitudes. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5: 10). Persecution has been an ongoing reality from the time that Jesus said to His disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15: 20). One need only think back to the twentieth century when the Muslim caliphate issued a fatwa mandating that all Muslims massacre Christians in their midst. The Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless Christians. By the time WWI broke out, the Muslim leadership of Turkey had committed itself to eliminating the whole of the Christian population. Among the most noteworthy casualties was extermination of the historic city of Smyrna. Conquering Turks went house to house murdering Christians. All told, by 1923, three-and-a-half million Christians had been exterminated. Why did the early church emphasize the lives of the martyrs in the midst of persecution? The answer is that persecution is virtually synonymous with Christianity. We see this reality borne out through the Apostolic Fathers, who followed the Holy Tradition of Apostles willing to sacrifice their all for the perpetuation of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Fathers who counted their lives not worthy even to the point of shedding their own blood. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5: 11–12).
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