THE WORLD WIDE PERSECUTION
OF CHRISTIANS TODAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, November 30, 2003



Christ said that the world would hate true Christians. Please turn to John 15.19. Let us stand and read the words of our Lord.

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

You may be seated.

The main reason for the persecution of Christians around the world lies in the fact that Christians, although they are loyal citizens, have an attachment to "another king" - they are more committed to Jesus than the political order in their country. The very existence of Christians in any nation denies that the state is the all powerful ruler of human life. Caesar is not God. Christ is God. That belief angers every modern totalitarian regime and often draws a bloody response. Many Christians are therefore persecuted simply because they are Christians. They are usually peaceful and quiet. But their existence is a rebuke to those who are corrupt, to those who cannot tolerate the presence of any view but their own, and to those who want to make their political regime the only focus of loyalty. Paul Marshall said, "The very existence [of Christians] is a silent witness to a claim beyond human control" (Paul Marshall, Their Blood Cries Out, Word, 1997, p. 9).

Jesus was arrested and taken before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate said to him, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). Jesus said,

"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…" (John 18:36).

Then Jesus was silent. This angered the governor. He said,

"Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above…" (John 19:10-11).

"My kingdom is not of this world." "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." These words of Christ challenged the authority of Caesar and the Roman government. Over the next three centuries Rome persecuted the Christians repeatedly. Roman emperors like Nero, Caligula, Trajan and others did everything in their power to destroy the Christians and stamp out their religion. The very presence of those Christians was a "silent witness" to their corrupt dictatorship. The Roman state could not tolerate the presence of any view but their own. How dare these Christians say, with Christ, "My kingdom is not of this world"? How dare they say, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above"? The Roman emperors said, "These Christians have another king, a dead Jew, that they say came back to life. There can be no other king! There can be no king but Caesar! These Christians must be destroyed from the face of the earth!"

The mere fact that these Christians believed in another king, another power, greater than the state, made them objects of persecution.

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

Nothing has changed in the last two thousand years. I am going to go through a list of several countries, and show you the world-wide persecution of Christians today. All illustrations and quotations, except for America, are taken from the book, Their Blood Cries Out, by Paul Marshall (Word Publishing, 1997).

I. First, America.

Over the last forty years, the major media venues, television and the newspapers, have become increasingly anti-Christian. This mindset filters down to our schoolrooms, where the very words "Christmas" and "Easter" are now banned. Children are even forbidden to give each other Christmas cards in many schools, and there is a strong movement to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. At the same time, every classroom has Satanic pictures and demonic decorations, and every child is encouraged to celebrate the Druid religious holiday of Halloween. And I understand that many schools now have mandatory classes in the Muslim religion, to "foster greater understanding." These kids are forced to study the Koran, but are not allowed to read the Bible, or say a Christian prayer!

Every college student can tell you how this anti-Christian bias plays out in his secular college classes. The professors are "politically correct" when it comes to other world religions. You never hear a word of criticism, but only "non-biased" descriptions of the value and worth of these other religions. And yet, any student in a secular college can tell you that Christianity is belittled, downgraded, and often attacked openly, by these same "politically correct" teachers.

Young people from non-Christian homes, who become Christians, often undergo verbal persecution from parents who are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Sometimes they are ostracized from their own families for embracing Christianity - yes, right here in America!

But the worst persecution of Christians is against those who are not yet born. I believe the Bible teaches that every unborn child is considered a Christian by God. Jesus said,

"Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14).

While I do not agree with Dr. John MacArthur on the Blood of Christ and Lordship salvation, I think his comment on Matthew 19:14 is Scripturally correct. He says,

These children were too young to have exercised personal faith. See Luke 18:15, where Luke refers to them as "infants." Therefore, it is all the more significant that Christ used them as an illustration of those who make up "the kingdom of heaven"… God often shows a special mercy to those who because of age or mental deficiency are incapable of either faith or willful unbelief. They are called "innocents" in Jeremiah 19:4. This does not mean that they are free from inherited guilt and moral corruption of Adam's sin, but rather that they are not culpable [blamable] in the same sense as those whose sins are premeditated and deliberate. Jesus' words here suggest that God's mercy is graciously extended to infants so that those who die are sovereignly regenerated and granted entrance into the kingdom - not because they are deserving of heaven, but because God in His grace chooses to redeem them - see note on II Samuel 12:23 (John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, note on Matthew 19:14).

I agree with Dr. MacArthur, because Jesus said, concerning infants, "of such is the kingdom of heaven."

That brings us to the American Holocaust of abortion. Seen in the light of Scripture, 44 million helpless little Christians have been slaughtered in our nation. Abortion must be seen as the greatest religious persecution, and the greatest violation of human rights, that has ever taken place on American soil. Why doesn't somebody speak up? Why do we let this holocaust continue? I believe it is because these small Christians are intuitively despised, hated, and rejected by the secular pagans who now control America.

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

II. Second, the Sudan.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa. The north is Muslim. The south is Christian. The government of Sudan has instituted Islamic law, and the Muslim government has unleashed a wave of terror against the black Christians in the south. Paul Marshall calls it "genocide," an attempt to exterminate the Christians in the south.

 

The government restricts the activities of outside aid groups so that it can control the supply of food to groups of [Christian] refugees who have been dumped in the desert. Non-Muslims are given the choice of converting to Islam or being denied food, clothing and shelter. The unconverted are left to die.

Imagine the situation of a mother who faces not only her own death, but the prospect of watching her children starve before her eyes unless she renounces her faith. And there is no turning back. Sudan applies the death penalty to anyone who tries to convert away from Islam [i.e. you are killed if you remain a Christian, and you are killed if you go back to being a Christian]. In other cases, even less choice is given. Many of those who are not Muslims, especially the men, are simply murdered.

Others, especially women and children, are enslaved, either for labor or sex, or both…slave traders now traverse the southern part of the country, doing a thriving business…in 1995 it was possible to buy a human being for as little as fifteen dollars. Baroness Cox, deputy speaker of the House of Lords [in England] reports…traders bringing slaves into the southern areas so they could get better prices by offering to sell the children back to their parents. Slaves have been branded for identification, and some have had their Achilles tendons cut so they cannot run away. The going rate is five head of cattle per child, sometimes ten for a boy…The main terror is directed against the largely black, Christian population (Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 20-21).

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

III. Third, Cuba.

Fidel Castro, the Communist dictator of Cuba, came to power in 1959. Castro has systematically persecuted the Christians of Cuba for the last forty-four years.

All religious activities except worship services inside church buildings were prohibited, and sermons were monitored to ensure they remained harmless. Government spies infiltrated congregations, evangelism was prohibited, the Cuban Bible Society was closed, and a twenty-year ban on importing Bibles and religious literature was instituted. Believers suffered discrimination in education and employment and were systematically harassed. Parents who kept their children home from school on religious holidays [like Christmas and Easter] were subject to imprisonment… [Pastors] were labeled "social scum" and sent to forced labor camps where many were beaten and tortured…These conditions continue…in the form of beatings, confinement in harsh isolated cells, violent and arbitrary searches, confiscation of belongings, denial of medical attention…Cuban prisons were plagued with overcrowding, poor hygiene, and vermin…Since May 1995, the pressure on [the] churches has increased…Despite this, Cuba's church has grown in recent years…with estimates of Protestants…ranging from two hundred thousand to one million (Paul Marshall, ibid., pages 90-92).

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

IV. Fourth, Cambodia.

In recent decades the people of Kampuchea [Cambodia] have suffered as much as any on earth…In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized power, launched a policy of autogenocide and inflicted a regimen of suffering on the population as only Paris-educated intellectuals could envision and enact. By conservative estimates, over one million people out of the approximately seven million population died of torture and starvation…religion was branded as "Enemy Number Three to the Revolution" and was to be exterminated. Some 90 percent of the Protestants…were killed, many by torture…While the current Constitution provides for freedom of religion, Buddhism is now the state religion…There are reports that Christian converts have been threatened and church buildings destroyed. At present the church[es are] growing, but the future remains uncertain.

Mr. Mom Barnabas' personal history mirrors Cambodia's bloodstained past. At seventeen, in 1970, he became a spy for the Khmer Rouge. Then, after becoming a Christian two years later, he was thrust into a decades-long struggle for life and freedom.

By the time the Khmer Rouge won their war against Lon Nol in 1975, Barnabas had become a church leader. Fleeing Phnom Penh for his life, he wandered for three months in search of his family and was arrested as he crossed the Mekong River. Only eight of [the] eighteen prisoners interned with him in the "reeducation" camp survived.

Three more labor camps followed, each one more cruel than the last. In search of warmth, he would crawl into the rice fields at night, seeking shelter among the embankments.

For years he was released, rearrested, threatened and, miraculously, spared. When Pol Pot was driven from power, Barnabas discovered that his father, six brothers, and twenty-nine family members had been slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge. Somehow, his mother had survived too.

In 1985 Barnabas was married, but soon had to flee yet another warrant for his arrest…Finally in 1992, he returned [from Vietnam] to Cambodia with his family. Today, he is rebuilding his country's mutilated church in the face of ongoing uncertainties and hostility from the current Buddhist regime (Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 116-118).

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

V. Fifth, North Korea.

For most of the twentieth century, Korea has suffered in one way or another - under Japanese occupation, Russian occupation, the Korean War, and the subsequent division of the country North and South. In September, 1948, Kim Il Sung, with Russian backing, declared…his own form of Communism in the north…At the time of the [Communist takeover] there were some two thousand churches and hundreds of thousands of Christians in [North Korea]. The capital, Pyongyang, was nicknamed "Asia's Jerusalem." But in the late 1940's, the government closed, confiscated, and destroyed churches, and imprisoned and killed Christians…

Incarcerated [Imprisoned] Christians were kept in cells so crowded that there was no room to sleep, underfed so severely that some starved to death, denied medical care, enslaved, forced to perform harsh physical labor, and physically abused…Children of believers were removed from their homes and no public worship was allowed. All Bibles were destroyed and…believers were sent for ideological indoctrination. Possession of [a] Bible could produce a lengthy prison sentence…

Nevertheless, from accounts of defectors…analysts now claim that there are four hundred thousand North Korean Christians. These Christians meet secretly in homes, rarely in groups of more than six…

An overseas Korean pastor met secretly with Christians in North Korea, encouraging them that they were not forgotten by people in the West. Once the believers learned he was a minister, they pleaded with him to baptize some converts. "Are you willing to die for Jesus?" the pastor asked each person before he baptized them. Every one nodded ["yes"]… Some of the elderly Christians had not received Communion in forty years (Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 93-96).

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

VI. Sixth, China.

The People's Republic of China was named by Mao Tse Tung, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, on October 1, 1949. One of Mao's first acts was to separate the Chinese churches from "foreign influences." That was a strange thing to say, since Christianity came to China in the fourth century, and several of the ancient church buildings from that period are still standing. Christianity is one of the oldest institutions in China - "It has been there rather longer than the 'foreign influence' represented by the Communist Party itself. Communism…arrived in China at the turn of the [twentieth] century" (Paul Marshall, ibid., p. 76).

The government started by imprisoning any religious believers who refused to accept the priority of Communism over their own faith. They were labeled as "counter-revolutionaries" and sentenced to twenty years or more in prison or labor camps. Churches and other religious institutions were closed…Even now…half a century later, religious activities are tightly controlled…Meanwhile, the unofficial…Protestant churches, which comprise most of China's Christians, are rendered illegal…

The level of atrocity that took place during [the Cultural Revolution] is beyond comprehension. In one incident a mother and son were tortured, buried alive atop one another in a single grave, then dismembered and eaten by their tormentors. There were thousands of participants in mass cannibalism. The climate was gruesome madness. Strolling down the street, the director of the local Bureau of Commerce [in Wuxuan] carried a human leg on his shoulder that he was taking home to boil and consume. On the leg there still hung a piece of a man's trouser…

The level of repression of religious organizations in China has varied over the years. But the fact of repression has never changed…

Forced abortions have been performed on women in the last weeks of pregnancy…women have been sterilized against their will…the reported methods of torture include hanging men and women upside down, squeezing them under a chair, exposing them to extreme weather conditions for extended periods, and burning their tongues with electric batons to prevent them from invoking aloud God's help.

There was Pastor Wang-Mingdao, who spent twenty-two years and ten months in Chinese prisons for refusing to renounce his faith. Early on, concerned about his wife's health, he wrote a "confession," renouncing Christianity. He was immediately released from prison.

Pastor Wang was free, but only superficially. He paced the streets of Shanghai in agony, muttering to himself, "I am Peter. I have denied the Lord." Unable to live with his remorse, within days he recanted his denial, and was then sentenced to life imprisonment. This took place in the 1950s. Wang was finally released from prison in 1980, blind, sick, but still firm in his faith. He died in 1992.

There is Chen Zhuman, a fifty-year-old member of New Testament Church in Fujian. After being arrested in late 1991, he was tortured and beaten by police at the Putian County Detention Center, and left hanging upside down in a window frame for hours…After transfer to a prison in Quanzhou, Chen was tortured again by guards, who also encouraged other prisoners to beat the now-disabled man. Chen has suffered hearing loss and other physical destruction as a result of his mistreatment. He remains in prison (Paul Marshall, ibid., pages 71-82).

In spite of 54 years of persecution, there is an explosive revival of Christianity in China, with "estimates of over a hundred million" Christians (Paul Marshall, ibid., p. 82). "It means that there are more Christians attending regular worship services in China than there are in all of Western Europe combined" (ibid., p. 83).

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

Why do they endure such persecution? In the Sudan, in Cuba, in Cambodia, in North Korea, in China, in Indonesia, in India, Pakistan, Burma, Armenia, and around the world, tens of millions of Christians would rather die than turn away from Christ. Why do they do it? Why do they endure such persecution without giving up? Here is the answer. Turn to John 16:33. Let's stand and read the words of Jesus together out loud,

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

"That in me ye might have peace." Peace with God. Peace of conscience. Peace of mind. "That in me ye might have peace."

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Will you yield your life to Jesus Christ? Will you live for Him no matter what it costs? Will you come to Christ, believe wholly in Him - and help us make this church a refuge of hope in a cold and dying world?

Our "fathers" and "mothers" and "sisters" and "brothers" in Christ have given us a tremendous example throughout the world by suffering for their faith. Will you join them in living for Christ regardless of the cost? If you will, then stand and sing "Faith of Our Fathers."

Faith of our fathers! living still In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy Whene'er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!
     ("Faith of Our Fathers" by Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 15:16-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Faith of Our Fathers" (by Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE WORLD WIDE PERSECUTION
OF CHRISTIANS TODAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

(John 18:33, 36; 19:10-11)

I.   America, Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:15; Jeremiah 19:4;
II Samuel 12:23.

II.  The Sudan.

III. Cuba.

IV. Cambodia.

V.   North Korea.

VI. China.

(John 16:33)

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."