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“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

In God’s Word, the apostle Peter says that the persecution of Christians for their faith is not to be regarded as strange. Jesus reveals how this is so when He forewarns His followers, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:20-21) Jesus also said, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) When Christians let the light of God’s Word shine forth, those who love the darkness hate that light and its light-bearers, because it exposes their evil ways. Therefore they will resort to any means to silence them, even to the extent of causing them to suffer fiery persecutions.

Christian persecution started in the early church at the hands of Jews who rejected Jesus as the promised Christ. Such Jews regarded Christianity as a threat to them and their beliefs. And so, they hunted down believers, beat them, imprisoned them, and even had them put to death.

The persecution of Christians did not stop with the Jews, for Roman emperors, one after the other, continued the assault on believers. Not unlike the Jews, the emperors viewed Christians as a threat to their idolatrous beliefs and their ungodly ways. Roman rulers outlawed Christianity, confiscated Christian property, imprisoned and tortured Christians, and had them put to death in the most cruel and painful ways.

The practice of persecuting the followers of Christ continued in every succeeding century, all the way to the present time. Our brethren in foreign lands can attest to this.

When persecutions take place, the Word of the Lord calls upon believers to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings.” Rejoice? Yes, rejoice with joy! What joy can be found in being persecuted? When the apostles were beaten by the Jews for preaching Christ crucified and then were sent away with threats, and were told to stop bearing witness of Jesus, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41) These ambassadors of Christ found joy in being given the opportunity to honor the Savior by suffering for His name’s sake. Concerning this, Peter testifies that in this way persecuted Christians “partake of Christ’s sufferings.”

If believers suffer great loss for Christ’s sake, even the loss of their lives, is there anything left for them to look forward to? Peter has a wonderful answer for us when he writes, “that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” When Jesus appears in all His glory on the last day, He will translate us to the new heavenly world where we will experience incomparable joys that will endure throughout all eternity.

Those who share in Christ’s sufferings will also have a share in the eternal glories of heaven. Praise be to God!

Mark Gullerud is retired from the pastoral ministry. He lives in Sunnyvale, California.