Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Revelation 13

"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If any man have an ear, let him hear.

He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."


thekingpin68 said...

The overcoming of the saints part is very tough. Imagine having our blogs shut down (for example) and the State and the vast majority of people, not just being non-Christian (now), but radically anti-Christian in support of the beast that has improved in many ways their temporal lives.

Jeff said...

From May/June 2007:

"According to Compass Direct, although Egypt's Christian citizens are free to embrace Islam and obtain legal Muslim identities, Muslim citizens are not allowed to change their religious identity. Those who become Christians are subjected to severe harassment by the State Security Investigation (SSI), which often arrests converts for either insulting Islam or "threatening national security."

Islam is the official state religion of Egypt, which is approximately 86 percent Muslim.

Egypt is ranked number 18 on the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians suffer the most severe persecution."


Jeff said...

"Pastors and other Christians in Iran have given their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ.

In November 2005, Ghorban Dordi Tourani, a 53-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity, was arrested by the secret police. A few hours later, his stabbed and bloody body was thrown in front of his home in Gonbad-e-Kavus, where Tourani lived with his wife and four children, according to Compass Direct.

A year before his death, Tourani wrote this prayer: "Lord Jesus, please let me glorify Your holy name in every moment of my life. I am willing to give my life that belongs to You, for the sake of You and Your church."

Within days of Tourani's murder, representatives of Iran's dreaded secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities and raided the homes of all known Christians in Tourani's town.

Christians report that persecution has increased markedly and that believers are experiencing greater hardship since the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2005. He has pledged to restore an Islamic government in Iran. Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of Shari'ah law.

Christian prisoners face strong psychological pressures, including threats to kill their family and other Christian believers, in order to force them to recant their Christian faith and return to Islam. Christians have lost their jobs and have had their shops shut down.

Still, a large group of Christians with a Muslim background continue to practice their newfound belief. One Christian worker said of the once-Muslim believers: "They aren't intimidated by the government and continue to spread the gospel. Muslims who came to the Lord in the past few years fear nothing and no one."


Jeff said...

"On Sept. 1, 2005, an Indonesian court found Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti, and Ratna Bangun guilty of breaching the 2002 Child Protection Law and sentenced them to three years in prison.

The three were convicted simply for running a Christian education program for children in their community. Islamic leaders became angry when several Muslim children were attracted to the classes. Muslim fundamentalists then put pressure on the judges to convict the women while also threatening the women with death if they were released. They even brought caskets to the courthouse.

The conviction of the three Christian women is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the escalation of persecution in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population (172 million compared to 34 million Christians). Attacks on Christians in 2005 alone included the beheading of three girls from a private high school, the shooting of a man and woman leaving a church service, and a machete attack that killed one and left two more in serious condition. And on New Year's Eve, eight people were killed and 45 injured—mostly Christians—by a bomb that went off in a meat market in the Central Sulawesi town of Palu.

Indonesian media reported that over 150 churches have been destroyed or closed down in Jakarta and throughout the island of Java in recent years.

The increase of terrorism, intimidation, and persecution of Christians is part of the fundamentalist Muslims' goal to implement Shariah Law—strict Muslim law—throughout Indonesia.

Despite facing three years in prison and missing the companionship of their husbands and children, Rebekka, Eti, and Ratna are still preaching the gospel. They are leading worship in prison and have led several Muslim women to the Lord.

Rebekka said: "It is hard being here, but I know I am pleasing God by doing His work."


Jeff said...

"Today's Christian, September/October 2005

Land of Unspeakable Horror
In communist North Korea, Christianity is viewed as a threat to the regime.
by Jerry Dykstra

"I experienced life in prison twice, and I was also brought to a labor camp once. I stayed there for three months until I was released. I had to labor for 18 hours a day in the most terrible circumstances.

"The leaders of the camp only provided meals two times a day, each time a cup with 90 pieces of boiled corn. I almost died of starvation and the unbearable, heavy work. Most of the prisoners were full of hatred and complained all day, but the Christians prayed and prayed, even though they were beaten terribly and were treated worse than others.

"One time I saw a Christian lady who was martyred terribly. They beat her over and over again since she didn't stop praying. She died peacefully while praying to her Lord."

Those are the words of a North Korean Christian who survived the horrors of prison.

It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps. North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.

The communist country is characterized by a complete lack of religious freedom. For the third year in a row, Open Doors' World Watch List ranks North Korea as the worst violator of religious rights in the world. Christianity is observed as one of the greatest threats to the regime's power. The government will arrest not only the suspected dissident, but also three generations of his family to root out the bad influence. Kim Jong Il is the "Dear Leader" and has exalted himself as a god to be followed with unquestioned obedience.

An estimated 2 to 3 million North Koreans have died over the past ten years due to a food shortage. Also, 15 percent of all children under 5 are malnourished.

In these horrific conditions, some Christians have formed "district unit organizations" to look after the poorest Christian families among them. And reports indicate that the North Korean church is growing despite pressure from Kim Jong Il's regime."


Jeff said...

"Today's Christian, July/August 2005

After the Tsunami
In Sri Lanka, religious repression continues, even as the country struggles to recover from the worst natural disaster in its history.
By Jerry Dykstra

The most powerful earthquake in 40 years erupted under the Indian Ocean near Sumatra on December 26, 2004. It caused giant, deadly waves to crash ashore in nearly a dozen countries, leaving 300,000 dead or missing.

A long stretch of Sri Lanka's coast was devastated by the killer waves, leaving almost 40,000 dead and 2.5 million people displaced. Among the displaced were 1,060 children who lost both parents and 3,414 children who lost one parent. It is the worst human disaster in the history of Sri Lanka, a large island of 20 million located off the southeast coast of India.

Pastor Lawrence lost his daughter, who was walking to her father's church that fateful Sunday morning. She was swept away by a gigantic wave. But even in his mourning, Pastor Lawrence reached out to the distraught families of his congregation who also lost loved ones.

Once a member of the feared rebel military group Tamil Tigers, Pastor Lawrence became a Christian in 1984. He says the tsunami has helped Christians gain respect in the Buddhist-dominated country because they are showing the love of God to people of all faiths, even to those who had formerly persecuted them.

Persecution of Christians has increased in Sri Lanka over the last several years. Statistics from the World Evangelical Alliance show that from January 2003 to March 2004 more than 140 anti-Christian incidents were recorded. These incidents ranged from mild threats to death warnings, arson, and the destruction of church buildings. Church leaders are especially at risk. There are currently efforts by Buddhist monks to pass an anti-conversion law.

Approximately 70 percent of Sri Lanka is Buddhist, 12 percent Hindu, 7 percent Muslim, and 7 percent Christian (including 1 percent evangelical Protestant). Despite the persecution, Protestant Christianity has grown. But there is a huge need for more evangelists to minister to rural areas, as 35,000 villages have never had contact with any Christians."


Jeff said...

"Today's Christian, March/April 2005

The High Cost of Faithfulness

Nigeria's religious warfare is killing thousands of innocent believers.
By Jerry Dykstra

One morning in February 2004 Ladi, her husband, and seven children were doing their daily chores in their home in northern Nigeria when they heard gunshots. The news spread like wildfire: "Fundamentalist Muslims are attacking our village!"

Ladi and her household usually attend morning devotions, but that morning they stayed home. "Some people in our village were at the prayer meeting when the attack started and others were at home," Ladi recalls. All the men who attended the prayer meeting were murdered.

After the initial gunshots, Ladi saw the attackers sweeping through the village—killing, looting, and burning. She witnessed the murder of one of her sons.

Ladi lost both her son and husband in the attack. "My house was looted and burned to the ground. The attackers destroyed everything," she says.

This is just one example of the alarming increase in persecution against Christians in Nigeria as the battle between the Muslim north and the Christian south rages on. Thousands have been killed and wounded in religious violence in recent years. In fact, a Nigerian government-appointed committee reported that over 53,000 Christians and Muslims had been killed in the central state of Plateau between September 2001 and May 2004. Also, many Christians have been driven from their homes and hundreds of churches and schools destroyed.

Shari'a (strict Islamic law and jurisprudence) has been implemented in 12 northern states, as Muslim forces seek to Islamize all of Nigeria. But despite the violence, the church of Nigeria keeps growing dramatically with Christians numbering 59 million.

Ladi says she would like Christians all over the world to know what is happening to believers in northern Nigeria: "We do not have food. Our homes have been destroyed. Thousands of us are struggling to survive. We are helpless and we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us. We want them to see that it is because of our faith in Christ that this has happened to us."—Jerry Dykstra

Persecution Report is presented in cooperation with Open Doors USA, which serves the Persecuted Church through training, Bible distribution, and community development. For more information, call 1-888-5-BIBLE-5 or visit www.odusa.org."


Jeff said...

"Today's Christian, January/February 2005

Where Bullets Invade Worship
Standing firm in Colombia.
by Jerry Dykstra

On September 4, 2004, masked gunmen burst into an evening worship service at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Puerto Asis, Colombia, and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing four worshipers and injuring twelve.

Living with violence is a way of life for many Christians in Colombia, which has been mired in civil war for four decades. The mayhem has penetrated every corner of the country. More than 2 million displaced persons live with fear, hunger, and poverty. Thousands die annually in the conflict between paramilitary forces and rebel factions.

Meanwhile, wartime criminals rake in billions of dollars from drug trafficking, kidnapping, and killer-for-hire industries. Forty-five percent of the world's kidnappings occur in Colombia.

Since 1998 more than 400 churches have been closed and over 100 pastors and church leaders have been killed. In many of the communities where fighting is intense, armed gangs accuse believers of being allied with rival groups. Also, pastors and other Christians who speak out against the violence and injustice often become targets.

But there is hope.

According to Operation World, there were only 15,000 evangelicals in Colombia in 1933. Today there are over 2 million. The growth is miraculous in the face of this climate of terror.

A pastor in a small Colombian village has had to guide her congregation through the horrors of war, identifying and retrieving the corpses of young friends and restoring lives destroyed by hatred. But she has also seen triumph.

Young combatants who had been given the job of finding out what goes on in the church came around as spies. They wanted to know what attracts so many people, especially those who have abandoned combat. But four of the informants discovered the love of God that can restore and heal their lives. They laid down their guns to serve the church, proving once again the gospel's power to penetrate the most hardened heart and bring life to a desperate nation.

What to pray for:

* That Satan's grip on the nation will be broken and the violence and drug trafficking will come to an end.

* Unity among Christians, so that evangelistic efforts will bear more fruit.

* Safety for Colombian believers, who often face daily violence and threats on their lives."


Jeff said...

Today's Christian, November/December 2004

Refusing to Deny Christ
Staying Faithful in Laos
By Jerry Dykstra

"You have to sign this document and deny Christ!"

This was the strong order of the police officers to the Christians, including Paoyan (not his real name), a pastor in a district of Laos. Instead of complying, Paoyan led his church members in prayer. They then refused to sign the document. The police officers left, or so they thought.

The police continued to keep Christians in the village under surveillance. During another church meeting, the police arrived at the scene urging them again to "deny Christ." Paoyan fearlessly faced the policemen, saying, "We will never deny Christ nor sign any of those documents."

The police visits went on for several days, but they failed to make the Christians turn their back on their Lord.

The boldness of Paoyan and his church members' faith spurred interest. People began flocking to their church. Attendance increased to 270.

Laos, located in Southeast Asia, is one of the world's most rampant persecutors of Christians, ranking number three on Open Doors' World Watch List. In 1999, the communist government declared Christianity "the number one enemy of the state." Christians have been harassed, tortured, forced to renounce their faith, imprisoned, and killed. Churches have been forced to close their doors. Laos' Hmong ethnic group—many of whom are Christians—face the most severe persecution.

But the Laotian church has grown, especially among the Hmong, Khmu, and Bru people. There are reports of entire villages turning to Christ. There are an estimated 100,000 Christians (1.5 percent) in Laos compared to 3.3 million Buddhists (61 percent).

Pastor Paoyan and his flock, like many of the believers in Laos, remain firm in their faith despite persecution. Paoyan says: "When we face problems of many kinds, the church members fast and pray together."

What to pray for:

* That Laotian government leaders will change their policies and give believers more religious freedom.

* God's wisdom and strength for church leaders, especially among the Hmong, Khmu, and Bru tribes.

* The training of pastors and church leaders, so they will be better equipped.

* That the many unreached people groups in Laos will hear the gospel.


Jeff said...

Today's Christian, September/October 2004

Where God Is Behind Bars
China's police state.
By Brother Zhong

Thousands convert to Christianity every day in China. According to some estimates, there are currently 80 million Christians in this communist nation of 1.3 billion. Still, persecution of believers continues. Brother Zhong, an underground "house church" leader from central China, has been to prison twice because of his faith. Here is a first-hand account of his first 33 days inside a Chinese prison.

I was attending a training course for my house church network's council members and youth leaders. The Public Security Bureau (PSB) raided us the first day. All the leaders were arrested.

The prison authorities shaved our heads and interrogated us. We were warned that the hardened inmates would beat us. So with much trepidation, another brother and I entered our cell.

We were greeted by the sight of 16 other inmates, lined up in two rows and thumping their fists. My heart beat rapidly as I sent prayers up to God.

The leader of the gang asked, "Why are you here?"

"Because we are Christians," I replied.

"You don't beat people up?"

"No," I assured him.

"Do you sing?"

"Yes," I answered.

The leader ordered me to sing a song. I wept as I sang. The Holy Spirit moved in our midst, and by the time I finished singing, every prisoner was also in tears. To my shock, the gang leader then asked to hear the gospel.

After that, my cellmates hungered to hear the gospel every day. One Sunday, we held a worship service. The prison guard demanded to know who was behind it. He threatened to punish everyone if no one spoke up. I stood up and confessed.

I was forced to remove my clothes and stand at an inclined angle to the wall. The gang leader couldn't bear it anymore. He asked to be punished with me. All the others volunteered to do the same. The infuriated guard stormed out. I was moved by my cellmates' act. One of them, who had been there for three years, became a believer that day.

Persecution Report is presented in cooperation with Open Doors USA, which serves the Persecuted Church through training, Bible distribution, and community development. For more info visit www.odusa.org.

What to pray for:

* Praise for the thousands who are coming to Christ every day.

* That many of the 300 million children in China will receive Sunday school training and materials provided by Open Doors and other Christian ministries.

* That the house church leaders will remain strong in the Word of God.


Jeff said...

Today's Christian, May/June 2004

Where Conversion Is Against the Law
By Jerry Dykstra

Where Conversion Is Against the Law

Pastor S. K. Daniel and his wife run an orphanage in Sonepur, Orissa State, India. Along with their own four kids, they care for 20 Dalit ("untouchable") children.

A converted Hindu, Daniel has faced persecution from fundamentalist groups opposed to his Christian activities. Since 1995 he has been severely beaten and left for dead, imprisoned, and had his house stoned by violent mobs. Fundamentalists also have threatened to burn him alive—just as they did to Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999.

Persecution has increased dramatically in India over the last several years. According to police records, attacks on Christians increased from 7 in 1996 to 380 in 2003, but unofficial estimates put that figure at 600. Around 4,000 cases are pending in Indian courts involving attacks against Christians.

India is officially a democratic society. But radical Hindus are eager to turn it into a pure Hindu nation. That has led to the implementation of "anti-conversion" laws in five states that are clearly biased against Christians and missionary activity. Under the law, anyone converting to another faith must register with local authorities. A national "anti-conversion" law is also on the table, though one hopes the recent electoral defeat of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party will bring some measure of relief from these types of legislative efforts.

Eighty percent of India is Hindu and 12 percent Muslim. However, the number of Christians is steadily growing each year. Christians currently make up 2.5 percent of the population—that's 25 million people. (The total population for India in 2003 was just over 1 billion.)

Pastor Daniel says he is thankful for the training he received at one of the "Standing Strong Through the Storm" seminars presented by Open Doors ministries. The seminars are designed to prepare church leaders to maintain a strong witness in an increasingly hostile environment. Ten seminars will be held in India this year. —Jerry Dykstra

Persecution Report is presented in cooperation with Open Doors USA, which serves the Persecuted Church through training, Bible distribution, and community development. For more information, call 1-888-5-BIBLE-5 or visit www.odusa.org.

What to pray for:

* Unity among churches and pastors, and more training for leaders.

* Praise for the growth of Christianity despite increasing persecution.

* A halt to the passing of "anti-conversion" legislation by Indian states.

* Safety for the many church leaders traveling to "Standing Strong Through the Storm" seminars being held this year.