The opposition was severe. The stones continued to smash against their bodies until every drop of blood drained out. They held on and waited in horror – waited for death.
Others were sawed in two. Every nerve in their bodies reacted as their flesh was torn apart by the saw. The ghastliness of this severe torture was the price they paid for their faith in the one who loved them.
Some experienced the sword in such an uncommon way. As the metal blade ripped their bodies open the pain shot through their entire being. This gruesome act was more than what any of them could bear. Finally their bodies fell, never to rise again.
For the more unfortunate ones their only wish was for death to come a little quicker. These were people who endured a slow, agonizing death. They were tightly wrapped in animal skins and left in the hot sun. As the sun grew hotter the animal skin would get tighter as it shrinks. This gradual shrinking would squeeze their bodies tighter and eventually cause dislocation of bones and multiple fractures throughout their bodies. Finally they would be crushed to death in a long, agonizing torture; simply unimaginable.
A list of such gruesome atrocities against followers of Jesus are mentioned in Hebrews 11 and makes the conclusive statement: “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
These stories may have been a reflection of the events in Acts 8 where followers of Jesus were severely persecuted. This is the situation where Stephen was stoned to death. “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3).
Reading such accounts may cause us to think that the end had come for the ministry of the church. With severe persecution and the scattering of the believers, it would be difficult to see how the gospel could proceed any further. But the following verse gives us a clear picture of what actually happened: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Along with preaching the word, we see that many signs and wonders were performed by these scattered believers. The impact of the persecution was not to stop the work of the church, but to expand it much further to the “ends” of the known world. God took that disastrous situation and turned it around for good. The scattered believers simply remained faithful to their calling.
What are you facing today? No matter how difficult it is, just hang in there; trust God and remain faithful.
How do you respond when you hear of such acts against the church?
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