Quotation on Martyrdom

This from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge):

To the inhabitants of the earth (13:8) it is obvious that the beast has defeated the martyrs. The political and military might of the beast, which seems to carry all before it and wins the admiration and the worship of the world, here seems triumphant even over the witnesses of Jesus.…But John’s message is that from the heavenly perspective things look quite different. The martyrs are the real victors. To be faithful in witness to the true God even to the point of death is not to become a victim of the beast, but to take the field against him and win. (90-91)

I am not one to go out and call for Christians to die on purpose, but I must say, this quotation caused me to think about the power of martyrdom. Too often, I think, we assume that the Gospel will be vindicated through ardent persuasion. There is a large place for this in Christianity, but I wonder if we haven’t lost sight of the power of martyrdom, and if we have fallen prey to thinking that martyrdom weakens our gospel witness. Have western comforts and the desire for safety caused us to think that life is gain, and dying is loss? Perhaps we need a reformation of thought–not necessarily so that we pursue martyrdom, but so that we are ready for it if it should come.

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2 responses to “Quotation on Martyrdom

  1. Secret Rapture

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  2. Dad

    If blogging tends to be brief and sometimes shallow, what about the response section? How many pages can this box hold?

    Anyway, I am leading a Bible Study which is going through Rev. right now, so that makes me an expert!!?? anyway, interesting. I think actually in several sections it is ‘clear’ that the saints will be put to death, persecuted, etc. and the Church will apparently suffer defeat. Even the two witnesses are finally put to death.

    However, alone the line of the power of martyrdom, while agreeing that it has power, two other verses come to mind: Zechariah 4:6 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

    Luke 16:29-31 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

    Even the death of a faithful saint is not seen to be powerful unless we have been granted ears, eyes and a heart that is able to perceive of such things.

    Yes, the Church (in our culture anyway) needs to come to grips with the possibility that it will be ‘overcome’. Good thoughts. Thanks for passing them along.

    Al (Not Owen’s dad or that other “Al”.)

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