And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
~ Luke 21:25-26
Mankind would rather live in a dream world than to face reality. The world offers multiple escapes from the certainty of Biblical prophecy. The Scriptures were intended to awaken insensible men and women to their spiritual need. But sadly most would rather pursue a life of unmitigated ease than face the stark reality of eternity without God.
Jesus Christ reveals for the inquiring disciples in the text, and future generations, what mankind should expect prior to His coming. While the commentators are divided over the text of whether it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem under the Roman assault or to the events surrounding the coming of Christ, the reaction of those who encounter bedlam to these proportions is the same. Their hearts will be decimated by fear. The very phrase “men’s hearts failing them for fear” describes many in this foreboding hour. Interestingly, the expression denotes the greatest terror. And the word “failing” conveys the idea that people will be so overcome with distress in the wake of present calamities that they will physically expire or consign themselves to death.
The horrific beheadings by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has created global terror in the hearts of adults and children of immense proportions. While the world reels with horror from the reports, not a few believers have been paralyzed by soul debilitating distress.
As recently as last night, our own country heard the news that Alton Nolen, who recently became a convert to Islam, walked into an Oklahoma food distribution center, stabbed a woman to death and then proceeded to behead her.
While we do not know if the deceased woman had any religious affiliation, the Scripture tells us that the global crisis that occurs toward the end of the world will include the beheading of Christians. In Revelation 20:4, we are told that for the testimony of Jesus many will be beheaded.
So what should be the composure of the believer in this hour of unrelenting violence and the threat of death? In Matthew 10, Jesus said that we are not to fear them that kill the body. Then He proceeds in underscoring the care of our Heavenly Father for us, telling us that we are infinitely more valuable than the birds that His Father watches over. We must remember that our faithful Father will be with us in life or death.
Furthermore, Christians should take great joy in suffering for Christ because there is a promised glory in it. According to I Peter 4:14, God assures us that He and the spirit of glory will abide on us when we are reproached for Christ’s name. Strange as it may sound, God promises His presence with us in a tangible way when we suffer. An example of this is found in II Timothy 4:16-17, where Paul in the face of being forsaken while in prison says that the Lord stood with him and strengthened Him.
Finally, every opportunity to suffer for Jesus should be viewed through the lens of providence. All persecution that we encounter for our risen Head is ordained by our kind and infinitely merciful Master to propagate the good news of Christ Jesus. Once again, drawing from the life of Paul, he says in Philippians 1:12 that the imprisonment that he suffered was to further the message of the gospel.
We must understand that every act of persecution in this perilous hour, whether the blasphemy of men in response to our earnest gospel appeals or the crucifixion of brothers and sisters in Iraq, our all wise and sovereign Lord is opening effectual doors to proclaim the beheading of that old Serpent, the devil, through the triumphant work of Christ on the cross. Genesis 3:15; Colossians 2:15
While we would commend the military action of those who are combating the terrorist to protect the innocent around the world, we must recognize that our greatest weapon against terror is the gospel. For only the atonement of Jesus Christ has the power of beheading the Prince of Darkness in the hearts of evil men and reconciling them to God.