Revelation 2:10 - (Jesus said) "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Today Christians find themselves surrounded by all kinds of doubters and deniers.
They are all sure that the Savior's story of salvation is a sham; they just are hard-pressed to tell us why they know it is a fake. In contrast to what these skeptics and cynics think they know, Christians base their faith on some pretty serious facts.
Here's one we don't often think about.
Look, do you think these disciples would have been martyred, holding fast to the preaching of a prank? Do you think these cowering, cringing cowards could be turned into lions for the Lord if they had not believed in a risen Christ? They knew and armed with the knowledge of a living Lord Jesus they went into all the world and proclaimed, "Christ is risen!"
Under the city of Rome, there are over 600 miles of catacombs: 600 miles of graves cut into the rock. In these alcoves the dead have been laid to rest. Believer lies next to unbeliever. What I would like you to do is look into the Christian graves. Well, maybe you had better do so with a medical examiner. A forensic expert will be able to explain how many of those skeletons tell terrible tales.
There are heads severed from bodies, ribs and shoulder blades broken, bones calcified from having been burned with fire.
Despite the awful sufferings these bodies endured, the inscriptions on those Christian tombs shout of victory and triumph. One says, "Here lies Marcia, put to rest in peace." Another says, "Lawrence, borne away by angels." Yet another reads, "Being called away, he went in peace."
Now, having seen the graves of the believers, take a look at those tombs which hold the bones of those who had no faith in the risen Lord. Without a faith in Jesus, they say things like "Live for the present hour since you can be sure of nothing else." Another is bitter as it says: "I lift my hands against the gods who killed me at the age of twenty." A third pleads: "Traveler, do not curse me as you pass. I am in darkness and cannot answer."
That, my friends, is a dramatic difference!
What could give hope to family and mourners who had seen a loved one be victimized by hatred and die in horror? What could bring joy to those who had seen justice and judgment so unfairly pronounced?
There is only one answer: the living Lord Jesus. The reality of the Savior's resurrection is what brings souls from darkness into light, from horror to hope, from hell to heaven. Those early believers knew the pain they might have to suffer for their faith. If they were going to endure until the end they had to be sure -- absolutely sure -- that Jesus' resurrection was not just some cosmic joke made up by the disciples.
And this is the point: they were sure.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that we, also, may be faithful until death, so we may receive the crown of life. Let us bear witness to our doubting friends that we are sure that because Jesus lives we will live also. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries