Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – God’s People Multiply Amidst Oppression: A Testimony to Christian History (Exodus 1:12)

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel” (Exodus 1:12). To reiterate from the prior pastoral thought, if I were to write a dissertation, the thesis would be the following: Throughout her entire history during both times of peace and times of turmoil from both internal and external conflicts, the church survives each age of man because God is faithful to His people.

The history of the church attests to the fact that when God’s people are oppressed, they multiply. China, for example, has long tried to get rid of Christianity through various persecutions ever since the 7th century AD, but it still persists today in communist China. Indeed, Christianity has grown immensely throughout the centuries in China. At one point, one of China’s emperors thought he could kill Christianity if he dispersed them throughout the country. After all, if they can’t meet together anymore, Christianity will die out, right? Wrong. What ended up happening was that the Chinese Christians only made more Christians and it spread throughout China even quicker!

This occurred not only in China, however. Christianity also spread like wildfire despite Roman persecution—the Rome in which Jesus lived. The Roman emperors Claudius (AD 41-54), Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96), Trajan (98-117), Marcus Aurelius (161-180), Septimius Severus (193-211), Decius (249-251), Valerian (253-260), and Diocletian (284-305) all persecuted Christians until Constantine became emperor in 306 and made Christianity legal for the first time. Christians were persecuted for over 260 years in Rome. They were burnt alive, torn apart by wild beasts, beheaded, crucified, and killed in other brutal ways. Nero, for example, used Christian corpses as street lamps.

Yet despite it all, Christianity flourished. Being burnt alive, torn apart by wild beasts, and other cruel deaths and tortures were not enough to quench the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many Christians continued to confess Christ crucified and risen, the only God, and they continued to spread the Good News and baptise their babies and so forth. They knew, with St. Paul, that no tribulation or distress or persecution or death or ruler—nothing in all creation—could separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39) that has freed them from sin, death, and the devil and will raise them on the Last Day.

The mighty empires of Egypt, Rome, China, Nazi Germany, and others couldn’t prevail against Christ’s church. To reiterate myself again, if not even the gates of Hell can prevail against Christ’s church, what can mere mortal men do (Matthew 16:18)? Not even the empire of America, should our minor persecutions worsen, will be enough to destroy the church and quench the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For when His church is persecuted, He literally takes it personally (see Acts 9:4), and in His omnipotence He keeps His church established like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3) because He loves her as a bridegroom loves his bride (Revelation 19:7).

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