Are Christians justified in persecuting the followers of other faiths? Why is this spirit of persecution dangerous in light of the end times?
The answer to the first question seems like a no-brainer; but as the spirit of persecution continues to manifest itself in our ranks, it is clear that it needs to be answered again. Comparing the early church era with the church in the fourth century and onward will do this for us.
The early church carried out the Great Commission with the same method their Teacher showed them on the earth. By desiring the well-being of the people they witnessed to, by meeting their needs, and by winning their confidence (Acts 2, 3:1-8, 8:5-8, 26-38), the early church brought Jews and Gentiles alike to Jesus by the thousands. The earnest effort of His sincere followers and the divine aid of the Holy Spirit convicted men and women to willingly turn away from their sins, their pagan practices, and their godless philosophies (Acts 17:18-34, 19:13-41).
But as the church grew, it suffered persecution from the Jews (Acts 6:8-7:60, 8:1-4, 12:50), from Herod (Acts 12:1-3), and from the Romans (Acts 16:16-24, the persecution of Nero, etc.). Slander, torture, imprisonment, and execution were among the many means used to force this renegade Jewish sect to renounce its faith.
The church in the fourth century and onward, however, did not follow in their Master’s footsteps. As the Christian faith grew in popularity in the days of Constantine, persecution waned and many persons converted to the faith. However, many of them did not fully renounce their sins or their former gods (Dan. 11:34). The church of this time responded to this threat negatively by incorporating their pagan practices, beliefs, and rituals into the church.
Over time, this era of spiritual compromising eventually produced a church that inflicted persecution upon those who refused to convert to their version of the Christian faith. The time when this once-persecuted church became the persecutor became infamously known as the Dark Ages. Untold millions, Christian and non-Christian alike, were afflicted by the very methods once used against them in an effort to force them to convert to the “mainstream Christianity” of that time.
But what brought this spirit of persecution in the Christian church? One factor stands out when you compare the church in these two eras. Whereas the members of the early church’s time renounced their sins and the pagan practices, the church of the latter generation accepted these things and integrated them into their faith. The results of such a spiritual compromise on the church’s part speak for themselves (then and now). Satan moved (and still moves) upon the church through these pagan practices to persecute others. Therefore, no true Christian is (or will ever be) justified in persecuting the followers of another faith.
So why is this persecuting spirit dangerous for Christians to entertain in the end times?
The Bible tells us that the antichristian kingdom, a church-state power, will be worshiped by all who have not renounced the world for Christ (Rev. 13:1-10, 17:1-6). Satan will move this rebellious generation to persecute the faithful followers of Jesus, just as he moved the Roman Empire to persecute the early church and the church of the Middle Ages to persecute the world. Through the indulgence of their sins, their worldly practices, and beliefs, and their pagan rituals, fallen mankind will once again be galvanized to make war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17).
Before Jesus returns, we must free ourselves of the sins and pagan practices that we have brought into our faith. They may seem harmless to us now, but they will be the very means that Satan will use to bind us to him and turn the persecuted church into the persecuting church. When we have renounced our worldly ways and use Christ’s method to spread the gospel to all the earth in the last days, we will surely succeed in warning them that their Savior’s coming is at hand.
“…for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (Jn. 14:30).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
“…know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?…”(James 4:4).