We’ve all heard stories of how the early believers in Messiah suffered horrific deaths. Rather than forsaking their love for Yahuwah, and their faith in Messiah Yahushua (1 Jn 5:2-3; Rev.14:12) they freely laid down their lives!
According to Eusibius, in his book ‘Ecclesiastical History,’ written around the year 325 C.E., Kepha and Shaul were taken prisoners to Rome during Emperor Nero’s persecutions. We know Shaul was beheaded and Kepha, because he felt unworthy to die in the same fashion as the Savior, requested that he be hung upside down on a stake. Kepha didn’t consider his few short moments of suffering anything, compared to the eternity that he was awaiting him. Their deaths have been considered ‘merciful’ as compared to some of the inhuman afflictions that Nero perpetrated on the believers at that time. Let us consider what the 1st Century historian, Tacitus, describes in great detail how some tortures suffered:
Do you suppose that to be “partakers of the Messiah’s sufferings” this was referring to being shunned by others for their faith? Or possibly being called names, such as “Pharisees” or legalist”? Truly, such ‘suffering’ is extremely insignificant when compared to that of Yahushua “Messiah’s sufferings.”
We know how Yahushua suffered and died. During the time of Kepha’s writings [around, 67 A.D.], the great persecutions orchestrated by Nero were taking place. I don’t believe any of us, in our life time; have experienced anything close to what Kepha had in mind when he told the saints of his day, “you are partakers of Messiah’s sufferings.”
Kepha goes on to tell the faithful believers, “For what credit is there in enduring a beating when you sin? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure, this finds favour with Yahuwah.” (I Kepha 2:20). He was trying to explain to them that even though they’re living their lives as ‘lights’ in a dark and perverse world, and despite their only ‘offense is that they believe in the resurrected Savior that they should continue in strive to walk even as He walked (Luke 13:22-24; 1 3n 2:6). Their hope should not be fixed on this world but on the age to come. He even tells them that they were called to suffer according to the example given them, and us, by the Messiah, Yahushua: “For even hereunto were you called: because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps.” (I Kepha 2:21).
I believe Kepha’s exhorting these believers, who after seeing their friends and loved ones being used as human torches to light up Nero’s garden, tied to the backs of wild beast in the coliseum, and fed to the lions in Rome, that they should-also follow-in-the example of—Messiah Yahushua. They needed to accept this brief moment of suffering, so that they too might be counted worthy of the Kingdom (2 Thess.1:5).
Yahushua never promised that our journey through this evil and perverse world would be a pleasant one. Rather just the opposite. He told us ahead of time that those who were living a set-apart life would have tribulation. Despite these tribulation, He also promised us a ‘peace’ that the world, and those that say they know him and don’t, would not, nor could, understand (John 16:33).
Within Shaul’s epistles, he too spoke of the ‘tribulations’ that we as believers will suffer. He actually explains that it is through much tribulation that we should continue in the faith that we may enter into the coming Kingdom of Yahuwah (Acts 14:22). He further tells us: “And if children, then heirs of Yahuwah, and joint-heirs with Messiah; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also exalted together.” (Romans 8:17). In Shaul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he encourages and explains to them that their suffering is a “. . . token of the righteous judgment of Yahuwah, that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom…” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-8)
Beloved ones try to comprehend that in this life Yahuwah will test us (Ex.20:20). If we don’t make it in this world, we will not be given an opportunity in the next (Matt.7:21-23). Has He not told us in HIS word, …“I, Yahuwah, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer.17:10).
Unlike Christian ministers of today, that tell their ‘flock’ that salvation is simply a matter of ‘bowing their heads and saying a sinners prayer,’ the Messiah tells us it’s a matter of ‘losing our lives’ (Luke 9:23-25). It’s been said that it is easier to die ‘once’ for our faith, then to have to die ‘daily.’ Meaning every day we have to strive in our effort to live the life that Yahushua lived (Luke 13:23-24). We have to wear the same ‘yoke’ that Yahushua wore, and allow Him to lead us in all that we do and say (Matt.11:28-29). For we are no longer to live our own lives, it’s Yahushua that lives His life through us” (Gal.2:20). And dying ‘daily’ is exactly what we’re expected to do (Luke 9:23; 1 Cor.15:31).
He didn’t make it an option, Yahushua demanded it! In submitting our will to the will of the Heavenly Father, we not only make ourselves ‘slaves to righteousness’ by obeying Yahuwah’s Law (Rom.2:11-13), but obeying it to the point of it costing us our lives, if need be. And in the days of the apostles that’s exactly what was demanded of many to be a follower of Yahushua.
Our love for Yahuwah and Yahushua has to be, not should be, but has to be, greater than our love for our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and even our own children (Matthew 10:37-39). The hardest of course is to give up our self! For the life of me, I could never understand how anyone can be mislead into believing they will inherit eternal life by saying they ‘believe’ in Yahushua and yet refuse to ‘walk as he walked’ (1 3n.2:6), in putting their love for the Father, Yahuwah, above all else.
How could He have made this any clearer, to those that refuse to die to themselves, when He said, “He that loves (anyone) more than me Is not worthy of me” (Matt.10:37). Even though we are commanded to love and honor our mothers and fathers, and love even our enemies, that love for them would be, in comparison to our love for the Almighty, and the Messiah, as the difference between love and hate: “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man comes to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his stake, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
Again, we are commanded to love even our enemies, and ‘hate’ no one. By using the word ‘hate’ Yahushua was simply emphasizing the fact that our love for Him, and thereby our love for the one who sent Him, the Father, Yahuwah, should be so much greater than our love for anyone or anything else, that in comparison it would look like hate for all others.
There is a story of a woman that was tortured and then ‘given over to the beast’ in the coliseum at Rome. Her story will indeed help us understand how this ‘love’ for Yahushua could be looked upon as hate for those that are dear to us. This is a story of an actual event about the persecutions that some went through. It’s an account that was written by the woman who actually lived it as she was imprisoned in Rome, before her final demise. This Qodesh and faithful servant had one son and was pregnant with another at the time of her imprisonment:
‘Are you a Christian [Followers of the Way]?’ said Hilarianus.
And I said: ‘yes, I am.’
When my father persisted in trying to dissuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown to the ground and beaten with a rod. I felt sorry for father, just as if I myself had been beaten. I felt sorry for his pathetic old age .The Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us we were con-demned to the beasts, and we returned to prison on high spirits…Now the day of the contest was approaching, and my father came to see me overwhelmed with sorrow. He started tearing the hairs from his beard and threw them on the ground; he then threwhimself on the ground and began to curse his old age and to say such words as would move all creation. I felt sorry for his unhappy old age.”
Only the “overcomers” will inherit the kingdom” that is those that obeyed the command to “lay down their lives” and allow the Messiah to live His life in us and through us (Luke 13:1-5; al.2:20). Yahushua tells us “many are going to ‘try’ to enter but will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). Why won’t they be able to make it? Because there was some aspect of their lives they were unwilling to submit to the will of Yahuwah. Often times rather than offending a love one, be it children, or possibly someone’s husband or wife, they ‘compromise’ what they know to be true. Truly, their love for Messiah is second compared to their love for another. They will be without excuse when they stand all alone before the Messiah, on Judgment Day, and try to explain why they put their loved one first in their life.
We were clearly told to ‘present out bodies as a living sacrifice’(Romans 12:1) and Shaul was exhorting the believers in Rome to ‘literally’ offer their bodies as living sacrifices in the coliseum at Rome.
For us today, we have always asked ourselves “what would Yahushua do or say in any given situation, and we “should do,” that’s our ‘reasonable service.’ Anything less than that could cause us not to inherit the Kingdom. Let us not forget we were told to not…”Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you unto prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation … be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Rev.2:17).
Can you say that you would be willing to lay down your life for the faith and yet you’re unwilling to take a stand in your own home when it comes to obeying the commandment?
Do you, father and/or husband, being the head of the household, do you tell those your responsible for, such as your wife and children, that they will observe the Sabbath day by refraining from work or worldly pleasure on Yahuwah’s set-Apart? (Ex.20:8-10; 31:12-17).
Do you, wife and/or mother, prepare foods for your husband and children that Yahuwah considers to be ‘unclean’ and an ‘abomination?’ (Lev.11; Deut.14).
Can you not see that in your attempt “not to offend” your wife, husband or children, you are offending the Messiah Yahushua, demonstrating to everyone that He’s not first? When you stand in judgment those loved ones that you put first in your life will not be there, it’ll be you and Yahushua, all alone (Acts 17:30-31). As you look in His eyes, which will be burning as flames of fire, are you going to explain to Him how you were more concerned about offending your loved one, then offending Him (Rev.1:12-.14). You will be without excuse. Chose this day whom you will serve, tomorrow may be too late (Josh.24:15; James 4:13).
Written By Bro. Samu’el