After John wrote the book of Revelation, the leader of the church in Smyrna was a man named Polycarp. John may have even appointed Polycarp as leader in Smyrna. Later a persecution against the Christians arose and Polycarp was taken custody for not worshipping the Emperor. Because Polycarp was then 86 years old, the executioner pleaded with him to just go ahead and make a religious observance to the emperor so he could be spared. Polycarp refused. The executioner threatened with fire. Polycarp replied, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will.”
Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” Then Polycarp was burned at the stake for his faith in about 155 AD.
In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million — fully 65% — were in the last century. An average of 171,000 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year.
Over the last few days the world has become aware of the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian suffering in prison and currently awaiting a death sentence from the Iranian government because he refuses to deny Jesus Christ and convert to Islam.
Let’s continue to pray for Youcef and those all those who endure persecution for their faith around the world.