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Middle East Christians Wiped Out

by Donald Geddes — last modified Apr 18, 2015 10:00 PM
Christianity came to the Middle East at the same time Paul took it to countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Now, with the conflict in Syria worsening, there is the very real possibility that Christianity in this region will be wiped out.

After four years of fighting, conditions have worsened dramatically and violence continues to escalate. Four million Syrians have fled into neighbouring countries, another 7.6 million are displaced within Syria and an entire generation of children is growing up with no experience of a peaceful existence.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians across Iraq and Syria have been killed or have fled their homes as Islamic State advances.

A quarter of the total Christian population are now refugees in neighbouring countries and hundreds of thousands of other Syrian Christians are internally displaced within Syria.

Of course the Christian population of other regions has been wiped out in the past. One hundred years ago up to 3.75 million Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, and Ottoman Greeks) died in a massacre that stretched over just 30 years and which peaked in 1915.

North Africa was a strong Christian area until overrun by Muslims.

If the Christian presence in the Middle East is wiped out, as seems likely, how significant will this be? In terms of human thinking, such a prospect seems to be unthinkable. But is this the way God sees it?

Acts 8 reports how, after the death of Stephen, great persecution broke out against the Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. We know this resulted in the Gospel being spread far and wide so the persecution served the purposes of God because those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went (v.4).

Even though this persecution emptied Jerusalem of Christians, we are told the Apostles remained. There is always a faithful remnant so God is not without His witnesses. No doubt the same will be true in Iraq and Syria where a number of Christian leaders are staying put.

We tend to think of the Christian Church in geographical terms but this is not how God sees it. We lament the destruction of historic church buildings but the real church is made up of Christian people. The buildings may be destroyed but the people of God cannot be wiped out.

In fact, persecution of Christians has historically resulted in the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the church.

Ultimately the true church will be gathered in heaven as Revelation 7:9-10 indicates: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

The other side of the coin is what happens to Islamic State. A political power based on violence cannot last. Empires and political powers come and go while the Universal Church remains.

Revelation 13 depicts the rampaging of the Beast who was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months… It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.

This stresses that the attack on God’s People is for a limited duration because our Sovereign God sets the bounds. What is happening in Iraq and Syria must be seen in the light of God’s eternal purposes.