In this book I have strongly making and proving the claim that long-life is God’s general will for the believer (Psalm 91:16). I have done this so that your faith would rise to believe and receive this promise of God and boldly declare it over your life. However there is an important Biblical special exception to this general rule that needs to be discussed:
“Is it not true that many wonderful believers both before and after Christ have had their lives cut short by martyrdom?”
There are the persecuted Old-Testament prophets as well as the New Testament martyrs starting with Stephen (Acts 7, Acts 22:20), and including most of the first apostles, such as Peter whose death glorified God (John 21:18,19), and Paul, who knew it was time for him to lay down his life in God’s will, having finished the course that God had set out for him (2Timothy 4:6-8). There is Antipas, God’s ‘faithful martyr’ (Revelation 2:13) and many millions more in Church History. Such martrydoms were prophesied by Jesus Himself as being typical of the Church-Age (Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-17).
There will also be many more martrydoms in the Tribulation: “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6, see also Matthew 24:9).
These martyrs are seen in heaven in Revelation 6:9: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.”
These are resurrected at Christ’s Return in Revelation 20:4: “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a 1000 years.”
Revelation 12:11 says of martyrs: “They overcame him (satan)
by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Are we saying that they missed God’s will somehow, because their lives were cut short? Certainly not! All these martyrs are highly honoured by God for sacrificing their lives for the Lord Jesus. These all died for their faith in Christ and their testimony to Him, and moreover they did this IN THE WILL of GOD, for the Church grows from the seed of the martyrs.
Martyrs die in the will of God, so that others can live. But as a result God’s promise of long-life to them was not fulfilled.How do we account for this?
The supreme example of course is our Lord Jesus Himself, who was
cut off in the prime of life, as a young man, as Isaiah 53:8 had predicted: “who will declare (speak of) His generation(children)? For He was cut off from the land of the living.” Yet it was the will of God for Him.
Now as a perfectly righteous believer He had the right to have the blessing of long-life and could easily have lived on for a long time without dying (actually because He had no sin, He could have lived on forever without dying. In fact, although they tried to kill Him on many occasions they could not, while He abided under God’s protection. Even in Gethsemene He said He could call on the angels to protect Him, but did not because He chose God’s will which was to die for us. He only died because He laid His life down, it was not taken from Him. He voluntarily let His shield down and opened Himself up to death). He chose to die for us in order to take the curse (which includes early death) for us, so that we could have the blessing (including long-life):
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse (of sickness and early death), having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham (which includes health and long-life) might come upon us in Christ” (Galatians 3:13,14).
So Christ suffered a martyr’s death (He laid His life down so that His earthly life was cut short) in order to give us a long and abundant life. Thus His short life only confirms how much He wants us to have a long-life. Thus Christ having His life cut short does not contradict God’s promise to us of long-life, it actually makes it possible! He took the curse of an early death, so that we could receive the blessing of an abundant long life!
He had the right to live long and could have claimed that right for Himself. But, He had a higher call from God - to lay down His life as a martyr for us. It was His right to have the blessing of long-life, but instead He voluntarily laid down His rights, and bore the curse of a life cut short for us, so we could have abundant life. He did it because it was God’s special will for Him. God asked Him to make that sacrifice for us and He made it and as a result God rewarded Him with greater eternal glory:
Philippians 2:5-9: “Let this mind (attitude) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, having the very nature of God, did not grasp after equality with God, but made Himself of no reputation (He laid aside His rights and life as God),taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”
We are called to have the same attitude as Christ, that though we are sons of God with covenant rights (to long-life), we must be willing to lay aside those rights to do the will of God. Just like Christ, every believer has the covenant promise and right to long-life, but God asks us all to follow His example and be willing to lay down our life and our rights for the Kingdom and for others: Matthew 16:24: “Then said Jesus to His disciples, If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and follow Me”(also Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, 10:21, Luke 9:23, 14:27).
Therefore God asks certain believers to lay down their right to a long-life
on earth, in order for them to establish a witness for Him on the earth. Martyrdom has nothing to do with sickness, it is being killed for being a Christian and proclaiming one’s faith in Christ. You can’t make yourself a martyr. It is the highest honour God could bestow on you and it will result in greater eternal glory for you. It is the fact that you have a right to long-life and yet you voluntarily lay it down that makes it such a sacrifice which God sees and rewards:
In 2Timothy 4:6-8 Paul demonstrates the attitude of a martyr:
“I am already being poured out as a drink offering,
and the time of my departure (to heaven) is at hand.
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His Appearing.”
Therefore, martyrdom is a special exception to God’s general will for our long-life. He calls martyrs to lay down their earthly rights and life, in order to gain a greater heavenly glory and eternal life. Whatever they sacrifice for Him in loss of earthly life, He will multiply back to them in an abundance of heavenly life and glory.
Do you believe God’s promise of long-life? Do you know it is your covenant right? Are you willing to lay down those rights if He asks you and glorify God by a martyrs death? If He gave His life for you,should you not be ready to give up your life for Him?