Christian Aid Mission (CAM) is reporting the killing of 12 Christians by ISIS near Aleppo, Syria. ISIS crucified four of the group and beheaded eight. CAM provides help to ministries and Christian groups in this troubled area of the world.
As I read of this account , I again wondered if the beheading of these Christians is actually a fulfillment of the Book of Revelation that is the written record of an end-times vision received by the Apostle John about the apocalyptic events that would occur before the Second Coming of Jesus.
Towards the end of his book, John sees a special reward given to two groups who had suffered through the extreme persecution seen in his vision:
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:4-5 NASV)
One of these groups involved Christians who were beheaded because of their faith.
When I first read this passage several years back, I thought it odd because beheadings were basically unheard of.
Today that has changed as beheading have become ISIS’s signature method of murder and many of the people ISIS beheads are Christians.
According to CAM, when ISIS started closing in on the village, the Christian ministry overseeing the group encouraged the eleven to leave the area. However, they decided to stay behind to minister to people caught up in the war.
On August 7th, ISIS captured the village.
Three weeks later, August 28th, ISIS dragged the team leader of this group, who provided over site to nine house churches in the area, along with his 13-year-old son and two lay leaders to the center of the village. Before the villagers that ISIS forced to watch, the Muslim extremists ordered the four to renounce Christ.
When the Christian leader, 41, said no, ISIS then cut off the finger tips of the man’s son to pressure him to renounce his faith.
When he again refused, ISIS beat the four and then publicly crucified them in the village. No one was allowed to take down the bodies for two days
ISIS took the other eight members, including two young women aged 29 and 33, to another village that same day and asked them the same question.
When they refused to renounce Christ, ISIS then brutally raped the two women in front the crowd, again required to watch the horrific event.
As ISIS brutalized the two women, the six others in the group started praying. Their prayers infuriated the extremists who after they were done raping the women had the eight Christians kneel before the crowd and beheaded them.
Those watching said they could hear the eight praying. Some were praying the Lord’s prayers, other prayed in Jesus name. A couple looked to the sky and committed their lives to Jesus.
The person who provided the report to CAM said:
“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus. One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!'”
“They kept on praying loudly and sharing Jesus until their last breath.”
ISIS then hung their bodies on crosses.
Do these brutal murders fit the Apostle John’s description that they were “beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God?”
But despite the persecution, the man who gave the report to CAM also added:
“These things have been very hard on me. What wrong did those people do to deserve to die? What is happening is more and more people are being saved. The ministry is growing and growing – in the past we used to pray to have one person from a Muslim background come to the Lord. Now there are so many we can barely handle all the work among them.”