“For in many places and in neighboring cities there shall be a great uprising against those who fear the Lord. They shall be like maniacs, sparing no one, but plundering and destroying those who continue to fear the Lord. For they shall destroy and plunder their goods, and drive them out of house and home. Then the tested quality of my elect shall be manifest, like gold that is tested by fire. Listen, my elect ones, says the Lord; the days of tribulation are at hand, but I will deliver you from them. Do not fear or doubt, for God is your guide. You who keep my commandments and precepts, says the Lord God, must not let your sins weigh you down, or your iniquities prevail over you. Woe to those who are choked by their sins and overwhelmed by their iniquities! They are like a field choked with underbrush and its path overwhelmed with thorns, so that no one can pass through. It is shut off and given up to be consumed by fire.” (Reference:2 Esdras 16:70-78 [Emphasis mine])
The historic Anabaptists used apocryphal writings as much as they used what we consider the canonical Bible. Scripture was scripture. And this portion of scripture contains not only comfort for those persecuted but also prophecy. There have been some vague rumblings that certain groups of Christians may also be in line for persecution; not as in years before for simple belief, but for specific beliefs. In the accepting/overly liberal (take you pick of the two perspectives) society we live in there is a wide spectrum of lifestyle choices and gender identification/gender relationship preferences that exists. Under the general label of “Christians” there those who feel lead to label certain sexual orientations and identifications as “sin” and the people who make these “choices” as “sinners.” And it is these “Christian” who may be in line for persecution. But because the term “Christian” covers such a large group, all Christians may be under scrutiny.
I tell you beloved, this whole topic is a sensitive mine field, and I struggled to get through the above without setting off one of the bombs! It was easier in the time of the historic Anabaptists; you knew then who was for you and who was against you. If you were a historic Anabaptist believer anyone who did not belief as you did could, would, and was one of your persecutors. And if you were not a historic Anabaptist believer anyone who was, was heretic and radical who should be persecuted and put to death. See! Easy categories!
But back to the prophecy, and my original thought stream. It has been prophesied many times over that the believers and followers of God will be oppressed and persecuted – hunted down and destroyed is what 2 Esdras chapter 16 says. But the writer of Esdras also says, and I have highlighted this, those who are tested will be guided by God and delivered.
The question occurs to me beloved – who will be the hunted and who will be hunters? I have asked my self (several times via this blog) this question. I do not have answer. What I do have though is a new term or group – painholders. This term is from an article entitled Painholders on Holy Groundthat Michael A. King wrote for The Mennonite for their Feb 1st edition. In this article he suggests that there are (and should) people who work at keeping conversation open and ongoing amongst the groups who espouse differing and sometimes conflicting beliefs. Imagine beloved what a difference this would make. Perhaps if these “painholders” were able to mediate between differing groups the prophecies concerning persecutions would no longer repeat but would be laid to rest. And perhaps this is the type of guidance from God that passages such as these refer to. We can only hope and dream.
One more thing beloved. Today is Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent. As we continue looking day by day at the scriptures the historic Anabaptists felt were in important in their lives, I will try to be mindful of the days of Lent, and point out possible connection points. May you this day take a moment to remember your spiritual and faith ancestors, bringing to mind what they suffered through, and may still be suffering today. And may God guide you and deliver you. Selah!