A 22-year-old woman stood in the arena while the crowd jeered her. She was sentenced to death. Her crime: believing in Jesus Christ and refusing to worship false gods. Her name: Perpetua. The year: about 200 AD. The place: North Africa. To the delight of the crowd, a bull charged her, goring her, and flinging her body into the air.
Perpetua struggled to her feet and called to the other Christians in the arena to stand fast in the faith, to be loyal to Jesus to the end. A gladiator was commanded to kill her. Terrified, he could not bring himself to slay the defenceless lady, so she took hold of his sword blade and placed it to her own neck.
And so Perpetua went to Heaven to meet the Lord she loved and would not deny. She won the martyr’s crown.
This account from history was part of the daily reading in a book I (Pat) was given by someone at a conference in America. The book is ‘At the Name of Jesus’ by Tricia McCary Rhodes and it consists of 31 daily devotionals.
Perpetua left behind her infant child and her father. I don’t know what happened to her husband; perhaps he had already been martyred. Holding her baby, her father had pleaded with her to do as the authorities demanded and offer incense to their gods, but Perpetua was loyal to Jesus to the end.
Dear friends, how many of us today are being asked to acknowledge false gods? Some of our leaders insist that ‘we all pray to the same god’. But we do not. Christians pray to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and to Jesus Himself. We pray to no other – not to Allah, not to Mary. If you are offering anything to a being other than Jesus, you are in trouble with God. Jesus said He is the way and no one gets to the Father except through Him (John 14).
Perpetua went to her great Savior and to her great reward with courage and joy. It is recorded that she and her fellow martyrs went from prison to the arena with happy faces and light steps, not fearful, but as if on their way to Heaven, which indeed they were.
We wonder how many brave and holy Christians today are making a glorious entrance into Heaven after refusing to say the Islamic prayer acknowledging Allah as God. Allah is not God. Allah is a demon. (1 Cor 10:19,20)
We in the West have been spared the persecution faced in many countries by the people of Jesus. That may not continue.
When Peter and John were beaten for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus, they went out rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer for the Lord.
When Paul and Barnabus were beaten and put into prison, they probably had so much pain in their backs that they could not sleep, so they sang hymns at night, hymns of joy. And an earthquake shook the prison and flung open the doors of that Philippian jail. Salvation came that night for the jailer and his whole family!
What a wonderful Savior we serve. We do not have to be afraid of anything. Jesus told us not to fear men who can only kill the body, but to fear Him who can condemn your soul to Hell for eternity.
What a magnificent entrance to Heaven the martyrs must enjoy. A horrible time on earth of sadistic monsters doing their worst…the next moment entering the joy of the Lord, the beautiful kingdom. Angels and saints without number lining the walls and towers of Heaven, singing praises, joyfully welcoming you- your suffering ended, and bad as it was, it is not to be compared to the bliss before you.
And best of all, you see the face of your Savior. That beloved, kindest of all faces, smiling at…you! ‘Come, blessed of My Father, enter into the joy prepared for you.’ Jesus…embracing you!
Billows of love coming from His face. Beauty, glory, joy unimaginable, peace deeper than the ocean, all streaming in great waves directly from Jesus and encompassing you.
We cannot begin to plumb the depths of all this now, but we know it is there and it is ours! That is if, and only if, we have faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Do you know, personally know ,the Lord Jesus as YOUR Savior? Or do you think you are so good already that you have no need of saving? The Bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short. No one is good enough for Heaven. We have all at times broken God’s Ten Commandments. We are all born with fallen natures inclined to sin.
The only way out, the only way to Heaven, is through faith in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, who became man so that He could live a perfect life with no sin and so be a perfect sacrifice, shedding His own holy blood to pay the penalty for all our sins.
Why did He have to shed His blood? Because sin is so awful that only blood can pay the price; only blood can satisfy God’s justice. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Sin is that bad. It has to be punished that severely because it is that horrible and that repugnant.
Justice has to be done, and it can only be satisfied by blood, the ultimate penalty.
That is why Jesus died! He shed His blood to pay the price for our horrible sins! He had none of His own. So when we die as Christians, God sees the blood of Jesus covering us. The Old Testament picture of this is the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, which kept the ancient Hebrews safe from the death angel. The angel saw the blood and passed over their homes, leaving them all alive.
God sees the blood of Jesus, and accounts us righteous because Jesus has paid the price for us and given us His righteousness.
It is all so amazing. No wonder Perpetua and her friends could go smiling into the jaws of death – because they knew that Jesus has conquered death, and they were stepping over into a far, far better place.
A prayer: Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I believe You truly are the only begotten Son of God. I believe you became a man so that You could pay for my sins with Your holy blood. I thank You with all my heart, Lord Jesus. I believe You were buried and rose to life again on the third day. I put myself completely in Your hands. I ask You now to forgive all my sins and make me a new creation.