Martyrs for Christ

A Study In Christian Martyrdom


J.M. Beatty

Rev 6:9-11 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? (11) And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (KJV)

The altar of souls is a memorial to the great glory of God's holy grace. We see under the altar the souls of those who were - and will be - martyred for their faith in Christ. Throughout history the blood of the saints has been drink to the earth. Its foolish for us to think that suffering, martyrdom and persecution are not associated with the testimony of Christ. Why is human history drenched in the blood of the martyrs? Can the word of God and His testimony require the ultimate sacrifice?

In this lesson we will ponder the blood splattered faces of martyrdom, and we will seek to discover why God allows His saints to die as martyrs.

Martyr Defined

martyr - martus (mar'-toos/3144); of uncertain affinity; a witness (literally [judicially] or figuratively [genitive case]); by analogy, a "martyr": KJV-- martyr, record, witness.

martyr - martus- (Thayer Greek/English Lexicon)

a witness:

a) in a legal sense

b) an historical sense, one who is a spectator of anything, for example, of a contest

c) in an ethical sense, those who after his example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death

martus or martur (3144) (whence Eng., "martyr," one who bears "witness" by his death) denotes "one who can or does aver what he has seen or heard or knows"; it is used (a) of God, <Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23; Phil. 1:8; 1 Thes. 2:5,10> (2nd part); (b) of Christ, <Rev. 1:5; 3:14>; (c) of those who "witness" for Christ by their death, <Acts 22:20; Rev. 2:13; Rev. 17:6>; (d) of the interpreters of God's counsels, yet to "witness" in Jerusalem in the times of the Antichrist, <Rev. 11:3>; (e) in a forensic sense, <Matt. 18:16; 26:65; Mark 14:63; Acts 6:13; 7:58; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28>; (f) in a historical sense, <Luke 11:48; 24:48; Acts 1:8,22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39,41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16; 1 Thes. 2:10> (1st part); <1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:2; Heb. 12:1>, "(a cloud) of witnesses," here of those mentioned in <ch. 11>, those whose lives and actions testified to the worth and effect of faith, and whose faith received "witness" in Scripture; <1 Pet. 5:1>.# (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

The Greek word "Martus" describes those who after the example of Christ have proven the strength and genuineness of their faith by undergoing a violent death. The word also have the application of our lives being a witness for Christ. This Greek word also speaks about those whose lives and actions testify to the worth and effect of their faith.

Consider with me the possibility that the martyr attitude is in each and every saint on planet earth. Violent death is only the ultimate expression of the martyr attitude working in our hearts.

Can we say that our lives are filled with the integrity of divine Christian service and ministry? Are we sacrificing our lives for the work of Christ's kingdom? What type of martyrdom do we manifest in our daily lives? Do we reveal to a hurting world the word of our testimony by our faith?

Martyrdom is not an action but an attitude which could demand our lives in the work of Christ's kingdom. Martyrdom is a process with degrees of expression with the ultimate expression being our deaths for the testimony of Christ.

Simply stated, Martyrdom is the witness we have in our lives of Christ and for Christ.

Witnesses of Christ

Matt 10:17-23 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (18) And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. (19) But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. (20) For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (21) And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. (22) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (23) But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (KJV)

Why does God allow persecution of His saints? We are called to testify to the glory of God before the civil authority of the world. We are warned that we shall be hated by all men for the sake of Christ, but those who endure the persecution shall be saved.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." The depth of divine character found in the martyr attitude can only be manifested during seasons of trial and challenge. We don't like the conflict of controversy, instead we enjoy moments of comfort and convenience, but the challenge of our faith during seasons of persecution reveal the truth depth of our Christian witness, our martyr attitude.

This point must be made clear, persecution is the touchstone used by God to expose the depth of our martyr attitude - our testimony/witness. We must never loose sight of the fact that we are counted as sheep for the slaughter by the ungodly civil governments of the world (Ps 44:22 Rom 8:36).

Rev 12:9-11 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (10) And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (KJV)

2 Tim 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; (KJV)

The Bible alludes to the fact that tremendous spiritual power is released by the word of our testimony, our martyrdom, when we are willing to lay down our lives for the blood of Christ.

Disciples of the Cross

Luke 9:23-26 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (24) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. (25) For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (26) For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. (KJV)

Matt 24:9-13 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (13) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

2 Tim 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Jesus taught His disciples that the path they must follow is the same path that laid before Him. In order to allow our lives to become and example of truth divine martyrdom we must learn to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. Jesus wanted His disciples to count the cost, and to understand the fact that they might die for their faith. Persecution works with opposites: it united in faith but divides families, It prunes our faith but grows our character.

"…The blood of the saints is seed…" (Tertullian)

"For what is the issue of persecution, what other result comes of it, but the approving and rejecting of faith, in regard to which the Lord will certainly sift His people? (Works of Tertullian page 240)"

"How beautiful is the spectacle to God when a Christian does battle with pain; when he is drawn up against threats, and punishments, and tortures; when, mocking the noise of death, he treads under foot the horror of the executioner; when he raises up his liberty against kings and princes, and yields to God alone, whose he is; when, triumphant and victorious, he tramples upon the very man who has pronounced sentence against him! (Works of Tertullian page 425)

Organized Persecution

Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (KJV)

More Christians were killed for their faith in the 20th century than were martyred in the total history of Christianity (Voice of the Martyrs Web site)

"Incredibly, more than 200 million people in over 60 nations are being denied their basic human rights for one reason only: they are Christians. The main reason Christians are being persecuted today is the simple fact that Christianity is growing fastest in countries where human rights are being violated or do not exist." Rev. Johan Candelin; Director of the Religious Liberty Commission, World Evangelical Fellowship

Three Phases of Persecution (Rev. Johan Candelin)

    1. Disinformation: Disinformation begins more often than not in the media. Through printed articles, radio, television and other means, Christians are robbed of their good reputation and their right to answer the accusations made against them.
    2. Discrimination: Discrimination relegates Christians to a 'second-class' citizenship with inferior legal, social, political and economic standing than the majority in the country.
    3. Persecution: Once the first two steps have been taken, persecution can be practiced without normal protective measures taking place. Persecution can arise from the state, the police or military, extreme organizations, mobs, paramilitary groups, or representatives of other religions.

Hatred of the Wicked

Ps 37:32 The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him (KJV)

Prov 29:10 Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright. (NIV)

Prov 29:27 An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked. (NAU)

Gal 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (KJV)

Wicked men hate men of integrity, because they expose the error of their sin, and rebuke them for calling evil, good, and good, evil (Isa 50:20). Throughout human history men of integrity have endured the murders and persecution of bloodthirsty men and governments.

Current State of Christian Persecution







Forbidden to witness publicly. two Christians were sent to prison merely for possessing copies of the JESUS film in a local language


Forbidden to witness publicly. 25 trained Pastors for whole nation: 93% Christian.


Muslim population at times terrorizes Christians, destroying churches and killing believers


Muslim persecution is strong in numerous parts of the country. Many Christians have fled to neighboring countries

Asia/Buddhist Nations






All public worship and evangelism by non-Buddhists is illegal


This military regime attempts to control every religious activity. Almost all Christian missions were expelled in 1966


Christians find themselves persecuted by the Buddhist majority. Free choice of one's profession and access to education is restricted for followers of Christ



AsiaCommunist Nations






More Christians are in prison or under detention here than in any other country in the world.


Communist leaders implemented a program called "New Mechanism," - anyone who does not convert to Buddhism or animism is forcibly removed.


Christians must practice their faith in deep secrecy and constant danger


Believers are harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for illegally preaching or organizing evangelistic activities

Asia/Hindu Nations






Police attacked a crowd of Christians preparing for an Easter service, beating Christians and injuring more than 200. In 1998 Rev. Gopal Kham Magar and Rev. Sukha Kham Magar were killed by policemen.


Hindus who convert to Christianity are often cast out of their families and face poverty and ostracism. In the 1999 there have been reports of pastors and priests beaten, nuns harassed and raped, and other violence directed at Christians in Orissa and Gujarat.

 Asia/Muslim Nations






Non-Muslims are denied freedom of assembly, and open profession of faith in Christ among refugees has often led to death


Believers are denied access to public water wells by Muslim extremists. Many have been forced from their homes and beaten by Muslim mobs.


Many Christians have been falsely accused of breaking Law 295c (blaspheming Mohammed), a crime punishable by death. Some have even been killed by mobs after being acquitted of such charges.


Christian leaders were expelled in 1991, and Christian literature was banned and the celebration of Christmas outlawed.


All Christian literature printed must be for non-Malays only. Ethnic Malays are not allowed to have a Christian place of worship


In 1998, all known Christian foreigners were expelled from the country, and all known Maldivian Christians were arrested


Churches are smashed or burned. In the last ten years, over 500 churches have been attacked by Muslim mobs, killing numerous Christians. In October 1999, Parliament elected Abdurahman Wahid, a Muslim, as the new president. The government forces people to carry an identification card that includes their religious status.









The Christian population is almost entirely Armenian and Russian; many fled the country following a massacre of their people in 1989. One church was raided in September 1999, and church leaders and foreigners in attendance were interrogated by police


Christians (4.2 percent of the population) must carefully guard any evidence of their faith. Those who have any gospel materials consider themselves fortunate.


Christianity has suffered greatly. Police, National Security Committee, or KNB, surrounded an unregistered church in the capital, Ashgabad, on November 13 1999. - heavy demolition equipment arrived and razed the church. Christian students attending universities have been threatened with expulsion.


Each church must have an official government registration in order to hold services. Police have made unannounced visits to churches to inspect their registration papers. Churches that cannot immediately produce their registration are closed and their doors sealed by the police. Pastors have been arrested and detained, and members threatened.

Middle East






Islamic Salvation Front have been known to march through town and slit the throats of anyone who has not lived up to their call to Islamic fundamentalism.


Christians are attacked by Muslim extremists, which go unpunished by Egyptian authorities. Christian girls are raped and then forced to marry Muslim men. Others have been abducted and forced to convert to Islam.


Almost all Christians are foreign workers, and their meetings are strictly monitored by the government.


It is illegal for citizens to enter non-Muslim households, and anyone who confesses Christ faces the death penalty under the law. People who have shown interest in the gospel are tortured and imprisoned.


Anyone who comes to Christ can face charges of treachery and illegal contact with foreign missions. Many have endured ostracism from their families, loss of employment, and imprisonment for their faith.


The Muslim government of the North has declared a jihad, or holy war, against the mostly Christian South. Since 1985, approximately two million have perished due to war and genocide. Because of the war, famine has plagued the country as people are unable to plant and harvest. Families in the South are terrorized-fathers killed, mothers raped, and children sold into slavery.


Christian literature is not openly distributed, and with so few believers dissemination would be difficult.


Believers have been harassed, threatened, and imprisoned for their faith in Christ. Evangelizing is difficult because Turks tend to think of Christians in the same category as Armenian.


Believers are discriminated against in education, employment, and property ownership. In the last five years, several pastors have been murdered.


Christians, were gassed, shot, or forced to leave their homes.


Only Muslims may become citizens. Evangelizing Kuwaitis is forbidden. The government discourages Christianity by providing financial incentives for those who claim to be Muslim.


Foreign Christians visiting Saudi Arabia are not allowed to gather and worship. Since 1992, more than 360 cases have been documented in which Christian expatriates were arrested for taking part in private worship. It has been reported that Christians have been arrested on false charges, imprisoned, and even beheaded because of their faith


The Christian population (2.5 percent) consists almost entirely of foreign workers, with perhaps no more than twenty indigenous believers.


Criticism of the Muslim faith or the ruling family is a crime. Foreign believers may not worship publicly or celebrate Christ's birth.


Missionaries are not given visas to enter the country, so Christians are able to exhibit their faith only in professional and informal friendship settings.


Only foreign Christians have freedom to worship and witness. Christian education and witnessing to nationals are severely restricted.


Yemen is one of the world's least evangelized countries, and the government will not allow the few resident Christians (0.06 percent) to witness.



Other Nations






65 year-old Aleksandr Kulakov, leader of the Grozny Baptist Church, is reported to have been beheaded last year and his severed head displayed at a local market. The targeting of Christians in Chechnya's ongoing rash of kidnappings and brutal murders prompted almost all of the evangelical Christians in Grozny to flee into southern Russia for resettlement. The isolated Grozny congregation now consists of 100 elderly women and orphans.

CHIAPAS (Mexico)

Christians have been threatened with expulsion from their villages because of their active faith.


Christians have been targeted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)-Marxist-Leninist peasant insurgents founded by legendary guerrilla leader Tiro Fijo in 1964. Some churches have been closed in this area, with a 6 p.m. curfew imposed on services for churches that are allowed to meet. Public religious activity has also been banned


Young people who confess Christ are expelled from their homes and forced to live on the streets or to hire themselves out as house servants where they are abused and mistreated by their masters. Evangelical meetings are broken up by mobs who attack, beat, and kill the believers who have gathered. Christians have been publicly stoned. Churches have been burned. In one horrific account, the dead body of a child of evangelical parents was dug and publicly hung on a stick to frighten the community from considering becoming evangelicals.


In 1959, Fidel Castro came to power threatening Cubans with socialism or death. In the '60s, Castro labeled Catholics and Protestants "social scum" and forced both laypeople and clergy into labor camps under inhumane conditions.



Extracted from Voice of the Martyrs website.

God's Vengeance

Rev 16:4-7 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. (5) And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. (6) For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. (7) And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. (KJV)

Isa 26:20-21 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. (21) For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

No doubt the Bible speaks of the fact that God will avenge and judge the world for the blood of the martyrs.

Martyrs Grace

The Bible has must to say about the grace given to the saints of God during seasons of persecution and death. Often I hear Christians in sober soulful reflection question their current ability to withstand the horrors of real persecution. The Bible teaches that God gives special grace to the saints of God who must endure the fiery trials of persecution. How can we question our faith when we don’t have need yet for this special divine grace? When the grace is needed God will give the grace.

Spirit of Glory

1 Pet 3:14-15 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; (15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (KJV)

1 Pet 4:12-14 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (KJV)

1 Pet 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (KJV)

Peter taught us that the spirit of God's glory will rest on those who are required to endure martyr suffering and death.

Fox's Book of Martyrs records the fact that many of our fore-fathers were burned at the stake rejoicing that Christ counted them worthy to suffer for His namesake. The spirit of glory rested on multitudes who die

Crown of Life

Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (KJV)

A crown of life is also promised to those who are faithful to Christ during their martyr death. Read Fox's Book of Martyrs and we will see the crown of life falling on those who embraced the martyr's death.

Throne of God

Rev 7:13-17 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? (14) And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (16) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. (17) For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (KJV)

The Bible also teaches that Christ's martyrs have a special place around His eternal throne. The great multitude seen in Revelation chapter seven is comprised of those who came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

Reign with Christ

Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (KJV)

Those who allow the martyr attitude to govern their lives will also rule and reign with Christ during the millenium.

Current Events (United Nations)

Rev 13:7-8 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. (8) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (KJV)

In September of 2000 the United Nations convened the United Nations Millenium Summit with over 150 of the world leaders. The goal of the summit is to commence with the ratification process of adding Charter 99 entitled "Global Democracy" to the original UN charter of 1945. The first phase of charter 99 has three main goals that will initiate global governance.

NGO's are Non-governmental Organizations (1600) who have authorization to lobby the United Nations for legislation. NGOs only receive authorization to lobby the United Nations if the support the United Nations total world agenda and world government movement. Due to this restriction only extreme left wing organizations are granted approval (i.e. Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood)

The United Nations has a clearly defined goal for world government. Included in their goal is a United Nations of World Religions, where they will guarantee freedom of religion, but only that which is prescribed by law. The United Nations will never accept the true biblical concept of Jesus Christ. We will be criminals because we will have only one King named Jesus Christ.


The martyr attitude can be summed by in one simple word, and that word is "witness". Are we willing to allow our lives to be examples that prove the strength and genuineness of our faith in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives worthy of the martyr attitude?

Being martyrs for Christ begins with our commitment to Christ. Each and everyday we live as examples of our faith we live as martyrs for Christ. Being a martyr cannot wait until we must choose to live or die for Christ. We must determine in our hearts that we are true witnesses of Christ. Can the world see Christ in our daily activities? Should our honest answer be "Yes" then the martyr attitude is alive and growing in us.