Natsarim Martyrdom – What Does The Scriptures Say?

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Natsarim Martyrdom – What Does The Scriptures Say?

The dictionary defines a martyr as “a person who is killed because of his religious or other beliefs.” Interestingly enough, the English word martyr is really a word transliterated from the original Greek martur, which simply means “witness.” The reason why this word became synonymous with dying for one’s religious beliefs is that the early Natsarim witnesses were often persecuted and/or killed for their witness.

As evidence of this, consider the story of the first Natsarim martyr, Stephen, recorded in Acts 6:8–7:53. After being anointed as one of the first deacons in the assembly, Stephen immediately began doing mighty works among the people. As is usually the case when the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is mightily at work and the besorah (gospel) is going forth, the forces of darkness arise to hinder the work of the kingdom. In this case, several men came to dispute what Stephen was saying, but Stephen, filled with the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit), was able to refute their criticisms. Rather than accept what Stephen was teaching, these men brought false charges against him to the Yahudim (Jewish) leaders (Acts 6:11-14). Most of Acts 7 consists of Stephen’s speech to the Yahudim leaders in which he essentially summarized the history of Yisrael up to their rejection of their Messiah.

At the end of the speech, Stephen utters these words, which seal his fate: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (Holy Spirit). As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53).

Now, there was nothing untrue in Stephen’s words. The Yahudi (Jewish) leaders were indeed responsible for turning Yahusha over to the Romans for execution. Despite Yahusha’ miracles and authoritative teaching, the hardness of the Yahudim (Jewish) leaders’ hearts kept them from seeing the truth about Yahusha. The Yahudim (Jewish) leaders, upon hearing Stephen’s words, were enraged and immediately arranged for Stephen’s execution by stoning (v. 58). Stephen was, therefore, the first Natsarim martyr recorded in Scripture.

The Scriptures places a premium on faithful believers who pay the ultimate price for their witness. Stephen was granted a glorious vision of heaven before he died, and in this vision, he saw Yahusha standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56) as though waiting for Stephen in an attitude of honor for Stephen’s faithful service. As further evidence that martyrs are considered precious in Yahuah’s sight, the apostle Yochanon (John) saw in his vision of the millennium those martyred for their faith reigning with Messiah for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). The apostle Kepha (Peter), who wrote the most about martyrdom and suffering for one’s faith, said, “If you are insulted because of the name of Messiah, you are blessed, for the Ruach (Spirit) of glory and of Yaqhuah rests on you… However, if you suffer as a Natsarim, do not be ashamed, but praise Yahuah that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:14, 16). There is also the word of our Master who pronounced a blessing upon those who are persecuted for His name: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).

Clearly, the scriptural evidence points to the fact that those who are persecuted and suffer for their witness to Messiah (up to and including death) are pleasing in Yaghuah’s sight. Given that, two additional questions arise. First, what if I’m not asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of Messiah? Yahuah doesn’t call everyone to make the ultimate sacrifice, but the Scriptures calls all Natsarim to be prepared to give a defense of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). The key to this passage lies in preparedness. Consider this analogy: those enlisting in the armed services should do so with the understanding that they may be called into battle and may be called upon to die in the service of their country. This is (or should be) the mindset of everyone who joins the military. Clearly, not all enlisted men and women die in the service of their country, and not all are even called into battle. Despite this, they are trained daily to be prepared for battle. The same goes for the Natsarim. We are in a state of “warfare” (Ephesians 6:12-20), and our Master may call upon any of us to witness and even be martyred for our faith. Thus, we must be prepared!

The second question that can be asked is, given martyrdom’s “special” status in Yahuah’s eyes, should we actually seek martyrdom? Scripturally, we can’t make a case for seeking to be martyrs for the cause of Messiah. Martyrdom is a great privilege if it is inevitable, but it is not to be sought. Yahusha said, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (Matthew 10:23). Furthermore, reading through the book of Acts, we see that the early assembly continually fled from intense persecution (Acts 8:1; 9:25, 30; 14:6; 17:10, 14). In each of these scriptural examples, we see the early Natsarim fleeing persecution and taking all necessary precautions for survival. When Yahusha says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39), He is not calling for people to make an attempt to lose their lives. Rather, He is calling us to be willing to lose our lives for His sake. Those who actively seek the path of martyrdom are not seeking it for the glory of Yahuash, but for their own glory. As the old saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the assembly. Yahuah’s purpose in martyrdom is the glorification of His name and the building up of His Assembly.

https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-martyrdom.html

About the author

Gera'el Toma

A highly esteemed elder in the faith of the Natsarim, the first century believers in Messiah Yahusha, and a treasured member of the Remnant House Team.

Gera'el Toma (Gerald Thomas) is an internationally recognized and respected teacher of the Holy Scriptures as originally written in the Hebrew language.

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Gera'el Toma

A highly esteemed elder in the faith of the Natsarim, the first century believers in Messiah Yahusha, and a treasured member of the Remnant House Team.

Gera'el Toma (Gerald Thomas) is an internationally recognized and respected teacher of the Holy Scriptures as originally written in the Hebrew language.

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