Patience not only reduces the suffering, but it yields luster to the one who is patient, and it convicts and even conquers the enemies. Consider therefore that time is short, and that your suffering is transitory. It proceeds from the hand of the Lord and is to the glory of Jesus. Let patience therefore do her perfect work; that is, suffer all things with quiet patience for the duration of this suffering, for the victory and the crown will ensue.
My beloved brothers, from whom the luster of glory emanates, permit me to encourage you to be valiant and steadfast. If you are not in need of such encouragement, being sustained by the Spirit of liberty Himself, having striven valiantly until now, it is nevertheless my duty and inclination to share with you what the Lord has granted me. Permit me therefore to show my love to you, so that I may hear in the Day of Judgment, ― “I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” (Matt 25:36)
First, consider the examples of so many thousands of martyrs who, striving uprightly, have received the crown of glory and who are now triumphant in heaven. It is God‘s way throughout all ages to call some to be blood witnesses in order that the Lord Jesus may be glorified, the world be brought under conviction, and the church be strengthened. If I may understand something about the Revelation of John, it appears to me that the fourth vial is now being poured out and that the fifth vial is about to be poured out upon the throne of the beast (that is, Rome) which not long after that is destined to be destroyed, whereby the empire of the antichrist will be obscured. Some time subsequent to this, the beast himself will be eradicated and a glorious state for the church will follow upon this. It thus appears to me that you are among the last who have the privilege of being martyrs for Jesus. I repeat, ―among the last,‖ for I believe that the church, also in other lands, must expect persecutions—however, they will be short. Therefore do not succumb in the end, but take as an example of suffering and steadfastness all who in former times have been martyrs for Jesus‘ sake—who were persecuted, tortured, and killed by Jews, the heathen, and the antichrist for the name of Jesus. In all this, however, they remained conquerors, kept the faith, and confessed Jesus until the very end. It would be an impossible task to enumerate all their glorious testimonies, severe and lengthy suffering, valor, and faithfulness. This is not subject matter for a single letter. I shall only present the register recorded in Heb 11:35–39. ―Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,‖ etc. Behold, such was the steadfastness of the martyrs—yes, many having too great a desire for martyrdom have imprudently offered themselves, did not hesitate to encourage the martyrs engulfed in flames, and at times would cry out, ―I am also a Christian.‖ Women would even hasten to the places where believers were gathered, having heard that the enemies were on the march to murder them all. These women would be fearful that they would come too late; they also took their children along so that they also would be privileged to become martyrs in their youth. Would you then succumb who are called to martyrdom? Will their steadfastness not stir you up to endure everything—as they did—steadfastly and resolutely for the name of Jesus? The greater the suffering, the greater will be the glory. Do as the companions of Daniel did, who would not worship the image upon the command of Nebuchadnezzar, and said to him, ―O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we shall not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up‖ (Dan 3:16–18).
Secondly, compare your suffering for a moment with eternal glory. What do you have to lose? You will say: ―Honor, possession, father, mother, children, conveniences—yes, even life.‖ And what have you to suffer? You will say, ―Hunger, cold, nakedness, stinking prisons full of abominable vermin, heavy chains, bloody labor, merciless beatings, scarcely being able to lie down to get a little sleep—and then in the end to be abused, burned, hung on the gallows, and to be eaten of dogs.‖ Know, however, that all these are but light tribulations which will readily pass. Paul refers to them as such in 2 Cor 4:17. Will recantation yield you all those desirable things again, and will recantation enable you to flee all these miseries? You yourself know that such is not the case. If by recanting you would get that wish, and you then would have an unbearably turbulent conscience which would not give you rest day nor night; and the wrath of God filled your soul with terror and anxiety and your body with painful stones, with unbearable gout, with evil sores, with painful discomfort, exhausting you to the very bone so that you would then seek death without being able to find it; or your wretched soul, having been restored to all freedom, perhaps in all luxury, would depart with the sense of hellish agony some days after you had recanted, would you then have gained anything? Be assured that as soon as you would have recanted, you will regret it, and you will wish and seek to be in that state again. By their fallen cheeks, their dejected countenance, and the pallor of death, it is to be perceived how the internal condition is of those who have denied Jesus and retained their possessions. They elevate your state a thousand times above theirs. You are now in this state and you cannot recover what has been lost. The wrath of God would pursue you if you again regained everything. The presence of your wife and children would only aggravate the distress of your soul. The avoidance of the water would be the equivalent of jumping into the fire, and all would at last end in damnation. Be assured—for experience teaches this daily—that the enemies do not believe your recantation. You would still be hated by them, for they seek after your life. Is it then not better to remain steadfast in your confession of Jesus, since you cannot gain anything by recantation? And if you could gain the whole world with it and would do injury to your soul, what would you give as a ransom for your soul? ―For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it‖ (Matt 16:25).
Place eternal glory over against all your suffering and the pleasures of the world, and you will come to the same conclusion as Paul did: ―For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us‖ (Rom 8:18). Oh, how blessed, how sweet, and how glorious it will be, regardless of what the manner of your death may be, to be ushered into heaven by the holy angels after death! Oh, how all the inhabitants of heaven will arise when they witness the triumphant entrance of a valiant champion of the faith who has overcome! How friendly will be the manner in which the Lord Jesus will welcome such a soul! What joyous hallelujahs will resound because of your victory! It exceeds our understanding. Our tongue is too weak. No eye has seen it, no ear has heard it, and it has never arisen in the heart of men what God has prepared for those who love Him—and particularly for His faithful blood– witnesses. The inheritance of the saints in glory, the immediate communion with God, the life of beholding Him, to be satisfied with the Lord‘s all–sufficiency, to be irradiated by the light of His countenance, to be embraced by His love, to be surrounded by His omnipotence, to be filled with His goodness, even to shine forth in pure holiness, to be aflame with love, to be incomprehensibly joyful in God, to be among the angels, to be in the company of the souls of the most perfectly righteous men, and while being in His immediate presence, together with them behold and experience the perfections of the Lord, and thus magnify and praise these perfections—that is felicity and that is glory. To be united with one‘s own and yet glorified body; to be conformed to the glorious body of Christ; to stand at the right hand of King Jesus in view of the entire world—particularly of those who have tortured and killed them; there, according to soul and body, to be glorified and crowned as conqueror; to be ushered into heaven by the Lord Jesus and there to eternally experience undiminished fulness of joy without end and without fear—all this is the great benefit which the Lord has laid away for all those who fear Him and put their trust in Him before the sons of men. Attentively consider the following passage: ―After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;…What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?…These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 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. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 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‖ (Rev 7:9, 13–17). Now compare all your suffering and all that is glorious and delightful upon earth with this eternal and felicitous glory, and you will not be able to make a mental comparison, since the difference is too great. Would this then not cause you to rejoice in your suffering? Will this not make you courageous in the warfare in which, by the power of God, the victory is sure and the crown a certainty?