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To defeat Satan is to expose his lies to the truth—to unmask him. We see lots of unmaskings in the Bible. Many of these use the saints as bait. The true natures of Pharaoh, of Job’s accusers, and of Haman and the enemies of God in Esther were all exposed when God’s people became weak. A corpse always brings out the dirty birds (Matthew 24:28), the ‘Edomite’ false brothers waiting to loot a razed Jerusalem.
The suffering of the saints and the defeat of God’s enemies both become a public spectacle. Pharaoh’s army’s destruction, Job’s ‘resurrection’ and the two-day slaughter of the ‘new Amalekites’ from India to Ethiopia all picture for us the work of Christ on the cross, where death was swallowed up in victory. He turned the electric chair of the day into the throne of God.
Then the body, the church, followed the head in making a shameful public spectacle of the powers-that-were (Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:9; Hebrews 10:33). Such was said of Nero, who orchestrated his own public spectacles:
“Mockery of every sort was added to their (Christians’) deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames. These served to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open the gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or drove about in a chariot. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being punished.” (Tacitus, Annales, 15, 44.)
This is the difference between amillennial and postmillennial definitions of suffering. The suffering of the saints is not the mark of an irredeemable world, but the very means of its transformation.*
As the suffering king, Job wouldn’t take the blame.** As a public spectacle of innocent suffering, he shamed those in power. The wonder of this refusal by an innocent victim to take the blame is that whether he lives or dies, a new culture forms around his testimony. This is why Christian martyrdom expands the kingdom.
The sufferings of Christ and the saints don’t just add people to heaven. They eventually bring evil powers tumbling down and transform this world for Christ. Besides the disempowering of Rome and Holy Rome, I think of the crowds of underground Christians who finally came out and risked their lives to march through the streets just before the fall of the USSR, carrying placards that said, “We forgive you.” After decades of suffering, they publicly shamed the powers.
I look at what’s currently happening in northern India, with houses burnt and Christians hacked to pieces by demonised Hindus. While we work and pray to stop it, we also see the lie of Hinduism exposed for the counterfeit faith that it is and wait for the expansion of the kingdom on earth in that territory that must result.
Indeed, the only reason you and I are free is the suffering and death of saints who transformed the world before us. Christendom is bought with suffering and blood.
“I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.”(1 Corinthians 4:9)
Our work is not just about adding people to heaven. It’s about transforming the world through union with Christ and His suffering. Have we lost sight of working and suffering for a tangible Christian future? The joy that was set before Christ was a throne beside His Father, a rule which is transfiguring this world, not the next.
Michael Bull is a professional graphic artist who lives and works in Australia.