Martyrdom in the Christian church has not changed all that much from what it was in the early first and second century. People still discover new ways to do evil to others and invent new ways to torture humans. Martyrdom in essence is the same it has always been, the persecution of an individual to the point of death. People generally persecute Christians because they fear the truth that they represent or are sharing to their culture. In the last hundred years there has been more people martyred for Christ than in all the generations before. So why the big change, what is happening in the world today that is so different than in the previous generations? I believe there could be a few reasons for this.
The earth has never had so many people living on it at one time before. The increase in martyrs around the world could be in direct relation to the fact that there are so many people in the world today. Meaning, in relation to the total population of the world now, as to what it was in the first century, the persecution of the church hasn't changed all that considerably in numbers. This doesn't completely explain the increase in the martyrs. There must also be a move of the spirit on earth.
On earth today thousands of people come to know Christ in a personal way. With so many people from all walks of life becoming Christians the numbers of Christians far out number Christians in the past. What is the cause of these conversions? For the most part we are seeing the increase in the countries where Christianity is oppressed in some form or another. Why then do people come into this relationship knowing that it will ostracise them from their communities and even families. Jesus gives life, and people are willing to forfeit what they have on earth to embrace the love of Christ. Quite plainly Jesus has more to offer than just life on earth.
CALL TO MISSIONS
Again there are more people out there spreading the news of the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world than there has ever been before. More and more people are given a burden for the lost in this world and are willing to set aside their desires and go to complete the great commission of God to the lost. With more missionaries out on the field we are seeing more people convert to Christianity, and with that more people are heading out to reach their own people for Christ.
With the numbers of Christians increasing in the world there has been a more aggressive attack against the church, especially in places where people are not as well protected as we are in North America. As our numbers increase we see the acts of evil increase against us. This persecution includes missionaries as well as nationals.
Martyrs are increasing in the world today because of some or all of these reasons. And yet the more that Christians are martyred, the more Christians stand up behind them willing to do the work of spreading the gospel.
Martyrdom has never effectively worked to snuff out Christianity. In most cases it has been an even greater witness to non-believes. It stands as a testimony that we believe, to the point of death, that we have the truth of God. I believe that as we embark into the future we will see and hear of more persecution and martyrs than any generation before us.
There is such a move of the Holy Spirit in this generation that it seems inevitable that Christianity will continue to grow, and as a result we all will continue to be persecuted. Jesus himself said that we would be persecuted because he was persecuted. People have and will continue to die for their belief without a fear of death, and they set a precedence by loving their persecutors to the end. The Bible refers to the persecution of the church in the years to come; we are witnesses of those years. I do not expect to see a change in the fact that the church is not well liked, and because of this we are persecuted even to the point of martyrdom.