Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, Part 2
21 December 2013
Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven by Josef (Iosif) Ton.
I must have used at least one entire colored pencil highlighting many sentences and paragraphs in the 436 pages of text! A quick flip through my copy of the book reveals LOTS of blue! There's no way I could share all of that here.
In addition to all that highlighting, I had marked some particularly-significant passages with big blue asterisks. In reviewing them today, I selected some of these "choice morsels" to whet your appetite for the full banquet presented in this book.
Be aware that it is difficult to pull short passages out of this book because the author meticulously builds his case with each new idea connecting with the previous ones. By taking these quotes out of context, they not only lose some of their power but are also more easily misunderstood.
As I have written before, the information and insights Mr. Ton shares in this book are extremely vital for preparing us to face our Islamic future — a not-too-distant future in which suffering and martyrdom will once again become the norm for followers of Yeshua (Jesus, Isa) around the world and even right here in the United States.
Therefore, if you are at all interested in what I have shared below, I strongly urge you to buy your own copy of Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven (along with some colored pencils!) — it could easily be the most important book you will ever read, and the most crucial to affect your eternal destiny! All this for only $15 — you can't afford NOT to get this book!
Finally, don't miss the entire (short) chapter of this book which I shared in Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, Part 1, as well as the longer, concluding chapter in Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, Part 3.
I would describe the human condition upon the earth as a delicate balance between being in possession of authority and being in submission to authority. On the one hand, man was created with the capacity to rule and to exercise authority. On the other hand, man was intended to live under the authority of God, to submit to Him, and to obey Him. In other words, man has to exercise his authority under the authority of God. In the end, the test of his capacity to rule is his capacity to obey. However, it is difficult to feel empowered with authority and still gladly submit to the authority of another. Man's temptation is to exercise his authority independently, without recognizing God's absolute authority.
The key message in the Book of Revelation is that the only method God uses to bring the nations to Himself is through the testimony of Jesus Christ, propagated by His faithful witnesses, sealed with their blood in martyrdom, and vindicated by God through their resurrection. In God's strategy, the use of force is counterproductive. It is true that one can bend and break people by force, but the result will only be more hatred and further revolt. Instead, God has determined to save the world by the foolishness of the cross of Christ and by the foolishness of the crosses of His children whom He has chosen and called for this very purpose. He will be consistent in using this unique method until He achieves His final goal. God will thus bring the nations to Himself by the sacrifice of His Son followed by the sacrifices of His other sons.
Why must the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of His fellow soldiers take place? The simple answer is that God does not fight to win people back to Himself; He will not use force. From the beginning, Satan has used deception to win people to himself, and throughout history, he has relied on lies, hatred, brute force, torture, and death to keep people in bondage and slavery. But God cannot use the same methods. He must use methods consistent with His own nature. He could conceivably force His way to the nations of the world, but that would be against His own nature and character.
In addition, God has to demonstrate to the whole cosmos that His methods are better and more efficacious than the ones used by Satan. God has to prove that He is more credible, more convincing, and more desirable than Satan. He has to demonstrate that He can attract the nations to Himself by means of His own methods of love and self-sacrifice more effectively than Satan can keep them in slavery by his demonic methods.... in addition to Christ's cross, God's wisdom also brings the nations back to Himself by means of the crosses of His chosen fellow witnesses. In this way, God has made His honor depend on our faithfulness to Him.
A survey of what the Book of Revelation has to say about the "deeds" and consequent "rewards" of God's children is very impressive. For exactly this reason, it is quite disconcerting and sometimes even painful to discover that so many Protestant commentators take great pains to explain these teachings away, insisting that because salvation is by grace alone, these works are meant only to confirm the fact that one is truly saved. It is certainly true that salvation is by grace alone.... However, the issue at stake here is not salvation! This issue is, rather, man's qualification to rule with Christ, to hold positions of authority or, in other words, to receive meaningful and responsible jobs in the newly created universe!
Starting from the Gospels and running through all the epistles and through the Book of Revelation, we are told that "works" are the duty of the children of God. Works matter because they are God's criteria according to which He will judge us and according to which He will assign to us different ranks and functions in His eternal kingdom. Again, these works are not meant to give us credit or to earn for us those positions of ruling. The basis of obtaining them is solely the goodness of the Father and His gracious decision before the foundation of the world to give us these things.
God is making and testing His children through various trials and tribulations. He has destined His children to rule with Christ; but first, He calls them to be partners with Him in tribulation, in endurance, in faithfulness, in witness to God's love through sufferings, and in death. Only partnership in suffering qualifies one to be a partner with Christ in ruling.... most Protestant theologians cannot accept the idea that people will not be equal in heaven.... Jesus nevertheless taught us plainly, clearly, and repeatedly that some would be great and some would be small in the kingdom of heaven...
A judgment based on works has purpose and meaning only if it is followed by a commensurate distribution of rewards or degrees of authority in the eternal kingdom. The real issue, however, is the "authority" itself. Rebellious spirits cannot submit to authority; for this reason, they should never be entrusted with authority, because if they cannot submit to it, they will not be capable of wielding it themselves.... Only in difficulties and in tribulations do people really learn how to submit to authority and how to demonstrate their submission to authority. Only thus can they become qualified to handle authority themselves.
In order to better understand the Anabaptist theology of martyrdom, we must understand the way they interpreted their own world and the way they interpreted history. The Anabaptists returned to the earlier Christian concept of the two worlds or two kingdoms in conflict. One kingdom is this "world," which is governed by "the prince of this world," that is, Satan; this kingdom consists of people separated from Christ, without the life of God. The other is the "kingdom of God," whose citizens are people born from above and united with Christ. The two worlds interpenetrate and coexist, although they have different laws, principles, and goals. These two worlds, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, are engaged in a life and death war; this war is also a cosmic battle in which every individual born on this earth is a participant, having no choice but to choose a side and fight accordingly. The victory of the kingdom of God is certain, but it cannot be accomplished without the suffering and martyrdom of its members. With this world-view in mind, the Anabaptists recognized that they had a great responsibility in this cosmic and historic war.
Only when we combine these two relationships, the master-slave and the father-child, can we understand the actual nature of the rewards spoken about in the Scriptures. The rewards are the positions of responsibility that the Father wants to give to His children at the end of their growing and training process. The rewards are "all His possessions" (Matthew 24:47; Luke 12:44) or, in the language of the epistles, "the inheritance." The time of their training, in which the children-slaves have to demonstrate their faithfulness and reliability, is not for the purpose of earning the rewards, since the rewards originate in the generosity of the Father and in His desire and determination to see His children become mature partners in the administration of His kingdom. The training process is meant to produce in His children the ability to handle authority and the capacity to administrate wisely, thereby proving them reliable.
With respect to the issue of our motivation, God places before us His goal for our lives and commands us to be motivated by it. All that we do in this life has to be directed toward the achievement of God's purpose for our lives. Saying that we serve God simply out of our love for Him and not for the eternal rewards indicates that we have continually misunderstood God's ways and purposes, and that we have stubbornly refused to obey God. It means that we have tragically missed His target for us.