So while there is certainly much we can gather from the wisdom of the past, I also wish to point out that our modern situation has its own unique aspects. I am somewhat concerned that many are content to think that the Scriptural paradigm “there is nothing new under the sun” actually means that nothing changes. That is not what it means. We are facing a challenge today that no generation before us has ever faced. In what way? Technology.
I have seen many speaking about how generations in the past have encountered and endured persecution, and this is a vitally important truth that we should be speaking of regularly. We should speak to our children, regularly, about the persecuted church, and how we could be called to face the very same kind of physical persecution, suppression, and attacks that our fellow believers face daily around the world. We have been blessed indeed with peace in Western nations for centuries, but there is nothing in Scripture that tells us to expect that to be a “given.” When cultures rebel and profane God’s truth, they will not stand forever. While God is patient, His justice is sure.
Let me highlight one area in which church history will indeed play itself out yet once again. In the early centuries it was the response of the church to persecution that led the deepest troubles and sorrows. That is, when persecution ended, what was the church to do about those who had lapsed? This led to splits and divisions and tremendous strain. Two of the greatest early schisms (Novatianism, Donatism) came directly from differences of view regarding how to deal with the “apostate” situation, including who should even be considered to be in that category to begin with.
As we move into a time period where totalitarianism is setting itself up for yet another “reign of terror,” we will find ourselves having to deal with the reality that many Christians have, for reasons I will not delve into here, aided and abetted the forces that are seeking to establish a thoroughly anti-Christian totalitarianism. They have contributed money, time, and their vote, to bring about their own self destruction, and in so doing, have brought the rest of us along with them into bondage. And so once again the question is going to be—when hindsight provides clarity, when the reality of the plans and intentions of evil men and women have come fully to light, when churches are shuttered (and apostate churches are given free reign, but only in submission to Caesar), what can be done to establish peace with those who, while truly believers, foolishly went along even against clear warnings from fellow believers?