When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the word of God and the testimony they had given They cried out with a loud voice: Lord, the one who is holy and true, how long until you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood? (Revelation 6:9-10)
Here we are again, staring with disbelief at social media feeds and news updates. Another tragedy. . . Another act of evil. . . Another round of questions.
In the past, we have tried to address questions about God and tragedy (click here and here for recent articles). All of those answers hold in the light of the most recent shootings in Texas. There is still another question. When Christians are killed as a result of their testimonies, our hearts break, and we can cry out to God with the same prayer that has echoed through the centuries — How Long? In the passage above, we can see several response points for the missional believer.
1. God’s Mission Includes Judgment On Those Who Reject Him
This is an overlooked reality. God’s mission does not only end in the salvation of some; it also ends in the judgement of many. The prayer of the martyrs (seen above) reminds us that justice will come.
We engage in missionary activity as an extension of God’s mission to redeem the lost back to himself. However, we dare not forget that redemption is not the only outcome.
I am tempted to view the world positively. I want to believe that God’s sovereignty and God’s missionary vision will make everything alright. The truth is, missions is necessary because this world is not alright. The world is broken and in desperate need of a savior. Our missionary impulse echoes this biblical truth.
2. God’s Mission Includes Those Who Are Killed Because of Their Faith
It is right and good for us to be sad, mad, confused, and even frustrated by the cowardly acts of evil that took place at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas. Our God-given emotions rightly rebel against these events.
At the same time, we must remember that God’s mission will not stop because his saints are murdered. Those who are killed because of their testimonies are precious in the sight of our good God. It was the church father, Tertullian who famously said: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” With this, we can know that these lives were not lost — they did not die in vain. The Lord’s mission advances because some “did not love our lives, even unto death.” (Rev 12:11)
3. God’s Mission On This Earth Has A Definite End Date
The reason we pursue God’s mission aggressively, is that we know there will come a day when it will be too late. The events of this past weekend remind us that our world needs a savior. The Bible promises us that the savior has come and that he is coming again.
Jesus tells a story of his second coming when he separates people into two groups: Sheep and Goats — believers and unbelievers. After this, the final judgment.
We know this day will come. Events of this past weekend make us long for that day — the day of God’s justice and our rescue. At the same time, the knowledge that this day will come should push us to share the gospel more aggressively.
When we read the news of a mass shooting, it is right for us to ask why. It is right for us to be angry, confused, and frustrated. It is also right for us to ask “How Long, Oh Lord.”
Even So, Lord Jesus, Come Quickly. (Revelation 22:20)
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com