Death and Resurrection: The Church Must Walk the Way of the Cross

Editor’s note: This sermon was preached in January of 2020, as Covid-19 was just beginning to spread across the world. This is the last selection from Preacher Yang’s sermon on Revelation. In this excerpt, he reminds the church that she has the power to suffer and even die, because just like Jesus, she will always rise up from death itself. The church must follow in the footsteps of Christ the Savior, and even when persecuted, must daily live out God’s call on her life.

This excerpt has been edited, condensed, and rearranged slightly for clarity and length. Parts one and two can be found here.


And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on [the two witnesses] and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”                                                                                                 Revelation 11:7-13

The Power To Suffer

Verse 7 says the beast will make war on the witnesses, and will conquer and kill them. In the following chapters, this beast represents Satan’s earthly authority, which antagonizes God. Satan will persecute the witnesses because he makes himself into light and righteousness.

When John wrote Revelation, he had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos. In that time, Roman soldiers would surround a meeting place and put an image of Caesar and an incense burner in the courtyard. They would bring the worshipers out, and those who worshiped Caesar were allowed to leave. Those who did not worship Caesar were beheaded. The brutality was beyond our imagination.

““If you belong to Christ, you have resurrection power. You have the power to suffer. This is a truly living church before God.”

In verse 8, Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was crucified, is symbolically called Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was an evil city that did not obey God’s mission and rebelled against him, while Egypt represents the political authorities that persecuted Israel. In Jerusalem, leaders and scribes persecuted Jesus to death. This is symbolic, meaning that from Genesis to Revelation, the church must go through persecution. The church must walk the way of the cross. The war between the two kingdoms has never ceased. Christians should not be deluded to believe there will be utopia on earth. We should set our minds to carry our cross every day.

Verse 9 says that people from all over came to look for three and a half days. The people were happy and even exchanged gifts, representing that light and darkness cannot coexist. You cannot worship both God and idols. In every age, there will be martyrs. The persecution in China is actually not very severe; there is greater persecution under Islam. We have to carry the cross.

If a church belongs to God, she will have the mark of suffering. If a church does not suffer, their lampstand will be put out. Jesus said, “The cup I drink, you will drink. The baptism with which I was baptized, you will be baptized.” The disciples said, “No problem.” They thought it would be taking a bath and drinking soft drinks, but Jesus was talking about the suffering of the cross and the baptism of death. Jesus also says, “A servant is not greater than his master.” The mark of the church is the cross.

Philippians says, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” If you are resurrected, you will be persecuted. Not only in China; also in America. Persecution in different places takes different forms. If you live out the life of Christ, you will be persecuted. Fish that go with the stream are dead, but fish that swim upstream are alive. If you follow the trends of the world and everyone is happy with you, you will not go through persecution, but that also means you do not have the life of Jesus in you. If you belong to Christ, you have resurrection power. You have the power to suffer. This is a truly living church before God.


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The Church Rises Again

In verse 11, after three and a half days, a spirit comes into the bodies of the witnesses, and they are raised from the dead. Through this we see that the church will rise again.

This great reversal takes place over and over again in history as the church rises again and again. In Esther, the day the king was going to kill all the Israelites turned into the day of their victory. During the Constantine period, when Roman persecutions were at the worst, Christianity became the religion of the empire. When the church was corrupted, the monasteries rose, and culture, art, piety, and biblical interpretation were developed there. When the monasteries fell, the Reformation was launched, and it brought the church back to the Bible. During the Enlightenment, people believed faith would be conquered by science, but a new mission movement rose and the two Great Awakenings revived a spiritually stagnant church. When liberalism rose, God raised up fundamentalism to save the faith. When fundamentalism stumbled, evangelicalism came. Evangelicalism declines, but we see the rise of gospel theology and Christ-centered preaching.

In China, in the Cultural Revolution, people thought all churches were eradicated, but they did not know the Cultural Revolution eradicated superstition and faith in Communism. In the 1980s, our hearts were empty, and the church was revived — from 800,000 believers, to tens of millions. Over and over again, the church has risen.

““When you locked me up, I did not have anyone to rely on. I only had one Lord, so I kept praying to him. My religion was no longer theory; it became real. Before, Jesus was far up above; now he is with me every day. This theoretical religion has become my real life experience.”

In the last century, Uncle Li was persecuted and imprisoned many years for the sake of the Lord. In the 90s, a religious bureau officer asked him where he learned the skill of preaching. Uncle Li said, “You taught me.”

The officer said, “We are atheists. How did we teach you?”

Uncle Li said, “You persecuted me and locked me up.”

Before he finished, the officer said, “That was long ago, yet you still hold a grudge?”

Li said, “I have never complained. Before persecution, I believed in the Lord, but I only had head knowledge. But when you locked me up, I did not have anyone to rely on. My wife and kids, my brothers and sisters were not with me. I only had one Lord, so I kept praying to him. My religion was no longer theory; it became real. Before, Jesus was far up above; now he is with me every day. This theoretical religion has become my real life experience. When I share my experience, everyone wants to hear. You taught me all of this.”

In verse 12, the two witnesses heard the voice say, “Come up here.” As their enemies watched in shock, there was a great earthquake, a tenth of the city fell, 7,000 people were killed and the rest were terrified. These small numbers – one-tenth and 7,000 – indicate that this is not the final judgment.

Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to prison for nine years, and some say his case is unpardonable. Like Liu Xiaobo, he could have been locked up until death. But then many problems happened: Xinjiang, the Hong Kong crisis, recession, a trade war with America. The question of human rights is an anxious topic for the ruling authorities of China, so he was only sentenced for nine years. History has many examples like this: we will be persecuted, but we will also be protected. God is still at work.

““When we are persecuted, we preach continuously… We do not stop meeting, even though we are dispersed into small groups. We cannot stop meeting… We must live out the abundant life of Jesus.”

“We Live Out The Life Of Jesus”

The two witnesses will be raised up. This is the image of the church from the beginning to the end. The church relives the life of Jesus. The church will go through the same things Jesus did: he came to do miracles and preach God’s word, but then he was killed, raised, and finally he ascended to heaven. Whatever Jesus does, the church will follow. We are Christ’s body, and we live out the life of Jesus.

Because of this, when we are persecuted, we preach continuously. We do not stop discipleship training or theological training. We live in communion. We do not stop meeting, even though we are dispersed into small groups. We cannot stop meeting. We worship during prayer meetings and birth celebrations, through Sunday worship, weddings, house-warming parties, or concerts. We continue to support missions and the needs of the marginalized. We must live out the abundant life of Jesus.

As we see how Jesus lived out his life, we will also do likewise; for as God sent Christ, so he sends us. May God give grace to all the churches who are under persecution.


Preacher Yang is the pastor of a house church in Xiamen, China. He received his Master of Divinity from Singapore Theological Seminary.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for God’s grace and life to be poured out on churches across the world experiencing persecution.

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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