21 Names

These are the names of the 21 Coptic Christians slaughtered by ISIS this week:

1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya                                                  Coptic Christians
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq

As best as I can tell, none of these 21 men were world leaders, or famous athletes, or movie stars, or immersed in wealth, prestige, or privilege. They were ordinary men from all walks of life, much like Jesus’ disciples, who shared a common bond that became their death sentence—a love for and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Their last few minutes on this earth were recorded in a stylistic and yet utterly diabolical video, set against the surreal background of the Mediterranean Sea. Their Radical Islamic captors—decked out in appropriate black outfits that match perfectly with their charred souls—beheaded each of the men in an orgy of blood, violence, and hate.

While it’s incomprehensible to understand at times, the visceral hate we see worldwide for Jesus and those who follow Him should not surprise us. Jesus himself said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first” and “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” Persecution against the Followers of Christ is certainly nothing new. Satan has been attempting to extinguish the voice of the Gospel from the moment Jesus rose from the tomb. Tertullian, a 2nd-century Church Father, once wrote: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” That Seed has sprouted and bloomed worldwide for two-thousand-years, driven by agents of persecution from the Roman Empire to those who claimed to represent the Church itself. But now those early inquisitors look like rank amateurs compared to the zealous demoniacs of ISIS, who are slicing and burning a bloody swath through the peoples of Iraq and Syria.

Ironically, the ISIS ghouls don’t even realize they are actually fulfilling, however unwittingly, the biblical prophecies of John 16:2 and Revelation 20:4 among others: “[T]he time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” and “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God” (Emphasis mine).

What many people don’t realize is that these 21 men could have saved their own lives. All they had to do was renounce Jesus and convert to Islam. But that was impossible for them. They could not turn their backs or their hearts on their Lord who had given his own life for them. God, like He did with the original disciples, transformed these ordinary men into extraordinary giants of faith, so that they did not love their lives so much to shrink from death (Rev. 12:11).

In time, their names will most likely be forgotten by the world and probably even by most Christians, though their courage and faith in the face of unspeakable evil should not be. Their martyrdom should serve as a clarion call to all who claim Christ as Savior to hold fast to the faith no matter the cost, no matter the threat. It should also serve as an omen for things to come from the ever encroaching darkness in this present age.

On that day which Satan meant for so much evil, we know that Jesus turned it into a victorious celebration in Heaven, crowning the 21 with a Victor’s Crown and embraced them with the words every believer yearns to hear, “Well done good and faithful Servant.”

Those 21 names are now forever written into The Lamb’s Book of Life.

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