You’ve got a message. And it is a message signed with blood.
Several weeks ago, when the news about the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya were published all around the world, the jihadists of ISIS thought they had accomplished their goal. The killers entitled the professionally produced 5-minute video of this horrific slaughtering as “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”
It was supposed to be a message of fear and death from the killers. But the message I got was one of faith and living hope from those who were killed. And they signed it with their blood.
Instead of showing desperation, the Christians were praying and displaying their faith in the moments before their death. They knew what was awaiting them. No, I am not talking about death. They were looking forward to eternal life with their Savior, who led the way in being murdered and in overcoming death. For these 21 Egyptian Christians “to live [was] Christ and to die [was] gain” (Philippians 1:21).
I’m not really sure what ISIS leaders meant in addressing “their” message to the “Nation of the Cross.” Maybe what they had in mind was the Vatican, for they refer to Rome in the video. But again, the message I got was addressed to the real Nation of the Cross, the Church of Christ. And it was a very encouraging message of perseverance. In their death, these Christians announced the words of their Savior:
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12)
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)
All these “double meanings” from the message reminded me of the sign that was placed on Jesus’ cross (“King of the Jews”—cf. John 19:21–22). It was an unintended proclamation of a greater truth. A similar thing has happened with the “Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” It was supposed to scare us. But instead it reminds us that one day all of us, the Church of Christ, will not be dressed in orange, but we’ll all be clothed in “fine linen, bright and clean” (Revelation 19:8).
This is, therefore, a message of hope. Hope that Jesus conquered with his blood on the cross in order to make us a “holy nation” and a “people of God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). This was the first message signed with blood to the nation of the cross:
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:19–20)
Now, as imitators of our Lord and Savior, let’s take up our cross and follow him (Luke 14:26–35). Let’s assimilate the blood signed message that was sent to us. Let’s affirm and live with all courage and hope that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
For more on this subject, read Tom Schreiner: A Biblical Meditation On The Isis Execution Of 21 Christians and The World Was Not Worthy Of Them