Persecution - The sixth sign

SERMON TOPIC: Persecution - The sixth sign

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 6 December 2020


Sermon synopsis: On the Mount of Olives opposite the Jerusalem temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3) ask Jesus: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” [Matt 24:3]
Jesus responds by saying that there will be:
1. the appearance of many false Christs
2. wars
3. famines
4. earthquakes in various places
5. pestilence in various places
6. persecution of believers
- Download notes (2.94 MB, 262 downloads)

- Download audio (17.78 MB, 250 downloads)

- Download Video (61.87 MB, 131 downloads)

- All sermons by Gavin Paynter

- All sermons on PERSECUTION

- All sermons on PROPHECY

- All sermons on MATTHEW

- All sermons in ENGLISH


On the Mount of Olives opposite the Jerusalem temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3) ask Jesus: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?[Matt 24:3]


Jesus responds by saying that there will be:

the appearance of many false Christs



earthquakes in various places

pestilence in various places

persecution of believers

He adds, “…see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Matt 24:6, NIV)

He then says that the gospel would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come (v14).


Jesus said of the first 6 signs, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matt 24:8, NIV) To those who argue that earthquakes, wars, famines and false Christs have been around for thousands of years, the response is:

Yes, they have. But Jesus said, that “these are the beginning of birth pains.” Birth pains increase in intensity as the time of birth approaches. So too we clearly see an increase in intensity in these events.









Matt 24:5 (ESV) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Jesus said that these events would be associated with the presence of false messiahs and false prophets.

What is the trend with people who have claimed to be Christ?

18th century: 2

19th century: 7

20th – 21st century: 39 (so far)

Our age is well described as a time when “false messiahs and false prophets will appear”. Note the increase in frequency (birth pains).


Just one example of a recent false Christ is Jim Jones (1931–1978). Jones was a communist who became frustrated with the harassment of open communists in the US and decided the best way to practice his Marxism was to infiltrate the church. After Jones witnessed a faith–healing service at the Seventh Day Baptist Church, he noted that it drew people along with their money and decided that this could be the means by which he could achieve his social goals. He then started his own church which became the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. 1

1 Profile of the Antichrist – Gavin Paynter


Jones “claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, Akhenaten, Vladimir Lenin, and Father Divine.” In 1973 he founded a communist community in Guyana called Jones-town. He is remembered most infamously for the incident in 1978 where he caused 913 of his followers to commit mass murder suicide by drinking poison. He then shot himself afterwards. 1

1 Ibid.


Even South Africa has its own Messiah claimant. Moses Hlongwane from the KwaZulu-Natal town of Eshowe appeared on the eNews Channel Africa in 2013, to announce publicly that he was the black reincarnation of Jesus. He claims that he is immortal and said in the TV interview that he was “getting ready” to perform miracles like curing the lame and blind and even resurrecting the dead by “opening the graves.” Moses, who uses his disciples’ welfare payments to fund his compound in KwaZulu-Natal, married one of his young disciples in 2016. 1



Matt 24:6-7 (NIV) You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

We see the same trend with wars. There have always been wars. But the 20th century - with its two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the multiple Arab-Israeli conflicts, Iran-Iraq War, the First Gulf War - was one of the most violent periods in human history.

Military conflict took place during every year of the 20th Century. There were only short periods of time that the world was free of war.

According to Associated Press, an estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict.

Based on data from https:// List-of-wars-and-anthropogenic-disasters-by-death-toll

Estimated war casualties (millions)


World War I marked the entry of fully industrialized warfare as well as weapons of mass destruction (e.g., chemical and biological weapons). 1

World War II was the most frantic period of weapons development in the history of humanity. Massive numbers of new designs and concepts were fielded, and all existing technologies were improved between 1939 and 1945. The most powerful weapon invented during this period was the atomic bomb, however many other weapons influenced the world, such as jet planes and radar, but were overshadowed by the visibility of nuclear weapons and long-range rockets. 1

1 https://


The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in human history.

About 70 million total soldiers fought on behalf of the Allied or Axis countries.

An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, or about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion) with civilian deaths surpassing the number of combat force deaths.

Only conflicts in which at least one party was the government of a state are included. Ongoing conflicts are represented for every year in which they resulted in at least 25 battle-related deaths. SOURCE: UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict dataset

State-based conflicts 1946 to 2016

Matt 24:7 (NIV) There will be famines …

During the 20th century, an estimated 70 to 100 million people died from famines across the world, of whom over half died in China and 13 million in the USSR. 1

The World Peace Foundation reported that from the 1870s to the 1970s, great famines killed an average of 928,000 people a year.

In the 21st century there was a reduction in deaths related to famine. Yet in 2017, the UN officially declared famine had returned to Africa, with about 20 million people at risk of death from starvation in the northern part of Nigeria, in South Sudan, in Yemen, and in Somalia. 1 Approximately 150,000 lives lost in the 2011 Somalia famine.

1 https://


Though the global numbers of people suffering from hunger have declined 31% since 2000, the food and nutrition situation in sub-Saharan Africa has worsened the past three years. 1

Economic woes, drought, and extreme weather are reversing years of progress so that 237 million sub-Saharan Africans are chronically undernourished, more than in any other region. In the whole of Africa, 257 million people are experiencing hunger, which is 20% of the population. 1

1 https://


Some 815 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s just over 1 in 9 people on Earth. 1

Almost 1 in every 15 children in developing countries dies before the age of 5, most from hunger-related causes. 1

66 million children attend classes every day with hungry bellies, and millions more are stunted from childhood malnutrition. 1 Nearly 40% of children in sub-Saharan Africa grow up stunted due to chronic malnutrition. 2

An estimated 250 million preschool children do not get enough vitamin A. Some 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year. 1

1 https:// 2 https:// wiki/ Food-security-during-the-COVID-19-pandemic


Matt 24:7 (NIV) … and earthquakes in various places.

Between 2004 and 2014, 18 earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.0 or more rattled subduction zones around the globe. That’s an increase of 265% over the average rate of the previous century according to a report to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. 1

“If we look at all earthquake magnitudes, the past 10 years is not unusual in terms of the rate of events; the rate increases are just seen for events with magnitudes larger than 7.5 or so” ~ Thorne Lay, distinguished professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 1

1 https:// science/ science-news/ worldwide-surge-great-earthquakes-seen-past-10-years-n233661


This graph illustrates the change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures. 19 of the 20 warmest years all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998. The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record. (Source: NASA/GISS). 1

1 https://


Some scientists are predicting that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, giant landslides and tsunamis may become more frequent as global warming changes the earth’s crust.

Professor Bill McGuire of University College London told Reuters “When the ice is lost, the earth’s crust bounces back up again and that triggers earthquakes, which trigger submarine landslides, which cause tsunamis.” 1

1 https:// article/ us-climate-geology/ global-warming-may-bring-tsunami-and-quakes-scientists-idUSTRE58F62I20090916


SOURCE: https:// wiki/List_of_tsunamis


NOTE: 18 tsunamis so far in the 21st century projects to 90 if the rate continues.

Luke 21:11 (NIV) There will be … pestilences in various places

Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910-1911) death toll: 800,000+

Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, the Spanish influenza infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to have been somewhere between 17 - 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. 1 It killed more people than those who died in the preceding World War One.

Asian Flu (1956-1958) death toll: 2 million

Hong Kong Flu pandemic (1968): death toll: 1 million

1 https:// wiki/ Spanish_flu


Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year. 1

During the 20th century, TB killed approximately 100 million people. A total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019.

1 https:// wiki/ Smallpox


The most recent pandemics include SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 caused 774 deaths.

Mad cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), slowly destroys the brain and spinal cord in cattle. People cannot get mad cow disease but in rare cases can get a human variant (vCJD), which is also fatal.

2009-2010 Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemic: 200,000 deaths.

The most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus in history from 2014-2016 caused major loss of life in West Africa. A total of 28,616 cases of EVD and 11,310 deaths were reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and 15 deaths in other countries.

MERS (from 2015-present) 850 deaths.


The most recent pandemics include the HIV pandemic. According to UNAIDS:

Globally, around 38 million people were living with HIV in 2019. An estimated 1.7 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2019. 1

Since the start of the epidemic, 75.7 million people have been infected with HIV and 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses (2020). 1

South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world (2018). 7.7 million people living with HIV (20.4%), 240 000 people were newly infected with HIV and 71 000 people died from an AIDS-related illness. 2

1 https:// en/ resources/ fact-sheet 2 https:// en/ regionscountries/ countries/southafrica


The risk of acquiring HIV is:

30 times higher for sex workers.

29 times higher among people who inject drugs.

26 times higher among gay men and other men who have sex with men.

13 times higher for transgender people. 1

TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around 1 in 3 AIDS-related deaths. 1

It is estimated that 44% of people living with HIV and TB are unaware of their coinfection and are therefore not receiving care. 1

1 https:// en/ resources/ fact-sheet


We currently have the Coronavirus causing havoc worldwide. As at 12 Nov 2020 there were 52 million Coronavirus cases and 1,28 million deaths.


SOURCE: https:// history-of-pandemics-deadliest/

The increase in epidemics has coincided with globalization and urbanization. Society has become more connected and populations are more concentrated in cities. With commercial international air travel - outbreaks of infectious diseases can jump from one city to another remote city on the other side of the world in under 36 hours.

Interestingly Daniel predicted that in the end times there would be an explosion of knowledge and an increase in travel.

Daniel 12:4 (ESV) “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”


Matt 24:9 (NIV) “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

The World Christian Encyclopedia (2001) – by David Barrett, Todd Johnson and Justin Long is the standard reference work for religious statistics of all kinds, and both Britannica and the World Almanac cite from it.

It estimates the total Christian martyrs to be: 70 Million (69,420,000)


More Christians were martyred in the 20th century (45.4 million) than in the previous 19 centuries combined. 1


Christians martyred at the hands of:

Other: 867,000

Hindus: 676,000

Mahayana Buddhists: 1,651,000

Quasi-religionists: 2,712,000

Roman Catholics: 5,171,000

Animists: 7,469,000

Muslims: 9,121,000

Atheists: 31,689,000

North Korea













Open Doors compile a World Watch List of the 50 worst countries in regards to Christian Persecution. Here are the Top 20 (highlighting the ones in Africa).






Saudi Arabia



According to Open Doors, the main drivers behind Christian persecution worldwide are:

Islamic extremism: the main driver in 33 of the top 50 countries.

Dictatorial paranoia: the main driver in 6 countries.

Religious nationalism (Buddhists & Hindus): the main driver in 5 countries.

Communist and post-communist oppression: the main driver in 4 countries.

Organized corruption: the main driver of persecution in Colombia and Mexico.


North Korea is an atheistic state and has ranked No. 1 since 2002, when the World Watch List began.

Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy. If Christians are discovered, they are deported to labour camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. 1

1 https:// christian-persecution/world-watch-list/north-korea/


According to one report at least 200,000 Christians have gone missing since 1953. 1

Christians must keep their faith completely secret. If a Christian has a Bible, or part of one, it will be carefully hidden and only read when the believer is sure they are alone. Most Christians do not even tell their own children about their faith until the kids are older teenagers, for fear that they may let something slip. 1

Yet behind the headlines, a massive underground church of 200-400,000 Christians is growing in North Korea. 1

1 https:// wiki/ Freedom_of_religion_in_North_Korea 2 CSW: Christian Solidarity Worldwide - a British-based human rights advocacy organization,


According to CSW 1

Documented incidents against Christians include being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot, the report continues. A policy of guilt by association applies, meaning that the relatives of Christians are also detained regardless of whether they share the Christian belief. Even North Koreans who have escaped to China, and who are or become Christians, are often repatriated and subsequently imprisoned in a political prison camp. 2

1 CSW: Christian Solidarity Worldwide – a British-based human rights advocacy organization 2 https:// news/ christians-crushed-under-steamroller-and-hung-on-a-cross-over-fire-in-north-korea.html


Afghanistan is second on the 2019 World Watch List.

An Islamic state by constitution, the country does not permit any faith other than Islam to exist. To convert to a faith outside Islam is tantamount to treason because it’s seen as a betrayal of family, tribe and country. Very often, there is only one possible outcome for exposed and caught Christians: death. In Afghanistan converts are considered literally insane to leave Islam. As a result, some may end up in a psychiatric hospital and have their homes destroyed … And the radical Islamic Taliban have also increased in strength; at least half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are either ruled or contested by the Taliban. 1

1 https:// christian-persecution/ stories/ 11-christians-killed-every-day-for-their-decision-to-follow-jesus/


Somalia in Africa is 3rd on the list.

The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. In fact, persecution of Christians almost always involves violence. Additionally, in many rural areas, Islamic militant groups like al-Shabab are de facto rulers who regard Christians with a Muslim background as high-value targets—often killed on the spot when discovered. 1

1 https:// christian-persecution/ stories/ 11-christians-killed-every-day-for-their-decision-to-follow-jesus/


In 2020:

2983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons on average, that’s 8 Christians killed every day for their faith. 1

9488 churches or Christian buildings (182 per week) were attacked. 1

3711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned (309 per month ). 1

260 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution in the top 50 countries on the world watch list – 6% increase from 2019. 1

1 https:// wp-content/ uploads/ 2020/ 01/ 2020_ World_Watch_List.pdf


Another 50 million could be added from the 23 nations that fall just outside the top 50—such as Mexico, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—for a ratio of 1 in 8 Christians worldwide facing persecution. 1

A staggering 11 Christians are killed for their faith in the top 50 countries ranked on the World Watch List. 2

1 Ibid. 2 https:// christian-persecution/ stories/ 11-christians-killed-every-day-for-their-decision-to-follow-jesus/


The reasons for the increase in persecution is:

massive increase in world population

increase in percentages of Christians - Satan does not give up ground without a battle.

the emergence of totalitarian atheistic states and the resultant brutal intolerance that comes with atheism.


A Christian Home Burned Down by Extremists in India

The bloody aftermath of a massacre during Palm Sunday mass (2017) after a suicide bomber murdered Christian worshippers at the Saint Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt.

Jesus said we must expect persecution.

John 15:20 (ESV) Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

2 Tim 3:12 (ESV) Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

In line with Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24, persecution will increase – in frequency and intensity – as his Second Coming draws near.


The body suffers when one part is hurt:

1 Cor 12:26-27 (NIV) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Heb 13:3 (NIV) Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

What can we do to support the persecuted church?

Pray - keep aware of the issues to pray meaningfully.

Give - to agencies that help the persecuted church.

Encourage - correspond and visit.


Matt 24:14 (NIV) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

According to Joshua Project’s website (2015):

65 million people hear the Gospel for the first time every year.

178,000 will hear the Good News today for the first time.

In the last 12 months 50,000 new churches were started. 1

1 SOURCE: Joshua Project (2015)


Major Religions Annual Growth Rates

Evangelical Christianity is growing faster than Islam and twice as fast than Buddhism and Hinduism.

SOURCE: Joshua Project


Christianity is the largest religion in the world. There are about 2.4 billion professing Christians, 31.2% of world population. 1

1 https:// wiki/ Major_religious_groups

Major Religious Groups


Missions have reached virtually every region of the world. We see the effectiveness of Protestant mission work in the 19th and 20th centuries in the “percentage Christian” and “evangelization of the world.”

South & East: The new faces of Evangelical Christianity


% Christians in Europe & N. America

% Christians in Latin America, Africa & Asia













The most remarkable change in 20th century Christianity is its rapid growth in Africa and Asia. The centre of gravity has shifted from the West to the South and East.

TABLE SOURCE: Joshua Project



Having been 90% Western (Europe and North America) 100 years ago, Christianity is now 69% non-Western.

Decline of church attendance has become marked in much of the Western world. The decline has mainly been in Europe but at the same time the Church has made a historic advance into Africa and Asia.

For the first time in centuries, non-European Christians exceed Christians of European origin.

Asian Christians already outnumber North American plus Oceanian Christians.


Source: Todd M. Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

True Christianity has grown by more than 300 million believers in the past 10 years.

About 10 million (3%) of these new Christians are from North America and Europe.

The rest, 290 million (97%) are from developing countries like Nigeria, Brazil, India and China.

The church in the non-Western world is growing fast while the church in the West is decreasing.

This growth has often been in areas when the persecution of Christians is worst. Similarly, the early church which was viciously persecuted by the Roman emperors, also grew.


In the 2nd century, Tertullian declared, “We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church… And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die, wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And when they find out, they join us.” 1

1 Apologeticum


Sudan: Despite extreme persecution from a fanatical Sharia Islamic regime, Sudanese Christians increased from 1.6 million in 1980 to 11 million in 2010. 1

The southern part of Sudan which is predominantly Christian, has since gained independence in 2011, after a majority of 98.83% voted in favour of the split in a referendum. The new country is called South Sudan.

1 SOURCE: https:// wiki/ Christianity_in_Sudan

Following the 1949 takeover by the Communist Party of China, Catholic and Protestant missionaries were expelled from the country, and Christianity was vilified as a manifestation of western imperialism. 1

150 years of missionary work ended when the 5,600 missionaries left. Westerners feared that the estimated 750,000 Christians would not survive the harsh rule and persecution of the atheistic government determined to exterminate believers. Yet instead, 60 years later, the number of Christians has grown to more than 100 million, with estimates of between 20,000-30,000 people a day being converted. This dramatic growth is a result of the indigenous Chinese Christians evangelising locally.

1 http:// wiki/ Roman_Catholicism_in_China


Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)


Jesus said, “… this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14)

Has the gospel of the kingdom been preached in the whole world?

Have all nations heard the testimony?


1.8 billion people standing shoulder to shoulder would go around the world’s equator 38 times.

1 World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2000

In 2007 researchers David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson estimated the number of unreached people to be 1.8 billion people. 1





Approximate Percentages



Jesus has not commanded us to go into “most of the world”, but into “all the world”. In Rev 7:9-10 we are told that the redeemed gathered before God’s throne consist of “every nation, tribe, people and language.”

Despite Jesus’ command to evangelize, almost one third of the world’s population (28%) – 1 in 3 people - have never even heard of his name.

So while we all look forward to the return of Jesus WE HAVE UNFINISHED WORK.


Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

PDF sermon