When I first heard this reason for the trustworthiness of the Gospel, I thought to myself that there are other religions that have adherents who suffer and die for their faith. Surely many Muslims have no problem letting themselves be killed for their faith. But I was quickly corrected in regards to what this really meant.
Muslims have died for what they believed to be true, but the early Christians died for what they knew was true. There really is a huge difference. The early Muslims took Muhammad at his word when he told them that Gabriel had spoken to him. However, the early church was there when Jesus performed his miracles, when he fed the 5,000, when he gave the blind back their sight, when he walked on water, when he raised people from the dead, when he rose from the dead and appeared to over 500 people at once, and even when he ascended in Acts 1.
If the message of the early church was a pure fabrication, we would have found out the moment that first stone was thrown, because no one dies for something they know is a lie. Instead these men died knowing what they had seen was true and even lead the first recorded martyr after Christ’s death, Stephen to say these words right before he himself was thrown from the city and stoned to death. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)
Read the following accounts of persecutions and executions of early church members:
- Thousands of Christians in the first century chose to die, preferring to be crucified, burned alive, or eaten alive by wild animals rather than renounce that Jesus was Lord or deny that they had seen him alive after his crucifixion.
- James was put to the sword by King Herod (Acts 12:2).
- Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, which fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy of (John 21:18).
- John was thrown in a huge basin of oil and boiled, but didn’t die. But was sentenced to the mines of Patmos Island where he wrote Revelation and later died of natural causes in Ephesus.
- Matthias (who replaced Judas) was stoned and beheaded by Nero.
- Mark was dragged through Alexandria for two days then they burned what was left.
- Simon was crucified.
- Matthew was slain with a halberd in Ethiopia for preaching.
- Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece for preaching.
- James the leader of the Church is said to have been thrown from the Southeast pinnacle of the temple, when it was discovered he had survived the fall his enemies beat him to death.
- Phillip was hung against a pillar in Heiropolis in Phrygia and stoned to death.
- Bartholomew was flayed alive upside down on a crucifixion shaped device.
- Jude was shot to death with arrows.
- Andrew was bound to a cross for preaching the gospel and left to be eaten by wild animals and die of dehydration in the desert.
- Barnabas was stoned to death.
- Paul was beheaded in Rome.
- Thomas was run through with a lance in South East India (there is a memorial that stands to this day of his influence there).
These men died not for what they thought or heard, but for what they had seen and experienced with their very own eyes. This is entirely different from those who believe based off what one man tells them like in Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhism, and pretty much every other religion in existence. These men either died for what they knew to be true, or they died for a lie; and no one dies for something they know is false.