(Continued from yesterday)
More importantly, what does the Bible say? A few verses come to mind:
• Mt 10:32-33 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
• Mt 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (See also Mt 26:75; Mk 14:30, 72; Lk 22:61; Jn 13:38)
• Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
The Lord Himself said He will deny whoever denies Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not forgiven; Peter denied Christ three times and yet was restored. For both to be true, there must be a point when a person denies Christ under duress, but not premeditatedly and maliciously, and had not gone to the stage where he tramples under foot the Son of God, beyond which it is impossible to renew him again to repentance. So can someone who had renounced Christ be forgiven and saved? Apparently yes, provided they are truly repentant and have not crossed the line of no return. Only God knows the condition of the heart, and whether that person had crossed that line by pushing away the out-stretched arms of Christ to pull him back.
With respect to the second question, we need to look beyond the immediate suffering to the broader consequences. Why did the inquisitor want the priest to apostate so much? For at least 2 reasons:
• Effect on the congregation – Mt 26:31 I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED. (Also Mk 14:27)
• Effect on the apostate – Mt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Also Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2)
The objective of the inquisitor, and Satan behind him, is to destroy the infant church by cutting its roots. If the priest apostatized, he will bring down not only himself, but many Christians with him. The devil would have killed two birds with one stone. At the very least, they would lose their crown of life:
• Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
To be tortured for one’s faith is a terrible thing, but throughout church history countless have experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about being destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated, but gained approval from God through their faith (Heb 11:36-37). Satan can kill the body but is unable to kill the soul, unless they apostatized and God destroys both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). So if I were the priest I would choose for their and my sake to persevere. I just pray that God will strengthen us to endure to the end.