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“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9

observers seriously doubted whether the Christian faith would even survive this latest round of attacks in a long and painful history of persecutions within that country. There had been an estimated 700,000 baptized believers before this latest phase of intense persecution began in the 1950s. When things finally started to lighten up in the late 70s and early 80s, there were probably only a few tens of thousands of believers left. And even when the padlocks began to come off of the few derelict church buildings that remained, most of the larger cities in the country had less than one officially registered church for every one million persons. Even on that brisk November afternoon as I was watching my two boys spin around that city park to the electronic strains of “Joy to the World,” public proselytizing of any kind was still strictly forbidden outside the confines of those few-and-far-between registered places of worship. At the end of that year, December 25 would come and go just like any other work day: no public holiday, no schools or businesses closed, no airports jammed with holiday travelers, no special reunions with family or friends. And yet, as I sat there marveling at the irony of a Christian song about the coming of the Lord being broadcast openly in the public square of an avowedly atheistic nation, it suddenly dawned on me that nothing could be more fitting – or more true! During the two decades since the intense persecution of all Christians had begun to die down and churches had begun to re-open, Christ had indeed been coming to that part of the world with such urgency and power that by then – the end of the 1990s – the number www.ffmagazine.org

of national believers had swelled from tens of thousands to tens of millions. One thousand-fold growth in just twenty years! Christmas – the celebration of the coming of the light of God’s salvation to people living in a great darkness – was literally happening all around me in that nominally atheistic nation, and at a pace that had probably never before been witnessed in the 2000-year history of the Church. There could be no more suitable way to describe what was then happening (and is still happening in that nation to this day) than by loudly proclaiming, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” Jesus was finally coming to a place that had been awaiting his arrival for centuries upon end, and I just happened to be there – on the cutting edge of Christmas – seeing it unfold before my very eyes. On a brisk October day just one year ago, I found myself in a very different setting, yet one in which the same wonder of Christ’s modern-day Advent was also being loudly proclaimed all around me. It was the final day of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization – a gathering in Cape Town, South Africa of some 5000 evangelical Christian leaders from nearly every nation on earth. Witnessing believers from nations all over the earth praising God, I was reminded of John’s vision of eternity in Revelation 7:9. The Apostle wrote, “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” As we all, with our hundreds of different mother tongues, were together singing some of the best-loved hymns of the faith

in the Cape Town Convention Center, I could not help but reflect, with tears welling up in my eyes, upon the many amazing reports that I had heard that week of how Christ was coming with urgency and power to other parts of the earth as well. In Guatemala, the percentage of evangelicals had grown from 5% to more than 33% of the population within a single generation. In Algeria, the number of Christians had grown from fewer than 100 in 1990 to tens of thousands by 2010. In Israel, 10% of all Palestinians now professed faith in Christ. In Myanmar, the number of Christians had exploded from a few dozen in the early 1800s to more than 600,000 today. In Bangladesh, 500,000 former Muslims were now following Christ. In Africa, the number of believers had grown to nearly 500 million, making the African sub-continent the new demographic center of the Christian world. Though it was only the month of October, it was crystal clear to me in that moment that all of us in that Cape Town Convention Center – gathered together from every nation on earth – had actually been celebrating Christmas all week long. Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Dr. Joel Christenson is executive director of a Christian non-profit organization that places and supports Christian students and professionals in cross-cultural ministry contexts within East Asia for the purpose of expanding God’s kingdom on earth.

LBIM

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Revelation: The end of the story is just the beginning  

Whether we think of The Great Tribulation or our own personal or family tribulations, the Word of God offers hope. This hope is related spec...

Revelation: The end of the story is just the beginning  

Whether we think of The Great Tribulation or our own personal or family tribulations, the Word of God offers hope. This hope is related spec...

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