Will the Elect Be Martyred During the Great Tribulation?

Will the Elect Be Martyred During the Great Tribulation?


I know many believe that when we are delivered up to the anti-Christ, he won’t be able to harm a hair on our heads, because that’s what it says in Luke 21:18. I’m having trouble accepting this though. Mainly because there are plenty of other scriptures that seem to suggest otherwise.

The first that comes to mind is two verses above Luke 21:18, in verse 16, where it says …” and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.” Matthew 24:9 says we will be killed, etc…

Other things that have me questioning this idea is the fact that all throughout history the prophets, the apostles, and other righteous men and women were martyred for The Gospel’s sake. Even today, we still see this happening in other countries.

Then, we have in place The Noahide Laws, which are not yet being enforced, but state that the penalty for breaking one of the (fictitious) laws of Noah constitutes death by beheading, brought to us by the same people whom Christ said were responsible for all the righteous blood shed on the earth, Matt 23:35.

Then, in Rev 20:4, …”and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands;…”

I value your opinion on this. I’m wondering what you think about this? Maybe there are some scriptures I am missing, causing me to not see this?

Thank you,


Steve’s Answer:

Hi B.,

Thanks for your question.  I think you might find my Bible study, You’ve Got to Lose in Order to Win, helpful with this question.

It will give you my Bible-based viewpoint of why the elect won’t be martyred, but instead, rescued by Christ, at the point of martyrdom, at the end of the great tribulation.

Nevertheless, due to some of the very verses you’ve pointed out, I’ve wrestled with this question a number of times over the years.  So we’ll examine a few pertinent points:

You stated, “Other things that have me questioning this idea is the fact that all throughout history the prophets, the apostles, and other righteous men and women were martyred for The Gospel’s sake. Even today, we still see this happening in other countries.”

Yes, that’s very true.  And that’s the point.  The martyrdoms are “all throughout history.”  They’re not during the time of the great tribulation.  Two different time-frames.

Keep in mind that Satan himself will be here during the great tribulation, pretending to be the Lord, as St. Paul clearly explains in II Thessalonians 2:1-4.

And, of course, as others have pointed out, if he starts cutting off the heads of everyone who disagrees with him or who fails to bow the knee to him, then no one is going to believe he’s the Lord.  And his deception will fail.

The death he brings is a strictly spiritual death, which puts one’s soul in danger of eternal damnation, which is exactly what Satan wants.  When a person is deceived into bowing down to Satan while he’s on this earth in his role as the false Christ, that person becomes dead to the Lord, spiritually speaking.  And the Lord is put into the horrific position of having to condemn another of His children in the great white throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15.

I believe that’s exactly what Satan wants.  He knows if he martyrs Christians, they get eternal life.  But if he deceives Christians, they’re at risk of eternal damnation.  That’s his way of punishing our heavenly Father, i.e., forcing God to have to judge to eternal damnation as many of His children as he can.

Conversion v/s Martyrdom

That’s exactly why I believe the Scriptural passages that say we’ll be “delivered up to death” or “delivered up to be put to death” mean a spiritual death, and not a physical one.

In other words, Satan will be seeking to convert us into dropping our Bible-based beliefs and accepting himself as the “Christ” of God.

Keep in mind that he’ll basically have the rest of the world in his pocket at that time.  The elect are the ones he really wants to deceive.  That’s what Matthew 24:24 and related verses are talking about, i.e., the false ones will be working hard to “deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect.”

Mat 24:24  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

And why?  Because for the elect, bowing to the false Christ and refusing to allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak through them when they’re delivered up is the “unforgiveable sin.”

It’s a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that the elect are simply not allowed to commit because it’s the one sin the Lord can’t forgive.

Only the elect of God can commit it.  And it leads to their spiritual death in God’s eyes if they do, for it constitutes a traitorous betrayal, considering the fact that the elect know they’re facing the false Christ and not the true Christ at those trials described in Mark 13:9-13.

It is this spiritual death Satan wants to saddle the elect with.  Not a physical death.  That’s why the elect will be delivered up to him.

The Bottom Line

For me, the bottom line is Revelation 9:4-5, in reference to Satan’s “locust army,” which, of course, are his fallen angels and his myriad of followers on this earth.  As it’s written of this locust army:

Rev 9:4  And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.


Rev 9:5  And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

According to the above verses, the only people Satan’s locust army can “hurt” during the tribulation are “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”  No one else.

In other words, the locust army is commanded by God that they can’t physically “hurt” Christians who understand the truth of God’s Word.  They can only “hurt” non-Christians and Biblically-illiterate Christians.  But those who are sealed with God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit, and who know who the false Christ really is (i.e., Satan), cannot be harmed.

And verse 5 above tells us that during the tribulation, even the people the locust army are allowed to “hurt,” they nevertheless cannot kill.  They can only “torment” them (with deception).

So the idea that during the great tribulation there’s going to be mass martyrdoms of God’s saints, or anyone else for that matter, is erroneous, based on those verses.

Two Time Frames

Of course, as you mentioned, we have Scriptures like Luke 21:12-19, in which verse 16 seems to contradict verse 18.  In verses like that, it seems to me that the Lord is talking about two distinct time-frames.

Luk 21:12  But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.


Luk 21:13  And it shall turn to you for a testimony.


Luk 21:14  Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:


Luk 21:15  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.


Luk 21:16  And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 


Luk 21:17  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.


Luk 21:18  But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 


Luk 21:19  In your patience possess ye your souls.

Looking at verses 16 and 18, we see they appear to contradict each other.  Of course, in those verses are the Lord Himself is doing to the talking.  So it can’t be contradictory.  It has to be either a mistranslation, or two different time-frames being spoken of at once.

In the Peshitta, which is the Aramaic translation of the Bible (which many scholars claim is the translation used by Jesus and the disciples) those same verses (i.e., 16-18) simply read:

And your parents and your brothers and your relatives and your friends will betray you.  And they will kill some of you.  Then you will be hated by all men because of my name.  Yet not a strand of hair from your head will perish.”

In other words, when you break it down, and consider that Christ was speaking to the apostles before He was crucified (so Christianity did not yet even exist), then you have two time frames being spoken of.

The first time frame runs from the start of Christianity (i.e., at Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection) to just before the great tribulation, which is the same time-frame during which Christians would be martyred by the Jews, the Romans, the Gentiles and more, down through history.

For example, Stephen was martyred.  Peter was martyred.  James was martyred.  Paul was martyred.  And there have been thousands more Christians martyred over the course of history, from the start of Christianity to this very day.

Then there’s the much shorter time-frame of the great tribulation itself — which some say will last as little as five months — during which Christians will be delivered up to the councils and synagogues for trial, but would be rescued from martyrdom by Jesus Christ at His second advent, just as Noah and his family were kept safe in the ark during the five month flood.

The exception would be the two witnesses (Revelation 11:1-12) who the Scriptures tell us are martyred in the streets of Jerusalem, and possibly a third witness (Revelation 2:13) who will also be killed in Jerusalem.

I honestly believe the two witnesses will be killed at Satan’s behest for the specific purpose of frightening the elect into being too afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them at those trials, when they’re delivered up.

You and I both know that Satan is a Scripture lawyer.  So he knows the Scripture that says the elect will be delivered up to those trials, and that God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, will speak through them at those trials (Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-15).  Therefore, he must have a plan in place to try to stop the elect from allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them at those trials.

In other words, it’s my belief that the two witnesses will be charged by Satan with death-penalty crimes such as blasphemy, heresy and apostasy (for refusing to bow to him as their “god”) and will have the death sentence pronounced upon them and carried out by Satan and his henchmen.

Then those two witnesses will be killed openly in the streets of Jerusalem in the view of the whole world.  It will be quite a spectacle, which will be very emotionally difficult to take, even though we know from the Scriptures to expect it.

Then, the elect will likely be charged by Satan with those very same spiritual crimes the two witnesses were convicted of, and will be delivered up to the “councils and synagogues” of Mark 13:9.  The goal being to scare them into refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to testify through their mouths.

In other words, having seen the death sentence carried out against the two witnesses for their testimony, Satan hopes the elect will start entertaining doubts about testifying at that point, and will fear for their own flesh lives and squelch the Spirit when it tries to speak through them.

“Skin for Skin”

Satan pretty much gave away his modus operandi in the great book of Job, when he stated “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.”  As it’s written:

Job 2:3  And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.


Job 2:4  And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 


Job 2:5  But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.

In other words, Satan believes that God’s righteous servants care more for their own flesh lives than they do for God and His Word, and even for eternal life, and that if it comes down to it, all you have to do is threaten a man’s flesh life and he’ll cave in and do whatever you want.

In Job’s time, Satan wanted Job (which means “persecuted”) to curse God, as a means of proving Satan’s point that if you put a man under enough pressure, he’ll turn on God.

In similar fashion, during the tribulation, Satan persecutes the elect in order to scare them into denying the Holy Spirit from speaking through them.  Why?  Because that’s a death penalty crime in God’s eyes (Matthew 12:31), and Satan would love nothing more than to cause the elect to commit that crime.

So that’s one reason why I believe Satan has the two witnesses publicly killed after they’ve delivered their testimony in Revelation 11:1-7.  He’s attempting to put great fear into the hearts of God’s elect, and cause them to start doubting God and considering squelching the testimony of the Holy Spirit out of fear of losing their lives over it, just as the two witnesses lost theirs for so boldly testifying against Satan.

“Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me”

On a personal note, I’d consider it a privilege to be martyred for the Lord.

Hebrews 11:35 tells us the martyrs of God get “a better resurrection.” I assume this means that being martyred (i.e., murdered for standing up for the Word of God) earns a Christian greater stature in the eternal family household of God.

What I do know, for sure, is that when God’s elect are delivered up in the end, they will “love not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11), which I interpret to mean the legal charges the elect will be hit with when they’re delivered up to the councils and synagogues will all be death penalty charges under the Word of God.

In other words, God’s elect will be charged by Satan, in his role as the false Christ, with heresy, blasphemy and apostasy for refusing to bow the knee to him.  But as it’s written:

Rev 12:11  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Note the two things that give the elect the power to overcome Satan, and the third factor that sews those two things together:

1.)  “the blood of the Lamb,” i.e., the elect know that because Jesus already paid the price for our sins, we’re not in the least bit worried about being convicted of any sin by Satan’s sham court.


2.)  “the word of their testimony,” i.e., when delivered up to testify, the elect don’t get scared and back out, but instead wait for the Holy Spirit of God to speak through them at those trials.


3.)  “they loved not their lives unto the death” (i.e., meaning the elect of God understand clearly that this flesh life is very temporary, and that giving in to Satan at that point, out of fear of losing such a temporary life, would in turn deprive them of eternal life.  So they have no fear of losing their flesh lives.  Satan’s death penalty threats mean nothing to them.  They put their trust in the Lord.

And that’s why I believe Satan’s attempt to make God’s elect fearful of death will backfire on him.

Yes, there have been many, many martyrdoms of Christians throughout history.  So it’s my view that for the most part, the Scriptural passages about Christians being “killed” and being “delivered up to death” have already come to pass, and are still coming to pass (particularly in the Muslim lands of the Middle East) to this very day.

But God promises that His faithful elect will be rescued during the tribulation.  Again, if you haven’t done so already, check out the short study, You’ve Got to Lose in Order to Win.

Regards in Christ,

Steve Barwick


Steve Barwick

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