As it is written, “Out of the fiery furnace comes forth faith as pure as gold (1 Peter 1.7), and that is nowhere more evident than among the persecuted Christians of Iran, now home to the fastest growing and largest network of churches in the world.
According to a recently released two-hour film documentary – Sheep Among Wolves Part II – all is not what it seems in the Islamic Republic 40 years after the revolution that swept the Ayatollahs to power.
The mosques are empty and many disillusioned with a faith that rules by terror are having encounters with the God of the Bible. The Jewish Messiah is appearing to them in dreams and visions – even in person – and disciples forced to meet and worship in secret are rapidly multiplying to such an extent that the authorities are having to admit their presence. Iran’s Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, is quoted as saying that mass conversions “are happening right under our eyes” 1.
In a country whose rulers have vowed to destroy Israel, these new Iranian believers are falling in love with the Jewish people and praying for them. And in a land where women are brutally oppressed, most of the leaders of this amazing move of God are women!
Even restrained estimates put the figure of practicing Christians at half-a-million, which in itself is a thousand-fold increase of believers since 1979. Other sources suggest there are more like a million who have bowed the knee to Jesus, the Jewish Messiah 2, almost all of whom come from a Muslim background.
Produced by Frontier Alliance International Studios with some voices disguised for their protection, the film says the gospel is spreading like wildfire in one of the world’s most dangerous places for Christians. It’s a church with no property, no denominational leanings, no bank accounts, no assets and no centralised leadership. But it’s a church that knows suffering and even martyrdom. Disciples know they will be raped, beaten or killed if caught, but they are prepared to offer their bodies as living sacrifices for their faith in Jesus.
One Iranian refugee who came to the West shocked her husband by asking to go back, having discovered that lethargy and indifference was a greater threat to her faith than persecution. Islam means absolute submission, and the filmmakers suggest that Christianity’s requirement for total obedience to God’s word is a catalyst in the rapid spread of true Christian faith throughout the Islamic state.
At the core of these new Christians’ faith is that all roads lead to Jerusalem, which means that they are praying for Israel in light of the troubles prophesied in the Bible for the Jewish state as foretold in the Bible in the days approaching the return to Jerusalem of the Messiah.
The Persian people (as many Iranians still prefer to be called) have been a blessing to Israel in the past. King Cyrus freed the exiles so they could return to their land and rebuild the Temple. And as Queen Esther saved her people from the threat of extermination, so Iranian Christians may well stand in the gap for the Jewish people today, so that what Satan has meant for evil God can turn for good. The narrators pose the thought that, as Haman (who was behind the above historic plot) was hanged on the gallows he had erected for Mordecai, the Jew, the spirit of Islam would soon suffer the same fate.
Christ Church, Jerusalem, headquarters in Israel since 1849 of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people (CMJ) founded in Britain 210 years ago, is also featured in the film. I suspect this is because of their crucial role, through hosting conferences for example, in encouraging reconciliation and a deepening of bonds between Jewish believers and their counterparts in other Middle Eastern countries including Iran.
More Iranians have become Christians in the last two decades than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to the region 3. And because it is seen as a strategic gateway nation that currently controls no less than five capitals in the region, we could see a domino effect of the move of God there with its growing church impacting nations across the Islamic world.