The Victorious Church Of Jesus Christ: Iran And China

Aug 14th, 2021 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus victoriously declared, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”[ESV]  Yet, as we view the church in North America, victory does not seem to be the correct term to use.  The church is in decline; toxic politics, discord over responding to COVID, and leadership failures are ripping it apart.  At one level, discouragement, defeat and discord are more characteristic terms to describe the church in America.  For some, the American church has lost its way; lost its passion; lost its power.  So, in this Perspective, I want to review the nature of the church and look at Jesus’ church in Iran and in China.


First, a brief doctrinal review the church:

  • The kingdom is the sovereign rule of God over His creation.  It has been challenged by Satan’s rebellion, which humanity has joined (see Isaiah 14:12ff, Ezekiel 28:12ff; Genesis 3).  When Jesus came in His incarnation, he announced that the “kingdom was at hand” (see Matthew 3 and 4).  Satan’s kingdom is one of darkness, rebellion and evil, which Jesus, as the light of the world, is challenging.  He defeated Satan at the cross and His return to earth will forever put down the rebellion and bring God’s rule to earth during His Messianic kingdom of 1,000 years (see Revelation 20).  Then the “kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15).  We are to pray that His “kingdom will come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).    Members of the church are citizens of the kingdom (Philippians 3:20), acknowledging Jesus as Lord and King (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9-10) and serving as His ambassadors until He returns (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  • The fundamental struggle in this age is over who has the right to rule: God or Satan?  The church of Jesus Christ is a part of this cosmic struggle.  The term “world” in the Bible is not related to creation but to the Fall.  It describes a world of evil, of adverse spiritual powers that work through humanity and aspects of God’s creation to produce hate, selfishness, greed, murder, violence and perversion.  Satan, who rules this “world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), seeks to influence people in such a way that the true function of creation is brought to ruination.  He distorts the structures of existence and seeks to hold people under the power of his perversion.  Satan works through the structures of culture to distort, pervert, and disfigure that which is good.  No part of the created order can escape the influence and power of Satan.  This created order involves not only the physical realm of nature, but also the cultural institutions that regulate human existence:  The state, economics, the family, ideas, social rules and regulations, and everything that orders human life and social institutions.  The reality of satanic and demonic power is real and integral to biblical revelation.
  • The church, created at Pentecost, is the New Covenant community of Jesus, indwelt by His Spirit, and empowered thereby to represent Him to the “world.”  We represent Him with a certainty rooted in Christ’s finished work:
  1. Christ has bound Satan and all demonic powers.  In Matthew 12:22-30, Jesus claims that He has entered into the domain of evil and found its source—Satan.  It was in the temptations of Jesus (see Matthew 4) where Satan met his match.  The Son of God, who came to enter the battle with Satan, seeks to destroy him (fulfilling Genesis 3:15).  His success over Satan’s temptation demonstrates His power and His authority over Satan.  He seeks to restore the wholeness of God’s creation that has been demented, twisted, distorted and corrupted by Satan.  Hence the importance of Jesus’ healings, raising people from the dead, and of His death, burial and resurrection.  He has triumphed over Satan in order to set creation free from the “bondage to decay” (see Romans 8:21).  In a word, Jesus is eradicating evil in this world by becoming a victim of that evil, which in the end will mean its total and absolute destruction.
  2. Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection, has dethroned the power of Satan.  In John 12:30-31, Jesus emphatically announced, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”  In Colossians 2:15, Paul declared that through Christ’s death and resurrection, He “disarmed” the powers and authorities and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  Christ has exposed Satan and his demonic powers for what they truly are.  Thus, the church need no longer fear the tyranny of his falsehood, his deception or of his manipulation and control.  When Christ returns, Satan’s influence over the world system will be utterly destroyed.  Matthew 25:4 and Revelation 20:10 make clear that Satan and his minions will be forever cast into the lake of fire.
  3. Between Christ’s resurrection and Satan’s final defeat, his power is limited.  But Satan is still the master of deception.  He still blinds the eyes of people to the truth.  He still masterminds faith in false gods and creates illusions for people to follow.  But we must always remember the words of Jesus, “Take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  That is the central importance of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Through such preaching and teaching, Satan continues to be exposed to his defeat.  Faith in Jesus Christ limits the extent of Satan’s activity.  Preaching Christ unmasks the power of Satan, for that faith opens a person’s eyes to the deceptive nature of Satan and his power.  Each time someone trusts Christ, the limitation on Satan’s power is exposed.


  • Given these profound truths, what can we conclude?  The church is the agent of God’s power in the world.  The church is inextricably linked with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, through which evil was defeated.  Robert Webber writes: “This new view of life belongs to the church because Christ, the head of the church, is inseparably linked with it.  His power over sin, death, and the dominion of the Devil now belongs to the church . . . The church acts in the name of Christ to witness through prayer, preaching, baptism, communion, lifestyle, and other means proclaiming that Satan is now doomed.  The church is a corporate body of people who know Satan as a deceiver and liar.  He has no ultimate power over them and their lives.  Consequently, the church is a threat to Satan.” [The Church in the World, pp. 40-41] Satan truly hates the church and seeks to destroy it.

Second, consider the triumphant news about the church in Iran and China.

  • Daniel Pipes of The Middle East Forum writes, “Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamist government has ruled since 1979: Christianity is flourishing. The implications are potentially profound.  Consider some testimonials: David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries stated in 2018 that ‘Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel.’  The Christian Broadcast Network found, also in 2018, that ‘Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country.’ Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year about Iran that ‘Islam is the fastest shrinking religion there, while Christianity is growing the fastest.’  This trend results from the extreme form of Shi’ite Islam imposed by the theocratic regime. An Iranian church leader explained in 2019: ‘What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? . . . What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini[, the founder of the Islamic Republic]?’ An evangelical pastor, formerly an Iranian Muslim, concurred as far back as 2008: ‘We find ourselves facing what is more than a conversion to the Christian faith. It’s a mass exodus from Islam.’”


What is fostering this extraordinary advance of the Gospel?  What is the epicenter of this spiritual explosion?  Pipes demonstrates that it is the phenomenon called “Muslim Background Believers” (MBBs).  MBBs  lack clergy and church buildings, but consist of disciples and tiny house churches of four to five members each, with either hushed singing or none at all.  “It’s lay leadership, in striking contrast to the mullahs who rule Iran, consists mainly of women.”  Iranian MBBs tend to be fervently pro-Israel. They are, explains a documentary, “bowing their knees to the Jewish Messiah—with kindled affection toward the Jewish people.” Pipes:  “Given the Iranian house church movement’s underground nature, estimates of its size are necessarily vague. Open Doors found 370,000 MBBs in 2013 and 720,000 in 2020Duane Alexander Miller approximates as many as 500,000, Hormoz Shariat at least one million and GAMAAN [the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran] even more than that.”


Understandably, Iranian authorities routinely arrest and jail MBBs, often for extended periods.

Indeed, Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco argue that the regime considers Christianity “an existential threat.” Reza Safa, the Iranian-born founder of Nejat TV (“ministering to Muslims living in Farsi-speaking nations”), sees Iran’s Christians as “an army of God” who are bringing Iran to “the brink of another revolution, this time orchestrated” by a Christian spirit.”  Pipes concludes “If this analysis is even partially correct, the consequences are enormous. The collapse of Khomeini’s regime would not only fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Middle East; it would also likely terminate the region-wide Islamist surge that Iranian revolutionaries forwarded in 1978-79, ending the malign historical cycle that largely began in Iran.”

  • The number of Chinese Christians continues to grow.  The government estimates that about 200 million of the 1.4 billion people in China are “religious.”  But Protestant Christianity is the fastest growing faith, with at least 38 million, up from 22 million about a decade ago (according to government figures).  However, the more accurate number is much, much higher.  As many as 22+ million additional Protestants worship in “underground” churches.  Indeed, today there are more Christians in China than there are in France (38 million) or Germany (43 million).  As The Economist also reports, “an unknown number of [Communist Party] members go to church as well as local committee members.”


The church is the most important institution God created to proclaim the Gospel and plunder the kingdom of darkness.  Only the supernatural work of Jesus through his church can explain what is occurring in Iran and in China.  Matthew 16:18 is true!


See Daniel Pipes, “Iran’s Christian Boom” in Newsweek (24 June 2021); The Economist (21 December 2020).

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