Faith, Hope & Love Abide – Egypt’s Coptic Church Enduring Spirit

by Timothy Tay

Trust steadfastly, Hope unswervingly & Love extravagantly (1Cor 13:13 ) The Message Bible

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. (Mat 17:20) ESV

Some years back I met a Coptic pastor from Zabaleen in Egypt, Father Samaan. He told of a historical event that happened in Cairo during the 10th century reign of Caliph Al Muizz. The Caliph, as the head of the Islamic empire, had wanted to get rid of every Christian in Egypt and the opportunity was presented to him during a court debate.

He challenged the then Pope of all Egypt to move the mountain that was spoiling his view across to the Nile to prove that the word of God in the Bible is trustworthy.

The consequence of failing to move the mountain was for all Christians to be converted to Islam or be perished. Pope Abram as the head of the Church in Egypt immediately called for a three days of prayer and fasting throughout the nation. During the course of their prayers the ground beneath the mountain shook and after the third time it had clearly moved from its foundation.

The Caliph was so impressed that he not only he spared the lives of the Christians but became a great supporter of Pope Abram. According to Father Samaan some geologists recently did carried out a test on the grounds surrounding the mountain to determine whether there was a mass shifting of land formation at the location and to their surprise they concluded that there was indeed an earthquake of such a magnitude that it had forced the mountain to move some distance away from its base!

This event in the 10th century contributed to some extent to the resilience of the Church in Egypt in stark contrast to the demise of churches all over the Arab speaking nations over the duration of the various Islamic caliphates.  Incidentally, all the seven churches referred to in the book of Revelation had all ceased to exist. What made some Christian communities thrive and others decline?

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6)

Not even persecution which the Coptic’s are experiencing today will diminish their faith in Christ.

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. (Rev 12:11)

God has not forgotten Egypt:  

In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.(Isa 19:19-20) 

Isaiah has not written about the past when God used Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt but he refers to a future date when Egypt once again resumed its ancient enmity against Israel. Isaiah went on to declare in the same passage that:

In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction. (Isa 19:18)

Hallelujah!

It is a mystery as to the actual location of the City of Destruction and of its role in Egypt’s future.

More importantly, the Church in Egypt can take heart that God is preserving them from their enemies and the Christians who kept faith will surely share in His glory.

What’s more, The day will surely come when even the powers from the east and from the west will join Israel as one family of worshippers:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”(Isa 19:23-25) Assyria was the superpower at the time.

The reference is probably not the geographical Assyria which is in today’s Iraq and Iran but most likely to USA and its allies.

One New Man 

The Arab Spring is an ominous development as far as Israel is concern.

Europe, regrettably, appears to be abandoning Israel and America’s resolve to protect Israel is weakening.

However, take heart for our Lord had said to this generation to keep watch and to look out for the sign of the budding fig tree (a figurative statement about Israel):

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree:

As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.(Matt 24:32-33)

The God of Israel has not abandon the Jews:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”(Rom 11:25-27)

The time is coming when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, if indeed it has not already come, and the hardening that has come upon Israel is giving way to repentance and we shall hear the sound of their cries for their Messiah, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai”:

For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”(Mat 23:39)

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph 2:14-16)

When faith, hope and love abide, eternal peace is our reward and God be our inheritance.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:14)

Maranatha. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Timothy Tay

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