Islam and Christianity Part 17: Iran and the Gospel

Acts 2:4,9 “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Parthians and Medes and Elamites…”

Last week, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz with a surface-to-air missile. They claim the drone violated Iranian airspace, while the US claims the drone was in international airspace. Only one week earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of attacking Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman after the US Navy released a video showing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of their hulls.

With the shooting down of our drone, many US officials called for a retaliatory strike on Iran. Only minutes beforehand, President Trump aborted the attack when he learned that Iranian casualties would number around 150, which he later explained was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone”.

Tensions remain high between the two countries, after two major events in the past year. First, back on May 8, 2018, the US cancelled the previous administration’s Nuclear Deal with Iran, which would have allowed Iran to have a nuclear bomb by 2030. Second, the Trump administration has imposed economic sanctions against Iran which are significantly crippling its economic health. Iran is now revealing its true character as this President is taking a much firmer stance with a known state sponsor of global terrorism.

While we watch the heated situation between these two governments, something interesting is happening within Iran. As Fox News reporter Herb London explains, “Despite the fact that Iran’s Islamist dictatorship makes hatred of America the foundation of its foreign policy and seeks to indoctrinate the population with anti-American feelings from an early age, the most pro-American people in the Middle East – other than Israelis – are Iranians. Young Iranians are generally well-educated and more modern and moderate than their parents. They have grown frustrated by the political and economic constraints that have kept them from achieving success, and by Islamic fundamentalism that places so many restrictions on their lives.”

But there is another more significant movement in Iran. People are turning to Jesus Christ. Terry Ascott, CEO of SAT-7, a Christian broadcasting network in the Middle East, tells us that

“Iran is home to one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. There seems to be a crisis of faith in Iran, perhaps because of the abuse of power by ‘religious’ leaders, the economic problems, and the violent oppression of any dissent.”

In NPR’s December 2018 article, Sociology Professor Sebnem Koser Akcapar explains:

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting to Christianity have grown tremendously over the years. A small church of 20 to 30 families is now a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday.”

At the United Pentecostal Church in Denizli, Rick Robinson reported that “We can’t keep up with the demand. We opened churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.” This is happening despite Iran’s rating by Open Doors as the 9th most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.

To the student of the Bible, we can find Iran in the New Testament as one of the nations represented at the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the early church and empowered people to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are seeing a return of God’s Spirit moving in the Iranian people.

In our verse this week, Acts 2:9 lists “Elamites” as one of the nations represented at Pentecost. A little digging uncovers who these Elamites are. In Genesis 10:22, one of Shem’s sons is Elam. Iranian university textbooks, as well as museums, trace Iran’s lineage back to Elam! We then see in Genesis 14:1-12 how an Elamite king named Chedorlaomer led a military campaign that included the capture of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, who defeated these kings to rescue Lot. This event occurred around 2,000BC.

Then we find Daniel in the Elamite city of Susa where he records in 550BC his famous vision in Daniel 7:9-14 of Jesus Christ as the Ancient of Days. Later, Elam is absorbed into the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great later overthrew Persia. Then Rome came to power. Finally, Muslim rise and rejection of Byzantine rule around 800AD has remained to this day in the Middle East region, and it is here we find Iran today.

What a miracle to witness Bible-rejecting people of Iran, who had representation at Pentecost, returning to Jesus Christ. Those Elamites in Acts 2 heard the gospel of Christ’s life and death in their native tongue! As in 33AD, these ‘Elamites’ in Iran are reading the Bible and boldly declaring the good news of Jesus Christ!

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #353

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