Christian Inroad into Moslem Nations




Dr. John Hoole – May 24, 2015




Omar Aziz walked all the way from one country to the other, across mine fields and mountains and deserts – for the funeral of a friend’s teenage son.  He sat between the boy’s parents, Nik and Ruth Ripken.  And what he saw was shocking.  He says people were singing and crying.  “But everyone there seemed to know that Tim was in Paradise,” said Aziz, a devout Muslim.  He questioned: “Why can’t we Muslims know that our loved ones are in paradise when they die?  Why is it that only these followers of Jesus know exactly where they are going after death?”


It’s thoughts like these that are getting Muslims to ask the right questions.  And those questions are leading to a revival in the Muslim world like never seen before.  Movements to Christ from Islam is occurring in every corner of the Muslim world.


Several years ago, I made a statement in our class that there is over one million evangelical Christians currently in the country of Iran.  Today, some that are working closely with ministries inside Iran are saying it is currently closer to 4½ million evangelical Christians in Iran.


Christianity and Iran is not just a recent combination.  Christians have been in Iran since the beginning of the Church.  On the birthday of the Church – the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, we find people from many nations observing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.


They asked each other, as recorded in Acts 2:8-11 (NKJV):


8       And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

9       Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10     Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

11     Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."


When Peter spoke on that day, we are told that Parthians, Medes and Elamites were listening.  These are ancient people that lived in modern day Iran.  When 3,000 people were saved on that day, undoubtedly many were of these nationalities.  6 centuries earlier in their history, they joined forces, under the banner of those known as Persians.  And their nation remained Persia until 1935, when it was changed to the Republic of Iran.


The greatest ruler of the Persians in antiquity was King Cyrus the Great.  Cyrus was one of seven people named in the Bible before their birth (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1).  Isaiah prophesied his reign by name about 150 years before his birth.


Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede coordinated their empires to defeat the Babylonians in 538 B.C.  The kingdom of Cyrus, who within 2 to 3 years became the only ruler, had a kingdom that stretched from India to Ethiopia and Turkey – 127 provinces.


Esther 1:1 NKJV


1       Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia,


The Elamites (Persians) are mentioned in the Bible 31 times.  The Medes are mentioned an additional 16 times.  In all those times, does it say anything about the future of Persia?

Jeremiah, in his prophecy, talks about the Persians (Elamites).


Jeremiah 49:34-39 NASU


34     That which came as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying:

35     "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Behold, I am going to break the bow of Elam, The finest of their might.

36     'I will bring upon Elam the four winds From the four ends of heaven, And will scatter them to all these winds; And there will be no nation To which the outcasts of Elam will not go.


38     'Then I will set My throne in Elam and destroy out of it king and princes,' Declares the Lord.

39     'But it will come about in the last days that I will restore the fortunes of Elam,'" Declares the Lord.


This is very interesting.  God says He will set His throne in Elam (vs. 38).  And in the next verse we are given the timing of this.  “It will come about in the last days.”  The Hebrew for “last days” is “AHREET YOMIM”  Literally translated, it means, “in the end of days.”  I believe we are living in “the end of days.”


The next thing we see is the scattering of the people of Elam.  Are you aware than in 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, nearly 4 million Iranians fled the country and settled all over the globe.


The growth of churches among Iranians is not exclusively within Iran.  Many Iranians who have converted to Christianity have fled to Germany, England and to the United States and throughout the world.  I mentioned the 4 million who fled the country in 1979.  Now the Diaspora (dispersion) of Iranians is 8 to 9 million around the world.


Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were only two Iranian congregations outside of Iran.  Now there are more than 100 Christian congregation of Iranians outside Iran.  God is establishing His throne in a radical Islamic nation.  The phenomenon is not limited to a few isolated locations.  It is not happening in just one or two nations.  He is not simply visiting some lucky town in the Middle East or Africa.


As always, Jesus touches people one by one.  Your new brothers and sisters in Christ live in Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gaza Strip, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Libya and many more.  God is pouring out His Spirit.  What is happening is a phenomenal miracle, and I believe we will see literally millions of Muslims come to Christ.  God is working one of the most awesome moves that has ever taken place.  God is raising up a standard against the spirit of Islam.


Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian-born evangelist based in London said:  “In the last 25 years, more Iranians have come to Christ [than in] the previous 14 centuries.”  This is not only happening in Iran, but around the globe.  We will return shortly at looking deeper inside Iran, but first let me give you some statistics in other countries.


More than 10,000 Muslims accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior throughout India this past year.  The Bible society of India is publishing thousands of Bible is various dialects.  In Egypt, more than a million people have turned to Christ in the last decade.  In 1990, there were only three known Christians in Kazakhstan and none in Uzbekistan.


But now more than 15,000 Christians in Kazakhstan and 30,000 in Uzbekistan.  In Sudan, more than a five million have converted since year 1990.  This is despite the fact that 200,000 Christians have been killed.  Seminaries are being opened to train pastors to shepherd the huge number coming to Christ.


Of all the nations of the world today, the one where we find the greatest expansion of evangelical believers is the nation of Iran.  If the growth was from a few hundred to 10,000, that would be good.  But its evangelical growth has grown from several thousand in 1979 to being well over 1,000,000 – some say more than 4,500,000.  Those who track these things have calculated that the evangelical church in Iran is growing today at the rate of 19% per year.  These are remarkable statistics for a country like Iran.  When Iran ran the Shah out of the country, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini vowed to wipe out Christianity in Iran.


As you see on the chart, the country with the second highest growth of evangelical believers is Afghanistan.  The story is similar to Iran.  One Imam used to boast, “There are 48,000 mosques in Afghanistan and no churches.”  One American missionary to Afghanistan, Heather Mercer, said that she remembers when there were only eight known believers there.  Now there are more than 30,000 believers.  Afghanistan remains an extremely dangerous place for believers.  In 2012, Open Doors Ministry, which tracks persecution of Christians, ranked Afghanistan the second most dangerous country for Christians to live.


Stories like this are happening in many places among predominant Muslim countries.  One could ask the question, “what caused this dramatic turnaround.”  Why is it that Muslims, of all people, are coming to faith in Jesus Christ now more than at anytime in history.


The turning point in the history of the church in Iran and among Iranians was the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  As I stated earlier, the name of the country changed from Persia to the Republic of Iran in 1935.  On April 1, 1979 it was changed to “The Islamic Republic of Iran.”  This was the first nation to call themselves an Islamic nation, although many others are controlled by Islam.


The implementation of Islamic Shari’a law has led to this phenomenal thirst and unprecedented exodus from the Muslim faith.  The openness of Iranians to the gospel is primarily due to the oppression they have suffered at the hands of Islamic clergymen who rule the nation with a ironfisted regime.  Hundreds of thousands of former Shiite Muslims are now Bible-believing Christians.


On one of our trips to the Middle East, in Amman Jordan,  we met with two American Christian women in one of our hotel’s small conference rooms.  They had traveled together in and out of all many of the countries in the Middle East.  They were seeing Moslems coming to Christ.


When we were in Istanbul on another of our Holy Land Trip, we had the pleasure of meeting with an Assembly of God missionary.  He and his wife and children had spent 3 years in Tajikistan.  That small country is north of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and borders on its east with China.  While there, they were under the umbrella of the “Convoy of Hope” ministry.


Now he and his family are in Istanbul as the Assemblies of God director of Central Eurasia.  He has made several trips into Iran, and corroborates the openness to the gospel in Iran.  He said to us, “Iranians are more open to the message of Christ than Americans.”  He also said, “the Iranians have seen what it is to live under Islamic radicalism and the people have found it wanting.”


About a year ago, a man was in the country of Iran.  Over a ten-day period, he visited more than a dozen mosques in several cities.  Some of these visits were on two Fridays, which is the holy day of Shia Islam, when you would expect to find the most people in mosques.  For a Muslim, Friday is equivalent to our Sunday and to Saturday for Jews.  The man would visit when he heard the loudspeakers calling people to pray.  In these more than a dozen mosques, he found a total of 2 worshipers.


Most of you have probably heard of an American citizen named Saeed Abedini.  He is the American pastor who is in prison in Iran.  He is 3½ years into an 8-year prison sentence.  His wife and two children are here in America.  Here are some additional information that you may not know.


Saeed was a devout Muslim, but came to Christ at the age of 20.  He had found a Bible and started reading it.  One night, he was awakened three times by a voice that said,  “Saeed, I am coming soon,  Go preach My gospel.”  The third time, the voice was accompanied by a bright light shining through his bedroom window.  Trembling and sweating, Saeed said, “I will do it.”  At that moment, the light moved away, and he saw what appeared to be the back of Jesus exiting through the window.


Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, recounts her own family’s arrival in the United States when Naghmeh and her twin brother were 9.  The two had wondered how to find God, and one day her brother came to her, shaken and moved.  He said, “I’ve found the God we’ve been looking for.  He had just seen a vision of Jesus.  More and more Christians are hearing about Muslims, especially in the Middle East, coming to faith in Jesus Christ partly as the result of having a vision or dream.


Franklin Graham said to a group of pastors:


“I’m not even going to attempt to explain it.  I just tell you, it is happening.  God is at work in that part of the world in a great way.


Missions expert David Garrison, a former missionary to Libya, and author of A Wind in the House of Islam:  How God is Drawing Muslims Around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ sees this phenomenon as part of a larger move of God in the Muslim world.


Several years ago, an Iranian pastor says a 22-year-old Iranian woman came to their church after seeing a vision of Christ.  He said she just showed up, hungry to study the Bible for herself.  The more she studied God’s Word, the more deeply she loved Jesus.  She soon discovered that God had giver her the spiritual gift of evangelism.  Not only did she have a passion to share her faith with others, the Holy Spirit had also blessed her with a supernatural ability to lead Muslims to Jesus.  Today, she leads an average of fifteen people to Christ every day.  She say that Iranian Muslims are so desperate for the gospel that typically it takes about five minutes to share the story of her conversion, and how God has changed her life before the listener is ready to also receive Christ.  Her desire and prayer is to lead seven thousand Iranian Muslims to Christ over the next 5 years.


More and more Muslims are discovering that the violence evinced by some of their coreligionists is not an aberration but is inspired by the teachings of the Quran and some Imams.  Muslims are becoming disillusioned with Islam.  They find out that the mechanistic ritual of praying five times per day, reciting verses that they do not understand and indeed mean nothing and are increasingly used as instruments to control their minds.  They are starting to question the validity of the Quran.


The Islamic State (ISIS) has executed thousands of people during their campaign to establish an extremist Sunni Muslim reign or caliphate.  In many areas, their tactics have actually caused people to turn away from Islam.  They have tried to be the most outrageous, in-your-face terrorist group of all times, but in many ways, this has back-fired on them.  The ISIS brutality is sending shock waves through Islam, and many people are really rethinking their whole theology.


Another startling reality is that many of the large mosques that do attract Muslims to pray have very few young adults worshiping there.  Jihad and the slaughter of innocent people is twisted and revolting to young Muslims.  With the technology available in the world today, tight borders cannot stop them from seeing and connecting with the world.


In order for Islam to be exposed for what it was and is, God has allowed its nature and philosophy to be put into practice.  Muslims had to be confronted with and see the reality of what they believe.  And once they have tasted the hatred, division, bloodshed and fear that Islam advocates then they will know that Islam is a religion of death and destruction.


Islamic Cleric reaction


This major surge in conversions from Islam to Christianity has not gone unnoticed by Islamic clerics and governmental officials.  You might not hear about it in the news or even hear about it in evangelical churches.  But it certainly has the attention of Muslim leaders.  What is really intriguing to me is that Islamic leaders are worrying in public about the Christian surge that is taking place in the region.


Two decades ago, a Saudi sheikh by the name of Salman Al-Odeh delivered a sermon entitled “Christian Missionaries Sweeping the Islamic World.”  He cites the World Christian Encyclopedia – which he describes as a “dangerous survey” and warned his fellow Muslims that “the number of Christians in Africa was only 9 million in 1900, or 9% of the total population.  In the year 1980- they had become 200 million and expected it to be 390 million in the year 2000 or 48% of the total population.” I can tell you that it is greatly larger than that today.


Eight years later, in December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad Al Qataani, another significant Saudi cleric, appeared in a live interview on al Jazeera satellite television.  During that program, he confirmed that Muslims were turning to Jesus in alarming numbers.  I quote him, as he warns the Islamic communities:


“In Africa alone, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity every hour.  Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity.  Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.”


It is almost ironic that when the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran in 1979 with his style of Islamic Shiite extremism that the true face of Islam was finally exposed not just to the Christian populace, but to the Muslims themselves.


In April 2004, an Iranian Shiite cleric by the name of Hasan Mohammadi delivered a stunning speech at the high school in Tehran.  He urged the students to “safeguard your beloved Shi’ite faith” against the influence of the evangelicals and other so-called apostate religions.  He went on to warn:  “Unfortunately, on average every day, fifty Iranian girls and boy convert secretly to Christian denominations in our country.”  The Shiite cleric actually mentions the involvement of the Assemblies of God.  The Assemblies of God was very effective in Iran.




Not all has been rosy for Christians in Iran – and certainly not for those converting from Islam.  The rise of Islamic fanaticism also gave rise to increasing persecution against Christians.  The current president, Ahmadinejad, was quoted as saying, “I will stop Christianity in this country.”


Soon after the Islamic Republic began its reign of Islamic terror in 1979, all foreign missionaries were forced to leave Iran.  Fortunately, however, the Iranian-born church workers were already filling positions of leadership.  They stepped into the place of leaving foreign missionaries.


In 1988 the Iranian government began a campaign against the Christian churches.  Many churches were closed as a result of the government persecution.  The Sari church in 1988 (A/G pastor – Mehdi Dibaj) - assassinated in 1994.  Kerman church in the spring of 1992 (Anglican).  The Gorgan church in October of 1993 (A/G pastor, Bagher Yusefi – killed 9/28/96).  The church in the city of Mashhad was closed in 1988 (A/G pastor – Hossein Soodman – killed 1990.


There were many others, but I mentioned these because a majority of these churches were associated with Tehran’s Assembly of God mother church, Jamiat-e Rabbani.  In June 1993 the Islamic government ordered all Christian churches to sign a statement declaring that they would not evangelize Muslims.


Pastor Haik Hovsepian Mehr of the Jamiat-e Rabbani Assembly of God church, who was also the president of the Council of Protestant Churches in Iran, refused to abide by the Islamic law of not evangelizing the Muslims.  He was ordered by the authorities to disclose a list of all Muslim converts in his congregation.  He refused.  As a result, Pastor Haik was assassinated in 1994.


But, as it has always happened throughout the life of the Church, persecution actually strengthens the church.  The blood of martyrs for Christ has always paved the way for a great move of God.  And an interesting fact is that this seems to only work for Christianity.  As the martyrs shed their blood, the believer who witness their great faith in God develop an uncompromising resolve to be true to Christ.  And even when Christians, out of fear, scatter in all directions, they take the gospel with them to their new areas.




I mentioned earlier that on April 1, 1979, Iran became the first Islamic republic in history.  Three decades later, the shock waves of the Iranian revolution are being felt around the globe.  In my opinion, Iran is the most dangerous terrorist state on the face of the planet.  And we are approaching the most dangerous moment in the history of their revolution.


Iran’s senior leaders have in recent years been trying to tell the world that the Islamic revolution is now reaching its climax.  They have stated publicly that the end of the world is “imminent.”  They have taught us that the way to hasten the arrival of the Islamic messiah known as the “Twelfth Imam,” or the “Mahdi,” is to destroy Israel, which they call the “Little Satan,” and the United States, which they call the “Great Satan.”  They have vowed to annihilate the United States and Israel, and have urged Muslims to envision a world without America and Zionism.  They have come to believe that Allah has chosen them to create chaos and carnage on the planet.


But, with God moving miraculously across Islamic borders, the confrontation, as I stated earlier, is much like the one between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.  It centers on the question of the ages: Who is the true God?  Everyone who grasps the right answer and walks in it will end up in heaven.  Everyone else will not.  The stakes are that high.


Put simply, the leaders of Iran believe that Allah is on their side, the wind is at their back, and the end  of Judeo-Christian civilization as we know it is near.  I believe just the opposite.  As an evangelical Christian, I worship the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, who is also the God of the New Testament.


Scripture explains the scope of the conflict and who is involved.


1 John 5:19 NKJV


19     We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.


While it may sound overwhelming to us to hear “the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” God is up to the challenge.  After all, the Bible says He can melt the earth with His voice – if an when He wants to (Psalm 46:6).  When He moves a little bit, we feel the vibrations, and when He moves forcefully, the earth trembles.


The day is coming, and I believe soon, when Christ will return.  Nothing on this earth has caught Him by surprise.  He has a schedule and nothing will prevent it from occurring as He desires.