Kool-Aid poisoned with cyanide. Now, it appears to be true that some of the parents forced their children to drink, and others may have been forced by men with guns obeying Jim Jones orders. However, the majority it seems, drank the Kool-Aid of their own free will. Were those people Martyrs? No. Not in the strict sense. They were not put to death because others found their beliefs to be abhorrent. They committed suicide, or were murdered, and yes it was a result of their beliefs, but they were not martyrs.
A martyr is: someone who is murdered because someone else objects to them believing what they believe, and objects strong enough to kill them over it. It is important to distinguish this from others who die because of their actions, such as the hijackers on 911. They were not martyrs, they took their own lives while murdering others.
In John 21, Jesus speaking to Peter says "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God."
And in 2 Timothy 4 Paul says "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."History records that Peter and Paul were both martyred for their faith in Christ. So how did they die? Not really sure. In works such as The Acts of Peter [end of 2nd century]
Of interest in this post is that the truth of Christianity is often argued from the martyrdom of the Apostles. The argument goes like this: “The Apostles all died for their faith, so we can know from that it is true." Is that a convincing argument to you? It is often tempting to quote an argument we've heard that we don't really understand, and although occasionally you can win a point that way, it is most common that you cannot. This argument for instance. In response, skeptics reply, “Although not common, it is not unheard of for people to die for religious beliefs today, just as the 911 terrorists did. Just because someone is willing to die for a belief, doesn’t make that belief true.”
What do you think about that? Should we accept the deaths of the 911 attackers as evidence that
So why even talk about the martyrdom of the Apostles? Is there anything we can learn from their deaths? Yes! Absolutely! I submit to you that the horrific deaths of the Apostles as they were murdered for believing Jesus rose from the dead, is not proof that Jesus did rise, but it is proof that these men themselves did believe he rose. They believed they saw and talked to the risen Son of God.
"Okay, so they really believed it, what does that matter?" you ask. Their belief goes to integrity which DOES inform us about the veracity of their eyewitness testimony. You see, if a man tells you he loves his wife more than anyone or anything in the world, and then, at some point she is kidnapped and he can save her life for $10,000, but he says "$10,000, are you kidding me?" and lets her die, that makes his declaration of love suspect.
Back to the Apostles. They died proclaiming that they truly saw the risen Christ. They wrote about what they saw, they followed what they taught, all their lives, it truly was a matter worth dying for to them. This is unlike other witnesses. The Three Witnesses to the book of Mormon for instance. All 3 of them, at some later point repudiated Mormonism. Not what you'd expect from men who are witnesses to the truth of the founding of a true religion is it?
You see, the proper benefit we gain from learning of the martyrdom of the Apostles is that these eyewitnesses didn't just talk the talk, they walked the walk, and if they had been imposters, lying about Jesus, it is unreasonable to believe that they would all be willing to live a life of suffering and finally die all on account of that lie.