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  Waves of Persecution
 

Waves of Persecution
Persecution of Christians during the period of the Roman Empire came in waves, depending upon the person who was emperor and his regional officers. Some Roman Emperors and their officials were quite cruel towards Christians and vehemently opposed to Christianity. Whereas others were more indifferent, giving Christians some respite from martyrdom. But until Constantine the Great none were Christian themselves nor did their duty to be a nursing father to Christ’s church. None until Constantine fulfilled their God-appointed duty, as it is expressed in
Isaiah 49:22-23 – “Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in [their] arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon [their] shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with [their] face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I [am] the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”
The general pattern of the pagan Roman Emperors is best expressed in Psalm 2:2 as, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed.”
was God’s plan to redeem the world through and unto Christ over time. And so despite the persecution Christ’s church was growing and marching forward, through the preaching of the Gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The message to the Roman Emperors, and ultimately to all Roman society, was simply, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all they thatput their trust in him.”
government- should be subject to Christ and Christ’s law.
The First Wave of Persecution, Under Nero, 67 A.D.
The first wave of persecution of the Church took place in the year 67 A.D., under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to a horrible temper and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that 'he wished the ruin of all things before his death.' Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed. Several thousand people perished in the flames. Many of these were smothered in the smoke or buried beneath the ruins. This dreadful conflagration continued nine days. Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the blame for the incident upon the Christians in order to excuse himself. This terrible lie only added to Nero’s cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution. The barbaric punishments perpetrated on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined his level of cruelty, and he contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most
infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then attacked by dogs until they expired. Others he dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire, but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, the Apostles Paul and Peter were martyred.
To their names may be added, Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth; Aristarchus, the Macedonian; Trophimus, an Ephesian converted by the Apostle Paul; Joseph, commonly called Barsabas; and Ananias, presbyter of Damascus.



 
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