Roman Christians Persecutions
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64. Roman Christians Persecutions
Revelation 17.6-8

"I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God's holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: 'Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.' The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Revelation 17.6-7)✞

Ancient Rome

Painting of Martyrs DeathHow John of Patmos describes Christian's persecutions is very significant. He says that ancient Rome is "drunk with the blood of the saints" and the "blood of the martyrs." The implication is that Christians persecutions were not merely a legal necessity because they would not partake in Emperor worship but that the Roman authorities took great delight in hounding Christians to death. It referred to the Empire's oppression, but it did more than stamp Ancient Rome as the great persecutor. She reveled in slaughter and enjoyed it as a drunken person relishes wine.

Emperor Nero

Bust of the Emperor NeroNo doubt, John was thinking of the Christian persecutions in the Empire under Emperor Nero. The Neronic persecution sprung from the great fire of Rome in 64 AD, which burned for six days and devastated Rome, according to Tacitus (54-117 AD), a senator, historian, and observer. There was a myth that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned," but this cannot be true because "fiddles or violin-like instruments did not exist until the 11th century AD," according to the Daily Express writer William Hartston! However, Rome's people believed that the fire was no accident, and they also witnessed those who tried to extinguish it hindered. When it did die down, supporters of the Emperor deliberately rekindled it!

Who Burned Rome?

Rome BurningPeople at the time believed that the instigator of the fire was none other than Emperor Nero. Nero had a passion for impressive and imposing buildings. The people thought that he deliberately burned down part of Rome's old, dilapidated wooden city to rebuild it with grandiose marble public buildings. After the fire, Nero built a large landscaped portico villa called the Domus Aurea, in ancient Rome's heart. Nero also was generally quite brutal in his actions, and when he was only 16 or 17 years old, he had his mother killed, and later in 62 AD also had his wife Claudia Octavia murdered. William Hartston adds, "In 67 AD, Nero competed in the then Olympic Games and remarkably won events in chariot racing, singing, and acting, probably by bribing the judges."

The Coming Beast

scapegoatThe Roman persecution began when Emperor Nero falsely accuses Christians of setting fire to the city of Rome. Emperor Nero had to find a scapegoat to divert suspicion from himself, so he fixed his attention on Christians. The Roman persecution was the earliest great persecution and the most savage of all.

The Name Christian

Rome Burningaccording to the Roman historian Tacitus (54-117 AD), Emperor Nero blamed the followers of Jesus Christ. He wrote in his "Annals 15.44," "Christus, from whom the name Christian had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius, (BC 42-37 AD) at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, (Prefect of the Province of Judea 26-36 AD). A most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular." Tacitus then spoke of the Roman persecution of the Christians by Nero, "Accordingly, all who pleaded guilty were arrested, then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred of humankind. They added to their deaths mockery of every sort. They were covered with beasts' skins, torn by dogs, perished, or nailed to crosses. They were doomed to the flames and burned to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired." Tacitus's description of Rome's persecution of Christians is one of the few passages in pagan literature where Christ's name independently occurs and describes the terrible abuse suffered by early Christians.

"Roman Christians Persecutions"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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