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 Christians 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 are not merely a legal necessity because they will not partake in Emperor worship but that the Roman authorities take great delight in hounding Christians to death. It refers to the Empire's oppression, but it does more than stamp Ancient Rome as the great persecutor. She revels in slaughter and enjoys it as a drunken person relishes wine.

Emperor Nero

Bust of the Emperor NeroNo doubt John is thinking of the Christian persecutions which take place in the Empire under Emperor Nero. The Neronic persecution springs 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 is 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! The people of Rome believe, however, that the fire is no accident, and they also witness those who try to extinguish it hindered. When it did die down, supporters of the Emperor deliberately rekindled it!

Who Burned Rome?

Rome BurningPeople at the time believe that the instigator of the fire is none other than Emperor Nero. Nero has a passion for grandiose buildings. The people believe that he deliberately burns down part of the old, dilapidated wooden city of Rome to rebuild it with impressive marble public buildings. After the fire, Nero built a large landscaped portico villa called the Domus Aurea, which is in the heart of ancient Rome. Nero also is quite brutal in his actions, and when he is only 16 or 17 years old, he has 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 begins when Emperor Nero falsely accuses Christians of setting fire to the city of Rome. Emperor Nero has to find a scapegoat to divert suspicion from himself, and so he fixes his attention on the Christians. The Roman persecution is the earliest great persecution and the most savage of all.

The Name Christian

Rome BurningEmperor Nero blames the followers of Jesus Christ according to the Roman historian Tacitus (54-117 AD). He writes 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 speaks of the Roman persecution of the Christians by Nero, "Accordingly, all who pleaded guilty are 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. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. They were covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs, and perished, or were 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 the Roman 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 the early Christians.

"Roman Christians Persecutions"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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