In 284 AD Diocletian, then the cavalry commander of the Roman army, was proclaimed emperor of Rome. In 302 he consulted the oracle of Apollo at Didyma and there became persuaded that those who forsook Roman worship needed to be exterminated. His government would usher in the last, largest, and bloodiest of all the official persecutions of Christianity in Rome. Thousands of men, women, and children were burned, drowned, decapitated, crucified, starved, and torn apart, so much so, that Eusebius wrote, “the murderous sword was blunted, and becoming weak, was broken.” While many nobly suffered martyrdom, others could not bear up under the threats and renounced the faith, sacrificed to pagan gods, and encouraged others to do the same.
Persecution has often served to purge and purify the church of Jesus Christ. Our Lord taught that some would hear his word but having no root would only “endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately fall away” (Mark 4:17). It would be good for any who hold to the word of Jesus to consider this teaching seriously and searchingly—and, let me add, with a degree of fear and trembling. It would be far […]