To The Seven Churches Which Are in Asia
January 29th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES WHICH ARE IN ASIA
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-29-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message following through in the series on the Book of the Revelation. The title of the sermon is the text, John To the Seven Churches Which Are in Asia, Revelation 1:4. It is a sermon on the background, the writer, the date, the time, the occasion of the Apocalypse. Five times in the book does the author state that his name is John. Revelation 1:1:
The Apocalypse, the unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John.
That is the first time. The second time is in the fourth verse: "John to the seven churches which are in Asia" [Revelation 1:4]. The third time he calls his name is in the first chapter and the ninth verse:
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus.
The fourth time that he calls his name is in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation and the second verse: "I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" [Revelation 21:2]. And the fifth time that he calls his name is in the last chapter, the twenty-second chapter and the eighth verse: "And I John saw these things, and heard them" [Revelation 22:8]. The writer therefore says that his name is John and that he is a servant of Jesus Christ, and in the ninth verse of the first chapter that he is a brother to the Christians of the Roman province of Asia and that he is a fellow sufferer with them in the tribulation and in the persecution that has arisen over the name and religion of our Lord. And in the last mentioning of his name, he says that he himself saw and heard these things that are recorded in the book.
Just who is this man who calls himself John? There were as many Johns in that day as there are Johns in our day. It was as common of a name then as it is a common name now. And out of the multitude of Johns, several of whom are prominent in the history of the early church, just which one is this man who calls himself John?
In about 250 AD, there was a great scholar in the Alexandrian school of theology by the name of Dionysius. He is called Dionysius the Great because of his vast scholastic erudition. He was the most famous pupil of Origen, the mightiest intellectual leader of all of the ancient church fathers. And in about 250 AD, Dionysius wrote a thesis that is a masterpiece of scholarship to this present day. And he took the position that because of the difference in the Greek language, and style, and syntax, and grammar of the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, and the Revelation, that the same man could not have written both of them. And Dionysius took the position that John the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel; therefore, he could not have been the author of the Revelation. Now, as we look into the inside of the Apocalypse internally to see the kind of a man that wrote the book, we have several flagrant and cogent characterizations of the author, whoever that John was.
One: whoever he was, he was a Jewish Christian, reared in Palestine, and for many reasons that I haven’t time to discuss, almost certainly in Galilee. He thought in Hebrew, but he wrote in Greek. He sometimes translates the Hebrew idioms into Greek language, word by word, idiom by idiom. He has saturated his soul and his life with the nomenclature, and vocabulary, and phraseology, and language, and thoughts of the Old Testament, and he uses the style and language and thought of the Old Testament both consciously and unconsciously. And when he writes in his Greek, he throws grammar to the wind. He has a syntax and a grammar all of his own. He’s interested in delivering his message, and if language and grammar get in the way, then language and grammar goes to the wind. So he’s a Jewish Christian, thinking in Hebrew, brought up in Palestine and doubtless in Galilee, and he writes a vigorous and dynamic message that pays no attention to grammatical sequence and relative pronouns and case and all the things that go into the beauty of correct and grammatical language.
A second thing about him: whoever he is, he was a man of deep spiritual insight. He looks deeper into the mystery of God’s plan for the ages than any other author in the New Testament.
A third thing about him: whoever he was – this John – he was a man of tremendous statement and conviction! To him, to this author, the recalcitrant Jews of Smyrna and of Philadelphia are the synagogues of Satan. To this John, whoever he was, Rome was a Babylon, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. Whoever this John is, to him, the Roman system of religion was a scarlet whore committing fornication with the nations of the world. And whoever this John is, he presents Christ in ineffable majesty and glory and authority, and He takes unto Himself His great power, and He judges in severity and in condemnation. He presents Christ as a warrior who rules the nation with rod of iron. He presents Christ as the Lamb of God whose terror in wrath is indescribable. "For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall hide us from the face of the Lamb?" [Revelation 6:16-17]. And he presents Christ as a King who treads the winepress of the fierceness of Almighty God [Revelation 19:15]. You wouldn’t find hardly a preacher in the world today like that man; whoever he was.
A fourth thing about him: he was a man of unquestioned authority. When he spoke to the churches of Asia, he spoke with great commandment and position and statement. He rebukes, he exhorts, he pleads, he condemns as one of God-given prestige and authority.
Where could you find a man like that? There’s only one John who when he writes his name needs no other epithet, no other descriptive adjective. When he just calls himself John, immediately not only one locality in the Roman province of Asia, but all of the churches of Asia knew who he was. There is just one John who just by the naming of his name, immediately lent authority and dignity and power to the positive statements that he made, and that is John the apostle of Jesus Christ, who left Judea in 69 AD, at the war that destroyed Jerusalem, and who came to Ephesus and was pastor of the church in Ephesus, the capital city of the Roman province of Asia, and who for more than twenty-five years had been the great authority and leader of God’s people and God’s churches in Asia. There’s only one John like that John, and that is the John who wrote this Apocalypse.
We find many substantiating things internally, on the inside of this book, to show that that John who wrote the Gospel, the apostle of Christ, is also the John who wrote the Apocalypse. Here is one: one of the peculiarities of the Johannine literature is this, that he uses the word logos, "word," as a personal name for the Son of God; as a personal reference to the Lord from heaven. "In the beginning was the logos," translated "Word." "In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God," John 1:1. In 1 John 1:1 you’ll find the same reference to the Word of God. And in the Revelation you’ll find that same unusual conception. In Revelation 19:11-13:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called the Logos, The Word of God
All through the Johannine literature, you’ll find that reference, and no other man ever uses it – just John.
Another thing peculiar to John is his reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God. No other New Testament author uses that nomenclature, the Lamb of God. But whoever wrote the Fourth Gospel uses that: "Behold the Lamb of God" [John 1:29]. And in the Revelation, He is referred to as the Lamb of God twenty-two separate and distinct and different times.
Another thing; John is the only one that writes in his Gospel that the spear pierced Jesus’ side – thrust into His side [John 19:34]. And he uses a peculiar Greek word, "to pierce." Zechariah, for example, the prophet, in the Septuagint translation – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures – uses the word "pierced" with an altogether Greek word [Zechariah 12:10]. But John, the only apostle, the only writer who refers to the piercing of our Lord, uses a Greek word in the Gospel and that same Greek word, and the only one who ever refers to the piercing of our Master, he uses it in the Revelation. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him" [Revelation 1:7]. And there’s that same Greek word that the author used in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John when he spoke of the soldier who pierced His side with a Roman spear.
What about the difference in the grammar then of the Fourth Gospel written by John and the Apocalypse? A very simple circumstance – extenuation. When John wrote the Fourth Gospel in Ephesus, he wrote it in contemplation and meditation and in leisure. And he had around him scholarly Greek friends who helped to make the language beautiful and the case sequence just correct and all the relative pronouns just right. But when John wrote the Revelation on the isle of Patmos, he was alone, exiled, by himself. And thinking in Hebrew and writing in Greek, he wrote as he preached in his pulpit, in a flame, in a fire, in a burning! And in the excitement of seeing those glorious apocalyptic visions, he wrote them down just as he would have spoken, thinking in Hebrew, writing in Greek. And when they came to the churches of Asia, thus written down, the people who read had too great a reverence for the authority of the great apostle, and they left it just as John wrote it, and just as you have it today.
But to show you how they’re both alike, the easiest Greek to read in the world is the Greek of John. Whether it’s in the Fourth Gospel, or the three epistles, or the Revelation, it’s easy, simple Greek. And if you want to learn to read Greek, the way to do it is to start with John. And whether it’s in the Fourth Gospel or whether it’s in the Revelation, it will flow beautifully along, very plainly, very simply said and written, showing that the same hand that wrote them both.
I haven’t time to speak of the external evidence of John, that he was the author. Justin was martyred under Marcus Aurelius in 166 AD. The ministry of Justin Martyr was in Asia Minor. And he said that John the apostle wrote the Apocalypse. Irenaeus died in 190 AD. Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp. And Polycarp was a convert of John. And Polycarp was pastor of the church at Smyrna where this Apocalypse was written. And Irenaeus said he listened to Polycarp many times as Polycarp told about the things that John would say and what John did. And Irenaeus said that Polycarp said that John the apostle wrote this Apocalypse. And Irenaeus was intrigued, and he quotes many times from the Revelation. And especially was he interested in the number 666 [Revelation 13:18] which he thought was the name and number of the Antichrist; which is what I think — which shows how Irenaeus was a man of great intellectual stature! I haven’t time to speak of Origen of Alexandria, of Clement of Alexandria, of Hippolytus of Rome, of Tertullian of Carthage, of the Muratorian canon, of a thousand of other things, all of which point in one direction: that it was John the apostle who wrote this Apocalypse. "I John saw, and heard these things" [Revelation 22:8].
Now, may I speak for a moment of the date of the Apocalypse – when it was written. It was written in a time of severe and terrible persecution against the churches and the Christians of our Lord. In the first Christian century, there were only two of those severe persecutions. One was under Nero who died in 68, and the other was Domitian who died in 96. Practically universally, the consensus of all New Testament scholarship is that the Revelation was written about 95 or 96 AD, in the Domitianic reign and under the Domitianic persecution.
There are two great reasons for that: one, the inner condition of the churches as exhibited here in the Revelation is altogether different from the condition of the churches as they were in the days of Paul when Paul wrote to them. Paul wrote to these churches of Asia just like you will find in the Revelation. I think the Ephesian letter is a circular encyclical – is a circular letter written by Paul to all of the churches of Asia. And in the condition of the churches, as they were in Paul’s day, who was martyred under Nero, and as they are reflected here in the Revelation, there’s an altogether different atmosphere and different change. For example, in the Revelation, Ephesus has lost its first love [Revelation 2:4]. Sardis is dead [Revelation 3:1]. The Nicolaitan party, no trace of which you’ll find in Paul’s writing, the Nicolaitan party is widespread and deeply entrenched [Revelation 2:6, 15]. Laodicea – that was destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Nero – has been rebuilt and boasts of its prestige and its power and its wealth [Revelation 3:17]. And in the Revelation, the great antagonist of the Christian people is the might and power and thrust of the Roman Empire and the Roman government. None of that you’ll find in the days of Paul and of Nero.
The second reason why almost certainly it was written in the reign of Domitian – he started in 81, and died in 86 – almost certainly, written in the last part of the reign of Domitian is to be found in the type of the persecution that was raised against the Christian people. In the days of Nero, the Christians were persecuted in Rome for Neronian personal reasons. As you know, Nero burned up the city of Rome, set fire to it in order to make space for his golden palace and to rebuild the city in marble and precious stones. And when the people began to suspect that Nero did that, he had to obviate the suspicion that was cast upon him, so he pointed to the hated, despised Christian sect and said, "They did it. They did it." And that was the Neronian persecution.
But when you come to the persecution of Domitian, you’re in an altogether different world. Domitian is the emperor that has gone down in history as the one who has bathed the Roman world in Christian blood; John exiled on Patmos, a typical way of a Domitianic persecution, to exile, to confiscate property, to banish away. You see, the reason for that lay in Domitian’s persuasion that he was God, and that he was above all gods. And he set up his statue and his image in every temple in the Roman Empire, and in every segment and corner of it, and demanded that the people bow down and worship him.
Suetonius, for example, one of the ancient Latin historians, Suetonius says that Domitian called himself Deus et Dominus, God and Lord. And Suetonius continued saying that whenever Domitian wrote a letter, or whenever he promulgated a law, that he always did it with these words: "Our God and Lord, Domitian, directs and commands thus and so." As Suetonius further says, that Domitian required that from those who addressed him verbally, orally, as well as from those who wrote to him by letter. Pliny is another historian who speaks of Domitian and his maniacal fanatical praise for emperor worship. Pliny says that Domitian looked upon any slight as an impiety to his deity. And Pliny further says that because he looked upon himself – Domitian – as the greatest god of all the gods, that Domitian slew uncounted thousands and myriads of victims who refused to acknowledge his deity. Can you imagine therefore the terrible conflict by which those Domitianic promulgations and decrees found that awful, awful conflict with the Christian churches of Jesus Christ? And as Domitian sought to make them bow, the Christians died by the myriads and by the thousands. They bathed the soil of the Roman world in their blood.
Now I want to take a moment to describe the Roman Empire at that time. In the first Christian century, the Roman Empire rose to its mightiest and greatest zenith. Its dominion spread and included the British Isles, down to the central part of Africa, from the Atlantic Ocean clear to the Euphrates River. To the civilized world of the first Christian century, Rome was the world. They were conquerors. And the Roman legionnaire was everywhere. And he was looked upon as being invincible. He was garrisoned in every part of the empire. The Roman Empire was built upon two things: conquest and commerce. Having one universal government, and bound together by fine military roads, commerce was everywhere. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, you’ll find more than a score of the articles that were traded in commerce in the days of the Roman Empire when this book, the Apocalypse, was written. Some of those articles are from Central Africa, some of them are from Far East Asia, some from Arabia, from the land of the Danube, from Gaul, from the British Isles, from North Africa, from everywhere; wealth accumulated and it was an astonishing thing the way the nobles vied with each other in extravagances.
For example, Caligula gave one banquet that cost more than five hundred thousand dollars. A patriot gave a banquet in honor of Nero and spent more than one hundred sixty thousand dollars for roses alone. Nero had a golden palace, and in it, a banquet hall that turned, following, simulating the movement of the heavenly bodies. And the women were not to be outdone. The wife of Caligula, Roman emperor, the wife of Caligula had a set of emeralds that cost more than two million dollars. And Seneca, the teacher of Nero, one time cynically remarked that the wealthy ladies of Rome many times suspended from their ears two or three or four estates. Two of three men you saw were slaves, chattel property, and they did the work, waiting upon the luxuriant patriarchal classes. And the poor were ground to death and swarmed into Rome for doles and to watch gladiatorial combat. That was the Roman Empire in the first Christian century, when the Apocalypse was written.
And now, may I close with a word of why the Christian faith was persecuted. First: the Christian religion was of all things missionary and dynamic. It was missionary and evangelical. It was missionary and evangelistic! As long as the Christian faith appeared to be a sect of Judaism, it was unbothered, unmolested. For you see, Judaism was a legalized religion in the days of the Roman Empire. Whenever Rome conquered a province, they immediately legalized the religion of the province. And they placed the religion and the gods in a great pantheon. If any of you have been in Rome, the most perfectly preserved building of antiquity is the Roman Pantheon, built by Agrippa I in the days of Julius Caesar; a magnificent building. The ceiling of that building I have seen copied all over this earth, a majestic thing in beauty, in aesthetic architecture. The Pantheon, all gods, pan theos, all the gods, the Pantheon was built by the Romans to include all of the religions of the empire. As they conquered a province and another and another, they brought the god into the Pantheon, and they all were worshiped. But when the Christian faith was preached, the Christians refused to be included in any Pantheon! It [the Christian faith] was exclusive and separate and apart.
Second reason why the Christian faith was persecuted: because it refused to bow down in idolatry. You see, the social, political, economic life of the Roman Empire was organized around trades and guilds and clubs and organizations. Everybody belonged to them – everybody. And the patron saints of those guilds and those trades and those social organizations were gods and goddesses. And the Christian refused to belong to an idolatrous organization. And they refused to have gods in their homes. And they refused to have gods on their chariots. And they refused to have gods in their yards. And they refused to bow down to the queen of heaven and the saints of the Romans. And as such they were looked upon as an affront to religion and to the power of the state, who looked upon religion as a tool of government to be manipulated and made concordant with, and to be used for the furtherance of the state. For the Christian, there was one Lord and one God, and He demanded universal obedience and obeisance, and His name was Jesus the Christ. But to the Roman there were gods many, and saints many, and idols many. And they demanded the Christian to bow down and to kiss the hand of the prelate and to bow before the image. And the Christian refused to do it.
Gibbon, who wrote the most scholarly, masterful history of all time, entitled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon has in that a sentence that is brilliant and incisive and correct. Gibbon says, "In the days of the Roman Empire, to the people, all religions alike were equally true. To the philosopher, all religions alike were equally false. And to the politician, all religions were equally alike, useful." And Christianity refused to be a tool of any government and of any politician and of any party. It stood apart and refused to bow. Consequently nothing was too vile to be said about those atheists who refused idols and refused to bow, who refused image worship and idolatry and the temples where the idols were placed. It doesn’t matter whether you call an idol by this name or that name; any representation before which you bow down is idolatry! And God has said, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, neither shalt thou bow down thyself before it" [Exodus 20:4-5]. And the Christian refused to bow. Therefore, no evil thing was too much to be said about those atheists, who refused to bow before the idol. If there was a storm and an earthquake, the Christians had offended the gods. If there was a drought and no rain, the Christians had offended the gods. If there were military reverses, the Christians had offended the gods. If there was a flood of the Tiber, the Christians had offended the gods. "To the lions, the Christians!" they said, "and to the stake, and to martyrdom, to blood and to death." That’s when the Revelation was written.
Why did they persecute the Christians? They said they were cannibals. They met in dark places and in secret places. And there they ate flesh and drank blood. "I heard them say so," they say. And they were in the catacombs, and they were in the dark places in secret meetings, eating flesh and drinking blood. "This is My body, eat in remembrance of Me. This is My blood; drink in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:23-25]. And the Christians were cannibals, said the Romans.
Why were Christians persecuted? Because they came in diametrical conflict with the vendors and the idol manufacturers and the souvenir peddlers! Why, they had a whole segment of the Roman Empire that made its living by manufacturing little saints and little gods. And they put them on their chariots. And they wore them as amulets around their necks and on their arms. And they put them in their homes and in their houses. And they put them in their idol temples. And they made a living manufacturing idols! Why, I have got stores that I can go into all over America where you can buy an idol any time. And when the Christian faith refused to conform, the manufacturer of the idol hated them, and persecuted them, and sought their life unto death. And the Christians were poor people, and outcasts, and slaves, and the gentry and the patriarch looked down upon them.
Why was the Christian persecuted? And finally, because of the refusal to accept the state religion, the worship of the emperor. And because they refused to bow, they were looked upon as traitors, traitors to the state, traitors to the government, traitors to Caesar! And they had a little test by which they ferreted out the Christians. He was brought before the magistrate and said, "Do you say Kurios Kaisar, or do you say Kurios Iēsous? Is it "Caesar is Lord," or "Jesus is Lord?" It was that simple. And if the man brought before the magistrate said: "Kurios Kaisar," Caesar is Lord, he was commended and sent away free. But if he said, "Kurios Iēsous," Jesus is Lord, he was drowned in his own blood, or he was burned at the stake, or he was fed to the lions, or he was exiled to die of exposure and starvation.
In 155 AD, the pastor of the church at Smyrna, to whom one of the letters of the Revelation is addressed, to the angel and to the pastor of the church at Smyrna, that’s Polycarp [Revelation 2:8]. Polycarp was pastor of the church at Smyrna when this volume was written. And Polycarp was brought before the magistrate as a Christian. And he was given the alternative: "Kurios Kaisar, Kurios Iēsous." And Polycarp replied, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never done me wrong. Nor shall I now deny my Lord who has saved me? Kurios Iēsous." And they burned Polycarp at the stake, the pastor of the church at Smyrna.
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar,
Who follows in His train?
A noble army, men and boys
the matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
in robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
to follow in their train.
["The Son of God Goes Forth to War"; Rev. Reginald Heber, 1812]
"I John, your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus" [Revelation 1:9].
We had four little children come at the 8:15 o’clock service to confess Jesus as Savior. And I asked one of the boys that stood by me at the front, I said, "Son, if tomorrow they put you in a lion’s den because you’re a Christian, or if tomorrow they burned you at the stake because you’re a Christian, son, would you still confess Jesus as Savior as you do now in this holy and sacred hour?" And the little fella, with his eyes aflashing with fire, looked into my soul and said, "I would." That’s what it is to be a Christian, unto blood, and suffering, and tribulation, and persecution, and death. As Martin Luther said, "Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other." Our life and our destiny, our souls and our tomorrows bound up with the faith of Christ. Lead on, O King eternal, we are Thy people and dare under God to follow after.
And that’s the appeal we make to your soul this morning’s hour. Somebody, trust his life, his soul and his destiny to the Lord Jesus, would you come and stand by me? Somebody you, put his life with us in the fellowship of this glorious and blessed church, would you come and give the pastor your hand? "This morning, I give my soul, my life to Jesus." "This morning, we are coming into the fellowship of this glorious church." In the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, somebody you, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I come, pastor, and here I stand. I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." Would you do it now? On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and to the front, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES IN ASIA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The author
A. The writer says 5 times that his name is John(Revelation 1:1, 4, 9, 21:2, 22:8)
1. Claims to be the servant of Jesus Christ(Revelation 1:1)
2. Claims to be a brother to the Christians of Roman province of Asia, and a fellow sufferer in tribulation (Revelation1:9)
3. Claims that he himself saw and heard the things recorded in the book(Revelation 22:8)
B. In 250 AD, Dionysius held opinion that John the Apostle did not write the Revelation
C. Characterizations of the author found in the Revelation
1. He was a Jewish Christian, almost certainly from Galilee
a. Wrote in Greek, but thought in Hebrew
2. He was a man of profound spiritual insight
3. He was a man of tremendous statement and conviction
a. Presents Christ in ineffable majesty, glory and authority, and unbounded power(Revelation 6:16-17, 19:15-16)
4. He was a man of unquestioned authority
D. Who is that John?
1. Very fact that author calls himself simply "John" indicates he was well-known in all the churches of Asia
2. Only one John who just by the naming of his name lent authority, dignity and power to his statements – the apostle of Jesus Christ
E. Internal evidence this is John the Apostle
1. Peculiarity of Johannine literature is use of logos, "word", as a personal name for the Son of God(John 1:1, Revelation 19:11-13)
2. Peculiar to him is the reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God(John 1:29)
a. Used in Revelation 22 times
3. John is the only one who writes in his Gospel that the spear pierced Jesus’ side(John 19:34, Zechariah 12:10, Revelation 1:7)
4. Extenuating circumstances explain the difference in grammar
F. External evidence this is John the Apostle
1. Justin Martyr
2. Irenaeus, pupil of Polycarp who was a convert of John(Revelation 13:18)
3. Origen, Clement, Hippolytus, Tertullian, the Muratorian canon all point to John the Apostle as the author(Revelation 22:8)
II. The date
A. Written during a period of severe persecution of the Christians
1. In first Christian century there were two severe persecutions
a. Under Nero, who died in 68 AD
b. Under Domitian, who died in 96 AD
B. Consensus of practically all New Testament scholarship is that it was written about 95 or 96 AD, under Domitianic persecution
1. Inner condition of the churches exhibited in Revelation is altogether different from churches as they were in the days of Paul(Revelation 2:4, 6, 15, 3:1, 17)
2. Persecution period reflected in the book fits the Domitian period
a. Nero carried on intense persecution for personal reasons
b. Domitian the emperor who bathed Roman world in Christian blood
i. His persecution was for the purpose of enforcing emperor worship
ii. Suetonius says he called himself "God and Lord"
iii. Pliny says he looked upon any slight as an impiety to his deity
C. The Roman Empire in 96 AD
1. In first Christian century, it rose to the zenith of its greatness
2. Rome was the world
3. Roman legionnaire looked upon as invincible
4. Built upon two things – conquest and commerce
5. In Revelation 18:11-14, you find articles that were traded in commerce
6. Palaces of the rich vied with each other in extravagances
7. Three of five men you saw were slaves
III. Reasons for the Roman persecution against the Christian faith
A. It was missionary, dynamic and evangelistic
1. As long as it appeared to be a sect of Judaism, it was unbothered
B. An exclusive religion – refused to be included in the Pantheon
C. It demanded universal obedience to another King – refused to bow down in idolatry(Exodus 20:4-5)
1. Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
D. They were seen as cannibals(1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
E. They came in diametrical conflict with vendors and idol manufacturers
F. They refused to worship the emperor
1. Polycarp burned at the stake(Revelation 2:8)