About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

Home Page

State Sponsored Persecution   


In the mid 60's AD Emperor Nero initiated a campaign to execute Christians in Rome.  That began ten periods of state sponsored persecution of Christians over the next two hundred and fifty or so years.     


Nero ruled the empire from 54 to 68 AD, followed by Galba (68 - 69 AD), Otho (part of 69 AD), Aulus Vittellius (part of 69 AD), Vespasian (69 - 79 AD), Titus (79 - 81 AD), Domitian (81 - 96 AD), and so on.  After Nero died, Christians lived in relative peace until Domitian initiated his brand of persecution.  With this bit of history in mind, read 1 Timothy 2:1and 2.


"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."


Many Biblical historians believe Paul wrote the above as a prisoner of Rome just prior to his execution by Nero around 64 to 66 AD.  I can certainly understand why he exhorted people to pray as he did.  Christians were being tortured and killed all around him. We know thoughts of his own death crossed his mind (Philippians 1:21 - 24). 


As Christians, we pray for our government in the hope it will grant us a peaceful existence.  Should we expect God to answer these prayers in the affirmative?  Is it always God's will for us to benefit from state sponsored peace?  Could He have handed our nations over to their sin which would lead to their demise?  He has done this before (Romans 1:24 - 26) and He can do it again.  Would this not result in tough times for Christians?   


History tells me that the prayers Paul and others prayed were not immediately answered in the affirmative as  was hoped.  Many Christians, including Paul were executed as those prayers were being prayed.  It took a few more years of cultural chaos before Christians lived in relative peace, and that only lasted two decades before Emperor Domitian began to persecute Christians.   


Jesus never promised us a life of peace.  To help His disciples keep their faith in Him through tough times, He told them in advance that they would be persecuted (John 16:1 - 2).  Christianity actually grew at its fastest pace during those ten state sponsored periods of persecution prior to 312 AD.  Tertullian (155 - 220 AD) was correct when he said "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."  Jesus said something similar when He said that unless a seed is buried into the ground, it will not produce more seeds (John 12:24).


After living in relative peace for about two decades, Jesus rebuked parts of the church for its laxity of faith (Revelation 2 and 3).  That required Godly discipline (Revelation 3:19) which occurred with Emperor Domitian's state sponsored persecution of Christians.        


Yes, pray for government so we can live in relative peace, but if peace produces a laxity of faith as I believe it has today, be warned.  State sponsored persecution of Christians can be God's will. 


Home Page