It started after the resurrection in the first century (Acts 5:17-42) Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 6:1-15) was the first martyr. You can read about it in Acts 7:1-59. And it continued all through the Roman Empire until Constantine declared that the whole empire would leave behind their pagan beliefs and follow the true faith of Jesus Christ. There were some emperors that were more lenient than others, but most would try to force Christians to bow to the Roman gods, burn incense or declare that the emperor was a deity. When they didn’t, the were killed. You can read all about them in Fox’s Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Deaths of the Early Christian and Protestant Martyrs.
Christian Persecution Continues Today
All over the world, Christians are being persecuted daily. It seems to be increasing and not just in 3rd-world countries, but in the U.S. Jesus prophesied and warned us:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Matthew 5:10-12
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” ~Mark 10:29-31
This video show the current persecution of Christian in Nigeria:
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. ~Tertullian (an Early Christian Apologist)
October 31 is not only Halloween, it’s also Protestant Reformation Day – a pivotal point in Christian History.
It started with Jesus and the Resurrection when he defeated death. Then Pentecost when God gave us the Holy Spirit. The Paul’s missionary journeys to spread the Gospel. Emperor Constantine converted from Paganism to Christianity declaring that Roman Empire was now Christian in 4th century.
Though there are many more pivotal points in Christian History, besides the ones mentioned above, The Protestant Reformation is the most crucial.
Martin Luther – the father of the Protestant Reformation
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk posted the 95 Thesis on the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany. It listed 95 ways that the Roman Catholic of the time, did not follow the Bible.
The Bible, back then was only available in Latin, a language that only Catholic priest read and spoke. He translated the Bible into German so that the public could read it and learn the truth as God declared it rather what the Catholic Popes & church fathers invented.
Some of the “inventions” of the Catholic are:
Purgatory – doesn’t exist and it’s not in the Bible
Buying or praying someone into heaven – only belief in Christ Jesus can get you into heaven.
You cannot be saved by works – people are saved by the Grace of God and Christ Jesus.
The church was selling “indulgences” saying that you can buy your way into heaven. This was a scam to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Luther, as a monk, was bothered with going to weekly confessions and having to confess his sins to a priest. He felt that if he died before he went to confession, he would go to hell.
He insisted that, since forgiveness was God’s alone to grant, those who claimed that indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error. Christians, he said, must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.*
Luther wrote about “justification” in the Smalcald Articles:
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24–25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23–25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us … Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).*
He preached against snakes, sins and witchcraft converting many druids to Christianity
Today is St. Patrick’s Day when many mark the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. But he was born in Roman Britain around AD 389 and died March 17 460 or 493. Roman Britain was the portion of the island of Great Britain which was controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 to ca. AD 410. In AD 313, Emperor Constantine, after converting to Christianity, issued the Edict of Milan which proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the whole empire, thus ending the persecution of the Christians.
St. Patrick witnessed the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. His grandfather, Potitus was a Christian priest and his father, Calpornius a deacon.
As a teenager, Patrick was captured by pirates, sold into slavery and enslaved for 6 years in Ireland where he worked as a herdsman. It was his faith that helped him persevere. He prayed daily and grew in his faith.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” ~Psalm 91:2
He heard a voice saying that he would go home soon and that his ship was ready. He fled his master and journeyed to a port 200 miles away. There he found a ship and he eventually returned home to Britain. A few years later, he had a vision:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.1
It is suggested that the Victoricus of Patrick’s vision was Saint Victricius, bishop of Rouen in the late 4th century and the only European Christian to support and perform the conversion of pagans. He visited Britain in AD 396.2
The Shamrock was used by St. Patrick to explain the Triune God.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. That is why the shamrock is the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.
So if you go out an celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you are celebrating a Christian holiday.
God’s might to direct me,
God’s power to protect me,
God’s wisdom to protect me,
God’s eye for discerning,
God’s ear for my hearing,
God’s word for my clearing. ~St. Patrick
It was St. Patrick’s unswerving faith and determination that led him to Christianize Ireland which in turn, became the center of Christian influence throughout Europe.
Many of God’s greatest soldiers underwent excruciating trials before God used them. Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8)
Shall we not then endure whatever degree of trials God sends to mold us?
1 Peter 1:6-7
2 Peter 2:4-9
In researching my second novel (which is about 1/3 done), Follow Me: Love in the Second Century, I read a lot about the Early Church Fathers and the Christian Martyrs.
Map of the Roman Empire
Back in the 2nd century, the Christian church was growing and spreading all over the Mediterranean, Europe, East Asia, India, and North Africa. The Roman Empire covered the whole Mediterranean area. The Romans didn’t know what to make of the Christians.
They thought the Christians were a cult of cannibals because they talked about the Lord’s supper where they drank Jesus’ blood and ate his body.
My novel is about 2 brothers from Alexandria Egypt, descendants from the characters of my first novel, the award-winning Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century. They leave their families to go help a fledgling church in Spain. Before they leave they meet with Clement of Alexandria who teaches them about the martyrs. And on their journey, they witness martyrdom and are almost martyred themselves.
My 3rd novel, Everlasting: Love in the Third Century will be an adaptation of The Prison Diary of Perpetua. She was put to death because she would not renounce Jesus Christ and burn incense to the Roman gods or the emperor. She was pregnant and gave birth in prison!
It’s almost understandable that the Romans thought of the Christians as a threat to their society, culture, religion and way of living. The Christians preached that the Roman gods were non-existent and there is only one true God and Jesus is His Son. And this continued until the 4th century when Constantine converted the whole empire to Christianity.
Christian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, in prison since 2009 for renouncing Islam.
In today’s world, there is still rampant persecutions of Christians. The most recent and currently “news-breaking” story is of Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, who is imprisoned in Iran since 2009. He was accused of apostasy, the abandonment or renunciation of a religious belief. He renounced Islam and became a Christian. He is sentenced to death.
He is told that if he converts back to Islam and renounces Christianity, his life will be spared.
Would you die for your faith?
Living in America we take for granted that we can believe what we want to believe, attend or not attend a church, preach out loud, meet in our homes, and write what we please. It’s Freedom and we need to thank God that we have it every day.
But what if you were traveling in a foreign country and someone overheard you say that you’re a Christian and speak about believing in Jesus Christ, were arrested and sentenced to death? Would you renounce Jesus to save your life? Please comment below.
Great Blessings! Soli Deo Gloria!
Award-Winning Christian Author
My church is doing a new 31-week study called “The Story.” As a historical writer, I’m enjoying this different way of looking at the Bible. There series goes through the WHOLE BIBLE, which seems daunting at first, but not if you follow its study guide and skip around the Bible a bit.
Back in the day, before written text was easy to pass from person to person, Bible stories were taught verbally. Then copies of the scrolls were passed around, later codices, which evolved into books. The Old Testament was first written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek (The Septuagint). The New Testament written in Greek, later Latin and finally in the language of the people, English & German first, and now its in over 2,000 different languages.
But I digress. As we’re starting the story from “In the beginning…” reading Genesis 16:9-12, I realized that passage is a prediction of what’s happening in today’s world.
Genesis 16 is the story of Hagar. When Abraham was called Abram, God tells him that he and his wife, Sarai, will have a child. Abram was 90 and Sarai was 80 – a little late to have a kid. So Sarai get’s the bright idea to have her husband lie with her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar.
Well, Hagar conceives, Sarai is jealous, mistreats Hagar and Hagar flees. (Genesis 16:6) The angel of the Lord finds and tells Hagar:
“Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
The angel of the LORD also said to her:
“You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son.You shall name him Ishmael, (which means “God hears”) for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
“His Brothers” is the nation of Israel. Isaac is later born to Sarah and Abraham (God changed their names, Abraham means father of many) with the promise that his descendants will number as many as the stars in the sky (the Jews).
Later, God explains himself not to get the two sons confused. Genesis 17:20-21
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
The Palestinians are descendants of Ishmael and the Israelis, of Isaac, both of whom are descendants of Abraham (who did become the “father of many.”)
So all the problems Israel is having now were predicted in the Bible and the prophecy came true!
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” ~Jeremiah 23:5
Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. ~Jeremiah 31:5
This is what the LORD says; “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15
That’s the killing of the innocents when King Herod, who was a Gentile who converted to Judaism, was afraid of the King of Jews that the Magi spoke of that he had all the babies killed. (Matthew 2:16-17)
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. ~Hosea 11:1
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”~Matthew 2:14-15
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~Zechariah 9:9
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” ~Matthew 21:1-3
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son…” ~Zechariah 12:10
“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
“On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land.” ~Zechariah 13:1-2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth…” ~Micah 5:2-4
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. ~Luke 2:4
Today in the town of David [Bethlehem] a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~ Luke 2:11
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. ~Malachi 3:1
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” ~John 1:29-31
The Jews of the first century expected a coronation, but what they got was an act of redemption.
But it is not too late for the Jews and all the nations.
There are many more prophesies about Jesus that I didn’t touch on especially the ones describing His crucifixion to smallest detail. I will save that for Holy Week.
My goal here was to prove that Jesus is The Messiah, The Christ, Emmanuel, God with Us, the Baby in the manger in Bethlehem, the Lamb of God, The Savior, The Son of God, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. I think I did that.
Jesus didn’t die so we could have religion. He died so we could have a relationship with Him.
…but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan…Isaiah 61:1
The Romans had a custom of naming roads by where it led. They named the road to the Sea of Galilee, “Via Maris” or “The Way of the Sea”. It goes through Capernaum on the north shore.
In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.~Isaiah 4:2
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.~ Isaiah 11:1
Jesse was King David’s Father. King David’s descendants left Jerusalem and settled in the north founding the town of Nazareth. Therefore, Mary was also from David’s lineage, thus Jesus is a blood descendent of King David.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy… Isaiah 35:5-6
This prophecy was put to song in the lovely modern Christmas carol, Mary Did You Know?
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” ~Isaiah 40:1-5
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness…” ~Isaiah 42:6-7
“…This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”~John 3:19-21
For this is what the LORD says:
“…I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever. And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants … Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” ~Isaiah 56:5,7
When Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers he declared,
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:13
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. ~Isaiah 61:1-3
In Nazareth, where he grew up, on the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and read the above passage, after he read it, he said,
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21
My series, The Christian Centuries, starts in the first century after Jesus was born. I plan to follow Christian church history through the centuries.
But Christianity didn’t begin in the year 1. Christianity is deeply rooted in the rich history of Judaism.
As a historian, my curiosity peaks when I read something like, “as written in the scriptures” or “in fulfillment of the scriptures” which is found many times in the New Testament regarding Jesus.
I find it fascinating that Jesus’ birth, ministry and death were predicted more than 1500 years before he even came to earth.
Jesus fulfilled over 400 Old Testament prophecies. The odds of one person doing that who was not the Messiah are too great to figure. It is impossible.1
Yet, many of today’s Jews still believe in the 12th Principle of the Jewish Faith:
I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. I await His arrival with everyday. If the generation is worthy, then He’ll be revealed.
The question here is who decides if a generation is worthy?
Well, he did come. His name is Jesus. And God thought that it was time for the Messiah to arrive to save the world, the whole world from sin and death.
Here are some of them starting with the earliest book of the Bible, Genesis.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”~ Genesis: 12:2-3
Then in the book of Numbers, the 3rd book of Moses written during the 40 years the Israelites were wandering in the desert – about 1500 years before Jesus was born.
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth…” ~Numbers 24:17
This was prophesied by Balaam a former sorcerer through whom God picked to speak. A 3000 year old inscription in Aramaic of that verse exists in Jordan. Balaam’s prophecy led the wise men to look for a start that announced the birth of king.
Then we have from the book of Deuteronomy which was Moses’ last chance to address the Israelites, the people he loved.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. ~Deuteronomy 18:15
Here Moses tells the Israelites not just that Jesus is coming, but that they must listen to Him.
Then we have this passage from Job, the guy whose faith God tested, saying:
He alone stretches out the heaven and treads on the waves of the sea. ~Job 9:8
$1 from the sale of each book benefits StreetLight Phoenix
…“In heaven we’ll be all equal in God’s kingdom. Here in the Roman Imperium, there are still slaves and masters.”
“If it were up to me, I would free all our slaves.” As she said that, Claudia looked up to see Anthony standing next to her smiling.
“Hello, Claudia, you’ve learned quickly. I believe there will come a time when there will be no more slavery in this world.”
“Is that too much to hope for?” she asked him.
“No, Claudia, it’s not. If we work to spread the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, people will start to change the way they live. I’ve seen it already. Many Romans who joined the church gave their slaves their freedom.” … (from Deo Volente! [God Willing] award-winning novel)
This passage stood out for me as I reread the novel in preparation for publication. I wrote it years ago and since then, I’ve become aware of the gruesome fact that slavery still exists in the world – more now than ever before. Even in the city where I live – Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s child rape for profit. Girls – average age of 13 – are enticed, captured, branded and forced into prostitution.
When the pimps are caught, these girls had no where to go until Streetlight Phoenix came into existance. It’s a safehouse where police can take these girls and they get help, rehabilitation, education, counseling and spiritual guidance. Some have children. Some are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some are malnourished. All are traumatized. All get help.
Streetlight Phoenix is a non-profit organization and it’s model is being replicated in cities across the nation. It’s not too much to hope for – help stop child rape for profit – modern-day slavery.
One Dollar from the sale of each book, no matter what format, will be donated to Streetlight Phoenix.
April 11, 2011, the “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign launched from the Demi and Ashton Foundation launched. The law of supply and demand applies here. As long as there is a demand, the pimps will be looking to supply. I salute the Demi and Ashton Foundation for this effort and I pray that it goes viral.