Thursday, November 24 2011
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, more commonly known simply as Nero, was the Roman emperor from 54 to 68 AD. Although he is perhaps most-famous for his connection to the great fire of Rome (Nero didn't really "fiddle" while Rome burned - violins weren't invented yet; see Did Nero Really Fiddle While Rome Burned?), it was what Nero did after the fire that made him one of the most sadistic and evil persecutors of Christians that ever lived.
Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (56-117 AD) was a Roman Senator (in what remained of the Roman Senate in Imperial Rome; see The Politics Of Rome) and historian of the Roman Empire (see Pax Romana: The Birth Of The Roman Empire). His Annals and Histories provide eyewitness accounts of the events of the reigns of the Roman emperors through the first century, including Tiberius (who was Emperor at the time of the Crucifixion of Christ; see Whatever Happened To Those Romans? and Through The Eyes Of Josephus), Claudius (who was poisoned to death by Nero's mother Agrippina so that her son could become emperor) and Nero (who later murdered Agrippina).
Tacitus, a non-believer, simply recorded the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a matter of fact (i.e. an independent eyewitness account that verifies the Holy Bible) and the horrendous atrocities committed on Christians by Nero - including martyring Christians by crucifixion, covering their bodies with flammable material and using their burning bodies on crosses as night-lighting torches in his gardens and arenas (see the illustrations below - which also accurately show the actual crosses used by the Romans which were shaped like a capital "T" - not like a "crucifix"; see Crossing The T). Most of Nero's persecution of Christians began after the great fire of Rome to divert public suspicion that Nero himself had started the fire (to make room for building projects that he had planned).
"But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and 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 centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.
Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed." (Annals, Book 15, Chapter 44)
"Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire"
The Romans were however not the first to kill and persecute Christians. The first Christians (see also The First Christian Church), most of whom were Jews, were persecuted by their fellow Jews who regarded them as heretics. The apostle Paul became one of the greatest Christians that ever lived. But prior to his conversion, when he was known as Saul the Pharisee, he persecuted Christians to their deaths (see Was Paul Among Them?). By the time that Nero began persecuting Christians, the people that he persecuted were either people who had already been persecuted by their fellow Jews, or were Jews, such as Paul, who had been persecutors of their fellow Jews but then themselves became the persecuted.
"22:3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women." (Acts 22:3-4 KJV)
"22:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." (Acts 22:20 KJV)
While many, such as Stephen, subjected themselves to their martyrdom because it was their time, others, who had been assigned some task of ministry, were given to defend themselves until such time that, when their work was done, they too were martyred. Notice that Paul "fought with beasts at Ephesus" - an apparent reference to "being thrown to the lions" in the arena during the time of his ministry. Just like the prophet Daniel centuries before, Paul survived the beasts (Daniel was protected by angels, while Paul was handed a sword).
"15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die." (1 Corinthians 15:32 KJV)
The same principle will be the basis of the ministry of the end-time "two witnesses" - the LORD will permit their martyrdom after their time of service has been completed. Until then, those who seek to silence them will get a taste of fire and brimstone i.e. "if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed."
"11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
11:11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them." (Revelation 11:3-12 KJV)
Hebrews 11 has been called "the faith chapter" of the Holy Bible - and well so. It records, in Bible History and Prophecy, how the people of God were and will be empowered by faith to withstand anything that opposes God. Faith was the means that all of those murdered by Nero "Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Their victory did not come from surviving their physical lives, but rather by standing strong as they were being delivered unto eternal life. They were able to walk into "hell" because they could see clearly to the other side.
"11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain [see The Sins Of The World's Oldest Profession], by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death [see What Happened To Enoch?]; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith [see Was Noah Sinless?].
11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went [see The Journey From Ur Of The Chaldees]. 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised [see The LORD And The Two Angels]. 11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
11:13 These all died in faith [see What Does The Bible Really Say About Your Soul? and the Fact Finder question below], not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
11:17 By faith Abraham [see What Made Abraham Righteous?], when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come [see The First Meeting Of Israel And Esau].
11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph [see Why Did Jacob Adopt Ephraim And Manasseh?]; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones [see The Exodus Prophecy].
11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment [see The River Of Moses].
11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt [see Why Did They Go To Goshen?]: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 11:28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
11:29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land [see The Night Crossing]: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days [see The Gates Of Jericho].
11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon [see Gideon's Trumpets], and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel [see The Prophets: Samuel], and of the prophets: 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 11:34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 11:36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 11:38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:1-40 KJV)
Fact Finder: (a) When will those who have been called, prior to Christ's return, be "saved"? (b) When will all of the rest of humanity be "saved"?
(a) See When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin
(b) See The Eighth Day: What Does It Mean?
This Day In History, November 24
166 BC: The beginning of the Maccabees era. The Maccabees fought the Greek-Syrian occupiers of Israel in the period prior to the rise of the Roman empire (see Antiochus And The Maccabees and Christ's Hanukkah).
1542: English forces clashed with the Scots at the Battle of Solway Moss, in England.
1572: Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox died. He was the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism and was author of the History of the Reformation in Scotland.
1639: The first recorded transit (passing across the Sun as seen from space) of Venus was made, by English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks.
1642: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered Van Diemen's Land, later named after him - Tasmania.
1859: Charles Darwin published his famous On the Origin of Species. Darwin did not actually believe many of the ideas of evolution that later "scientists" claim that he did (listen to our Sermon Darwin's Theory of Evolution; also The First Scientist and No 'Flat Earth' In The Bible).
1963: Accused John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, 24, was fatally shot at Dallas Police headquarters by Jacob Rubenstein (who changed his name to "Jack Ruby"). Rubenstein grew up in Chicago (as a boy, he ran errands for Al Capone) with his Polish-immigrant Jewish parents.
1976: An earthquake struck Turkey, killed nearly 5,300 and injured over 5,000 others.
1977: The tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, was found. Alexander the Great was referred-to extensively in Bible Prophecy, especially in the book of Daniel (e.g. see Daniel's Statue). Alexander's four successors were prominent in the affairs of Israel in the time between the Old and New Testaments (see The Ptolemies and The Seleucids).
1979: After years of denials to medical and veteran's groups, the U.S. government admitted that thousands of U.S. troops in Vietnam (and many more thousands of civilian men, women and children in Vietnam) were exposed to the toxic chemical "Agent Orange."