15: Domitian

” Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”

1 Peter 4:12

After the death of Nero, the Emperors, including Titus who as a military general sacked Jerusalem, permitted Christians considerable freedom across the empire. All of this was to change, however, with the arrival of Domitian who was Caesar from 81-96 AD.

While the Emperors considered themselves to be a god, and while they demanded absolute obedience on that account, Domitian , it seems, took the idea to a whole new level. Demanding that he be addressed as Lord and God, Domitian then accused all who refused of atheism. The crime was punishable by confiscation of property, exile and even by death.

There was little mercy, yet the extent of the persecution across the empire is a testimony to the rapid spread of Christianity in a few decades, despite the horrors of Nero’s genocide. Even the elite within Rome had embraced Christianity because Domitian cruelly focused upon his own family. His cousin, the consul Flavius Clemens was condemned to death while Favius’ wife Domitilia had her property confiscated before she was sent into exile.

The most significant feature of this general persecution, however, was that it brought about the passing of the last of the apostles and the generation who had witnessed Christ. John was exiled to Patmos while Mark, Andrew, Onesimus and Dionysius the Areopagite left this life to receive the Martyr’s Crown. Over many decades they were faithful unto death and when the challenge came they embraced death rather than deny their Lord. This spirit would sow the seeds of another great harvest.

With harps and with viols, there stand a great throng
In the presence of Jesus, and sing this new song:
Unto Him who hath loved us and washed us from sin,
Unto Him be the glory forever, Amen.

Arthur T. Pierson

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