43: The Man who Acted as God

But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction:
bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;
but I will trust in thee.

Psalms 55:23

By the dawn of the Fourth Century Christianity had spread everywhere throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The Emperor Diocletian’s wife Valeria and many of the leading officers within the court were Christian. Yet Diocletian himself was a committed pagan who held into the notion that the Emperor was a god.

While the Empire was in many respects erected upon the premise that the Emperors were deified, Diocletian in order to strengthen Rome’s power elevated this to the most ostentatious levels. He called himself the Lord and Master of the world, he surrounded himself with circles of soldiers, none could approach him without a bended knee with the forehead touching the ground and he wore the richest clothing imported from the Far East. He made Himself a god, yet across his lands were a people who would never recognised his divinity…they would worship only the true and living God as revealed to men in the person of Jesus Christ. The two systems were incompatible with one another.

Eventually Galerius, Diocletian’s co-regent and son-in-law, persuaded him to sign edicts of persecution. On the 23rd February 303 AD eight years of the fiercest and most cruel persecution against the Christian Church commenced. While previous Emperors were persecutors this was only the second general persecution which was spread across the empire (Decius Trajan enacted the first general persecution).

These eight tragic but victorious years betrayed the weakness of the pagan system while revealing the power and virtue of the Christian faith. By the time this period of history had dramatically closed the three leading instigators of this violence against at the flock of God had left the stage of history as cursed men. Diocletian took his own life, Galerius put an end to the slaughter only after suffering a fatal and painful disease and Maximin too committed suicide after Constantine seized the empire.

This persecution was the last desperate struggle of Roman heathenism for its life. It was the crisis of utter extinction or absolute supremacy for each of the two religions. At the close of the contest the old Roman state religion was exhausted.

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Lee Greenwood

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