Revelation: Preface - Question 14 of 39

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Section 2 of Preface: World Events Near the Time of the Writing of The Revelation:

Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, following are some additional historical accounts during the period from A.D. 81 to A.D. 117:

Domitian's Persecution:

Nero's successor

With terrible cruelty, the emperor Domitian (emperor A.D. 81-96) put to death without trial a great number of men at Rome...Finally, he showed himself Nero's successor in hostility to God. He was the second to organize a persecution against us, though his father, Vespasian, had no such evil plans.(1)

John at the island of Patmos

Early church tradition indicates that the apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian.  Domitian was the de facto Emperor between A.D. 69 and A.D. 70. (Domitian's father was the real emperor, but Domitian acted as emperor until his father returned to Italy in A.D. 70 and appointed Nerva as his chief administrator). 

Domitian was again Emporer following the death of his brother Titus in A.D. 81.  Domitian died in A.D. 96 and was succeeded by Nerva.  It is unclear as to whether John received the Revelation in A.D. 69-70 or later in ~ A.D. 96.

Writing about the number of the name given the antichrist in Revelation (666 in Revelation 13:18), Irenaeus says this about John in Book 5 of his "Against Heresies:"

"Had it been necessary to announce his name (the antichrist) clearly at the present time, it would have been stated by the one who saw the revelation (John). For it was seen not long ago but nearly in our own time, at the end of Domitian's reign."

Emperor Trajan:

Symeon, and elder in the Lord's church

After Nero and Domitian, under the emperor Trajan (emperor during A.D. 98-117), whose times I am now describing, tradition tells of sporadic persecution against us in some cities as a result of some popular riots. Symeon, son of Clopas, the second bishop (also called 'elder') in Jerusalem ended his life in martyrdom.(1)

Godless error & the deceit of false prophets

Hegesippus wrote that at this time (approximately A.D. 110 ) the church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, and any who might try to defile her lurked in obscure darkness. But when the sacred band of the apostles and the generation of those who heard divine wisdom with their own ears passed on, then godless error began through the deceit of false teachers who, now that the apostles were gone, tried to counter the truth by proclaiming falsely the knowledge so-called.(1)

They rose at dawn to sing to Christ

In A.D. 112  -- So great was the persecution among us in many places that Pliny the Younger, one of the most distinguished governors, was alarmed at the number of martyrs, which he reported to the emperor. In the same letter he mentioned that they did nothing evil or illegal: they merely rose at dawn to sing to Christ as if a god, and they forbade adultery, murder, and similar crimes and in every way conformed to the (Roman) law. In response Trajan issued an edict that Christians were not to be hunted out but were to be punished if they were identified.(1)

Food for wild animals

Tradition has it that Ignatius (named as second after Peter to succeed as one of the elders or bishops of Antioch) was sent from Syria to Rome and became food for wild animals because of his witness for Christ (approx. A.D. 110 ). Ignatius strengthened the Christian community by speech and encouragement in every city where he stayed. He warned them in particular to be on guard against the heresies that were then first beginning to spring up, urging them to hold fast to the apostolic tradition...(1)

If only I may attain to Christ Jesus

Ignatius wrote "From Syria to Rome, I am fighting with wild animals on land and sea night and day, chained to ten leopards -- a troop of soldiers -- whose kindness makes even worse. Their shameful deeds increase my discipleship, but this does not justify me. May I benefit from those wild beasts that are ready for me, and I pray they are prompt. I will coax them to devour me quickly, not as with some who they have been afraid to touch. If they are unwilling, I will force them to do it. Pardon me, but I know what is best for me: now I am starting to be a disciple. May I envy nothing seen or unseen in gaining Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross, struggles with beasts, tearing bones apart, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, and tortures of the Devil come upon me, if only I may attain to Jesus Christ.(2)

How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

Polycarp (an elder or bishop of the church in Smyrna) wrote about Ignatius and other martyrs in his letter to the Philippians: "I urge all of you to practice the obedience and endurance you saw not only in the blessed Ignatius, Rufus, and Zosimus, but also in others among you and in Paul himself and the other apostles, who did not run in vain but in faith and righteousness, who are in the place they deserve at the side of the Lord whose suffering they have shared..."(3)

Note: Polycarp was martyred sometime between A.D. 156 and 168. Polycarp in the stadium in Rome refused to deny Jesus saying:

"For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has never done me wrong...How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?...Listen now I am a Christian....and if you wish to learn about the teachings of Christianity, choose a day and you will hear them."

Polycarp was burned at the stake at the stadium.

(1) Source: Eusebius - The Church History (Eusebius of Caesarea - A.D.260-339 - was the first to undertake the task of tracing the rise of Christianity during its crucial first three centuries from Christ to Constantine.)

(2) Source: Ignatius Romans 5.

(3) Source: Polycarp Philippians 10.13


According to the following historical accounts, in the time of Domitian and Trajan (emperors of Rome from A.D. 81 to A.D. 117), what happened with respect to the followers of Jesus?

More Persecution Peace End of the Church