Class Notes: 5/12/2021
Smyrna, the pivot for SPQR part 38
Phil 1:29; For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also on behalf of Him to suffer,
Heb 9:27; NET And just as people are appointed once to die once and then to face judgment,
2Cor 4:1-18; Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,
2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus' sake.
6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12 So death works in us, but life in you.
13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed, therefore I spoke," we also believe, therefore we also speak,
14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
In our study on Smyrna, the base of the pivot power for the first gentile client nation SPQR. We are in Rev 2:10; that starts with the mandate "not to fear what you are about to suffer"
Last time we noted that the ten special persecutions of Christians are related to the times of the Gentiles and Rome becoming the first Gentile client nation to God. In the Roman Empire there would be the test of great suffering and then there would be the test of great prosperity.
They would have to pass the suffering test, they would have to pass the prosperity test, and as a result Rome as an empire would then become a missionary base. Rome is the first Gentile client nation to God.
The church at Smyrna survived all the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman Empire because of their residence and function inside God's spiritual power system, and this means they survived because of their perception and application of Bible doctrine.
The first of the ten special persecutions occurred during the time of Domitian 81-96 AD. Domitian is the last of the Flavian emperors. He died in 96 AD because of his persecution of John, just as Nero died for his execution of Paul.
Domitian was jealous of his older brother Titus who had been emperor from 79-81 AD and his arrogance eventually turned to insanity. He demanded that his subjects treat him like a god.
He degraded the senate, he persecuted Christians, he announced his own deification, and he banished John to the Isle of Patmos. His wife, Domitia, arranged to have him assassinated and the Flavian emperors ceased to exist with Titus Flavius Domitianus.
The second of the ten great persecution occurred about 100 years later in 161-180 AD under Marcus Aurelius who was initially a divine establishment unbeliever, the last of the good Antonine emperors. He was austere from his stoic beliefs but his domestic policies were socialistic.
Economic disaster caused him to debase the currency. Whenever the industrial complex begins to collapse because the government attacks capitalism with some form of redistribution of wealth and the socialist welfare state, the nation's economic system will begin to self-destruct.
In AD 161 the Parthians attacked the eastern frontier and while they were driven back by the Romans the soldiers who fought them brought back from an area east of the Euphrates an Asiatic plague that became a huge disaster for the people of the Roman empire.
It was actually divine discipline and millions of people in the empire died. They blamed the Christians so Marcus Aurelius began to persecute them.
The Christians refused to worship and seek help from the pagan Roman gods so the Roman Emperors became very antagonistic towards the Christians.
Before the Asiatic plague Marcus Aurelius had never really paid much attention to the Christians, but because the Christens refused to worship the Roman gods they were blamed for the deaths from the plague and were severely persecuted. He was allegedly poisoned and died at age 59 in what is now Vienna.
Our country has suffered a similar "Asiatic virus" and now the communist politicians are pursuing a self destructive Marxist economic policies using the word "equity" as a ruse and accusing fundamentalist Christians who believe the Bible should be interpreted literally isagogically, categorically, and exegetically of being xenophobic, "domestic extremists" and "white nationalists."
The third persecution occurred under Commodus between 180-192 AD. By his persecution of the Christians Marcus Aurelius lost his wisdom and made a lot of disastrous decisions.
One of his worst decisions was to elevate his son Commodus to the throne. None of the Antonine Caesars had ever used any of his natural progeny to succeed him, they had always adopted someone who would be the next emperor.
But this was an exception and as a result of this terrible decision it would be used of the Lord to punish SPQR for a period of some twelve years. The eighties were the worst period of all of the first century.
When Commodus became emperor at age nineteen his narcisstic insanity caused him to begin a reign of terror, he was savage and cruel as an individual, and nothing like this had been seen in Rome since the time of Nero's degeneracy.
Commodus was very arrogant about his physical strength. He would appear in the arena dressed as a gladiator but he always had unarmed opponents that he always killed. He went into the streets of Rome wearing a lion's skin, and called himself Hercules. He carried a club and if he didn't like how someone looked at him he would club them to death on the spot.
If anyone gave him any opposition a special company of the Praetorian Guard would appear out of nowhere to kill the person that wouldn't just lie down and die defenseless.
He would go into the senate and randomly pick out senators and slaughter them on the senate floor which ran with blood. He persecuted the Christians and these persecutions were unspeakable, until a believer named Martia became his mistress.
When it was discovered that Commodus intended to kill Martia and all of her palace attendants because she was a believer they formed conspiracy to assassinate him.
A wrestler by the name of Narcissus was hired to strangle him to death ending his reign of terror and the third of the ten special persecutions from the devil.
The fourth special persecution occurred primarily in the Roman Province of Africa during the reign of Severus (193-211 AD). Severus was not hostile toward the Christians during the first part of his reign and actually gave his son a Christian nurse.
In 202 AD Severus adopted the anti-Christian policy of the mobs. He forbade Christians to evangelize and promised death to any Christian who would talk about the Lord Jesus Christ. The persecutions initially broke out in Alexandria, North Africa where any person who was discovered to have believed in Christ was persecuted by the mobs.
The mobs in Alexandria eventually encompassed all of North Africa. Mobs of Egyptians ran loose and killed Christians, robbed, raped and stole in the name of destroying Christianity. Among the Christian martyrs in Alexandria were Felicity and Perpetua of Carthage who were very famous for their stand for the Lord before they were killed by the mob.
The fifth persecution was under Maximus Thrax (235-238 AD). He was an eight-foot giant of tremendous physical strength and was as brutal as he was strong. When he became emperor he ordered all Christian leaders to be put to death.
Christians were honest and had integrity so they had predominated in the civil service for some time. Pontian, the bishop of Rome, was deported to Sardinia where he died.
Christian churches were burned. Origen took refuge in Cappadocia where the Roman legions functioned but ignored the orders of the emperor. Maximus Thrax was assassinated by disaffected elements of his own army.
The sixth persecution was under Trajianus Decius (249-251 AD). He sought to exterminate all Christians in the Roman Empire but he didn't get to finish his persecutions because he was killed in the Gothic war.
The seventh was under Gallus (251-253 AD). He continued the persecution started by Decius but he was so successful he was murdered by his own son and eventually replaced by Valerian who continued the persecution.
Number eight is Valerian - 253-260. His persecution of Christians throughout the empire as distracted by a Persian invasion. When he went to fight he was captured and tortured and eventually died while being skinned alive.
When the Roman envoys came to sue for peace they were presented with the skin of Valerian. After this the Christians had a period of relative peace for about ten years.
The ninth persecution came from Lucius Domitianus Aurelian (270-275 AD) who defeated the Persians and the Goths but he could not defeat the wall of fire around the Christians. When he started to accuse and persecute Christians in his administration he was assassinated by officers in the Praetorian Guard.
It is interesting to note that the Roman's had their own version of the cancel culture because after his death Aurelian's enemies in the Senate briefly succeeded in passing what was called "damnation memoriae" on the emperor, but it was reversed before the end of the year.
After this for 10 years there were 4 short term rulers and little organized persecution of Christians.
The tenth persecution came during the reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD). Outside of his persecution of Christians he was very effective as a ruler. He was a Dalmatian, the son of a freed slave. He was a strong worshipper of the sun god, Jupiter, and under the influence of one of his cohorts he started the greatest of all persecutions of believers.
In February of 303 he sought to completely root Christianity out of the empire. He ordered all copies of the Bible surrendered and burned, all churches destroyed, all meetings abolished. Christians were deprived of their civil rights, including the holding of public office.
In 305AD Galerius succeeded Diocletian and he issued an edict of toleration that cancelled all of persecutions of believers and pardoned all Christians who were still being accused.
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