Beginnings | Christianity began as a sect among the early Jews. As Jesus grew in popularity, however, the Jewish and Roman leaders felt threatened and wanted to stop the movement. Thus, Jesus was crucified. A year later, Stephen was stoned for proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. In 41 AD, wanting to endear himself to his Jewish subjects, Agrippa continued the persecution. James the Lesser was killed, but the other apostles escaped. When Agrippa died, Annas stepped into the power vacuum and killed James the Greater. Paul was persecuted, stoned and imprisoned frequently.
Persecutions | Under Nero (54–68 AD), a vast multitude of Christians “were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights.” All of the twelve disciples – except for Judas, who killed himself, and John, who died of natural causes – were martyred by various means, e.g., beheading, death by sword or spear, or upside down crucifixion. In 66 AD, a Jewish revolt broke out, which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Jewish Christian Church fled from the city .
Visions | Domitian (81–96 AD) strengthened the cult of emperor worship and continued the persecution of Christians. During this time, God gave John the vision we find in Revelation (95–96 AD). At its climax, John records, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away … I saw no temple in the city, for the temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And … the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” .
Prayer | Lord, You alone are the universal and eternal ruler and king. Just as Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, all of our cities and buildings will pass away. Yet you have prepared for us a new Jerusalem, where Jesus himself is the temple. In him, we are co-heirs of your happy and merciful kingdom. Therefore, give us a strong vision of what is to come so that we can rejoice and endure through any trial. Amen.