|Posted by donnadawson on March 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM|
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." Matthew 24:9-11 NIV
The persecution of Christians began with Nero. It was no wonder that the believers at that time thought they were in the end time prophecies. Nero was accused of setting the city of Rome on fire in 64 AD. In order to shift the blame, he said the Christians did it. The following excerpt was taken from the Annals of the historian Tacitus and documented the beginnings of the persecutions.
"Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race."
When Jesus stated in verse nine that Christians would be handed over to be persecuted and put to death that was only the beginning. He finished the sentence by saying that all nations would hate Christians because of him. The phrase 'all nations' was key in this portion of his prophecy. It was a disclaimer of sorts. He knew full well that the Roman empire was only a portion of the world's nations and yet he said ALL nations. It is one more verification that Christianity would have to reach a global size before we could begin to assume we were near the end of the age. What is referred to as the 'free world' is quickly losing its love for Christianity and there has never been any love lost from other religions toward Christianity. Much of that is due to the complacency that runs rampant in our churches.
As of 2000, Christianity is now the most persecuted religion world-wide. More than 200 million Christians around the world suffer from beatings, imprisonment and death for their faith. But Jesus saw it all. And he warned every generation to be prepared. The world hated him. Why should it love us?
And then Jesus goes on to make a very sad statement. "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other". Jesus' life on earth was a living, breathing example of what was to come. He gathers us to himself if we are willing. He calls to us as he called to the disciples. We can choose and many did choose to follow him. And yet it was only the most persistent that stayed to the bitter end. The world hated him. It hates us. And many will fall away like many abandoned Christ then. As we look back through recent history we see that a wide-spread apostacy has swept through a number of nations. The most predominant faith in Europe now is the Muslim faith while North America is quickly shifting its weight toward humanism. There are a few silent and persistent Christians who still cling to Christ and his word but the ranks dwindle as the persecution is beginning. It's too easy to settle for the luke-warm variety of compromise Christianity.
In the final verse of our selection Jesus talks about false prophets. The first false prophet showed up on the scene all those centuries back shortly after Jesus died. And now, we see an abundance of false prophecy. We have leaders who stand in front of TV cameras and pulpits and preach their ideas instead of what scripture really says. They teach an idea and twist verses around it until that verse appears to compliment it--in spite of the preceding and following verses. And we have the masses of "Christians" who don't read their Bibles any more because they don't have to do so leaving them open to false teachings and beliefs. There is an abundance of false faith such as history has never seen before. So are we there? Well, let's read on.