Tuesday, January 16, 2024


 By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

The scent of Christmas is a sweet fragrance in the hallways of our memories.

Now, as the New Year of 2024 marches forward to the resounding beats of another year of unpredictability, one prediction that has withstood the test of time is—persecution.  

         The early Christians were persecuted by Roman law because they refused to worship the Roman gods. What is the reason for today’s persecution?

         You can’t talk about the expansion of Christianity without speaking about the severe persecution those early Christians endured.

         Christ was the first martyr, way back in 30 AD when Jesus predicted others would follow after him as he stated in Matthew 5:11–12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (NKJV and all subsequent verses).

Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

         Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews of Jerusalem sometime not long after Jesus was crucified. Saul was one of the chief slayers of Christians. That is, until God knocked him off his horse and blinded him (Acts 9:8).  

In Acts 9:11–12, the Lord said to Ananias, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hands on him so that he might receive his sight.” 

Saul realized he’d been persecuting the people of his Lord and Savior. Saul was given a new name, Paul, and went on to become one of the most valiant of the apostles, writing seven, if not more books of the Bible. He was stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, imprisoned, chained, and finally beheaded for his Christian faith.

         By the early 60s AD, Christianity had spread strongly throughout the streets of Rome. The first persecutions took place during Nero’s reign. Ironically, it became the norm to blame the Christians for just about everything, from the weather to acts of vandalism.

When a fire spread through Rome like a whirlwind in 64 AD, the Christians were blamed. The fire just so happened to burn down the place Emperor Nero wanted to build his enormous palace complex, the Golden House. The common people suspected that Nero himself set the fire to make room for his palace.

The persecution of the Christians continued in the second century. Christianity was different from Judaism and excluded from the Jewish dispensation that allowed the Jews to practice their religion. The Jews were afforded this right because their religion was ancient. Christianity was new. New is always looked upon as a frightening philosophy, especially when it embraces men, women, children, young and old alike. Christians refused to bend their beliefs and wouldn’t worship Roman gods or emperors.

Tertullian, an early church father of the second century, boldly addressed the Roman Empire thusly, “We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation.”*

Christians were blamed when the Roman gods were said to have punished society. For instance, in 177 AD some churches in Gaul were attacked because of an outbreak of plague.

Execution was also part of the Roman culture of public spectacles. Romans loved public spectacles, especially violent games and watching people being killed in entertaining ways, including by animals.

Martyr means witness. Christians were willing to die in front of great crowds as witnesses for Christ. Tertullian was noted saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”*

Many people saw these Christians as courageous. They were willing to die in horrible ways for their faith. The Romans attempted to humiliate and kill Christians, but these attempts only made Christianity stronger!

In our present day, various Islamic states ban or restrict the possession of the Bible, particularly for Muslim residents. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Somalia, Yemen, and the Chinese government who banned online Bible sales.

According to the Open Doors U.S. Watch List, in 2022, 360 million Christians experienced “High levels of persecution and discrimination.”** This is 20 million higher than in 2021. The number of Christians killed for their faith rose to 5,898 in 2022, up from 4,761 in 2021. What do you suppose the numbers will be for 2023?

The book of Revelation was probably written around 95 AD and spoke of the growth of the Christian community. This book also shows that the rise of persecution against the Christians culminates in the end-reign of the Antichrist and the new reign of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 14:13, “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’”

Revelation 21:1, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

Billy Graham said during his 1975 sermon on Biblical Peace, at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, “I know where I’ve come from, I know why I’m here, and I know where I’m going; put your confidence and faith in Jesus Christ, and find your purpose, peace, and joy.”

The martyrs were the heroes of the early church. They boldly proclaimed the teachings of Christ Jesus, the Bible, and the apostles who died before them. Displaying courage, purpose, peace, and yes, joy is proclaiming the Good News.

Our modern-day martyrs are soldiering the prayers and hopes of their fellow Christians throughout the world. “Knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3a–5).

Love’s Final Sunrise:
Fleeing for her life, Ruth finds herself in an hourglass of yesteryear. Can Joshua’s Amish ways help them survive these final three-and-one-half years?

“To be honest, I’m not usually drawn to fiction. But for this no-nonsense nonfiction lover, Love’s Final Sunrise was a risk that paid off in full measure. I highly recommend this author’s way of weaving intrigue, romance, and Christian principles.”  Lori Ann Wood

Author Bio: Catherine is the author of the inspirational historical romances Wilted Dandelions, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, Waltz with Destiny, and Love’s Final Sunrise. History books: Images of America, The Lapeer Area, and Eastern Lapeer County. Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books, Baker Books, Revell, CrossRiver Media, and Bethany House. She lives in Michigan with her husband, Edward, and her Arabian horses. Her two children are grown and married; she and Edward are blessed with four grandchildren. Visit CatherineUlrichBrakefield.com for more information.



* https://originsofchristianity.net/lessons/lesson-11-rome-persecution-and-martyrdom/ 


The Children’s Bible The Old Testament The New Testament Western Publishing Co., Inc. Racine, Wisconsin Golden Press New York, copyright 1965


  1. Thank you for posting today, and Happy New Year to you and your family. I dare say have a HOPE-filled New Year. We are certainly going to need to rest on the hope we have in Christ.

  2. Connie, for certain. Knowing God holds our future is truely our hope for this New Year . Have a very blessed New Year for 2024!