Why Did the First Christians Survive Pagan Persecution?

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I am so delighted to be in the studio today to talk about the cornerstone of the historic Christian faith. Just today I was studying Plinius the Younger, also known as Pliny the Younger. He was a contemporary and employer of Seutonius, the author of The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, and also a friend of Tacitus, a highly skilled rhetorician.

 

Plinius was famous for letters, which have been rightly dubbed literary classics; however, he is equally famous—and you don’t find as much written about this in the literature—for the interrogation, torture, and murder of Christians. By his own account, he extracted information from two church deaconesses, and he did it by torture. His manner was to ask three times whether or not you were a follower of Jesus Christ, and if your answer was “yes,” he wrote, “I then ordered them to be taken away to be executed.” Now if a person responded by denying the faith, Plinius had them repeat an invocation to the gods, offer rites with wine and incense before the statue of Trajan, and then utter imprecations at the same time against the very name of Christus. For Plinius the end game was simply this: It was the reclamation of multitudes from the worship of Jesus Christ to the worship of Caesar.

 

Plinius was confident that through intimidation and threat of death, the tide of Christianity could be stemmed. In the end of course, he was wrong. He was wrong for one singular reason: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

The early Christians had seen the resurrected Christ, and their lives were radically impacted. They no longer lived for prosperity, for the favor of Caesar, but they lived for eternal verities. For this reason, they turned an empire upside-down, for out of the bowels of the Roman Empire would come the greatest civilization in the history of the planet. A civilization founded on the DNA of biblical manuscripts. A civilization that recognized Christ had been raised from the dead.

 

All of this is but a prologue to something that I want to put into your hands, something that allows you with passion and purpose to communicate the truth of resurrection.

 

Christ rose from the dead. Now that’s not just a historical reality, though we’re going to talk about how it is a historical reality, but it is something that has implications for you right now. If it is indeed true that Christ rose from the dead, it means you too will rise. If it is not true, it means your faith is useless and so is this broadcast. It all hinges on whether or not Christ rose from the dead.

 

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