Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

When we studied the book of 2 Timothy last year which was written by the apostle Paul to his beloved disciple Timothy, we learned it was written in approx. 67.A.D. under the persecution of the Christians by Nero. In this book, we heard about how a great fire broke out in 64 AD and Nero was suspected to having started to just to see what it would look like. Yet Nero  blamed it on the Christians who were already hated to incite even more hatred against them. He also did several other evil activities against the Christians including tying them to poles and lighting them on fire to be torches at his festival events.  Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, which is now known as II Timothy during this time period before he himself was put to death by Nero shortly before Nero’s own death when he committed suicide.

Nero had ruled from 37 to 68 AD and afterwards there were several rulers who came and went during a time of extreme civil disorder and wars until Domitian was named emperor by the  Praetorian Guard in 81 A.D. Domitian ruled for 15 years until 96 A.D.  when he was assassinated by court officials. Like Nero, and many other emperors who had came and went, Domitian was also known for his extreme cruelty and hatred towards Christians.  During Domitian’s reign, he ordered all descendents of David to be put to death and made it a law that “That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion.”

 Fox’s Book of Martyers gives a quick glimpse into this time period:

 A variety of fabricated tales were, during this reign, composed in order to injure the Christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans, that, if famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians. These persecutions among the Christians increased the number of informers and many, for the sake of gain, swore away the lives of the innocent.

 Another hardship was, that, when any Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same. (Fox’s Book of Martyrs: The second persecution of the Christians)

 It was Domitian who ordered John to be boiled in oil, because he declared Jesus to be Lord and God which went against Domitian who required that everyone call him Dominus et Deus “Lord and God.” When by the grace of God, boiling John in oil did not kill him, Domitian banished John to the small remote island of Patmos sort of like our once sending prisoners to Alcatraz Island. Unlike Alcatraz island which was reserved for the worst of the worst, Patmos island was used more both political and religious prisoners of that day. Here most of the prisoners were forced to work in the quarry mines.

 The Isle of Patmos was only a short boat ride away from the city of Ephesus.

 When and for how long the apostle John was a prisoner on this island is unknown. It is believed to be somewhere better 81AD and 96 AD, which is the 15 years of Domian’s rule. Sometime after Domian’s assassination, it is believed that John was released and lived out his final days in Ephesus which is now modern day turkey.  The apostle John is believed to have died sometime between 99 and 100 AD from natural causes.

 The persecution of Christians began with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and did not end for three whole centuries in appox. 313 A.D with the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity by Constantine who was converted to Christianity in 313 A.D. He who would later make Christianity the Roman Empires state religion in 380 AD and outlaw paganism.

 Now we know the persecution of Christians did not entirely end here. Christians are still persecuted all over the world today especially in North Korea, USSR, China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. A recent study done in 2012 cited by the Vatican showed that 75 out 100 people who were killed due to religious hatred were Christians. (1)  Despite  still Christianity has spread throughout the world and its light and influence continues to spread about the world reaching all the dark cracks and crevices as Jesus has promised.

 This persecution does make you think of the great birth pains it took for Christianity to be brought into this dark world. How Satan and his evil darkness exerted its best influence in order to try to kill Christianity in its very beginning to prevent it from entering this dark world and being given birth. He was not successful. Although he still tries, Christianity is bigger than he is, and has spread to all nations, all continents and all peoples and continues to spread until the time of the Gentiles is over.

Who was the Apostle John?

Here are a few facts about the Apostle John:

He was one of the twelve disciples of Christ and later known as Apostles

He was the brother of James, they were known as the sons of Zebedee, and also called the Sons of Thunder by Christ, maybe because of their tempers or force of faith. (Luke 9:49, 54, Matt. 20:20-22)

John  and James were fisherman and worked with their father Zebedee and his servants along the Sea of Galilee. They were mending their nets when Christ called them to come and follow him. shortly after Christ called Simon Peter and His brother Andrew who were also fishermen and probably partners with James & John(Mark 1:19)

He was one of the three  inner apostles who were always closest to Jesus: Peter, James & John

John was present at: The Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), the Raising of Jairus’s 12 year old daughter from the dead  (Luke 8:51), Gethsemane (Mark 14:32)  and at The Cross (John 19:26). He was the only disciple who stayed with Jesus during his crucifixion. He was also the first disciple to reach the tomb, outrunning Peter after news of Jesus’s missing body had reached them by Mary. (John 20:1-4)

He was the only one of the inner three to write a gospel.
The Gospel of John has 90% new material. He doesn’t mention many of the same stories the other three gospels mention, instead he adds to them. He gives us a fresh perspective of Christ emphasizing him as our King, Son of God and the great I am.
John usually never identifies himself in his writing. In the Gospel of John and in the  epistles of 1-3 John, he refers to himself as the “other disciple” or as ” the disciple who Jesus loved” (John 13:23, John 19:25-27, John 20:1-4, John 21:7, John 21:20-21)

John dies around 99-100 AD. His brother James was the first of the apostles to die of martyrdom and the only one whose death is recorded by the bible.  John was the last apostle to die and the only one to die of natural causes, although it wasn’t from lack of trying… According to Tertullian’s (160-225AD) testimony who was a well known and respected Christian writer and known as the “father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology”; and Eusibios (263-339)  who was also a well known Christian History who recorded the deaths of all the Apostles in his book on Church Histoy Book III, the apostle John did face martyrdom when he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but miraculously survived without injury and was then banished to the island of Patmos, where he received the vision from the prophetic book of Revelation. Some scholars believe he wrote the book of Revelation while he was banished on the island and others believe he wrote it after he was allowed to return to Ephesus, what is now modern-day Turkey, once Domitian died who had banished him there.