This is the fourth part in a four part series, to go to part one click here.
The reason why human society can work in a fallen world filled with fallen men is this: the conscience. God, by His grace, has given every man a conscience. And although the conscience can be seared, the conscience restrains men from the evil that they desire to do. Tacitus demonstrates the restraining power of the conscience quite well:
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle [the executions], and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed. (source)During Nero's reign, the human conscience was certainly active, and there came a point when even the unbelieving world began to grow tired of seeing such tortures inflicted upon the Christians.
The persecutions under Nero were not the first persecutions of Christians in history. From the very beginning in Jerusalem (starting with Stephan), Christians had been persecuted, even put to death. What made Nero's persecutions significant is that they demonstrated just how far Christianity had spread within the first 30 years. From the very beginning, Christians were willing, through the power of the Spirit, to literally pick up their crosses and die (a fact clearly supported by Tacitus' ancient writings).
The persecution in Rome under Nero provides a graphic illustration of the cost of following Jesus Christ. We should not forget the words of the Apostle Paul: If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
This world is not supposed to be our home. And those early Christians, who lived and died during the reign of Nero, certainly provide a vivid reminder to this us of what it means to follow Christ.
For a historical fiction post on what the great fire in Rome might have looked like from the perspective of a Christian slave in Rome, click here.
Noah's Birth - Genesis 5:28 - 2948 BC (Pre-Flood History)
The Flood - Genesis 7:11 - 2349 BC (Pre-Flood History)
Slavery, The Great Fire In Rome, and Nero