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The Gospel From Patmos
Everyday Insights For Living
From The Last Book Of The Bible
Daily Devotional
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

            You are holding fast to My name and have not denied My faith even in the days of Antipas, My faithful martyr who was put to death among you, where Satan lives. Rev 2:13.



            The book of Revelation reports the execution of a Christian named Antipas. His name has an interesting meaning. It meaning “against everyone.” This fits in well with the typical Gentile accusation against Christians that they were “haters of the human race.” The appellation was placed on Christians because they refused to participate in various aspects of the civil religion that were expected of all good Roman citizens. At the very least they were considered anti-social, and their presence was thought to be bad luck for any community.
            While details are not given, it is clear that Antipas died a martyr to his faith. “You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives” (Rev 2:13, NIV). Pergamum was one of the places where the Roman governor held court and made judicial decisions.  It is possible that early Christians would see in the “sharp, two-edged sword” of Christ (2:12,16) a contrast to the governor’s power over the “sword,” the death sentence. If so, Antipas was probably executed by the Roman governor for being a Christian.
            The procedure in Antipas’ case may have been that described by the governor Pliny some fifteen years later, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan:
            “I have asked the accused whether they were Christians. If they confessed, I asked a second and a third time, threatening penalty. Those who persisted I ordered to be executed, for I did not doubt that, whatever it was they professed, they deserved to be punished for their inflexible obstinacy. . . . I dismissed those who said they were not or never had been Christians, and who in my presence supplicated the gods and placed wine and incense before your (Trajan’s) image, and especially cursed Christ, which I hear no true Christian will do.”1
            Trajan responded that Christians were not to be sought out, nor were they to be tried on the basis of anonymous accusations. If they were openly brought to the governor’s attention, however, they were to be handled as Pliny had described. Antipas was probably not sought out by the governor, but was accused by a hostile neighbor, either Jew or Gentile. Imagine living in a place where you never knew which neighbor might suddenly report your faith to the authorities! If it could happen to Antipas, it could happen to any Christian.



            Lord, I am grateful for the relative safety in which I live today. Give me the wisdom and strength to serve You well when times are good.



1The quotation is from Pliny, Epistulae, 96. Translated by Roland H. Bainton and quoted in Bainton, Christendom: A Short History of Christianity and Its Impact on Western Civilization, vol. 1(NY: Harper and Row, 1966), 57. Trajan’s response is summarized on page 58 of the same book.

 
 
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