The early Christians were spiritual revolutionaries. In a society that worshiped idols and called those who refused “atheists,” Christians were a radical force that threatened Rome’s continuity. They went against the majority rule and so became a perceived threat to the Roman authority. They were hated so much that their deaths were not only numerous, but they were carried out with horrendous flair.
Christians were revolutionaries who proclaimed the last judgment and the coming transformation of the world through Christ’s return so that many could be saved. They promoted Jesus Christ as a higher authority than the Roman emperor. Therefore, Roman emperors sent out decrees stating that any professing to be Christians were sentenced to die with no further legal proceedings. No due process was provided for these “rebels” who dared to challenge the emperor’s rule. Roman imperialism sponsored ten extreme periods of persecution, each worse than the one before it.
The revolutionaries became known by the term martyr. It was adopted for those witnesses who bore their testimony before judges and emperors with the steadfastness of well-disciplined soldiers. They were termed martyrs, or confessors, even if they did not die under scrutiny. They simply would not change their minds. Martyrdom signifies being a witness of one’s faith in Christ, despite exacting circumstances. Every witness for Christ is a modern-day revolutionary.
The martyrs in history were, as we are today, soldiers in a spiritual war. This battle began when Jesus routed the powers of evil by dying on the cross. In his death, he disarmed hell and its demons. Martyrs carry on his battle, however, fighting not with physical weapons but spiritual ones. Their confession is their weapon of choice. They march into enemy territory like the restricted nations and fearlessly proclaim Christ’s victory over Satan. Their prized possession is not their lives, but their testimony. This is why they are willing to trade their lives in order to maintain their beliefs. Where will you take up the battle? Are you willing to wield the weapon of your confession?