Persecutions from Church and State

By COGwriter

While many realize that the Roman Empire imposed a variety of persecutions upon Christians, what many do not realize is that once a non-apostolic version of Christianity was accepted by the Roman Emperor Constantine, this church and state alliance persecuted many associated with the Church of God.

Persecutions have long been one of the ultimate tests of faith. Will those who wear some type of cross be the persecutors or the persecuted in the end-times?

(There is also a related YouTube video that you may wish to watch titled The Coming Persecution of the Church.)

Jesus Foretold Persecutions

Jesus foretold persecution to Christians before He returns:

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12, NKJV throughout unless otherwise specified).

43 You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).

23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:23).

9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. (Matthew 24:9).

35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mark 8:35)

29... Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”

5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. 9 But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all men for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved…” (Mark 13:3-13).

12... they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake (Luke 21:12).

20 If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).

2... yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you (John 16:2-4).

The above persecutions predicted by Jesus in Matthew and Mark strongly indicate that a major persecution is going to occur because at least part of the Church will be success in getting the gospel message to the world as a witness. This is likely to lead to the persecution by the Beast, also known as the King of the North (for more details, see Who is the King of the North?). Jesus also taught to love your enemies--He did not teach that real Christians would persecute them.

In addition to end-time and generalized persecutions, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus foretold various persecutions for many eras of the true church.

Shortly after Apostle Paul suffered a stoning that the Jews thought killed him, the disciples said:

22... "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)

The Apostle Paul also foretold persecutions, but also a reward:

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. (2 Timothy 2:12)

Paul himself was persecuted (2 Corinthians 11:24-26; 2 Timothy 3:11)--and he also would flee locations to try to avoid persecutions (Acts 9:23-25; 14:5-6). Yet Paul never became a persecutor. Instead he told Christians:

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)

1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

As neither Jesus nor Paul engaged in military warfare or murderous retaliations, it should be clear that true Christians are subject to persecution, but unlike false Christians (who historically have also been subject to some severe persecutions), true Christians do not become persecutors themselves (see also Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?).

Notice also what the Apostle John wrote:

11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God (3 John 11).

Being a persecutor is evil. Real Christians never would do that.

Furthermore, even The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the Apostle Paul, as well as early professors of Christ, did not persecute nor kill heretics or other dissenters:

Though the Apostles were deeply imbued with the conviction that they must transmit the deposit of the Faith to posterity undefiled, and that any teaching at variance with their own, even if proclaimed by an angel of Heaven, would be a culpable offense, yet St. Paul did not, in the case of the heretics Alexander and Hymeneus, go back to the Old Covenant penalties of death or scourging (Deuteronomy 13:6 sqq.; 17:1 sqq.), but deemed exclusion from the communion of the Church sufficient (1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10). In fact to the Christians of the first three centuries it could scarcely have occurred to assume any other attitude towards those who erred in matters of faith. Tertullian (To Scapula 2) lays down the rule:

Humani iuris et naturalis potestatis, unicuique quod putaverit colere, nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio. Sed nec religionis est religionem colere, quae sponte suscipi debeat, non vi.

In other words, he tells us that the natural law authorized man to follow only the voice of individual conscience in the practice of religion, since the acceptance of religion was a matter of free will, not of compulsion. Replying to the accusation of Celsus, based on the Old Testament, that the Christians persecuted dissidents with death, burning, and torture, Origen (Against Celsus VII.26) is satisfied with explaining that one must distinguish between the law which the Jews received from Moses and that given to the Christians by Jesus; the former was binding on the Jews, the latter on the Christians. Jewish Christians, if sincere, could no longer conform to all of the Mosaic law; hence they were no longer at liberty to kill their enemies or to burn and stone violators of the Christian Law.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, surrounded as he was by countless schismatics and undutiful Christians, also put aside the material sanction of the Old Testament, which punished with death rebellion against priesthood and the Judges. "Nunc autem, quia circumcisio spiritalis esse apud fideles servos Dei coepit, spiritali gladio superbi et contumaces necantur, dum de Ecclesia ejiciuntur" (Epistle 61, no. 4) religion being now spiritual, its sanctions take on the same character, and excommunication replaces the death of the body. Lactantius was yet smarting under the scourge of bloody persecutions, when he wrote this Divine Institutes in A.D. 308. Naturally, therefore, he stood for the most absolute freedom of religion. He writes:

Religion being a matter of the will, it cannot be forced on anyone; in this matter it is better to employ words than blows [verbis melius quam verberibus res agenda est]. Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety? Surely there is no connection between truth and violence, between justice and cruelty . . . . It is true that nothing is so important as religion, and one must defend it at any cost [summâ vi] . . . It is true that it must be protected, but by dying for it, not by killing others; by long-suffering, not by violence; by faith, not by crime. If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion. (Divine Institutes V:20)

The Christian teachers of the first three centuries insisted, as was natural for them, on complete religious liberty; furthermore, they not only urged the principle that religion could not be forced on others — a principle always adhered to by the Church in her dealings with the unbaptised — but, when comparing the Mosaic Law and the Christian religion, they taught that the latter was content with a spiritual punishment of heretics (i.e. with excommunication), while Judaism necessarily proceeded against its dissidents with torture and death. (Blötzer, J. Inquisition. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm)

Yet, the though it admits that religious freedom and non-persecution was essentially as part of its original traditions, Church of Rome changed its views later (because of Constantine).

Smyrna Era Persecutions

After there was a revolt by the Jews in 132-135 A.D., notice what happened from:

But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans, exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigour. The emperor founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages. They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian...When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I. ca. 1776-1788. The Modern Library, NY, pp. 389-391).

In other words, after the first Latin Bishop in Jerusalem (who may or may not have had any direct affiliation with Rome—the churches that became Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox at that time were still not unified but just starting to cooperate) was put in charge, those who had been faithful Christians were accused of heresy there in the second century. This was perhaps one of the first persecutions that differentiated those with original Nazarene Christianity from those who did not have it.

It should also be noted that the compromisers that went along with Marcus of Jerusalem apparently got the Romans to persecute the faithful. Here is an account that may be of the same incident from an Arabic source (with the "companions" being the faithful Christians):

But these (companions) said to them: "You have done ill. We are not permitted (to let) the Romans pollute the Gospel. In giving a favourable answer to the Romans, you have accordingly departed from the religion. We are (therefore) no longer permitted to associate with you; on the contrary, we are obliged to declare that there is nothing in common between us and you;" and they prevented their (taking possession of) the Gospel or gaining access to it. In consequence a violent quarrel (broke out) between (the two groups).

Those (mentioned in the first place) went back to the Romans and said to them: "Help us against these companions of ours before (helping us) against the Jews, and take away from them on our behalf our Book (kitab)." Thereupon (the companions of whom they had spoken) fled the country. And the Romans wrote concerning them to their governors in the districts of Mosul and in the Jazirat al-'Arab. Accordingly, a search was made for them; some (qawm) were caught and burned, others (qawm) were killed." (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, p. 15).

Thus, there was early persecution against those who possessed the Gospels by those who had made a deal with the Romans.

Probably because of the practices of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, many in Rome (around the same time) changed the date of Passover to be different than that which the Jews and the uncompromising Nazarenes kept (see Passover and the Early Church).

Polycarp of Smyrna, who refused to change the date of Passover, wrote that persecutions were happening to true Christians in the second century:

Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XII, verse 3. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885; Reprint Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, pp. 33-36)

One of the most severe persecutions was under the reigns of Decius and Gallus in the mid-3rd century.  Emperor Decius essentially made an order that all had to sacrifice to his gods or be subject to being killed. Those who did make the sacrifice received a certificate called a libellus, which spared them from death.

Around 250 A.D., elder/presbyter Pionius of Smyrna, who was killed under this persecution, asked:

To whom have we done wrong? Have we perchance murdered someone? Or, do we persecute anyone? Or have we obliged anyone to venerate idols? (Martyrdom of Pionius as translated in Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 155)

He asked those questions knowing full well that real Christians had not done any of those things. Pionius was then burned. His crime? He was a Christian who refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods.

Towards the end of His direct message to the Church in Smyrna, Jesus said "you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death" (Revelation 2:10). A ten year persecution from 303-313 A.D., unleashed by Roman Emperor Diocletian, resulted in many deaths.

The systematic and bloody persecutions of Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, and Maximinus hit the community hard, but did not succeed in destroying it...The Christians of Asia, and of Smyrna in particular, were very likely victims of these persecutions at any moment during this historical period, (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 229)

Sadly, persecution was not limited to emperors who claimed to be pagan.

Towards the end of the Smyrna era, Constantine became emperor. He was a follower of the Mithras, the sun god (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?). He, who had not then received baptism from any church, decreed circa March 7, 321:

"Let all judges, the people of cities, and those employed in all trades, remain quiet on the Holy Day of Sunday. Persons residing in the country, however, can freely and lawfully proceed with the cultivation of the fields; as it frequently happens that the sowing of grain or the planting of vines cannot be deferred to a more suitable day, and by making concessions to Heaven the advantage of the time may be lost." (Code of Justinian, Book III, Title XII, III. THE JUSTINIAN CODE FROM THE CORPUS JURIS CIVILIS. Translated from the original Latin by Samuel P. Scott. Central Trust Company, Cincinnati, 1932).

This was followed by the famous Council of Nicea, which took place in 325 A.D. The Emperor called the council, without being even baptized or ordained, called himself a bishop, and ordered Catholic and Orthodox bishops to attend his council. This council, under his guidance, decided that Sunday was to be the day of worship and that Passover was to be observed on Sunday (and that eventually became what is known as Easter). After various Imperial/church councils, those in the Church of God who kept the Sabbath were considered to be heretics and outcasts and had to flee in the wilderness (Revelation 12 teaches that the church would flee into the wilderness for 1260 years).

According to Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, in the fourth century, the sun-god worshiping Roman emperor Constantine stated concerning the date of Passover:

Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.

Jesus never stated that the Jews were detestable (He was a Jew) nor that He wanted to change the date of Passover. Constantine endorsed changing the date of Passover to a Sunday, whereas the original Christians kept it on the 14th of Nisan, the same date as the Jews. 

Emperor Constantine really did not believe in freedom of religion as his "Edict of Milan" decree in 313 indicated:

When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus, by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one should be denied the opportunity to give his heart for the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion that he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts, may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. ...

Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases ; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion. (Goldstein N. Religion and State. Infobase Publishing, 2010, p. 190)

Instead actually believing that, the Emperor authorized persecution. Around 332, Constantine issued what is known as the Edict Against the Heretics,

Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to the heretics. “Understand now, by this present statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by means of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and vanity, with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are inseparably interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken with disease, and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death. Ye haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction! All your counsels are opposed to the truth, but familiar with deeds of baseness; full of absurdities and fictions: and by these ye frame falsehoods, oppress the innocent, and withhold the light from them that believe. Ever trespassing under the mask of godliness, ye fill all things with defilement: ye pierce the pure and guileless conscience with deadly wounds, while ye withdraw, one may almost say, the very light of day from the eyes of men. But why should I particularize, when to speak of your criminality as it deserves demands more time and leisure than I can give? For so long and unmeasured is the catalogue of your offenses, so hateful and altogether atrocious are they, that a single day would not suffice to recount them all. And, indeed, it is well to turn one’s ears and eyes from such a subject, lest by a description of each particular evil, the pure sincerity and freshness of one’s own faith be impaired. Why then do I still bear with such abounding evil; especially since this protracted clemency is the cause that some who were sound are become tainted with this pestilent disease? Why not at once strike, as it were, at the root of so great a mischief by a public manifestation of displeasure? (Chapter LXIV.—Constantine’s Edict against the Heretics. This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College).

“Forasmuch, then, as it is no longer possible to bear with your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present statute that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves together. We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies: and our care in this respect extends so far as to forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place whatsoever. Let those of you, therefore, who are desirous of embracing the true and pure religion, take the far better course of entering the catholic Church, and uniting with it in holy fellowship, whereby you will be enabled to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. In any case, the delusions of your perverted understandings must entirely cease to mingle with and mar the felicity of our present times: I mean the impious and wretched double-mindedness of heretics and schismatics. For it is an object worthy of that prosperity which we enjoy through the favor of God, to endeavor to bring back those who in time past were living in the hope of future blessing, from all irregularity and error to the right path, from darkness to light, from vanity to truth, from death to salvation. And in order that this remedy may be applied with effectual power, we have commanded, as before said, that you be positively deprived of every gathering point for your superstitious meetings, I mean all the houses of prayer, if such be worthy of the name, which belong to 540 heretics, and that these be made over without delay to the catholic Church; that any other places be confiscated to the public service, and no facility whatever be left for any future gathering; in order that from this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies may presume to appear in any public or private place. Let this edict be made public.” (Chapter LXV.—Constantine’s Edict against the Heretics. This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College).

Some of those referred to as Paulians (Paulicians) and Cataphrygians were part of the true Church of God; thus they would have rejected Sunday and other doctrines that Emperor Constantine endorsed. And like some other persecutions, the Edict included those truly in the Church of God and those not in the true church. Herod, when he tried to kill Jesus, persecuted an entire nation, killed many babies, but Jesus' family fled the persecution and He survived. Constantine's tactics seem similar.

Christianity under Constantine becomes a form of imperial Roman culture. One Christian denomination is favored with his patronage. They get tax breaks. They get big, beautiful Bible codices copied at public expense. They can use the imperial post for free. They ask Constantine to kick out the leaders of the other Christian denominations in town. So the people who get the worst treatment after Constantine becomes a patron of this one church are other Christians. More Christians are persecuted after the conversion of Constantine than before, because they’re targeted by one particular branch of the church (Hulme, David. Interviews Paula Fredriksen Paul and Paula. Vision magazine, Fall 2005).

Of course, no branch of the actual true church would be persecuting--it was an apostate branch that Constantine favored that did so.

Constantine also prohibited literature:

Thus were the lurking-places of the heretics broken up by the emperor’s command, and the savage beasts they harbored (I mean the chief authors of their impious doctrines) driven to flight. Of those whom they had deceived, some, intimidated by the emperor’s threats, disguising their real sentiments, crept secretly into the Church. For since the law directed that search should be made for their books, those of them who practiced evil and forbidden arts were detected, and these were ready to secure their own safety by dissimulation of every kind. Others, however, there were, who voluntarily and with real sincerity embraced a better hope. Meantime the prelates of the several churches continued to make strict inquiry, utterly rejecting those who attempted an entrance under the specious disguise of false pretenses, while those who came with sincerity of purpose were proved for a time, and after sufficient trial numbered with the congregation. Such was the treatment of those who stood charged with rank heresy: those, however, who maintained no impious doctrine, but had been separated from the one body through the influence of schismatic advisers, were received without difficulty or delay. Accordingly, numbers thus revisited, as it were, their own country after an absence in a foreign land, and acknowledged the Church as a mother from whom they had wandered long, and to whom they now returned with joy and gladness. Thus the members of the entire body became united, and compacted in one harmonious whole; and the one catholic Church, at unity with itself, shone with full luster, while no heretical or schismatic body anywhere continued to exist. And the credit of having achieved this mighty work our Heaven-protected emperor alone, of all who had gone before him, was able to attribute to himself. (Chapter LXVI.—Constantine’s Edict against the Heretics. This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College).

In 364 A.D. the Council of Laodicea declared:

CANON XXIX. CHRISTIANS must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ (THE COMPLETE CANONS OF THE SYNOD OF LAODICEA IN PHRYGIA PACATIANA).

Laodicea was in Asia Minor and thus this would have basically been an Eastern Orthodox persecution against those who wished to keep the biblical Sabbath.

The Rome Emperor Constantine apparently liked unclean food so much that he persecuted those who would not eat it. Here is a report from a source with Middle East ties:

Constantine called a gathering of Christian monks with a view to the formulation of obligatory religious beliefs…However, some of them disagreed with this text…There was a scission and the symbol of faith which had been formulated was not regarded as valid.

Thereupon, three hundred and eighteen men gathered in Nicaea and formulated a symbol of faith, which was accepted and made obligatory by Constantine.  People who dissented from it were killed and professions of faith differing from it suppressed.

In this way people who professed the religion of Christ came to do all that is reprehensible; they worshipped the cross, observed the Roman religious rites and ate pork.  Those who did not eat it were killed (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 31-32)

Here is a report from a Roman Catholic scholar about matters in Jerusalem:

That there existed strife between the different branches of the faithful can easily be gathered from the expression of the anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux in 333, who says that the three basilicas were erected by the gentile Christians “at the command of Constantine”, that is by force, and from the late account of Eutychius (PG 111,1012-1013) that, just at this time, the faithful while they were leaving the church on Easter day, were forced to eat pork under the pain of death.  We know how the Judaeo-Christians refused this in order not to transgress the Mosaic law to which they held there were bound (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 13-14).

True Christians would not eat biblically unclean meat (see The New Testament Church and Unclean Meats), yet Constantine decided it was acceptable to kill people who followed what the Bible says. He tried many ways to persecute those not following his faith, which I have called Constantinian Christianity.

As it turns out Constantine's declarations did not stop everyone from properly observing Passover or keeping other Christian practices. So, a later Roman Emperor decreed the death penalty related to proper Passover observance:

Edicts of Theodosius against the heretics, A.D. 380-394...Theodosius...decreed that...by the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival...

The theory of persecution was established by Theodosius, whose justice and piety have been applauded by the saints (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).

Is killing those that followed the example of Jesus and John to observe the Passover on the 14th instead of Sunday a sign of a true Christian leader or a sign of a supporter of antichrist? How could any true saint applaud Theodosius for killing people who followed Jesus', Johns', Polycarps', etc. example of observing Passover on the biblical date?

On the night of His final Passover, Jesus declared:

the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. (John 16:2).

And those who followed the Emperor Theodosius fulfilled that prophecy--they killed people for keeping Passover the same night that Jesus did. Those who will associate the final Imperial leader are apparently prophesied to do the same thing (Daniel 7:25).

Notice a few additional related details:

The various enactments against heretics are contained in the Code of Theodosius (16. tit. 5. s. 6—23; and the commentary of Gothofredus): the Eunomians, whose guilt consisted in denying any resemblance between the two sub- tances, and who were accordingly Anomoeans, were also deprived of the power of testamentary disposition, and of taking by testamentary gift: they seem, in fact, to have been deprived of all the rights of citizens. The Manichaean heresy was punishable with death; and the same penalty threatened the Audians or the Quartodecimans, who celebrated the festival of Easter on the wrong day. To the reign of Theodosius belonged the glory or the infamy of establishing Inquisitors of Faith, who seem to have been specially enjoined to look after the crime of the Quartodecimans (Smith W. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology : Oarses-Zygia. J. Murray, 1890 Item notes: v. 3 Original from Harvard University Digitized Jul 8, 2008, p. 1064).

In the late fourth century, John Chrysostom, Orthodox Bishop of Constantinople (and a saint and doctor of the Church according to the Church of Rome) condemned Christians for keeping the Fall Holy days.

Notice that hate and violence against others who differed doctrinally was promoted by the late fourth century Greco-Roman bishop and saint Gregory of Nyssa:

I affirm, then, that it is a lawful thing to hate God's enemies, and that this kind of hatred is pleasing to our Lord: and by God's enemies I mean those who deny the glory of our Lord, be they Jews, or downright idolaters, or those who through Arius' teaching idolize the creature, and so adopt the error of the Jews. Now when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are with orthodox devotion being glorified and adored by those who believe that in a distinct and unconfused Trinity there is One Substance, Glory, Kingship, Power, and Universal Rule, in such a case as this what good excuse for fighting can there be? (Gregory of Nyssa. Letter 17 to Eustathia, Ambrosia, and Basilissa. Translated by William Moore. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893)

The trinity itself had not been adopted by the Greco-Romans until 381 A.D. and most who actually attended Constantine's Council of Nicea were NOT trinitarians (for more details see Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).

There were binitarian (sometimes called Semi-Arians) Paulicians in Armenia who also kept the seventh-day Sabbath in the late fourth century:

Eustathius was succeeded by Erius, a priest, and semi-Arian...Erius also condemned fasts, stated feasts, prayers for the dead, and the celebration of Easter; he urged a purer morality and a stricter observance of the Sabbath. He had many followers, whose numbers were augmented by one of Paul of Samosota, from whom they were called Paulicians. Notwithstanding the opposition of the prelates, who invoked the secular arm to prevent the defection of their spiritual subjects, the tenets of this sect struck deep root in Armenia and many of its eastern provinces, and finally the great body of Christians in the former country, withdrew from the Episcopal communion, and publicly espoused the sentiments of the Paulicians...The bishops of Syria, Pontus, and Cappadocia, complained of the defection of their spiritual flocks...induced the Grecian emperors to commence, and continue for nearly two centuries, the most terrible persecutions against the Paulicians (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, pp. 20-23).

Those who influenced the Grecian emperors would have been associated with what is now called the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Notice the following from the Emperors of the East and West:

Arians, Macedonians, Pneumatomachians, Appollinarians, Novatians or Sabatians, Eunomians, Tetradites or Tessarecaidecadites, Valentinians, Paulians, Papianists, Montanints or Priscillians, Phrygians, Pepuzites, Marcionists, Borborites, Messalians, Euchites, or Enthusiasts, Donatists, Audians, Hydroparastetes, Tascodrogites, Batracites, Hermogenians, Photinians, Paulinists, Marcellians, Ophites, Encratitians, Carpocratitans, Saccophores, and Manicheans, who are to be classed as guilty of the worst of all heretical crimes, shall never have the power to assemble or reside in the Roman Empire. Moreover, Manicheans must be expelled from towns, and delivered up to extreme punishment, for no place should be left them in which they may cause any injury even to the elements. Moreover, all laws which have formerly, at different times, been enacted against them and others who are opposed to our religion, shall always be observed in all their force...Given at Constantinople, on the third of the Kalends of June, under the Consulate of Felix and Taurus, 428. (The Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian to Caesar Florentius, Praetorian Prefect. Justinian Code, Book 1. Citied in Scott, S. P. The Civil Law, XII, Cincinnati, 1932).

While many of the above were heretics, please understand that the Pneumatomachians were basically binitarian, Appollinarians would have been expected keep Passover on the 14th and have certain other COG practices, and some of the Sabatians likely kept the seventh-day Sabbath. Various Paulians also had COG doctrines.

Even The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledged that the Roman and Orthodox Churches got the emperors to persecute those who did not accept what became beliefs of mainstream "Christianity":

When Constantine had taken upon himself the office of lay bishop, episcopus externus, and put the secular arm at the service of the Church, the laws against heretics became more and more rigorous. Under the purely ecclesiastical discipline no temporal punishment could be inflicted on the obstinate heretic, except the damage which might arise to his personal dignity through being deprived of all intercourse with his former brethren. But under the Christian emperors rigorous measures were enforced against the goods and persons of heretics. From the time of Constantine to Theodosius...Theodosius is said to be the first who pronounced heresy a capital crime; this law was passed in 382 (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Mary Ann Grelinger. Heresy. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But of course, if these emperors were truly Christian, they would not have killed and persecuted those faithful to apostolic teachings, nor endorsed carnal warfare.

Also notice the following from one of Theodosius’ other edicts related to the Council of Constantinople:

…let us believe in the one diety of the father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict...(Theodosian Code XVI.1.2. Cited in Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, London: Oxford University Press, 1943, p. 31).

So the title “Catholic Christian” is supposed to be for those who believe in the trinity and other Greco-Roman doctrines. Because he is condemning the non-trinitarians (which were the majority of those who professed Christ even into the fourth century), Theodosius apparently should have studied into the question Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?

While Roman Catholics refer to many early Bishops of Rome as popes, the reality is that the term pope, or more specifically Pontifex Maximus, was not held by the Bishops of Rome until a few decades after Constantine.

A few decades after Constantine died, the Roman Emperor Gratian refused the title of pontifex maximus.  Here is one report:

Pontifex Maximus…Gratian refused the pontifical robe.  He was the last  Roman emperor to hold that title, for the college of Pontiffs was abolished under Emperor Theodosius in 395 C.E. (White C.  The Emergence of Christianity.  Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 p. 89).

However, Catholic sources confirm that Bishop Siricius quickly picked up the title:

SIRICIUS, ST. (384-399)...was the first to assume the title of pope from the Greek papa meaning father (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 13).

The title pope (papa)...It was apparently in the fourth century that it began to become a distinctive title of the Roman Pontiff. Pope Siricius (d. 398) seems so to use it (Ep. vi in P. L., XIII, 1164) (Joyce G. H. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. The Pope. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

This raised concerns amongst many, including faithful Christians. Pontifex Maximus Siricius was reigning during the time that the Council of Constantinople pronounced the death sentence on those who kept to the biblical date of Passover and that initiated persecution against those that would not accept the trinitarian formula adopted at that Council.

These persecutions were not unexpected as they were biblically prophesied. Jesus also told the Church of Smyrna:

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer (Revelation 2:10).

But persecutions did not stop the Smyrnaeans. And they continued until they were replaced by those of the Church of Pergamos.

Pergamos Era Persecutions

Jesus told the Church of Pergamos:

I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells (Revelation 2:13).

Pergamos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia in Asia Minor. Just as the initial local Church at Pergamos was situated in a city where Satan swayed human politics, this work of God's church occurred within the bounds of the government of Satan's Eastern Roman Empire.

They were not popular with the Roman Catholics because they considered them to represent forces that were anti-Christ. Notice the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Papal-Antichrist theory was gradually developed by three historical bodies: the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and the Fraticelli, between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries: are these the expositors from whom the Church of Christ is to receive the true interpretation of the prophecies?" (Maas AJ. Antichrist. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Perhaps it should be noted that that idea of a Roman anti-Christ was apparently developed by Polycarp, and he seems to have learned this from the Apostle John.

While the Smyrna Church was subject to many persecutions, including Emperor Constantine's Edict Against Heretics, persecution was not limited to Constantine. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this about the Paulicians:

Leo V, though an Iconoclast, tried to refute the accusation that he was a Paulician by persecuting them furiously. A great number of them at this time rebelled and fled to the Saracens. Sergius was killed in 835. Theodora, regent for her son Michael III, continued the persecution...

We hear continually of wars against the Saracens, Armenians, and Paulicians...

This eliminated the sect as a military power. Meanwhile other Paulicians, heretics but not rebels, lived in groups throughout the empire (Fortesque A. Transcribed by Richard L. George. Paulicians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

In other words, since the Paulicians and Emperor Leo V were against idols, Leo decided he had to persecute them because he was accused of being a bit like them in that area. And additional persecution followed Leo's. The above quote also shows that there were Paulicians, who even though persecuted, would not fight back.

And while not all who claimed to have been Paulicians were in the true church, notice how brutal the persecution was:

The empress, Theodora, instituted a new persecution, in which a hundred thousand Paulicians in Grecian Armenia are said to have lost their lives (Paulicianism. WIkipedia, viewed 06/26/08).

As early as the tenth century Empress Theodora had put to death a multitude of Paulicians, and in 1118 Emperor Alexius Comnenus treated the Bogomili with equal severity...(Blötzer, J. Inquisition. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm).

Thus, the "Orthodox" Empress Theodora apparently killed 100,000!

Those who held to Church of God doctrines did not care for the Eastern Orthodox whom they often called Byzantines. Notice something that an Arabic source essentially reported about how Sabbath-keepers felt about them:

Christian Judaizantes...at the end of the fourth, in the fifth, and probably also into the sixth centuries...mainly were concerned {to} put an end to Byzantine rule, which they hated, and the persecutions that tended to go along with it. (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, p. 35)

Furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox admit to oppressing the Bogomils. Notice this odd admission:

The Orthodox, as have all religions, berated other confessions and denominations. But Orthodoxy was always benign - no "jihad", no bloodshed, no forced conversions and no mass expulsions - perhaps with the exception of the forcible treatment of the Bogomils. It was all about power and money, of course. Bishops and archbishops did not hesitate to co-opt the Ottoman administration against their adversaries (Sam Vaknin Ph.D. The Crescent and the Cross - Religion and Community in the Balkans - The Communities of God American Chronicle - March 30, 2007).

Notice that the Orthodox claim to have not caused bloodshed, forced conversions, or mass expulsions of any group, except what they did to the Bogomils. Obviously, they felt mistreating people that were associated with the true Church of God was acceptable (which the "Orthodox" also did earlier than this with the Paulicians in the Smyrna era and the faithful "companions" in Jerusalem around 135 A.D.)--and often the Orthodox supported killing true Christians.

The remaining Bogomils and Paulicians eventually became absorbed into the Thyatira era of the church.

It perhaps show be pointed out that sometimes those in the true Church of God have been considered to be secretly Jews by some in Greco-Roman faiths:

In the Middle Ages, the Popes and the Councils were successful in destroying the Jewish revolutionary movements which appeared within Christianity in the form of false teaching and which were introduced by those who were Christians in appearance but Jews in secret. The latter then recruited upright and good Christians for the arising heretical movement by persuading the latter in a crafty way.

The secret Jews organised and controlled in secret manner the movements, which were the creative and driving force of wicked false teachings, such as those of the Iconoclasts, the Cathars, the Patarines, the Albigensians, the Hussites, the Alumbrados and others. (Pinay, Maurice. The Plot Against the Church, Part Four Chapter One. Translated from the German and Spanish editions of the same work. 1962)

The above book is still recommended by and for many Catholics (though some others distance themselves from it). Hence, some of the Greco-Romans have considered some of whom we in the Continuing Church of God include in our tracing of our spiritual ancestors (like some of the Cathars and Albigenses) to have been a secret Jewish group that only professed Christ. This will set the stage for more persecution against those who hold to Church of God teachings that the Catholics tend to consider to be 'Jewish.'

Thyatira Era Persecutions

Thyatira had to endure various persecutions. But for a short while, killing them was discarded, in favor of other methods.

One Pope Leo actually decided that killing those associated with the Church of God was not appropriate. This was confirmed by the Third Lateran Council in 1179, which apparently decided that economic blackmail was better:

As St. Leo says, though the discipline of the church should be satisfied with the judgment of the priest and should not cause the shedding of blood, yet it is helped by the laws of catholic princes so that people often seek a salutary remedy when they fear that a corporal punishment will overtake them. For this reason, since in Gascony and the regions of Albi and Toulouse and in other places the loathsome heresy of those whom some call the Cathars, others the Patarenes, others the Publicani, and others by different names, has grown so strong that they no longer practise their wickedness in secret, as others do, but proclaim their error publicly and draw the simple and weak to join them, we declare that they and their defenders and those who receive them are under anathema, and we forbid under pain of anathema that anyone should keep or support them in their houses or lands or should trade with them. If anyone dies in this sin, then neither under cover of our privileges granted to anyone, nor for any other reason, is mass to be offered for them or are they to receive burial among Christians. With regard to the Brabanters, Aragonese, Navarrese, Basques, Coterelli and Triaverdini {17 }, who practise such cruelty upon Christians that they respect neither churches nor monasteries, and spare neither widows, orphans, old or young nor any age or sex, but like pagans destroy and lay everything waste, we likewise decree that those who hire, keep or support them, in the districts where they rage around, should be denounced publicly on Sundays and other solemn days in the churches, that they should be subject in every way to the same sentence and penalty as the above-mentioned heretics and that they should not be received into the communion of the church, unless they abjure their pernicious society and heresy(Third Lateran Council, Canon 27. 1179 A.D. Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner).

The Third Lateran Council took place under Pope Alexander III, Frederick I being emperor. There were 302 bishops present. It condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses (The 21 Ecumenical Councils. Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm 02/12/06).

But economic boycotting and shunning was not enough, as the 1968 WCG also wrote:

The infamous INQUISITION was then set up to complete the job by eliminating religious objections. Papal bull decreed severe punishment against any person suspected of even sympathizing with "heretics." Confiscations, imprisonments, burnings and every imaginable form of persecution continued for more than a hundred years. Thousands died. In the city of Montsegur alone, 200 persons were burned in one day...

Gregory IX issued another bull against the Waldenses in 1231. From 1231 to 1233 a general persecution raged in Germany, cutting short the Work in Holland. By 1235, persecution on a large scale began at Milan, original seat of the Lombard Waldenses. The archbishop "razed their school" -- apparently the College -- but LEFT THE PEOPLE FREE! On the French side of the Alps, killing and burning reached the Valley Louise in 1238. (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).

One Protestant scholar noted:

The next major step in the establishment of the Inquisition was taken by Innocent III...In the West, the same pope launched a "Crusade" against the Cathars, or Albigenses, of Southern France in 1208...In the second century of the Christian Era, most Christians refused to take up arms at all.. One millennium later, Christians were not only fighting for the church against "infidels" who had conquered ancient biblical lands, but against other Christians, heretical ones, who only asked to be able to live in peace on their ancestral soil...No matter how dreadful the use of violence against the dualistic Albigenses was, it must be acknowledged that their heresy is incompatible with Christianity, indeed with biblical religion as such...Perhaps for medieval popes the crucial factor that caused them to condemn dissidents was really the dissidents' rejection of papal authority (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 260-261).

Notice that the Protestant scholar seems to feel that murdering Cathars and Albigenses who simply wanted to live in peace (but were not Greco-Roman trinitarian) is more compatible with Catholic/Protestant "Christianity" than being faithful to the teachings of Christ and the early Christians who were against warfare. Are the real heretics those who were faithful to New Testament teachings against warfare or those who changed those teachings and killed?

And from the Catholic side, notice some of what Canon 3 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed:

Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath (Twelfth Ecumenical Council: Lateran IV 1215, Canon 3.  From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 236-296. as cited in: Medieval Sourcebook.  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/lateran4.html viewed 04/08/10).

Hence, persecution has been justified by many Greco-Romans.

The Church of Rome became highly disturbed that lay people were reading and quoting the Bible, as it differed from what the Church of Rome wanted to be taught.

Pope Innocent III stated in 1199:

... to be reproved are those who translate into French the Gospels, the letters of Paul, the psalter, etc. They are moved by a certain love of Scripture in order to explain them clandestinely and to preach them to one another. The mysteries of the faith are not to explained rashly to anyone. Usually in fact, they cannot be understood by everyone but only by those who are qualified to understand them with informed intelligence. The depth of the divine Scriptures is such that not only the illiterate and uninitiated have difficulty understanding them, but also the educated and the gifted (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum 770-771) (Cited in Reyes EC. In His Name. AuthorHouse, 2010, p. 442)

To be reproved means to be chastised, stopped, and/or persecuted.

Even having the Bible became prohibited by various decrees during the time of Thyatira. Here is a report from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

After the death of Innocent III, the Synod of Toulouse directed in 1229 its fourteenth canon against the misuse of Sacred Scripture on the part of the Cathari: "prohibemus, ne libros Veteris et Novi Testamenti laicis permittatur habere" (Hefele, "Concilgesch", Freiburg, 1863, V, 875). In 1233 the Synod of Tarragona issued a similar prohibition in its second canon ... The Third Synod of Oxford, in 1408, owing to the disorders of the Lollards ... issued a law in virtue of which only the versions approved by the local ordinary or the provincial council were allowed to be read by the laity (Hefele, op. cit., VI, 817). (Maas, Anthony. "Scripture." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 16 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13635b.htm>)

Here is canon 14 of the Consilum Tolosanum (Council of Toulouse/Synod of Toulouse) held in 1229:

We forbid also that the laity be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless some one might peradventure wish, from a feeling of devotion, to have the psalter, or the breviary, or the hours of the blessed Mary. But we do most strictly forbid them from having the aforementioned books translated into a vulgar tongue. (Berg JF. Lectures on Romanism. Publisher D. Weidner, 1840. Original from Princeton University, Digitized Mar 21, 2008, p. 280)

A 'vulgar tongue' meant that the Council forbade translation of scriptures into the common (vulgar) language lay people would understand.

The famous inquisition, in southern France, began in earnest in 1233 when Pope Gregory IX charged the Dominican order with wiping out Cathari (their name mean Puritan, and that is where the Puritan developed from) and others they considered to be heretics.

The Council of Tarragona of 1234, in its second canon, ruled that:

"No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned lest, be he a cleric or a layman, he be suspected until he is cleared of all suspicion." -D. Lortsch, Historie de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14. (Berg JF. Lectures on Romanism. Publisher D. Weidner, 1840. Original from Princeton University, Digitized Mar 21, 2008, p. 242)

Perhaps it should be added here that the Church of Rome declared in 1559 that it was an unpardonable sin (who that supposedly cannot be 'absolved') to possess Bibles without written permission as well as writings from those who disagreed with the Church of Rome.

Of course, Church of God Christians and some others with original Judeo-Christian practices would not accept this.

The Church of Rome had pacifist Cathars burned:

The Cathars were pacifist ... the Cathars did not fight. ...

1244... The castle was then left to the Cathars for a period of 15 days, that means until March 16... The Parfaits had the choice between adjuring their religion and being burned at the stake. All the Cathars chose to die as well as some soldiers and members of their family ... On the morning of March 16, after a religious service, 205 Cathars, men and women, walked to their horrible death singing. They were burned together in a field nearby known at the present time as “Le Champs des Crémats”. The catholic priests among the crusaders were singing too: a Te Deum of shame. From that day Montsegur became the symbol of oppression.a a- Cathares (Les), Jean Blum. Editions du Rocher 1991. (Nullens GCH. Catholics, Heretics and Heresy. © 2015 Gilles C H Nullens)

The Catholics have a 'saint' who has the burning of those they will consider heretical in the future (see (Schmöger Carl E. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Volume 2. Approbation: Bishop of Limbourgh Peter Joseph. TAN Books, reprint 1976, p.292). It is not just the Church of Rome who opposes those with more biblical views than it has.

Orthodox seers and writers have also taken positions against those with original Judeo-Christian practices.  One example would be a 1249 A.D. vision of “Blessed Hieronymus Agathaghelos” which claimed that “the blasphemies of the Sabbatians have stained and soiled for many centuries” (Cited in Tzima Otto, p. 135; Dr. Otto herself refers to those with Nazarene/Judeo-Christian beliefs as “Christian traitors” on p. 240)--Hieronymus Agathaghelos also predicted their public execution (Tzima Otto, 134,135,240). 

There is a long history of Greco-Roman church leaders attempting to eliminate those part of, or sympathetic to, the Church of God.

The Albigneses were condemned by various councils. And one, the Council of Albi (sometimes spelled Alby) in 1254 apparently stated:

They savour of Judaism...they observe the Jewish sabbath, but say that the holy Dominical day is no better than any other day; let them be accursed (Quoted in Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 64).

Notice what a former Roman Catholic priest reported:

It has been reckoned that in the last and most savage persecution under Emperor Diocletian about two thousand Christians perished, worldwide. In the first incident of Pope Innocent's Crusade ten times that number of people were slaughtered. Not all were Albigensians. It comes as a shock to discover that, at a stroke, a pope killed far more Christians than Diocletian (De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ. Poolberg Press, Dublin, 2000, pp. 160-161).

(The entire persecution that Roman Emperor Diocletian unleashed lasted from 303-313 A.D; the inquisition-persecution that Innocent III unleashed lasted hundreds of years.)

Here are some reports related to Russia:

One crisis developed as of the year 1492 approached.  Byzantine and Russian society had been taught that the world would end 7,000 years after the time of creation.  The year 7000 in the Orthodox calendar corresponded to the year AD 1492.
 
Anticipation of the apocalypse was mixed with confusion, dread, and doubts about the veracity of Orthodox teachings.  In this atmosphere a group of religious dissidents known in the historical literature as Judaizers, gained momentum and new adherents, especially among the clergy of Novgorod... From Novgorod they spread to Moscow when Ivan III having annexed Novgorod in 1478, transferred two Novgorodian priests who had espoused the heretical views...to Moscow...Ivan's daughter-in-law, the mother of his grandson Dmitry, and the state secretary (d'iak) and the diplomat, Feder Kuritsyn, were among those influenced by their beliefs.

In 1487, Gennadii (Gennadius), the second archbishop to be appointed by Moscow to lead the still discontented Novgorodian church, launched an aggressive campaign to root out dissidents, whom he labeled as heretics for their alleged iconoclasm, anti-Trinitarianism, Sabbatarianism (i.e., observing the Sabbath on Saturday rathern than Sunday), and rejection of the year 7000 (1492) as the date of earthly destruction.  Using torture among other inquisitorial techniques, he identified the heretics and convinced the grand prince and the new metropolitan, Zosima (1490-94), to convene a Church council to suppress their movement.  The council of 1490 found nine accused Novgorodians guilty. (Martin J.  Medieval Russia: 980-1584, 2nd edition.  Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 290-291)

Ivan Kuritsin a prominent Russian theologian, and a leader of the religious uprising was arrested and locked in a cage. The tsar - Ivan the Great - found this movement already well established in Novgorod when he seized control of that city around 1480. Gennadii, Russian Orthodox archbishop of Novgorod was a zealous, even fanatical, enemy of the Sabbath-keeping reformers. He calls for extreme measures. In some of his letters addressed to the Russian tsar, Gennadii venerates the methods of Spanish Inquisition and insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state should apply these methods towards the Russian Sabbath-keeping movement. Russian Orthodox church leaders met at the Council of Moscow and condemned the reformers as heretics. The Sentence of the Council details the charges: "... some of you said blasphemy against many holy icons, and some of you cut the holy icons and burned them with fire... And you have all honored the Sabbath more than the Resurrection Day of Christ." Council of Moscow, 1490. (Sabbath Rest for Weary Russia. Light of Hope International Television Ministry, Copyright 2011  http://www.lightofhopetv.com/sabbath.shtml viewed 03/31/12)

...1503...the leader of the Possessors was Abbot Joseph of Volokolamsk...a rather severe ascetic who imposed...the burning at the stake...the sect of the Judaizers...Judaizers...in Russia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries...denied the Trinity (Fanning S. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routeldge, New York. 2001, reprinted 2006, pp. 49, 255).

Whether or not the persecuted Russians were part of the COG is uncertain, but being anti-trinitarian, Sabbath-keeping, iconoclasts that did not agree with aspects of Russian Orthodox eschatology hints that perhaps some of them could have been.

In the Transylvanian regions, the major faiths seemed to unify against those that kept the Sabbath. Daniel Liechty reported:

…the most thorough persecution of the Sabbatarians began in 1618.  At that time an ordinance was passed which gave the Sabbatarians “until Christmas” to join one of the “four received religions” of face the full wrath of the law.  Again large numbers of books and writings were confiscated and burned…The persecution drove the Sabbatarians even further into secrecy (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 66,67).

And then it got worse:

And finally, the tragic “Accord of Deés” or Complanatio Deesiana in July 1638 definitely disjoined Sabbatarians from Unitarians. Unitarians were ordered to worship Jesus, baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and to allow their publications censured--a coerced “complanatio.” The “Judaizers” and those who rejected and cursed Jesus, however, were excluded even from the new amnesty. Sabbatarians were easy target of the new discriminatory law: they observed the Sabbath, therefore they farmed on Sundays, abstained from eating pork and blood, celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, and refused baptism of their children--the very sign of their expected conversion (Gellérd, Judit. Spiritual Jews of Szekler Jerusalem A Four-Centuries History of Transylvanian Szekler (Székely) Sabbatarianism. In Literature of Memory VI: Hope and Despair STH TS 870, Fall 2000 Professor Elie Wiesel. http://www.unitarius.hu/cffr/papers/sabbat.htm--12/14/02).

Note that the "Judaizers" are separate from "those who rejected and cursed Jesus" as well as from the Unitarians (who were granted some type of amnesty). In this region, there were both true Christians (the "Judaizers" who celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, etc.) and those who rejected Christ as Messiah (hence the Judaizers were not actually unitarian).

Hence, persecution of the faithful occurred in many lands.

The Murderous Crusaders Were Cross Bearers

The term 'crusader' basically means cross-bearer.

The Roman and Orthodox Catholics called for the crusades which killed Muslims and eventually others:

Urban's main achievement was convoking the Council of Clermont, November 1095, which called the First Crusade. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Commenus, had sent a desperate appeal to Urban for armed knights to defend Christianity against the Moslem enemy. When the Pope laid the Emperor's pleas before the knights in Clermont, the main concern of the noblemen there was not so much the defense of Byzantium as the rescue of the Holy land from Moslem domination. Palestine had been under Moslem control since the days of the Caliph Omar, but at least the Arab Moslems had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the places made sacred by the life of Christ. The SeIjuk Turks, now the dominant Moslem power, had, on the other hand, closed off the Holy Land. Thus the Pope concluded his speech to the council with these words: “Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulcher assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God's kingdom. Let each one deny himself and take the Cross!” With a shout — "God wills it” — the Assembly rose. They adopted a red cross as their emblem, and within a few hours no more red material remained in the town because the knights had cut it all up into crosses to be sewn on their sleeves. Because of their emblem (crux is the Latin word for cross) they were given the name Crusaders. (Carrol A. The Crusades. Catholic Education Resource Center. http://catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0010.html viewed 07/27/14)

Decrees of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, 1095... He established and decreed that knights and footmen, that is whoever were able to go to deliver Jerusalem and the other churches of Asia from the power of the pagans, for the love of God and to obtain remission of all their sins, should set forth with one soul, bearing arms, and he decreed that in their property until their return unbroken peace and security should be observed. At the same time he provided that all who went there should bear the sign of the cross marked on the garments on their shoulders or on their forehead, whereby they would show the piety and pilgrimage of so great a journey and be impeded by no one. All those who were present, hearing such a good and desirable edict, lifted their voices to the heaven in ovation, shouting altogether again and again : God wills it, God wills it, God wills it. (Decrees of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, 1095. In a Historia peregrinorum at Monte Cassino is contained an amplified version of the Cencius-Baluze text (p. 124n.) Translated from Robert Somerville, The Councils of Urban II. vol 1, DECRETA CLAROMONTENSIA, Amsterdam 1972. http://falcon.arts.cornell.edu/prh3/259/texts/clermont.html viewed 07/27/14)

The Crusades were expeditions undertaken, in fulfilment of a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny. The origin of the word may be traced to the cross made of cloth and worn as a badge on the outer garment of those who took part in these enterprises. Medieval writers use the terms crux (pro cruce transmarina, Charter of 1284, cited by Du Cange s.v. crux), croisement (Joinville), croiserie (Monstrelet), etc. Since the Middle Ages the meaning of the word crusade has been extended to include all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow, and directed against infidels, i.e. against Mohammedans, pagans, heretics, or those under the ban of excommunication... the extermination of the Albigensian heresy was due to a crusade (Bréhier, Louis. "Crusades." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 27 Jul. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm>)

The Crusaders were murderous ones promised remission of sins for killing while wearing crosses. This is not biblical, yet there are Catholic prophecies that seem to align with biblical ones that teach something like this will happen again (see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?).

The Crusades were wrong. They helped sow the seeds for the Islamic terrorism that we have seen in the 21st century.

Comments from Three Inquisitors During the Time of Thyatira

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this about one of its inquisitors:

Bernard Guidonis
Inquisitor of Toulouse against the Albigenses and Bishop of Lodève, b. at Royères (Limousin) in 1261, d. at Lauroux (Hérault), 30 December, 1331. He was one of the most prolific writers of the Middle Ages.

Here are some of the beliefs he found that those he persecuted held:

Nevertheless, attention should be called to the fact that among the Beguins are found some who know, accept and believe many or all of the errors listed below. These are more steeped and hardened in them. Others can say less about these errors yet are sometimes found to be worse in holding and believing them than are others. Still others have heard or remember less and yield to valid reason and saner counsel. Others obstinately persist and refuse to recant, choosing to die rather than abjure their errors, saying that in this matter they defend the gospel truth, the life of Christ, and evangelical and apostolic poverty...

Again, they say that the prelates and inquisitors who judged and condemned them as heretics - and indeed all those who consented or now consent knowingly to their condemnations - have by this action become heretics (if they persevere in it), and by this action have lost the ecclesiastical power to bind, loose and administer the ecclesiastical sacraments...

Again, they say that prelates and members of religious orders whose clothing is too abundant or too costly violate gospel perfection and Christ's precept, according instead with the precept of Antichrist. Such clerics who go around in pompous fashion are of the family of Antichrist...

Again, they say they are not required to take oaths, nor should they be made to reveal under oath the names of their fellow believers, accomplices and associates, because, as they say, this would violate the command to love one's neighbor and would on the contrary injure one's neighbor...

they say the carnal church (by which they mean the Roman church as it exists, not only in the city of Rome, but throughout the whole area under Roman jurisdiction) is Babylon, the great whore of whom John spoke in the Apocalypse. Thus they apply these passages to the Roman Church and attribute to the church all the evil things written there, such as that it is drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus Christ...

Again, they distinguish between two churches, the carnal church which they say is the Roman church which contains the multitude of rebrobate, and the spiritual church which contains those people they describe as spiritual and evangelical, who emulate the life of Christ and the apostles. They say the latter is their church...

Again, some of them claim that on those elect spiritual and evangelical individuals through whom a spiritual and benign church will be founded in the seventh and last period, the Holy Spirit will be poured out in greater or at least in equal abundance as on the apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ, on the day of Pentecost during the time of the primitive church. And they say the Holy Spirit will descend on them like a fiery flame in a furnace, and they take this to mean that, not only will their souls be filled with the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit will live in their bodies as well.

Again, they claim that there is a double Antichrist, one spiritual or mystical and the other the real, greater Antichrist...

Again, they say that both in the time of persecution by Antichrist and in that of the aforesaid war carnal Christians will be so afflicted that, despairing, they will say, "If Christ were God, he would not permit Christians to suffer so much and such intense evil." Thus despairing, they will apostatize from the faith and die. But God will hide the elect spiritual individuals so that they cannot be found by Antichrist and his ministers. Then the church will be reduced to the same size as the primitive church when it was first founded...

Again, they say that after Antichrist's death these spiritual individuals will convert the entire world to the faith of Christ; and the whole world will be so good and benign that there will be no malice or sin in people of that period, except perhaps for venial sins in a few of them; and all things will be common as far as use is concerned; and there will be no one who offends anyone else or encourages another to sin. For there will be the greatest love among them, and there will be one flock and one pastor. According to some of them this period and condition will last for one hundred years. Then, as love fails, malice will creep back in and slowly increase until Christ is, as it were, compelled to come in universal judgment because of it.

Again, these insane heretics seriously and ignominiously rail against the Lord Pope, the vicar of Jesus Christ, calling him the mystical Antichrist, precursor of the greater Antichrist, preparing the way for his life (BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR'S MANUAL, Chapter 5. Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. http://www2.kenyon.edu/projects/margin/inquisit.htm 04/05/17).

It should be noted that Albigenses and Waldenses were sometimes arrested with the Beguins. Now while most that were killed in the Inquisition were not in the Church of God, nor were the Franciscan Beguins, it is obvious that Church of God doctrines such as that ministers should not dress like the Roman clerics, Christians are not to swear oaths, and that God will offer salvation to all, were clearly condemned by the Roman Catholics during the time of Thyatira.

Before going further, it is odd that Bernard Guidonis considered the heretics as insane for railing against the pope for his allowance of torture.  He obviously knew of the tortures he and his fellow inquisitors inflicted upon people. 

Notice two brief Protestant-leaning accounts of the Inquisition:

torture…That it should be used by the Inquisition was a matter of course, for the crime of heresy was often one peculiarly difficult to prove; confession was sought in all cases and, from the middle of the thirteenth century, the habitual employment of torture by the Holy Office had been the most efficient factor in spreading its use throughout Christendom… In Aragon, Pefia tells us that, although it was forbidden in secular jurisprudence, it was freely permitted in matters of faith (Lea HC.  A history of the Inquisition of Spain, Volume 3.  The Macmillan company, 1922. Original from Harvard University.  Digitized, Apr 11, 2008, p. 2).

Now any of the Popes could have stopped the horrible Inquisition by merely affixing his name and seal to a piece of paper.  But did they?  No.  Some of the popes that are today acclaimed to be “great” by the Romish Church, lived and thrived during those bloody days.  Not one of them made a serious attempt to open the dungeon doors, to stop the slaughter of dripping blades, or quench the murderous fires that blackened the skies of Europe for decades!  And now I ask you: Could such a system that instituted this horrible Inquisition of the dark ages be the true Church? (Woodrow R.  Babylon Mystery Religion.  Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1998, p. 110)

Does anyone think torture is what Jesus would advise?

Also notice the following:

"Of the many who were burned and otherwise destroyed for Judaism," observes a Spanish author of the sixteenth century, "it is not probable that one-tenth were of the race of Israel, but heretics, who, for persisting in saying that the law of Moses was still binding, were accused of Jewish practices, such as circumcision and sabbatizing, to the latter of which they uniformly plead guilty" (Quoted in Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 88).

Notice that it was the supposed Jewish practice of keeping the Sabbath, and not circumcision, that they uniformly plead guilty to (Jews would always have been "guilty" of circumcision, while not all the that profess Christ would participate in that practice).

This actually seemed to upset one inquisitor named Gregory. Notice the following account:

On the 14th of September, 1492, about thirty persons were committed to the inquisitional dungeons of Toulouse upon a charge of Judaism...Of there was Anthony Ferrar, who had been a pastor or teacher in the Sabbatarian church of that city. After remaining in prison ten days, he received a visit from an Italian monk named Gregory...

Greg.--But Anthony, you must be a liar and a deceiver, for I have been credibly informed that yourself, and all of your friends, were of the cursed race of Israel.

An.--It is false, we were honest Frenchmen, and Christians, followers of Jesus.

Greg.--Nay! but you were Jews, for instead of baptizing your infant children, you have all the males circumcised.

An.--You were very wrong to accuse us of that practice ; for it is something of which we are entirely innocent.

Greg.--Hey ! do you then baptize your children?

An.--We do not, neither do we circumcise them.

Greg.--Nevertheless, you must be Jews, since you say the law of Moses is still binding.

An.--We say that the ten commandments are still binding.

Greg.--Yes, and instead of observing the festivals of the Holy Church, and honouring the holy day of the Lord, on which he rose from the dead, you were accustomed to meet for worship upon the old Sabbath, or Saturday.

An.--We did, indeed, rest and attend divine worship upon the seventh day, even as God commanded...

Anthony, with his associates in misfortune, were subsequently burned in the marketplace in Toulouse, and all died praising God that they were worthy to suffer for his name (Quoted in Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, pp. 87-88).

More on the Spanish Inquisition can be found in the article: The Spanish Inquisition and Early Protestant Persecutions.

Protestant Persecutions and Condemnations

Lest one think that persecution was limited to sources linked to Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, it needs to be understood that Martin Luther and his followers persecuted and condemned Church of God believers as well.

The Lutherans decided to collectively condemn those who were against the Greco-Roman trinity:

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting...They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles... (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

Overtime, many associated with Thyatira were called Anabaptists. The term means "re-baptizers" as they required that adults be baptized, so if someone had been baptized as an infant, they would have to be baptized later if they were to truly be in God's Church according to those who held Church of God doctrines.

The Anabaptists were condemned by the Lutherans because they did not support infant baptism, taught one could reject salvation, taught that Christians should not be soldiers, taught that there would be an end to punishments, and that Jesus would rule with His people on the earth:

Article IX: Of Baptism. Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children...

Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs. Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage. They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment. Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

It should also be noted that Lutherans and other Protestants considered that those who relied on the Bible alone for doctrine promoted "ancient heresies".

In the sixteenth century, "Anabaptists" taught millenarianism and were condemned by Roman Catholics for that belief (Birch D. Trial Tribulation & Triumph. Queenship Publishing, Goleta (CA), 1996, p. lvii).

Look at this admission from the Protestant scholar and theologian H. Brown:

Although classical theology is certainly not without its problems, historically it is almost always the case that the appeal to the Bible alone...leads to the reemergence of ancient heresies...The Reformation began with the slogan "To the sources!" and sought to deal a fatal blow to the place of church tradition in shaping life and faith...Despite their efforts not to be influenced by the authority of tradition, each of the major Reformation churches found itself borrowing from the past and building up a traditionalism of its own...when the Anabaptists and other radicals discovered Scripture to be teaching things the Lutherans found detestable, Lutherans learned the usefulness of tradition...(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 335,350-351).

It should be noted that the above is not limited to one Protestant scholar, even Martin Luther truly did not believe in rallying cry sola scriptura.

Furthermore, Martin Luther himself had many people killed. Notice the following:

"I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants in the rebellion, for I said that they should be slain; all their blood is upon my head. But I cast it on the Lord God, who commanded me to speak this way" (Werke, Erl. Edition, lix, p. 284 ‘Table Talk’ as quoted in Stoddard JL. Rebuilding a Lost Faith, 1922, p.96).

It is reported that 100,000 perished at that time. Martin Luther also advised his followers

...to burn down Jewish schools and synagogues, and to throw pitch and sulphur into the flames; to destroy their homes; to confiscate their ready money in gold and silver; to take from them their sacred books, even the whole Bible; and if that did not help matters, to hunt them of the country like mad dogs (Luther’s Works, vol. Xx, pp. 2230-2632 as quoted in Stoddard JL. Rebuilding a Lost Faith, 1922, p.99).

Hence, it would appear that Martin Luther had little problem persecuting those who differed from him, even if they felt their practices were based upon the Bible.

Notice the following actions taken against the Anabaptists by the Protestant "Reformers":

It is well known that the Lutheran princes and prelates practiced upon the Anabaptists all the cruelties to which they themselves had been subject by the Roman hierarchs. The names Luther, Calvin, and Zuinglius, have been marked in this indelible stain...

Calvin, who could smile with complacency over the tortures of those who refused to be governed by his own opinions; and Zuinglius, who, when questioned regarding the fate of certain Anabaptists, replied,

"Drown the Dippers"

(Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 106).

“In order to set up an effective system, Calvin used the State to inflict more severe penalties. Such penalties proved to be much to {sic}severe, fifty-eight being executed and seventy-six exiled by 1546”. These numbers are supplied by the Presbyterians themselves, and only the Lord knows how many Saints of the Lord were really executed for their faith! See- Christianity Through The Centuries, by Cairns, page 338 (Duff, Rex.  ANABAPTIST HISTORY. The Official Website of Anabaptists.  http://www.anabap.com/anabaphistory.htm viewed 3/30/08).

Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli ended up killing, often by drowning, the Anabaptists who promoted and practiced adult baptism (Bacchiocchi S. “ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED”. ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 197, 2008 ).

Zwingli (as also Luther and Calvin) had conceived of Zurich as a Christian state, a single unified Christian society… The Anabaptists were thus viewed as a threat to the stability of the social order and less as mere theological heretics (Storms S.  Zwingli and Anabaptists.  Nov 8, 2006.  © Copyright 2008 Enjoying God Ministries.  http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/19-zwingli-and-anabaptists viewed 3/30/08).

Perhaps it should also be noted that John Calvin of Geneva had Michael Servetus, a Spaniard, a physician, a scientist, etc. burned to death because Servetus taught against infant baptism and the trinity. John Calvin also encouraged his followers to carry on similar acts of persecution against those that did not hold to various "Calvinistic" views. Also notice:

In November, 1552, the Council declared that Calvin's "Institutes" were a "holy doctrine which no man might speak against." Thus the State issued dogmatic decrees, the force of which had been anticipated earlier, as when Jacques Gouet was imprisoned on charges of impiety in June, 1547, and after severe torture was beheaded in July. Some of the accusations brought against the unhappy young man were frivolous, others doubtful. What share, if any, Calvin took in this judgment is not easy to ascertain. The execution of however must be laid at his door; it has given greater offence by far than the banishment of Castellio or the penalties inflicted on Bolsec -- moderate men opposed to extreme views in discipline and doctrine, who fell under suspicion as reactionary. The Reformer did not shrink from his self-appointed task. Within five years fifty-eight sentences of death and seventy-six of exile, besides numerous committals of the most eminent citizens to prison, took place in Geneva (Barry W. Transcribed by Tomas Hancil. John Calvin. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Hence, it is not only Roman Catholic leaders who have savagely persecuted those who held to more biblical views. If Protestants really wish to believe in Sola Scriptura then they would change their practices, truly strive to live as Jesus lived, and not at all venerate such people as the murderous ones like Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli (also known as Ulrich Zwingli), or John Calvin.

Future Persecutions Will Affect the Philadelphians, Laodiceans, and Others

Persecutions are not simply a thing of the past.

In the past, as this article has partially shown, Christians were persecuted because they:

These persecutions sometimes included economic problems (cf. Revelation 13:16-17), verbal harrassment, torture, and/or threat of death, often causing them to flee. The same things face Christians in this 21st century.

More persecution is coming--and some of those will be the very reasons.

Remember that Jesus taught:

20 If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20).

Sadly, many of those who claim to be Christian do not keep Jesus' word, have persecuted in the past, and will persecute in the future.

Some of the persecution may come from hidden or secret sources, such as governmental surveillance. Notice God's people are to pray for protection from that:

2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
3 Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows — bitter words,
4 That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear. (Psalms 64:2-4)

The Book of Daniel shows a two-part persecution coming (I added the a and b below for emphasis):

25 a He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. b Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time. (Daniel 7:25)

First of all (a), he shall persecute certain of the saints, which is consistent with what Jesus said was coming:

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:9-14)

Much of the above will affect the Philadelphian Christians (cf. Revelation 12:13), but they will later be protected (Revelation 3:8-10) in the wilderness for a time, times, and half a time (Revelation 12:14-16; see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra). Part of why they will be persecuted is for proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and probably also for identifying the coming King of the North, who will not wish to be identified that way. This will likely result in internet and other restrictions on getting the truth of God out to the world (cf. Amos 8:11-12).

Note that the saints will be persecuted before they are "given into his hand"; perhaps that particular persecution means all of God's people, or more likely at least many of the Philadelphians, will be persecuted before the period "time and times and half a time" begins (Daniel 7:25a ). Then the Philadelphians will flee and escape the sword:

50 0 You who have escaped the sword,
Get away! Do not stand still!
Remember the Lord afar off,
And let Jerusalem come to your mind. (Jeremiah 51:50)

So, the above talks about God's people who escape (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra).

Getting back to Daniel, the expressions "completely shattered" and "Then the saints shall be given into his hand" seem to show that most of the saints will be in the tribulation (Daniel 7:25b). We know this cannot mean all because the book of Revelation says the Philadelphians will be kept from the hour of trial (Revelation 3:10)--protected "from the presence of the serpent" (cf. Revelation 12:14). God will in some way separate Christians then living when these terrible calamities finally come to be. The Philadelphia Christians will be protected from the Tribulation--most of the rest of the real Christians, however, will not be! (Revelation 3:16).

Daniel 7:25 a, which are consistent with the persecutions in Daniel 11:28-35, are a factor in the opening of the fifth seal in Revelation, which is the start of the Great Tribulation:

9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11)

Notice that this is consistent with Daniel 7:25 a and b. There were those who were martyred/persecuted (a) then there were to be more who were to be martyred/persecuted (b).

Second of all (Daniel 7:25 b), the remaining saints will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. This is the portion of the COG, the non-Philadelphians, who are NOT protested in the wilderness as Revelation 12:17 shows this separation:

17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17)

There are persecutions just before the Great Tribulation starts per Daniel 7:25a, 11:28-35; Revelation 12:13, and then during the time of the Great Tribulation per Daniel 7:25b, Revelation 12:17; 14:12-13.

Although many in the Church of God have experienced economic and social persecution in their walk with Christ, future severe persecution, beginning first with the Philadelphia remnant of Christians, is expected, it is then followed by persecution on all Christians once the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) begins.

While many like to focus on the idea that the Philadelphians will flee to a place of protection, it needs to be understood that there will apparently be a time of severe persecution just prior to the fleeing and the start of the Great Tribulation. Specifically, for another example, evangelist Richard Ames has taught that the 45 day period (the 1335-1290 days) begins intense persecution against the true Philadelphian Church, and this will fulfill Matthew 24:9 (Ames R. Welcome the King, Feast of Trumpets sermon for 9/13/07).

It seems that part of this persecuting time, the one mainly involving the Philadelphians, is also discussed in Daniel 11:32-36 (information of the persecution just prior to Daniel 11:31 can be found in the article Who is the King of the North?):

28 While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land...32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time (Daniel 11:28, 32-35).

The persecutions above are by one called the King of the North (Daniel 11:40; 7:25a)--the King of the North will NOT like the message that the Philadelphians are proclaiming at least of part of which will likely be the Continuing Church of God identifying him to the world as the prophesied King of the North. While it is apparently the Philadelphia Christians that are targeted for this particular persecution, it is likely that some Laodicean and other Christians will be affected at least to some degree. The Laodiceans will mainly misunderstand what is happening and not realize that their persecution is coming! This is also consistent with the persecution, accomplishments, and problems in Matthew 24:9-20 that will mainly affect the Philadelphians, but will lead to problems then for the Laodiceans in Matthew 24:21-22.

The 19th century Methodist theologian Adam Clarke, in his commentary, identifies the people as follows:

But the people that do know their God
The genuine Christians.

Shall be strong
Shall be strengthened by his grace and Spirit (Clarke A.  The Adam Clarke Commentary, Daniel Chapter 11.)

Those associated with the 'synagogue of Satan' (Revelation 3:9), will apparently betray and assist in this persecution (see also What is the Synagogue of Satan?) which is consistent with Daniel 11:32. Daniel 8:24 shows that this same leader persecutes "the holy people," thus that is further proof that Christians in the end time are who are being persecuted.

The old Radio Church of God realized that Daniel 11:32-35 was talking about what happens to the faithful just before 'the end' (the start of the Great Tribulation). Notice the following:

A Prophecy for Today

Daniel prophesied: "The people that do KNOW their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Dan. 11:32). Such a statement could refer only to God's people. Now notice what follows: "And they THAT UNDERSTAND among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days" (verse 33). ...

This prophecy concerns GOD'S CHURCH. Continuing "Now when they [God's people] shall fall, they shall be holpen [helped] with a little help: BUT MANY SHALL CLEAVE TO THEM WITH FLATTERIES" (verse 34). Here is the point that most people have missed. Many individuals who assemble with us on God's Sabbath, or in God's Feasts, are prophesied to cleave to us with flatteries!

Other translations make this even clearer. The Moffatt Translation states: "Many shall join them under FALSE PRETENSE." Yes, some do JOIN THEMSELVES to God's Church, with false pretenses, claiming to be true brethren, claiming to obey God, claiming to have God's Holy Spirit, and yet they are not a part of the body of Christ. God has not JOINED them to His Church!

In "The Complete Bible", AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION by Gordon-Goodspeed we read: "Many shall attach themselves in HYPOCRISY." These people who attach themselves to God's Church assemble under false pretense. They are inwardly hypocritical, and flatter or deceive others.

If you have the idea that all who come to God's Church are truly converted Christians, this scripture ought to dispel this delusion! There are some among us who are not converted. They are not a real spiritually LIVING part of the body of Christ. They are not letting Christ do His work in them. They have not truly and completely surrendered their lives to Christ in full repentance.

Notice that this prophecy continues right up to the time of the end (verse 35), to the return of Jesus Christ. Here is a prophecy which concerns us today! (Neff L. Beware of False Brethren! Good News, January 1960)

Even the Catholic saint Jerome understood that these passages in Daniel 11 were referring to the persecution of God's people as his commentary on them included the following:

But these events were typically prefigured under Antiochus Epiphanes, so that this abominable king who persecuted God's people foreshadows the Antichrist, who is to persecute the people of Christ. (Jerome. Commentary on Daniel, Chapter 11. Translated by Gleason L. Archer. (1958). This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2004. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm viewed 06/05/11)

This King of the North seems to be the same one that certain Catholic "prophecies" call the Great Monarch who will rule a revised Roman Empire. Notice that Catholic prophets have indicated that heretics will be eliminated by their Great Monarch, and that a small "sect" will have their possessions (and probably some of their bodies) burnt:

St. Francis of Paola (Born in Italy, 15th century). "By the grace of the Almighty, the Great Monarch will annihilate heretics and unbelievers. He will have a great army, and angels will fight at his side. He will be like the sun among the stars. His influence will spread over the whole earth. All in all, there will be on earth twelve Kings, one Emperor, one Pope and a few Princes. They will all lead holy lives." (Dupont, Yves. Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1973, p.38).

Capuchin Friar (18th century)..."A scion of the Carolingian race, by all considered extinct, will come to Rome and behold and admire the piety and clemency of this Pontiff. who will crown him, and declare him to be the legitimate Emperor of the Romans. He shall destroy the Ottoman Empire and all heresies" (Dupont, p. 34).

David Poreus (17th century): The Great Monarch...will crush the enemies of the Pope…(Dupont, p. 31).

Anne Catherine Emmerich (Purification day 1822) "I saw during the last few days marvellous things connected with the Church. St. Peter's was almost entirely destroyed by the sect, but their labors were, in turn, rendered fruitless and all that belonged to them, their aprons and tools, burned by the executioners on the public place of infamy. They were made of horse-leather, and the stench from them was so offensive that it made me quite sick..." (Schmöger Carl E. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Volume 2. Approbation: Bishop of Limbourgh Peter Joseph. TAN Books, reprint 1976, p.292)

Annihilation and burning certainly are forms of persecution. Possession of what Catholics consider to be 'bad books' could also result in persecution:

Anne Catherine Emmerich January 27, 1822 'The non-Catholics will mislead many. They will use every possible means to entice them from the Church, and great disturbances will follow.' (Schmöger, p. 348)

Nursing Nun of Bellay (died 1820): "All these things shall come to pass once the wicked have succeeded in circulating large numbers of bad books." (Dupont, p.51)

Trappistine Nun of Notre Dame des Gardes. "Chastisement will come when a very large number of bad books have been spread" (Dupont, p 114).

The Eastern Orthodox have a prophecy that various Sabbath-keepers will be publicly executed and the time period is supposed to be when the "Great Monarch" rises up:

Blessed Hieronymus Agathaghelos (1279): And lo, an evil assembly of the crafty leader, dressed in black mourning apparel…those who were taking in a most hypocritical manner the most holy name of Christ…those were the most filthy citizens of Pentapolis…these are semi-godless men…they will have to pay the price before the public executioner of the Sabbatians. (Tzima Otto, H.  The Great Monarch and WWIII in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Scriptural Prophecies. Verenika Press, Rock City (SC), 2000, pp. 134,135,240). 

Note “public executioner of the Sabbatians” is how that portion of the phrase is shown as a translation on page 240 and seems to make the most historical sense of the Greek being translated. Sabbatians means Sabbath-keepers. The fact that there is a "public executioner" for them, supports the idea that people like us in the genuine Church of God will be subject to execution and other likely forms of persecution.

Notice the following statements:

Just as God’s people have had to do from the first century onward, so His people today must "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). God states clearly: "He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness" (Romans 9:28). Who will He use to do it? According to Daniel 11:32 it is "the people who know their God [that] shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." (God's Church Through the Ages By John H. Ogwyn. Booklet.)

This time is Satan’s wrath against the modern day descendants of Israel as well as against spiritual Israel, the Church. This is made plain in Revelation 12 where we read of the Church being described by the metaphor of a woman...In verse 13 we find that after Satan is cast back down to the earth, a yet future event, he launches all out persecution upon the Church. At this time, we are told, the Church will be taken to a place in the wilderness to be supernaturally nourished and protected during the final three-and-a-half year period preceding Christ’s return (The Secret Rapture-False Hope for End-Time Christians! By John H. Ogwyn. Tomorrow's World. Jan-Feb 2000).

Revelation 12 shows that those that flee will be persecuted just before they flee, and those that do not flee will later be persecuted:

Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:13-17).

The Laodiceans (see The Laodicean Church Era), who basically will have relatively little intense persecution prior to that time (though historically, Satan is not real picky and does not seem to mind when others not specifically targeted are killed), will be then thrown into a period of intense persecution for three and one half years as Daniel 7:25b shows.

God's people are not to remain with the Babylonian power:

4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

Getting back to Daniel, the "He" in Daniel 7:25 apparently the 'Babylonian' King of the North. This leader will press for terrible persecution, and normally attempting to kill, the Laodicean and other Christians that are not then in a place of protection (see also the article There is a Place of Protection for the Philadelphians).

The same "he" is referred to as a king below:

23 "And in the latter time of their kingdom,
When the transgressors have reached their fullness,
A king shall arise,
Having fierce features,
Who understands sinister schemes.
24 His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power;
He shall destroy fearfully,
And shall prosper and thrive;
He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. (Daniel 8:23-24)

Christians not protected during the Great Tribulation (for information on those that can be, please see the article There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra and/or the YouTube video Might Petra be the Place of Safety?) will have a dreadful time.

The Roman Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that it admits that many of its early saints taught the millennium, now strongly condemns this belief. Notice:

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 194).

It should be noted that the millennial teaching appears to be the only doctrine associated with Antichrist that is condemned in the current official Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is the first new one in hundreds of years). Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that those who teach the millennium, which we in the Continuing Church of God do, will be subject to persecution.

Being killed as the result of persecution is seemingly part of the final phase of the work that various of God's people will endure:

12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." (Revelation 14:12-13)

This looks like it will be a massive persecution.

Even though other parts of the Book of Revelation show that persecution will come from a combination of church and state (i.e. 13:1-8), various verses (i.e. (Revelation 12:13-17) show that it is truly Satan that is behind the persecutions. The old Radio Church of God taught this about Revelation 12:13:

Now turn to verse 13...this is the persecution that is yet in the future, a persecution that is being secretly planned... (Hoeh H. Are Christians Again to be MARTYRED? Plain Truth, November 1956, p. 21).

As far as being planned, as far back as the 12th century, a Catholic mystic suggested that those in a place of safety, who seemed like decent people, really were Satan's tool and that they would teach that Jesus was about to return (for precised quotes, please see There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra)--hence teaching that Jesus will come within few years of the start of the Great Tribulation seemingly is another teaching that will cause persecution.

Revelation mentions:

And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them (Revelation 13:3-7).

Not worshipping the Beast will be a cause of persecution. But notice that the persecution is not limited to true Christians (saints) as any who do not worship the beast will not be able to buy or sell and this final hour of trial comes to all except the Philadelphians:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (Revelation 13:11-17).

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write...I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:7,10).

(More information on the Beast and the Antichrist can be found in the articles Europa and the Beast and Some Doctrines of Antichrist.)

Perhaps it should also be noted that at least one apparition claiming to be "Mary" (but has not been offficially accepted by the Vatican as valid) hinted that those who did not have faith in her would be persecuted. Notice what “Mary” allegedly stated in an apparition Pfaffenhofen, Germany on April 25, 1946:

Wherever it is taught that I am all-powerful, I will spread peace, for peace will be where all men have faith in my power...I am the sign of the Living God..." (Culleton, Reign of Antichrist, p. 216).

The Bible does not state that Mary is all-powerful, that people should have faith in her power, or that she is the sign of the Living God. But the above apparition strongly is implying that those who do not have faith in her power will not have peace--hence those who hold fast to the Bible will apparently be persecuted by those who have faith in Mary. Apparitions claiming to be Mary apparently may be one of the reasons that those who support that Beast will use to justify persecution. (More on Mary can be found in the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions.)

Luke 21:12

Many of the translations of Luke 21:12 are questionable as they suggest a different order of persecution than is laid out in Matthew 24. Here is how the NKJV renders the verse and some others around it:

8 And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them. 9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately."

10 Then He said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:10-24)

Verse 12 seems to indicate that the major persecution that begins prior to the start of the Great Tribulation, also precedes the events that Matthew 24:4-8 and Mark 13:5-8 refer to as the 'beginning of sorrows' or 'birth pangs.'

Notice Matthew 24:8-9:

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.

Notice that a persecution comes after the beginning of sorrows. The Greek word translated as Then, Τóτε, means consecutive, next in sequence:

Τóτε tote (tot'-eh); from (the neuter of) NT:3588 and NT:3753; then when, i.e. at the time that (of the past or future, also in consecution) (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

So, the order, based upon what the NKJV indicates seems different.

When I looked into this, I noticed that one of the commentators considered that there was a grammatical issue in Luke 21:12 that many missed. Notice:

Some doubt exists as to the meaning of "before" (πρό) in this twelfth verse usually has been understood in a temporal sense, i.e. "Before all the wars, etc., I have been telling you of, you will be persecuted." A more definite sense is, however, produced by giving the word πρό (before) the signification of "before," equivalent to "more important" - "more important for you as signs will be the grave trials you will have to endure: even these signs must not dismay you, or cause you to give up your posts as teachers, for the end will not be heralded even by these personal signs." (Pulpit Commentary)

Hence, the more definite sense of Luke 21:12 is that the coming persecution is of more direct consequence for the faithful Christians than the associated sorrows in the 'beginning of sorrows.'

Thus, Luke 21:12 does not appear to be a contradiction in sequence, but an item that Jesus wanted to emphasize. This persecution is something that the Continuing Church of God has been emphasizing as well. And it happens after the beginning of sorrows, but before the start of the Great Tribulation, such as in Daniel 11:29-35 and Revelation 12:13-16.

Will a Cross be a Symbol for the Persecutors?

Did you know that a type of "cross" became a military symbol after a sun-worshiping Emperor claimed to have a vision and a dream:

In 312, the Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great was in Trier, Germany where he had an unexpected vision of a cross that appeared in the sky..Constantine’s soldiers, the majority of whom were pagans, placed the sacred image of the cross on their shields (Mangan C.M. In This Sign You Conquer, 10/15/03 Copyright © 2004 Catholic Online).

He {Constantine} said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens , above the sun, and bearing the inscription , Conquer by this...in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens , and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens , and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies....At dawn of day he arose, and communicated the marvel to his friends: and then, calling together the workers in gold and precious stones, he sat in the midst of them, and described to them the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them represent it in gold and precious stones...

Now it was made in the following manner. A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a transverse bar laid over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones; and within this, the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected by X in its centre...

The emperor constantly made use of this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile power, and commanded that others similar to it should be carried at the head of all his armies. (Eusebius. The Life of Constantine, Book I, Chapters 28,30,31).

Labarum Cross
Labarum Cross

This type of cross is known as a labarum:

The Labarum (☧) was a vexillum (military standard) that displayed the first two Greek letters of the word "Christ" (Greek: ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, or Χριστός) — Chi (χ) and Rho (ρ). It was first used by the Roman emperor Constantine I. (Labarum. Wikipedia, viewed 03/04/09).

During the Inquisition, some who recanted because of torture and persecution were forced to wear two yellow crosses:

Some of them were sentenced to wear crosses...they henceforth perpetually wear two crosses of yellow felt on every garment, except the shirt (Rule W. The Brand of Dominic or Inquisition. John Mason, London, 1852. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, pp. 14-15).

There is also a Catholic writer who indicates that the image or perhaps mark of the beast may be something that resembles the old Constantinian cross:

Priest P. Huchedé (19th century): What this sign shall be time alone will reveal. Yet there are some {Catholic} commentators of the Holt Writ, who, according to a special revelation pretend to say that it shall be formed out of the Greek letters X and P, interlaced...which resembles the number of Christ. (Cornelius a Lapide in Epis. 2 to Thes.). No one can either buy or sell without that…(Huchedé, P.  Translated by JBD. History of Antichrist.  Imprimatur: Edward Charles Fabre, Bishop of Montreal.  English edition 1884, Reprint 1976.  TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 24).

If some type of cross is a symbol of the future Antichrist/Beast power as Priest P. Huchedé claims it will be (and it is in a book with an official imprimatur), perhaps those who come from faiths descended from Emperor Constantine should be concerned about their religion now--before it becomes even further removed from the original faith. The Bible indicates that the true Christians will NOT have the symbol/mark needed to buy or sell when the two beasts of Revelation 13 are in power, but only those that will follow those beasts will (Revelation 13:16-17)--and while some type of crosses may not necessarily be required everywhere, other Catholic writings suggest that in certain places, they will be.

Although all real scholars admit that the original Christians would not kill or intentionally participate in military service, after Emperor Constantine claimed to see a spear in the sky with a traverse bar (see Constantine is Why “Christians” War), the group that accepted his authority then allowed him to convene what is known as the Council of Nicea in 325. A.D.

Astoundingly, there are writings that indicate that those wear some type of cross will be persecuters:

St. Francis de Paul (1470): These holy Cross-bearers shall reign and dominate holily over the whole world until the end of time...(Culleton, G. The Prophets and Our Times. Nihil Obstat: L. Arvin. Imprimatur: Philip G. Scher, Bishop of Monterey-Fresno, November 15, 1941. Reprint 1974, TAN Books, Rockford (IL),p. 157-161).

Josefa von Bourg (d. 1807): God will choose a descendant of Constantine, Pepin, and St. Louis, who has been tried by a long period of exile to rule over Europe. He will have the sign of the cross on his breast...Under him the Catholic religion will spread as never before (Culleton, pp. 181-182; Connor, p.37).

Notice that the following two mystics seem to imply that it is the cross-wearers that are persectuting and those not wearing the cross that get persecuted:

St. Bridget of Sweden (died 1373): ...war shall end when an emperor of Spanish origin will be elected, who will, in a wonderful manner, be victorious through the sign of the Cross. He shall destroy the Jewish and Mahometan sects... (Culleton, The Prophets and Our Times , p. 154).

Anne Catherine Emmerich (October, 1820): citizens and peasants, many of whom were marked on the forehead with a red cross. As this army drew near, the captives and oppressed were delivered and swelled the ranks whilst the demolishers and conspirators were put to flight on all sides (Emmerich AC. The Life of Lord Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations. Schmöger edition, Vol. IV. Nihil Obstat: D. Jaegher, 14 Februari 1914. Imprimatur: A.C. De Schrevel, Brugis, 14 Februari 1914. Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 2004, pp. 290-291).

Notice what one claimed to be “Mary” (but has not been offficially accepted by the Vatican as valid) allegedly stated in an apparition Pfaffenhofen, Germany on June 25, 1946:

I am the great Mediatrix of Grace. The Father wants the world to recognize His handmaid...My sign is about to appear. God wills it...I cannot reveal my power to the world as yet...Then I will be able to reveal myself...Chose a sign for yourself so that the Trinity may soon be adored by all! Pray and sacrifice through me!...I will impose crosses on my children that will be as heavy and as deep as the sea because I love them in my sacrificed Son. I pray, be prepared to bear the cross in order that the Trinity may be honored (Culleton, Reign of Antichrist, pp. 217-218).

Real Christians would not pray and sacrifice through Mary. Nor would true Christians force the wearing of a cross and persecute!

In 1958, Matous Losuta of Czechoslovakia claimed that "Mary" (this apparition has not been offficially accepted by the Vatican as valid) stated:

All my children will receive and carry the sign of the cross on their foreheads (Flynn, Ted & Flynn, Maureen. Thunder of Justice: The Warning, the Miracle, the Chastisement, the Era of Peace. Signs of the Times Illustrated by Kaleidoscope Graphics Staff Contributor Malachi Martin Published by Maxkol Communications, 1992, p. 331).

But this is not something that the Bible advocates. (More on Mary can be found in the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions.)

Thus, according to various Catholic mystics and writers, those that follow a persecuting power will wear some type of cross--the type is not entirely clear--nor will it necessarily matter.  Though according to at least one Catholic priest, it is the to be similar to the type of cross that Emperor Constantine used, and according to that same priest, it may be an important symbol for the beasts of Revelation 13 and their followers.

How Are You to Handle Persecutions?

Persecution comes in various forms. Jesus warned Christians to not fall away because of them:

18 Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:18-21)

14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14)

Satan's plan includes persecution, as well as lies and innuedoes to discourage people from enduring. On that latter point, there are hateful people who write various things about the true Church of God (for some details check out Banned by HWA and Ambassador Watch). People once considered to be brethren will betray people physically later (cf. Daniel 11:31-32 and Mark 13:12), and some are trying to do so spiriturally now (again, Banned by HWA and Ambassador Watch).

When Jesus comes, "those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14)--not just once called.

In addition to fleeing from one city to the next (Matthew 10:23), the Bible gives other advice for dealing with Satan's plan, persecutors, and insulters:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

7 "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults. 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment, And the worm will eat them like wool; But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation from generation to generation."

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?

10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over? 11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

12 "I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13 And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail. 15 But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared — The Lord of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, 'You are My people.'" (Isaiah 51:7-16)

Isaiah 51:17 is like what Jesus said in Luke 21:12-14.

Persecutions are expected for God's people.

Concluding Comments

Severe persecution has occurred throughout the history of the true Church. While all who professed Christ until the early 4th century were subject to persecution, after Constantine's form of religion was embraced, the Greco-Roman churches often were on the side of the persecutors, despite Jesus' admonition to love enemies (and some of this type of persecution began apparently no later than 135 A.D.).

Even the Church of Rome admits that no early professor of Christ persecuted beyond excommunication, yet it has often done so.

Severe persecution is expected to occur against the Sabbath-keeping Philadelphian Christians just prior to the time the true Church is to flee (please see the article There is a Place of Protection for the Philadelphians):

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. (Matthew 24:9-20)

And then will come the Great Tribulation:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand (Matthew 24:21-25).

It may well be that Philadelphian Christians in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere may decide that they need to flee to the tiny nation of Israel prior to the start of the Great Tribulation. And that may be why Jesus made comments about fleeing Judea (watch also What is the Fate of Christians in Europe and Elsewhere?).

Jesus indicates that the end time persecution may be the biggest test of faith for believers. Notice:

7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7-8)

The Bible and the facts of history have revealed persecutions for the people of God. While false Christians have also been persecuted, true Christians have never been the persecutors as true Christians "do not imitate what is evil" (3 John 11). Those who really want to know what happened to the true Church of God should begin with the The History of Early Christianity page.

The Bible show that end time persecution will come (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:17).

Notice that the coming "Roman" leader will persecute according some statements from Catholic saints:

Methodius (circa 385): A time will come when the enemies of Christ will boast…Then a Roman emperor will arise in great fury against them . . . Drawing his sword, he will fall on the foes of Christianity and crush them. (Culleton, The Prophets and Our Times, p. 110)

Francis of Paola (Born in Italy, 15th century). "By the grace of the Almighty, the Great Monarch will annihilate heretics and unbelievers. He will have a great army, and angels will fight at his side. He will be like the sun among the stars. His influence will spread over the whole earth. All in all, there will be on earth twelve Kings, one Emperor, one Pope and a few Princes. They will all lead holy lives." (Dupont, Yves. Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1973, p.38).

That "Roman emperor/Great Monarch" seems to be the same one as the Beast of Revelation 13, who is also warned against as a persecutor in Daniel 7:25.  The end-time ecumenical power that will likely at first call itself Catholic will point to pronouncements from their "saints" as justification for this persecution.  And this would seem to be part of Satan's Plan as the dragon and Beast are tied together in scripture (e.g. Revelation 16:13). Christians are not to be ignorant of Satan's devices (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11).

All the faithful will be subject to persecution and being betrayed by professing believers (Matthew 24:9-13, Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:16-18; Daniel 11:32-35).

In the past, as this article has shown, Christians were persecuted because they:

In the future, according to Catholic teachings, they also will be persecuted for:

Christians have been persecuted for holding doctrines that we in the Continuing Church of God hold and are clearly expected to be persecuted in the future for holding Continuing Church of God doctrines.

Persecution is a fact of history. It has happened before and we should be prepared for the fact that it will happen again. And during the time of the final persecutions, the Bible records:

12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

Thus, though the Philadelphian Christians will be subject to intense persecution first, even the Laodiceans (The Laodicean Church Era) and other Christians will receive some praise if they endure the persecutions that will then come during the time of "the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world" (Revelation 3:10).

The Bible does show that the persecutors and their supporters will be punished in the end:

1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth."

2 So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. (Revelation 16:1-2)

24 "And I will repay Babylon
And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
For all the evil they have done
In Zion in your sight," says the Lord. (Jeremiah 51:20)

19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:19-21)

God and His people will win out in the end. Jesus taught that persecutions would come, but He also had it recorded that ultimately the persecutors will lose.

An article of possible related interest may be Military Service and the Churches of God. There is also a related YouTube video that you may wish to watch titled The Coming Persecution of the Church. More on the Spanish Inquisition can be found in the article: The Spanish Inquisition and Early Protestant Persecutions.

Thiel B., Ph.D. Persecutions from Church and State. www.cogwriter.com/persecutions.htm 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017 0405

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