Early ChristiansQUESTION: How were early Christians persecuted?ANSWER:
The persecution of early Christians began almost immediately after the Day of Pentecost and came in many forms, from the Romans as well as from the Jews.
The Jewish leaders, particularly the political party called the Sadducees, became jealous of the apostles. We are told in Acts 5 that the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. Many people were healed. More and more people started believing that Jesus indeed was the Messiah.
The Sadducees arrested the apostles and threw them into jail where they were severely beaten and told never to preach in the name of Jesus again. Peter answered. "It is better to obey God than men." This time God intervened and supernaturally let them out. The next day they were back in the synagogue again, preaching.
The persecution of the early Christians did not stop. The first recorded death in the early church due to persecution is that of Stephen. A Jewish sect called the Freedmen began arguing with him. When they could not stand up against the wisdom of Stephen, they started using the devil's tactics. They set up false witnesses against him. He was lied about, arrested, dragged out of the city and stoned to death.
Jealously breeds hatred which breeds violence. After the death of Stephen, persecution against early Christians escalated. Saul went from house to house, dragging out men and women to have them jailed. Some were beaten. Many were put to death. Saul tried to force them to blaspheme the name of Jesus (Acts 26:10).
King Herod arrested some early Christians because it pleased the Jews. He beheaded James, the brother of John. This was the first apostle to perish in the persecution.
We are told in Acts 16 that Paul was arrested for preaching in the name of Jesus. He was stripped of his clothing, severely flogged by the Romans and thrown into the inner prison. When the Jews flogged a person, they stopped at thirty-nine strokes. The Romans were not that merciful but beat a person to the brink of death.
Of the original twelve apostles only John died a natural death. He died in exile on the isle of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.
"Others were tortured and refused to be released. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated" (Hebrews 11:35b-37).