From Here to Forever


Chapter 2—The First Christians—Loyal and True

Jesus revealed to His disciples the experience of His people from the time when He should be taken from them, to His return in power and glory. Penetrating deep into the future, His eye discerned the fierce tempests that were to beat upon His followers in coming ages of persecution. See Matthew 24:9, 21, 22. The followers of Christ must tread the same path of reproach and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity against the world's Redeemer would be manifested against all who should believe on His name. HF 27.1

Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away; therefore the fires of persecution were kindled. Christians were stripped of their possessions and driven from their homes. Great numbers, noble and slave, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were slain without mercy. HF 27.2

Beginning under Nero, persecutions continued for centuries. Christians were falsely declared to be the cause of famine, pestilence, and earthquake. Informers stood ready, for gain, to betray the innocent as rebels and pests to society. Great numbers were thrown to wild beasts or burned alive in amphitheaters. Some were crucified; others were covered with skins of wild animals and thrust into the arena to be torn by dogs. At public fetes vast multitudes assembled to enjoy the sight and greet their dying agonies with laughter and applause. HF 27.3

The followers of Christ were forced to seek concealment in solitary places. Beneath the hills outside the city of Rome, long galleries had been tunneled through earth and rock for miles beyond the city walls. In these underground retreats the followers of Christ buried their dead; here also, when proscribed, they found a home. Many called to mind the words of their Master, that when persecuted for Christ's sake, they were to be exceeding glad. Great would be their reward in heaven, for so the prophets had been persecuted before them. See Matthew 5:11, 12. HF 27.4

Songs of triumph ascended from the midst of crackling flames. By faith they saw Christ and angels gazing upon them with the deepest interest and regarding their steadfastness with approval. A voice came from the throne of God: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10. HF 28.1

In vain were Satan's efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence. God's workmen were slain, but the gospel continued to spread and its adherents to increase. Said a Christian: “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”1 HF 28.2

Satan therefore laid his plans to war more successfully against God by planting his banner in the Christian church to gain by artifice what he failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased. In its stead were substituted the allurements of temporal prosperity and honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus, but had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of “belief in Christ.” HF 28.3

Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this! Some Christians stood firm. Others were in favor of modifying their faith. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan insinuated himself into the church to corrupt their faith. HF 28.4

Most Christians at last consented to lower the standard. A union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to unite with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into the church's faith and worship. The Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. Some, however, were not misled. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth. HF 29.1