To the Death

Good Morning Brothers…

Bow season is just about to get interesting. We are nearing the beginning of rut and the temperatures are bound to fall soon. We really need an overnight freeze to knock down the bugs and to stir the wander lust of the big bucks. Once that happens, all of the plans that have been put in place to harvest a big deer ought to come to fruition.

I’ve thought about that quite a bit lately. I’ve thought about the time and conversations I’ve had discussing different ways to achieve an ethical shot. The planning involves much more than shooting. It involves potential wind conditions, geographic areas, terrain changes, time of day, amount of sunlight, feeding areas, and bedding areas. It involves all of this information to effectively “plan the death of a deer”. I phrase it that way on purpose because it makes us flinch a little bit. I flinched a couple weeks ago when I walked into the Coliseum in Rome. As the history of the place began to unpack its secrets, I was overcome with a sharp pang of sadness. I realized, as a builder, that a long time ago, some people sat around a table and planned a building. The building they planned was not a multipurpose stadium, it was intended to do one thing…kill.

The floor of the Coliseum was made of wood and designed to allow the use of large trap doors and hidden ramps which led to the area below the Coliseum floor. Under the floor was a maze of tunnels containing the props, the animals, and any other surprises that would suddenly appear onto the Coliseum floor. The machinery used to operate the lifts and the ramps were powered by slaves. The system devised to create the “ohs and the ahs” in the crowd was all under the floor and under the grandstands. The designers took great care to hide the mechanisms that would deliver the lions or tigers or trees and shrubs (for that matter) to the Coliseum floor. It really was clever, it really was showmanship, it really was magical to the eyes of the audience…but it was brutal to the contestants. Few gladiators retired to live a quiet life in the country. This place was designed, built, and operated to kill.

Were Christians killed in the Coliseum?

Yes…but to get to that part of the story, we need to go backward in time a bit, to pick up some important dates.

-The Coliseum was completed in AD 80. This means it was open for business about 50 years after the ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God the Father. The Emperor of Rome at that time was Titus. Titus was the son of Vespasian, who was the Emperor from AD 69 to AD 79.

-The Great Revolt started in AD 66. The Hebrews, in Jerusalem, revolted against the oppression of the Roman government. General Vespasian was sent to crush the Jews. He did, which included the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. This temple is known as the Second Temple, or King Herod’s Temple, because it stood on the temple mount and replaced King Solomon’s Temple which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The treasures within this temple were used to finance the construction of the Coliseum. At the beginning of the Siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian was a General, and the Emperor was Nero.

-In AD 64 a great fire burned half the city of Rome. Many Romans believed Nero had the fire started so he could rebuild the city in his likeness. Responding to this criticism, Nero needed someone to blame. He turned to the Christians as his scapegoat and began a campaign to exterminate them.

-Church history, and secular history, records the deaths of many Christians during this time of persecution in many different morbid ways. Some were crucified on crosses, some had animal skins sewn onto them and fed to wild beasts, while others were hung on stakes and set on fire to light Nero’s garden at night. It is reported that Peter, Paul, and James were executed during this time.

The timeline of all of this is important because it shows a pattern. The culture in Rome, that produced architects, engineers, and builders who can design a building with one purpose, funded and fueled by violence against God’s chosen, speaks to the depravity of man. I could see satan in the background pulling strings to influence men to attack anything and everything that had even a ‘whiff’ of God Almighty on it. For the next 250 years after its completion, Christians found themselves on display in cages, and on the Coliseum floor for the entertainment of the crowds. This is our history. Our ancestors in the faith endured terrible deaths at the hands of Nero, on the floor of the Coliseum, and in the prisons of Rome to do one thing…to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The Bible does not record these events because the letters from the Apostles were written before they transpired, however, these words of the Apostle Paul inspire me, they inspire me because they are from a man who died, to live out his faith:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death works in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.            2 Corinthians 4:7-18

 

 

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