1678 AD- A CHRISTIAN MASTERPIECE PUBLISHED FROM PRISON

In 1678, John Bunyan landed in prison for being unlicensed to preach by the Church of England. Rather than give up preaching, he endured twelve years in prison — away from his wife and children. The only thing greater than his passion for his family was his passion for Christ. That compelled him to preach the cross.

While in prison, he published one of the greatest works of Christian literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Until recently, this book was the most widely circulated book besides the Bible. No book, outside of The Word of God, has better captured my imagination and challenged me in my Christian journey than this allegory*of the faith. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers to ever live (in my opinion and that of MANY others), claimed to have read this book over 100 times in his lifetime! Spurgeon unlocked the power of this incredible story — one that invites you on the journey of a man named Christian, one that will change the way you see your faith. I suggest getting a modern translation of the book and reading it. **

*Allegory — a story that can be interpreted to reveal hidden meaning of a moral, political, or spiritual nature.

** I suggest this version:  http://www.christianbook.com/pilgrims-progress-modern-english-updated-edition/john-bunyan/9780882707570/pd/07574.

Your kids will love this book, too!  Check out the children’s version of this amazing journey called “Little Pilgrim’s Progress.”  It comes complete with an adventure guide!    http://www.moodypublishers.com/pub_productDetail.aspx?id=41823&pid=100827

Justin Martyr’s Plea to Roman Emperor To Take Honest Look At Christianity

A fascinating read is Justin Martyr’s First Apology (considered the first Christian Apologist after the apostles) written to Roman Emperor Antonius Pius in AD 150. Before you think this is a boring historical read, place yourself in Justin’s shoes (or sandals). Imagine writing a letter on behalf of millions of Christians to the most powerful person in the world at that time. This Emperor, who holds in his hand the power to stop the immense persecution taking place towards Christians at this time. Imagine the effort, the tears, the blood, the prayer you would put into this letter. Now read what the Emperor read from the pen of Justin Martyr:

Since you are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, pay attention and listen to my address. If you are indeed followers of learning, it will be clear. We have not come to flatter you by this writing nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment after an accurate and searching investigation. . . . As for us, no evil can be done to us unless we are convicted as evildoers or proved to be wicked men. You can kill us. But you cannot hurt us.
To avoid anyone thinking that this is an unreasonable and reckless declaration, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated. If these are substantiated, we should be justly punished. But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you to wrong blameless men because of evil rumors. If you did so, you would be harming yourselves in governing affairs by emotions rather than by intelligence. . . . It is our task, therefore, to provide to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings. . . . It is your business, when you hear us, to be good judges, as reason demands. If, when you have learned the truth, you do not do what is just, you will be without excuse before God.

You see quickly that Justin Martyr wanted to remind the Emperor who was really in charge. You don’t sense a desperate plea but a calm spirit. That is a sign of great trust in God. Justin writes his letter to the Emperor without fear or worry. He leaves the rest up to God.

Justin Martyr was eventually beheaded in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Justin had refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. He told the Prefect to do as he wished. Christians do not sacrifice to idols

WHAT HAPPENED IN 70 AD

Jews attempt to gain their freedom by declaring war on Rome. Rome pushes them back to the gates of Jerusalem. Titus, who would soon become emperor of Rome, leads a charge against Jerusalem. The Roman army would eventually storm  Jerusalem and against Titus orders (according to Josephus), the Roman soldiers set fire to the temple. It was completely destroyed.

Here is the eery first hand account of Josephus Flavius:

“…the rebels shortly after attacked the Romans again, and a clash followed between the guards of the sanctuary and the troops who were putting out the fire inside the inner court; the latter routed the Jews and followed in hot pursuit right up to the Temple itself. Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier’s back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.

…No exhortation or threat could now restrain the impetuosity of the legions; for passion was in supreme command. Crowded together around the entrances, many were trampled down by their companions; others, stumbling on the smoldering and smoked-filled ruins of the porticoes, died as miserably as the defeated. As they drew closer to the Temple, they pretended not even to hear Caesar’s orders, but urged the men in front to throw in more firebrands. The rebels were powerless to help; carnage and flight spread throughout.

Most of the slain were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, and they were butchered where they were caught. The heap of corpses mounted higher and higher about the altar; a stream of blood flowed down the Temple’s steps, and the bodies of those slain at the top slipped to the bottom.

When Caesar failed to restrain the fury of his frenzied soldiers, and the fire could not be checked, he entered the building with his generals and looked at the holy place of the sanctuary and all its furnishings, which exceeded by far the accounts current in foreign lands and fully justified their splendid repute in our own.

As the flames had not yet penetrated to the inner sanctum, but were consuming the chambers that surrounded the sanctuary, Titus assumed correctly that there was still time to save the structure; he ran out and by personal appeals he endeavored to persuade his men to put out the fire, instructing Liberalius, a centurion of his bodyguard of lancers, to club any of the men who disobeyed his orders. But their respect for Caesar and their fear of the centurion’s staff who was trying to check them were overpowered by their rage, their detestation of the Jews, and an utterly uncontrolled lust for battle.

Titus

Most of them were spurred on, moreover, by the expectation of loot, convinced that the interior was full of money and dazzled by observing that everything around them was made of gold. But they were forestalled by one of those who had entered into the building, and who, when Caesar dashed out to restrain the troops, pushed a firebrand, in the darkness, into the hinges of the gate Then, when the flames suddenly shot up from the interior, Caesar and his generals withdrew, and no one was left to prevent those outside from kindling the blaze. Thus, in defiance of Caesar’s wishes, the Temple was set on fire.

While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered. There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.

Through the roar of the flames streaming far and wide, the groans of the falling victims were heard; such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise – nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.

There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate. The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger, when they beheld the Temple on fire, found strength once more to lament and wail. Peraea and the surrounding hills, added their echoes to the deafening din. But more horrifying than the din were the sufferings.

The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives.”

References:
Josephus’ account appears in: Cornfield, Gaalya ed., Josephus, The Jewish War (1982); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883).