First Martyrs of Rome

Friends in Christ, today we remember the many Christians who were brutally executed in the early days of the Church. From the year 64 until 313, persecution of the Church was horrific. To be a good Roman citizen in those days, one had to worship the roman gods; Christians refused. And they paid for it. The apostles Peter and Paul were both martyred at the beginning of this persecution in 64AD.
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The historian Tacitus tells us, Christians were even made sport of. Thrown to the beasts in the arena, dressed up in animal outfits and then hunted for sport; One of the worst emperors at this time was Nero. At his parties, Christians were put on high poles, covered with oil, and set afire as living torches.    
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In the Book of Revelation, it refers to the Roman Empire as the ‘Beast.’ St. John says (Rev 13) ‘whoever would not worship the beast was killed … and the beast waged war against the saints.     Revelation describes the Beast (Rev 17) as having 7 heads. The seven heads are seven kings; As it is written: 5 have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come. These are the succession of Roman Emperors, Nero reigning when Revelation was written.[i] St. John gives a most curious phrase: “let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, its number is 666. This is where we get the number of evil, as 666. What does it mean?
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We know that Roman letters also stand for numbers, we call them Roman Numerals. So the letter X stands for 10, the letter V stands for five, and so on. Therefore, every word adds up to a number. The ancient people used such numerology all the time. This is called ‘gematria.’ and it is used often in scripture. For example, King David’s name in Hebrew is the number 14, and this is a symbolic number. Well, the Emperor’s name, Nero Caesar, when put into Hebrew, is the number 666. So most scholars are sure that this number refers at least in one sense to the Emperor Nero, who was responsible for the martyrs of Rome that we honor today.      
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In every century, governments try to oppose the Church. It is happening here as well. By teaching the truth of right and wrong, we are at odds with present society. They are beginning to say that the church is intolerant; soon we may be considered an enemy of the State, just like the early Christians. But this is our glory: to witness to the truth.

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