Following are some accounts of various faithful martyrs who testified the good confession. They endured as seeing Him who is unseen, not accepting their release, that they might obtain a better resurrection. In the face of unspeakable horrors, they joined in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God and entered into the joy of their Lord. [â€œc.â€? is an abbreviation for the Latin circa meaning, â€œaboutâ€?].
CLEMENT OF ROME c.30 – 100 AD
Clement, the fellow worker of Paul [Phil.4:3], wrote a letter of encouragement to the brethren at Corinth to strengthen them in the midst of sufferings. The following is a brief portion of that letter:
Be contentious, brethren, and jealous about the things that pertain to salvation [probably a reference to Jude 3]. You have searched the Scriptures, which are true, which were given through the Holy Spirit; and you know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them.
You will not find that righteous persons have been thrust out by holy men. Righteous men were persecuted, but it was by the lawless; they were imprisoned, but it was by the unholy.
They were stoned by transgressors: they were slain by those who had conceived a detestable and unrighteous jealousy. Suffering these things, they endured nobly.
Stop and think: Often the godly who say that the Word of God must be obeyed are accused of being unreasonable or causing division. What was the view of these early brethren about such things? [3Jn.9,10].
IGNATIUS c.35 – 107 AD
Emperor Trajan had offered sacrifices to the gods in Antioch for victories he gained in battle as if his triumph came from them. When Ignatius learned of this, he reproved the Emperor openly before many in the pagan temple itself.
As a result, he was led bound to Rome in order to be executed publicly by being torn to pieces by wild beasts in the Colosseum. Along the way he wrote several letters to encourage the brethren. In one of them are recorded these words:
â€œCome fire and cross and grappling with wild beasts…crushing of my whole body, come cruel tortures of the devil to assail me. Only be it mine to attain unto Jesus Christ. Only pray for me, that inward and outward strength be given me, not only to speak or write this, but also to perform and endure it, so that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one in truth.â€?
Godly Ignatius was brought forth into the midst of the arena with the assembled multitudes who gathered gladly for the spectacle. He boldly raised his voice and addressed them all, â€œO you Romans, all you who have come to witness with your own eyes this combat, I am the grain of God. I am ground by the teeth of the beast, that I may be found to be a pure bread of Christ, who is to me the Bread of Life.â€? Thereupon the gates to the pits were opened and two raging lions rushed upon him leaving but a few mangled bodily remains of him whose soul had departed to eternal safety in Jesus.
POLYCARP c.69 – 156 AD
As Timothy was to Paul, so Polycarp was to the Apostle John. Polycarpâ€™s own disciple, Irenaeus, said this about him, â€œHe always taught what he had learned from the Apostles.â€? And indeed, his letter to the brethren in Philippi is interwoven with quotes from Paul, Peter, and John.
Distinguished for his godliness, this dignified servant of Christ met his end at the hand of persecutors after living into his eighties. The account of his martyrdom is as follows.
When his friends discovered that he was to be taken by the haters of Christ, they urged him to flee to the next city. Though reluctant, he was persuaded by their appeals to Mt.10:23 and thereby joined some friends in a nearby farm. While there he devoted himself night and day to prayers for the churches throughout the world.
Having eventually been discovered, he kindly welcomed his persecuting captors in Christian hospitality by preparing a table and inviting them to dine. He asked and received permission from them to pray yet one more hour which he did in their presence to their amazement, shame, and even leading some of them to repentance.
Then, taken before the proconsul [a Roman official], he was repeatedly commanded to worship Caesar and deny Christ. Polycarp replied, â€œEighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong; and how can I now blaspheme my King who has preserved me from all evil, and so faithfully redeemed me?â€?
Next the proconsul threatened him with being torn to pieces by wild beasts or being burned alive to which he answered, â€œYou threaten fire that burns for a moment and is soon extinguished, for you know nothing of the judgment to come and the fire of eternal punishment reserved for the wicked. But why do you delay? Bring what you wish: You shall not, by either of them, move me to deny Christ, my Lord and Savior.â€?
And upon saying this, Polycarp was led to the place of execution. He stood upon the pile of wood about to be lit and consume him while praying with thanksgiving. He blessed the Lord for being considered worthy to suffer as a sacrifice thus for â€œThy well-beloved Son, the eternal High Priest, unto whom, with Thee and the Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and forever. Amen.â€? Upon which the fire was lit, but it seemed not to affect him at all, and so a sword was plunged into his aged form and his soul ascended to everlasting comfort in Jesus.
Stop and think: How did Polycarp interpret Jn.18:36 and James 5:6?