PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED

Matthew 14:1-12, and Mark 6:14-29 provides accounts about the martyrdom of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ. Herod Antipas, “Tetrarch” of Galilee and Perea between 4 BC-AD 40AD married daughter of King Aretas of Arabia but took Herodias his sister-in-law, wife of his half brother Philip. John the Baptist called upon Herod Antipas to repent of his sinful act. This resulted in arrest of John the Baptist and beheading. Antipas beheaded John the Baptist in Machers prison. Herodias stuck with Herod so together performed desperate and diabolical deeds until they died. Philip, the half-brother of Herod Antipas, was ruler of the region of Ituraea. He was the only decent ruler from line of Herod. He was known for moderation and his justice but his wife was stolen by Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas heard reports about Jesus. 2 So he said to his servants, “Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead that is why he can work these miracles.”Before this Herod arrested John, tied him up and put him in prison because of Herodias the wife of Philip, Herod’s brother. John told Herod, It is not lawful take your brother’s wife Herodias in marriage. Herod wanted to kill John but afraid of the people because they knew John was a prophet. On Herod’s birthday Salome the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod and guests so pleased him. So Herod promised with an oath to give her anything she wanted. Herodias told her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” Although King Herod was very sad, he made a promise his dinner guests heard. Herod ordered  10 soldiers to prison to cut off John’s head. 11 And they brought it on a platter and gave it to the girl to take to her mother. 12 John’s followers came and got his body and buried him. Then they went and told Jesus. John, the son of Zechariah, used water baptism as a sign of repentance of multitudes who heard his preaching and changed. In Matthew 3:1-6, John’s preaching caused sensation because people went out to him from Jerusalem, all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River. Some of the Lord’s disciples were first disciples of John the Baptist. Andrew and John the Evangelist in John 1:40, as 2 of John’s disciples who followed Jesus. The greatness of John the Baptist bothered Herod because of his fiery preaching captivated huge congregations that heard him. During that time Herod mistreated the great man God chosen as forerunner of Jesus so took him hostage. Elijah prepared the way in Carmel contest as Malachi prophesied 400 years before birth of Christ. In John 1:31 John the Baptist used baptism as a sign to seal repentance from sin to prepare for appearance of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Jesus great affection for John the Baptist and interdependence.

As cousins in John 1:31, the Lord was acquainted with John raised in Judea and Jesus raised in Galilee as relatives. Jesus, the Messiah communicated to believers to believe and receive Kingdom of God. John heard Jesus performed miracles so knew Jesus was the Messiah. John played a pivotal role in baptising Jesus confirmed as the son of God during Jesus’ Baptism. John pointed his disciples to Jesus when Jesus started His public ministry. John continued to preach for a little while until imprisoned for criticism of morals of Herod Antipas. John was executed by the spiteful Herodias as the Gospel history reveals the churches’ heroic stature and tremendous growth despite adversity. The churches’ progress caused great impact but left an impression that baffled the king who tried to get rid of John the Baptist. Herodias enforced the wish of Herod beheaded by inaugurating the era of Christian martyrs. John was the first witness of new faith  recognized by the enemy. John was not permitted to live as Christianity traced bloody path many others who followed. The first response of Jesus to the news of John’s death brought to him by John’s disciples was to withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place. Jesus withdrew alone to mourn His grief to come to terms with the crushing blow – loss of John’s death. Jesus needed time apart to absorb and pray to His heavenly Father to help deal with Herod’s attacks against His church. Jesus really understands meaning of personal loss in his life and suffering. The disciples wondered why Jesus did not use His heavenly army to save John, who wavered momentarily so asked if Jesus was the real Messiah. Jesus did not use His Power to Overrule Herod or religious leaders, elders and those against the Kingdom of God. Jesus responded by His Actions to the question to calm them to put the matter to rest. John fully recognised and knew who Jesus was because God Confirmed Jesus was the Son of God, endorsed by the Holy Spirit during Jesus baptism by John. Jesus worked miracles, signs and wonders and so John knew Jesus was greater as He will baptise with the Holy Spirit Fire and Power. John the Baptist said, Christ, Increase, but be must decrease in John 3:30. So Jesus Increased in Stature and Wisdom so had Favour with God and all those who Loved Christ in Luke 2:52. Jesus continued to preach, heal, cure and fed 5,000 thousand multitude who came out in full force to see Jesus undaunted by beheading of John the Baptist. Jesus continued His miracles by walking on water with Peter. Jesus knew John will resurrect again so went on to conquer death by His resurrection and ascension. Herod Antipas was the one Pontius Pilot sent Jesus to see when he learned Jesus was from Nazareth in the region Herod Antipas ruled. Herod Antipas ruled until around 40 AD of his death as a martyr.

Years later, in Acts 12:1-25, Herod Agrippa 1 dethroned Herod Antipas and ruled for about 3 years from 41 AD to 44 AD. Herod Agrippa was the king that killed James the apostle and brother of John. When he saw how this pleased the Jews he had Peter arrested also. from 11 BC – 44 AD, a Judean ruler persecuted the church in the 1st century AD. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice, born Marcus Julius Agrippa, the ruler of Galilee with wife Cypros. In Judaea, Herod Agrippa mistreated some who belonged to the church by zealously pursuing Christians. Agrippa condoned orthodox Jewish policies, earning the friendship of the Jews and vigorously repressing the Jewish Christians. According to the New Testament of the Bible in Acts of the Apostles where he is called Herod he imprisoned Peter the Apostle and executed James, son of Zebedee.  He ordered James, the brother of John to be killed by the sword. Herod saw some people liked this so decided to arrest Peter too during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After Herod arrested Peter, he put him in jail and handed him over to be guarded by sixteen soldiers. Herod planned to bring Peter before the people for trial after the Passover Feast. So Peter was kept in jail, but the church prayed earnestly to God for him. Peter left jail, The night before Herod was to bring him to trial. Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Other soldiers were guarding the door of the jail. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood there and a light shined in the cell. The angel struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Hurry! Get up!” the angel said. And the chains fell off Peter’s hands. The angel told him, “Get dressed, put on your sandals, your coat and follow me.” Peter followed him out but he did not know if what the angel was doing was real so thought he was seeing a vision.10 They went past the first and second guards and came to the iron gate that separated them from the city. The gate opened by itself for them and they went through it then they walked down the street and the angel suddenly left him. 11 Peter realized what happened so knew the Lord really sent His angel to rescue him from Herod and from all the things the people thought would happen.”12 He he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark where many people gathered praying for him. 13 Peter knocked on the on the door and a servant girl named Rhoda answered it. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so happy she forgot to open the door. Instead, she ran inside and told the group, “Peter is at the door!”15 They said to her, “You are crazy out of your mind but said it was true, so they said, “It must be Peter’s angel.”16 Peter continued to knock, and when they opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17 Peter made a sign with his hand to tell them to be quiet. He explained the Lord led him out of jail so said, “Tell James and the other believers what happened.” Then he left to go to another place.18 The next day the soldiers upset and wondered what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod looked everywhere for him but could not find him. So he questioned the guards and ordered them killed.

In Acts of the Apostles 12:19-23, later Herod Agrippa moved from Judea to the city of Caesarea where he stayed. 20 Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. The people of those cities all came in a group to him. After convincing Blastus, the king’s personal servant, to be on their side they asked Herod for peace, because their country got its food from his country. 21 On a chosen day Herod arrayed in royal apparel in his royal robes, sat on his throne and made a speech to the people. 22 They shouted, This is the voice of a god, not of a man. 23 Because Herod did not give the glory to God, an angel of the Lord immediately caused him to become sick, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 God’s message continued to spread and reach many people. 25 After Barnabas and Saul finished their task in Jerusalem they returned to Antioch, taking John Mark with them. Herod Anitpas 2 was the son of Agrippa 1 and was put in charge of a region north of Judea. This is Herod present during one of the trials of Apostle Paul in Acts chapter 25 and 26. This Herod told Apostle Paul,” You almost persuaded me to become a Christian.”The disciples suffered martyrdom of the Apostle St.Matthew. Summary of the Herod’s shows, Herod the Great met with the Wise men from the east. Killed all the babies under 2 years old in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. Archelaus ruled after Herod the Great so caused Joseph to relocate to Galilee instead of Bethlehem. Herod Antipas  beheaded John the Baptist, Herod Agrippa 1 killed James and arrested Peter. Herod Agrippa 2 was present during one of the trials of Apostle Paul. The Church faced persecution and tribulations for centuries Jesus talked about. Most of the original 12 Apostles were martyred for their belief. Acts records martyrdom of Apostle James the son of Zebedee, Stephen killed evangelizing and Bartholomew among the 12 Apostles mentioned in Bible’s New Testament, in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; and Acts 1:13. The king rent purple clothes, ordered Bartholomew beaten with rods, scourged and beheaded. James son of Alphaeus beaten, stoned, clubbed to death. Andrew’s martyrdom took place in reign of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus 30 November, A.D. 60 Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast. Paul and Peter crucified upside down in Rome AD 60 during persecution under Nero. Thomas Didymus, preached Gospel in Parthia and India so pagan priests martyred him with spear. Philip was scourged, imprisoned when he laboured diligently in Upper Asia and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia and crucified in A.D. 54. Matthew was killed with a spear for his labour in Parthia and Ethiopia suffered martyrdom slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60. Jude Thaddeus, brother of James was crucified at Edessa A.D. 72. Simon the Zealot preached Gospel in Mauritania Africa, was crucified in Britain in A.D. 74. Tribulation begun with Christian apostles and disciples continues to date in many countries. Yet the Almighty Living God Jehovah Nissi, The Mighty One in Battle is Ultimate Victor in Christ so all will resurrect. Persecutions and great tribulation predicted by Jesus in the world deepens into grotesque battle of Armageddon’s final war between governments and God. These governments and their supporters oppose God so continue worse atrocities until Armageddon completely ends it by Christ, Saints and God for Perfect Peace on earth eternally. Jesus said life will continue as normal with people buying, selling, doing business as usual when He will return to save the elect.

Courtesy Credit Image

Fox’s book of Martyrs
(The evangelist prepares for the final cut.)
Jan de Beer (c.1530-1535)

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