What little protection the church was afforded from its initial persecution by Jewish religionists was provided by the Roman Empire. The church soon found itself, however, under far more severe persecution from its former protector, Rome, than it had ever suffered under its initial persecutors, the Jews.
It is always the tyrannical state, in its pursuit of empire, and its terrorized populace that join league to silence the Gospel and stamp out the church. For instance, the Jewish persecution of the church was perpetrated to protect the Jews from the ire of the Roman Empire. The Jewish religious leaders plotted the execution of Christ in order to protect their nation and their place (John 11:47-50). Likewise, the cry of the Jewish people for Christ’s crucifixion was precipitated by their public profession of allegiance to Caesar (John 19:12-15). Here, is an inarguable truth, that we ignore at our own peril: Allegiance to Caesar inevitably leads to antagonism toward Christ!
The Roman persecution of the church was instigated in earnest under Nero, who, in an attempt to divert blame from himself, blamed Christians for the burning of Rome. Afterward, all subsequent persecutions were perpetrated by making Christians into scapegoats for all of Rome’s problems. This was propagandized to the populace by the preposterous proposition that every problem in the Roman Empire was precipitated by the gods of the Roman Pantheon, who were angry over the refusal of Christians to bow before them, as well as to Caesar, who was held to be their human embodiment.
In his encounter with Elijah, the wicked King Ahab asked God’s prophet, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Ahab’s insinuation was clear, the blame for all of Israel’s problems was to be laid at the feet of God’s prophet (1 Kings 18:17). To Ahab, it was the prophet’s divine declarations, not his personal defiance of them, that had caused all the difficulties in Israel. However, the prophet’s response to the accusatory Ahab, proved him, not Elijah, to be the real troublemaker in Israel (1 Kings 18:18). Israel’s lamentable troubles, according to the prophet, were the direct consequence of the king leading the nation into iniquitousness and idolatry.
From time immemorial, the sinner has blamed the saint for all that is wrong in the world, in spite of the fact that all of this world’s troubles are traceable back to man’s transgressions. To sinners, the real troublemakers in this troubled world are never themselves. Instead, it is always the people of God, at whose feet all of the blame is to be laid. Of course, this vilification of the saints by villainous sinners leads to a vicious vendetta; namely, that the targeting of these troublemakers will translate into a trouble-free world.
A good example of the above is the pitiless persecution of God’s people, the Jews, in Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Hitler’s infamous “Final Solution,” which resulted in the execution of more than six million Jews, was justified on the basis that the extermination of the Jewish race was essential for the preservation of the Aryan Race. According to Hitler, the Jews had to be eradicated from Germany like a cancerous tumor; otherwise, Germany’s supreme Aryan Race would never rise to establish the glorious Third Reich, the world-conquering empire that Adolph Hitler envisioned it to be.