Religion was an integral part of nearly every empire that rose to power in ancient times. In the first century, after Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity was not the religion of most empires. Because of this, Christians endured a great time of martyrdom.

The New Testament’s Apostles did claim to see Jesus―very much alive―after his death. Imagine if this were you, and you had seen this remarkable man perform countless miracles regularly for nearly 3 years. After a dramatic sequence of events which led to Jesus’ crucifixion, how might you feel seeing him put to death and then alive again just a few days later? In this context, it is more understandable to see how these witnesses clung to their testimony without recanting, even while facing brutal deaths.

Observe their character, their witness, and the confirmation of their eyewitness account in their blood. Consider the fact that they passed their message on to thousands of others who were also willing to die for the truth of what occurred in Jerusalem in 33 A.D.

Here are some examples from Foxes’ Book of Martyrs1

Mark was converted to Christianity by Peter, and then transcribed Peter’s account of Jesus in his gospel. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria in front of Serapis, their pagan idol. It appears Peter was condemned to death and crucified at Rome. Jerome holds that Peter was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he said he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

Paul suffered in the first persecution under Nero. Paul’s faith was so dramatic in the face of martyrdom, that the authorities removed him to a private place for execution by the sword. Luke was the author of the Gospel under his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree by idolatrous priests in Greece.

John was the disciple closest to Jesus. From Ephesus he was ordered to Rome, where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. Miraculously, he escaped without injury. Later Domitian, the Roman Emperor who unleashed an intense persecution against Christians late in the 1st Century, banished John to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the Bible, Revelation. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

Many Christians have suffered and died as martyrs for believing in Jesus. This has always been a fact.


  1. John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Ed. by W. Grinton Berry, Reprinted by Fleming H. Revell, 1998.