Throughout the past two thousand years, there have been move of God among many men and women, transcending cultural, political, and racial boundaries. Hearts of stone were softened, those considered barbarians and savages were changed for the better, and entire societies were transformed by the power of God. From the time Christ ascended into heaven, God has been on the move to build His kingdom, and the gates of hell cannot prevail over it.
The first revival after the ascension of Christ has been recorded in Holy Scripture for us to read. In the book of Acts, God pours out his spirit at Pentecost on the followers of Jesus and Peter giving his first sermon, resulting in three thousand getting saved. If that wasn’t enough, the sick were being healed (Acts 3:1-8, Acts 5:12, 5:15-16), the dead were being raised (Acts 9:36-42), and people were added to the body of Christ( Acts 2:37-41, Acts 4:4, Acts 5:14). The Gospel was not only preached in the streets of Jerusalem, but it also went out to many parts of the Roman Empire. After Stephen was stoned to death, there arose a great persecution against the church of Jesus and scattered those the regions of Judea and Samaria(Acts 8:1). Philip began preaching in Samaria(Acts 8:4-8), led an Ethiopian government official to Christ( Acts 8:26-38), and traveled to Azotus where he preached in the towns till he came to Caesarea(Acts 8:40). Paul, who met Jesus on the road to Damascus, preached the Gospel to a lot of the known world. He actually began preaching to those at the Synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:19-22) to traveling to Cyprus, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Macedonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus. He preached the Gospel, started churches, and performed signs and wonders in these cities. The Gospel has been going forth mightily and powerfully and nothing could stop its spread.
The era of the Roman Empire was a time of intense persecution yet the Gospel went forth. Many Christians suffered the most painful and grueling ways to die and yet embrace it joyfully and with gladness. Because Christians refused to join the variety of mystery cults (Zoaroasterism, Mithraism, and Mysteries of Eleusis being examples) and ultimately refusing to bow to the Emperor of Rome, Christians would be persecuted for that. What happens is that these religions would have festivals that Christian would consider immoral and one would be bowing down to another god other than the one true God. Some people would be hanged by fishing hooks and are therefore skinned alive, some are boiled to death, and some are throw to the lions at gladiator games for entertainment. But guess what, the persecution helped the Gospel advance and the church did expand. A lot of times the soldiers performing the execution of Christians were so affected by how these Christians embraced their martyrdom that they are saved later on. One example would be the story of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste where 40 Christians were left to die in the middle of a frozen lake. They were singing , “40 good martyrs, 40 good soldiers for Christ.” One left to the bath houses for anyone who would recant and it become “39 good martyrs…” The jailer who was watching this was so affected that he joined them and the song went back to “40 good martyrs…” Even persecution can be a tool that God can use to bring the Gospel to the utter most parts of the earth.
To be continued....