Philip Schaff discussed the persecution of Christianity as follows:

13. General Survey.

The persecutions of Christianity during the first three centuries appear like a long tragedy: first, foreboding signs; then a succession of bloody assaults of heathenism upon the religion of the cross; amidst the dark scenes of fiendish hatred and cruelty the bright exhibitions of suffering virtue; now and then a short pause; at last a fearful and desperate struggle of the old pagan empire for life and death, ending in the abiding victory of the Christian religion. Thus this bloody baptism of the church resulted in the birth of a Christian world. It was a repetition and prolongation of the crucifixion, but followed by a resurrection.

Our Lord had predicted this conflict, and prepared His disciples for it. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. They will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you; yea and before governors and kings shall ye be brought for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and the father his child: and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 10:16). These, and similar words, as well as the recollection of the crucifixion and resurrection, fortified and cheered many a confessor and martyr in the dungeon and at the stake.

The persecutions proceeded first from the Jews, afterwards from the Gentiles, and continued, with interruptions, for nearly three hundred years. History reports no mightier, longer and deadlier conflict than this war of extermination waged by heathen Rome against defenseless Christianity. It was a most unequal struggle, a struggle of the sword and of the cross; carnal power all on one side, moral power all on the other. It was a struggle for life and death. One or the other of the combatants must succumb. A compromise was impossible. The future of the world's history depended on the downfall of heathenism and the triumph of Christianity. Behind the scene were the powers of the invisible world, God and the prince of darkness. Justin, Tertullian, and other confessors traced the persecutions to Satan and the demons, though they did not ignore the human and moral aspects; they viewed them also as a punishment for past sins, and a school of Christian virtue. Some denied that martyrdom was an evil, since it only brought Christians the sooner to God and the glory of heaven. As war brings out the heroic qualities of men, so did the persecutions develop the patience, the gentleness, the endurance of the Christians, and prove the world-conquering power of faith.
(from Schaff's History of the Church)


(PERGAMOS )- COMPROMISING CHURCH - A.D. 313-590: (Revelation 2:12-17 RSV)

(12) "And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

(13) "`I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An'tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

(14) But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality.

(15) So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicola'itans.

(16) Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

(17) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.'

Christ presents himself as a Judge with a sharp sword. This sword symbolizes the Word of God that can sever and discern the thoughts of people:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (RSV)

Scripture says that the Christians were living where Satan had established his throne (verse 13). This corresponds to living in the midst of Satan's world system. The church had emerged as the center of Christ's outreach to the world. Accordingly, the church became the focus of Satan's spiritual warfare with the people of God. His objective was to turn the church away from Christ and the things of God.

As this church period began, there were many spiritual Christians, like Antipas. They had been true to the faith of Christ in the face of persecution. However, Satan was at work in their midst. His objective remained the same as always. He wanted to lead as many Christians as possible to pursue a carnal path. This would separate them from the power of Christ. Then, Satan could use them in his warfare against the spiritual body of believers.

Satan's second temptation of Christ involved an offer of the kingdoms of this world.

(Luke 4:5-8 RSV)

(5) And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,

(6) and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.

(7) If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours."

(8) And Jesus answered him, "It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'"

Christ rejected that temptation, but Satan knew that many mortal human beings would be unable to resist this temptation.

Emperor Constantine had established Christianity as the favored religion of the Roman Empire. In 380, the emperor Theodosius made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Wealthy aristocratic families were abandoning paganism and embracing Christianity. Church leaders were emerging as the spiritual and moral leaders of the Empire. Bishops and priests, who had formerly been almost indistinguishable from the members of their congregation, were emerging as an elite group that participated in the wealth of the empire. The Bishop of Rome lived like a prince in the Lateran Palace.

Church leaders saw an Empire encompassing a loosely bound coalition of kings and tribal leaders. These leaders needed a source of spiritual, educational and social leadership. Accordingly, Satan held a vision of worldly power and wealth before the leaders of the church. These visions lured some church leaders to serve mammon rather than Christ. That is, they pursued the lure of an earthly kingdom instead of the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Emphasis was placed on increasing church membership, not simply to save souls, but to gain more power and political influence. Church leaders began to compromise doctrines and spiritual and moral values to be more attractive to the kings and peoples of the pagan world. Accordingly, Christ declared the following charge against his compromising church:

(Revelation 2:14-15 RSV)

(14) But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality.

(15) So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicola'itans.

The heresy of Balaam involved idolatrous and immoral practices. The teachings of the Nicolaitans involved the adoption of pagan practices. Some church leaders, who should have been leading people to Christ, were leading the members of the church astray. They were seeking to serve their own goals of wealth and power. They were following the same path as many carnal shepherds of ancient Israel (Ezekiel 34:2-6). Paul had foretold that some Christians would do the same.

(Acts 20:29-30 RSV)

(29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;

(30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

During this period of church history, a church hierarchy was developing. The bishop of Rome claimed increasing prominence because of his proximity to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire . In addition, the bishops of Rome sought to strengthen their position by claiming direct Apostolic succession from the apostle Peter, who was considered the first bishop of Rome (Peter, primacy of ). During this period of church history, the bishops of Rome gradually increased their power, until they were able to sway kings to do their will. The bishops of Rome had established a base of power. This would be the basis for the next spiritual phase of church history -- the adulterous church.

Philip Schaff commented as follows concerning the secularization of the Christian church:

22. Evils of the Union of Church and State.

Secularization of the Church.

We turn now to the dark side of the union of the church with the state; to the consideration of the disadvantages which grew out of their altered relation after the time of Constantine, and which continue to show themselves in the condition of the church in Europe to our own time.