Summary: THE FIERY TRIAL
It has been customary to count ten major persecutions in the early church,
Persecution under Nero (c. 64-68). Traditional martyrdoms of Peter and Paul.
Persecution under Domitian (r. 81-96).
Persecution under Trajan (112-117). Christianity is outlawed but Christians are not sought out.
Persecution under Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180). Martyrdom of Polycarp.
Persecution under Septimus Severus (202-210). Martyrdom of Perpetua.
Persecution under Decius (250-251). Christians are actively sought out by requiring public sacrifice. Could buy certificates (libelli) instead of sacrificing. Martyrdoms of bishops of Rome, Jerusalem and Antioch.
Persecution under Valerian (257-59). Martyrdoms of Cyprian of Carthage and Sixtus II of Rome.
Persecution under Maximinus the Thracian (235-38).
Persecution under Aurelian (r. 270–275).
Severe persecution under Diocletian and Galerius (303-324). Besides :- Jewish Persecutions (described in the Book of Acts)
I. THEIR DILEMMA 15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
The text tells us that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, set up a golden image on the plain of Dura. The image was 90 ft. high and 9 ft. wide.
A. It Was Devilish In Origin 8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. "accused" literally means "to eat the pieces of."
It means "to maliciously accuse with the intent to harm someone."
B. It Was Deceptive In Operation 15 ye fall down and worship may have seemed like a small thing.
Mt 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
C. It Was Deadly In Objective 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Their bowing down would have hindered their own fellowship with the LORD.
Gal 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
II. THEIR DECISION 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.