The people of God have in every era, had to affirm that Jesus is Lord. The evil forces of this world have long waged war against God’s people for their insistence that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. Christians have endured slaughter, death by wild beasts, horrific torture, confiscation of possessions, beatings, stonings, the exile from their country of birth and all other kinds of inhumane treatment because they refused to deny the name of Jesus.
Thousands of years ago, God allowed the nation of Judah to be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar took the most intelligent Jewish men to Babylon to train for positions in his kingdom. He selected four notable men, who proved to be extremely valuable to his administration. These were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Dan. 1:1-6).
All seemed to have been going well for these exiles until the king got a brilliant idea to build a statue and order everyone to worship it (Dan.3:1-5). The day came when the big celebration occurred. There were lots of musicians hired for the occasion. The worship was probably frenzied with much dancing and babbling to their Babylonian gods. There were security officers posted throughout the multitude of peoples to make sure everyone complied with the king’s command. Suddenly, to the amazement of the officers, they spotted three men who were not worshipping the statue. On further investigation, they found out that the three men were high ranking officials in the king’s administration. The officers notified the king of the men’s refusal to worship the statue. The king, willing to save them from death, offered them another opportunity to carry out his wishes. Again, they refused, saying to the king, the most powerful man in the then world that they were not bowing to his statue. The king was so enraged by their behaviour that he ordered that a furnace should be heated sevenfold and the three thrown in that furnace (Dan.3:8-23). These three Jewish men knew the one true God, and they refused to worship any other. Here is what they said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “…we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan3:18). Christians will not bow to any other god but the Almighty. Jesus is Lord not Caesar.
Hundreds of years later, when Christianity came on the scene persecution became rampant. Christianity saw its birth in the Roman world of the first century AD. The Caesars who governed the Roman empire considered themselves as gods and demanded worship as God. The early Christians thus found themselves in a predicament as to who was Lord. They had to answer with their lives whether their Lord was Jesus or whether he was Caesar. History tells us that some of the Christians through fear capitulated and handed over others to be tortured and killed. History also informs us that thousands of Christians over an extended period held fast to Jesus Christ. They refused to worship Caesar.
The Apostle John in the book of the Revelation describes a man whom he called the beast. The beast working in conjunction with the Dragon and the false prophet, deceives the world, institute beast worship and punishes those who refuse to follow them. They make war with the people of God. They slander and blaspheme the God of heaven. John here describes What I believe to be the terrible persecutions of Emperors Nero, (67 AD) Domitian (81AD) and Trajan (108AD) ¹ (Rev.13:1-8).
I believe that this book of Revelation not only describes the horrible persecutions of the first century and second centuries, but it alludes to the persecution of Christians throughout the centuries and in different geographical locations. Persecutions against Christians always have and will still challenge our loyalty to Jesus Christ, and when the going gets rough, some Christians will buckle and surrender to Caesar but others will endure.
Today we hear scant reports of North Korean Christians who face severe punishment for being loyal to Jesus instead of their political leader. Christians in the Islamic world face torture, burnings, confiscations, imprisonments and death for being loyal to Jesus.
The church in the western world has long enjoyed freedom from persecution. Many feel we have become worldly, apathetic and lukewarm in our approach to the things of God. Our churches have become so politicised and polarised, and the term evangelical to some has become a political movement rather than a Christian one. Are we gradually surrendering to Caesar without a fight? Has Caesar tricked us into thinking that he is on our side thus making us comfortable for him to deliver the fatal blow when we least expect it? Have some already taken his mark in their hands and their foreheads? Caesar will be Caesar. He will demand what Caesar demands – loyalty and worship. This battle is like all the other battles Christians have faced through the millennia. Every Christian will have to decide who is Lord. We will have to choose who we will be loyal to and who we will worship. Is it Jesus or is it Caesar?