I had Googled (yeah, they’re evil, but the best for research) “The Evil’s of Rome” and the first three pictures that showed up were statues/busts of the ancient emperors. The third picture was the Roman Catholic Church.
I find that ironic, but so true. And the next three pictures were also statues/busts of the ancient emperors and the next picture was Pope Francis. They say pictures don’t lie.
Since we are looking at evil Rome, tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the…
2 Corinthians 12
Paul’s Visions of the Lord
1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
“Visions and revelations” – if his adversaries falsely claimed to have received their teaching directly from God through visions and revelations, Paul could claim that this was truly so in his case.
But he mentions this here to show that the supreme height to which he was raised through these ecstatic experiences was counterbalanced by the humbling depth of a particular affliction he was given to bear, so that he should continue to glory not in self but only in the “God of the grace: (1 Pet 5:10).
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven.
2:2-4 – “Caught up in the third heaven…caught up into paradise” – Paul is sure of this remarkable experience, but he is unsure whether this rapture was one that include the body or one that took place in separation from the body.
The third heaven designates a place beyond the immediate heaven of the earth’s atmosphere and beyond the further heaven of outer pace and its constellations into the presence of God himself.
Thus the risen and glorified Lord is said to have passed “into the heavens” (Heb 4:14), and now, having “ascended up far above all heavens” (Eph 4:10), to be “made higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26).
The term “paradise” is synonymous with the third heaven, where those believers who have died are even now “present with the Lord’ (5:8; cf. “with Christ” Phil 1:23).
The nature of the inexpressible things that Paul heard remains unknown to us because this is something Paul was not permitted to tell.
It was an experience that must have given incalculable strength to his apostleship, which involved him in such constant and extreme suffering. Moreover, as this experience was not self-induced, it afforded him no room for self-glorification.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
“Of such a one will I glory” – some believer that the man “caught up to the third heaven” was not Paul and that Paul here insists that he will not boast about such a glorious experience, but only about his weakness.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
“Thorn in the flesh” – the precise nature of this severe affliction remains unknown.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
“My grace is sufficient for thee” – a better solution than to remove Paul’s thorn. Human weakness provides the ideal opportunity for the display of divine power.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
“Truly the signs of an apostle” – extraordinary gifts and powers had been displayed in their midst. By implication, the false teachers had come to them without these apostolic signs (cf. Heb 2:3-4).
13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong.
14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? Walked we not in the same steps?
19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? We speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
“Speak before God in Christ” – Paul’s concern in speaking of himself is not for his own personal prestige and reputation before people. It is before God that he stands, and his standing before God is in Christ.
Far from being self-centered, his concern is for the Corinthians, his dear friends – for their strengthening as they too stand before God in Christ. His entire ministry, with its sufferings, is directed to this end.
20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
Evils of Rome
Rome has a glittering history. Its empire lasted for a thousand years, its great emperors are famous still today.
But Rome had a bad side to it. If we could time-travel back to Rome today we would not like everything we would see.
The Romans kept slaves. All the hard work all over the empire was mostly done by slaves. They worked the farms, they cleaned the sewers, and they were the servants in the wealthy houses.
They belonged to their owners as though they were animals. Just like animals they could be bought and sold, punished and whipped by their masters.
Bloody Games in the Circuses
When the Romans went to the circus to watch the games, it was to view a brutal spectacle.
Chariot racing was perhaps the least murderous event – although many drivers were hurt in spectacular crashes.
But for more gruesome entertainment the Romans watched wild beasts tear each other apart, or gladiators fighting exotic beasts from far away countries, or gladiators fighting each other to the death.
Insane Emperors, Cruel Emperors
Also, some of their emperors were maniacs. The most famous was Nero, who killed his mother and his wife, but there were many others.
Sometimes even the good emperors needed first to be utterly brutal in order to take power. Brutality was often the order of the day.
More so of course, when mad or just particularly cruel emperors came to power.
Mad emperor Caligula ordered his legions to collect shells on the beach in order to prove that he had “conquered the sea”.
And the cruel emperor Septimius Severus had the body of his dead opponent Clodius Albinus laid out before him, so that he could ride over it with his horse.
These are just some examples of Roman madness and Roman cruelty by its own emperors.
Ordered Suicides and “Proscription“
If an emperor wanted rid of a particular senator, he would simply write him a letter, ordering him to kill himself (or else he would send someone to kill him). Emperor Nero ordered a great many such suicides.
The dictator Sulla during the time of the Roman republic invented the “proscription”, by which he would just announce whom he wanted dead. This would be read out in public places and he then would reward anyone who would kill that particular person.
Rome was brutal in its enforcement of its religious views. Several wars were fought with the Jews in order to try and get them to accept the worship of the deceased Roman emperors as gods.
The fighting was so fierce, the great city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and with it the ancient temple of Solomon was razed.
Most famously, the Christians were thrown to the lions by emperor Nero who blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome.
Later, after the empire had been Christianized, the believers in the old Roman gods were equally persecuted by the Christian emperors.
And so too the various heresies were persecuted violently by Roman rulers.
So what we always must keep in mind when we read about the Romans is that they were brutal.
…top worst Roman Emperors.