The Lord told His disciples that as He was opposed, they would be also (John 16:1-4). In the 21st century in which we live, in the United States our appreciation for that sentiment is hardly experienced. Those who were faithful to the Lord in the first century, and the following centuries, experienced it often. For instance, even going back to the time of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20), the Lord’s prophet was put in stocks (similar to hand and leg cusps) that was designed to torture its victims. One man said it was designed to distort one’s posture, making it crooked. If you can’t appreciate that, be sure to thank the Lord for it. Again, in the first century, at the time in which Nero was emperor (A.D. 54-69), Christians were persecuted in Rome, even used as human torches to be a “lamp” in Nero’s garden. “The Roman people who hated Christians were free to come into the garden, and Nero drove around in his chariot wickedly enjoying the horrible scene” (The Church in History, p. 8).
Persecution, the Lord told us, is something that each Christian should be prepared to experience (2 Timothy 3:12). Because of such preparation is made, because there is clarity of vision with regard to why it occurs, and because there is hope associated in the knowledge of eternal things, does not mean the one who must be willing to endure will necessarily have the intensity of his experience lessened. Let us not forget, however, that when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said, “…it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NKJV).
There is no real way to speak in a positive way of persecution, but it is much easier to speak well of those who are prepared to endure it for the cause of Christ. Jesus willingly went to the cross of His death; it wasn’t because He looked forward to the pain and agony, but because He understood the purpose of it all. This is in contrast to one who has placed his or her hope in self-preservation, or that hope one finds in worldly things.