Early Christian Leaders Put to Death by Nero
A prophecy in the Book of Jeremiah indicates that not only Peter and Paul, but probably seven close personal friends of Jesus, up to one half of his twelve Apostles, and most of the early leaders of the Christian Church in Rome were put to death under Nero's orders:
"The commander of the guard took prisoner Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank, and the three guardians of the threshold. In the city he took prisoner a eunuch who was in command of the fighting men, seven of the king's personal friends who were discovered in the city, the secretary of the army commander...and sixty men of distinction discovered in the city.
Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard, took these men and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king of Babylon had them all put to death." (Jer.52:24-27).
We already know that Peter (the 'chief priest') was in Rome, as was Paul (the eunuch who headed Christ's army), and that both of them died during Nero's reign and under Nero's orders.
Jeremiah's prophecy indicates that Paul's personal secretary was also taken (Luke) as were seven of Jesus' personal friends. These could have included Mary Magdalene and some of the other women who had followed Jesus from Galilee.
Who the person 'next in line in the priesthood' below Peter was, or who the three 'guardian's of the threshold' were is unclear, but it seems likely that these four were Apostles.
The 'sixty men of distinction' must have included the most distinguished members of the young Roman church. To have captured so many of the Church's key figures in one place at one time indicates that Nero took them unawares. This is supported by the Act's of the Apostles which ends on a hopeful vein, indicating that the Church had begun to relax somewhat from it's earlier persecutions as Nero was ascending the throne.
Paul had even been freed from his Roman jail and was preparing to go to Spain. It was in this atmosphere of relaxed reticence that Nero struck. The prophecy is an indicaton of just how swift and catastrophic his persecution of the Christian Church was.
As with other biblical metaphores, Riblah and Hamath seem to be symbolic names and would, of necessity, have to stand for areas of Rome. Both Peter and Paul were executed in Nero's Circus, a large facility that stood on the current site of Vatican City, on the other side of the Tiber from central Rome.
In fact, the obelesk in Vatican Square formerly stood prominently in the middle of Nero's Circus and was an eyewitness to the murder of these apostles and of many other Christians as well.
The bodies of the Christians put to death by Nero were placed in the commoner's grave which stood just adjacent to the circus. The altar of Peter is located right on top of this cemetary, precisely above his grave, which can be viewed by descending a staircase in the hall.
Peter was actually freed from this fatal incarceration and spirited out of Rome by devoted friends, but Jesus appeared to him as he was walking along the Appian highway and instructed him to return to the jail and present himself for execution with the others. This seems to support the fact of Jeremiah's prophecy. Had he escaped, the prophecy would have failed and been for naught.
Feeling unworthy to be put to death in the manner of Christ, Peter requested to be crucified upside down.
Most early Christians felt that Nero was the personification of the great pagan Rebel that Isaiah and Paul had predicted -- the evil 'Daystar' of Isaiah 14, and the 'Lost One' of 2 Thes.2:3-4.
'The Last Days of Babylon, Chapter 23, 'The Mark of the Beast'
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