The infant Church spread under pagan Roman rule that sought to crush the upstart religion in the time of Nero and Vespasian. But in its 1900 year life since, the number of those who have died for Christ has grown only larger from age to age.
As the martyrs huddle under the altar of God in Revelation, they call out, earnestly asking how long must they wait for the work to be completed and Christ’s return, that those who were killed in hatred of the Gospel should be avenged. When John was writing in the late first century, the infant Church was still meandering through a pagan Roman dictatorship, crushing the upstart religion in the time of Nero and Vespasian. But in its 1900 year life since, the number of those who have died for Christ has grown only larger from age to age.
Apostolic Age: 50 AD–100 AD
James the Just
Also known as James the Less and James the Brother of Jesus*, James the Just was one of the 12 apostles, son of Alphaeus and another Mary who stood at the foot of the cross. James was addressed by one of the earliest popes (Clement of Rome) as the “bishop of bishops,” as he was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Roman historian Josephus and Eusebius both account James being killed for his faith by the Pharisees in Jerusalem.
*The Aramaic for “brother” can refer to any close relative, like a first cousin.
The first man recorded to be killed for the Christian faith, Stephen had been appointed by the apostles to be a deacon of the church, managing the church’s ministry to the widows, providing food and money for daily needs. But when Stephen was working among the Jews, he proclaimed Jesus throughout the Old Testament, reminding the Jews where they had come from. But when Stephen saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God, the crowd cast him out of Jerusalem, where he was stoned to death in front of Saul, who would become Paul.