Emperor Worship (Revelation)

Introduction to Revelation part 1


Emperor worship

Why was John on Patmos?

He had been banished there for the crime of being a Christian. The emperor reigning over the Roman Empire in AD 95 was Domitian.  He was a fanatic in emperor worship. By emperor worship I mean that once a year every member of the Roman Empire would have to go downtown, stand before the City Fathers raise their right hand, and say ‘Caesar (that is the Roman emperor) is Lord, is God’, then take a pinch of incense and drop it into the flames in front of a statue of the Caesar and there admit he’s God.

Domitian began every one of his letters, or each of the bills passed through Senate with the words, ‘Your Lord and your God Domitian speaks’. Whenever he gave a speech he always began it by saying, ‘Thus says your Lord God Domitian’, and when he entered a theater, everyone had to stand and worship him.

Christians would not stand before a statue of an emperor and say Caesar is Lord. In fact many of them would simply say, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

Now not all over the Roman Empire was that enforced. Again, not only did it depend upon the Emperor – it depended on his officials in the far-flung regions of the empire.  If you trace the history of emperor worship it began in Pergamum. The Roman emperors had done so much good for these uncivilized people – they brought them roads, they brought them civilization, and the response of the populous was to worship the Caesar. The very first temple that was ever built in honor of a Caesar, was built right there within the seven churches where John was the Overseer. So when John refused to bow to the emperor, he was banished to the Island of Patmos.

On the mainland because of this refusal to bow to Caesar, many of the Christians lost their Nero's torchesjobs. Today we have unions. That is nothing new. Unions are as old as the Bible and the unions of the Roman Empire always had a patron deity and over the patron deity was the emperor. When you joined the order of the Silversmiths Union in a Roman city there was a patron deity that was associated with the union.  So if you are going to join the union it means that whenever the union meets you have got to worship the patron deity and their worship included all manner of immorality and sexual orgies.  As a result, Christians refused to join the union, and so were they out of work. Even if you got past that, you had to worship the emperor as a god in order to get a job.

persecuted churchChristians were jobless, many of them homeless, bullied by everybody, thrown on the streets, living in caves on the outskirts of the towns. The police would not stop this from going on they served the Caesar and if you refused to pledge allegiance to the emperor then you were less than a dog. It is as if someone today refused to pledge allegiance to the American Flag. Christians would not pledge allegiance to Caesar and so they were called traitors, they were called third citizens, lower than slaves. Many Christians lost their lives too, that was not always first on the list, but it came to that many times when they were brutally murdered because of their Christianity.


About Michael Welchert

My wife Diana and I have been married since 1985 and have five wonderful children. I have been in ministry since 1980 and we currently reside in the Denver, CO area.
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