The Mighty Roman Empire Has Fallen,
But The Cross Of Christ Still Stands -
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” —I Corinthians 1:18
This article is continued from the July 2020 issue of The Evangelist.
Emperor Vespasian was born November 17, AD 9, and died in AD 79. His brother Sabinus had become the Prefect (mayor) of Rome. Vespasian became a great, successful general in the country of Thrace, and by AD 69, was the commanding general attempting to overthrow Jerusalem and the land of Judea. Upon the death of Vitellius, he was summoned to return to Rome from Jerusalem to become the emperor. He founded the Flavian Dynasty, characterized by massive building projects, economic prosperity, and the expansion of the Roman Empire. Vespasian’s reign was prosperous, which was evidenced by his many building projects. This included the initial construction of the world famous Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the famous Coliseum of Rome, which his son, Emperor Titus, completed. He died of old age.
Emperor Titus was born December 30, AD 41, and died September 1, AD 81. Upon the death of his father, he became the emperor. He was known as a handsome and muscular man, well loved, and with a great memory. He was also known for his horse-riding skills and as being an excellent speaker, as well. He spoke several languages, was a musician and singer, and played a harp. He served as a colonel in Germany, Britain, and Judea. When his father was requested to return to Rome to become the emperor, General Titus was placed in charge of the vast Roman army and was able to overthrow the city of Jerusalem. He was greatly involved in responding to the crisis of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the historic city of Pompeii. He only reigned two years, two months, and twenty days. Emperor Titus died of a fever in AD 81 and was succeeded by his brother Domitian.
Emperor Domitian was born October 24, AD 51, and died September 18, AD 96. Suetonius says that he was born in the city of Rome, was known to love poetry and extravagant parties, and was also known as a womanizer. As a soldier, he fought in Gaul (France) and Germany. As emperor, he was known to be greedy and cruel. He gave great attention to organizing games and contests, which were put on at the great Flavian Coliseum. Domitian expanded and secured the boundaries of Rome, repaired the damage to the city caused by the great fire, continued the building projects initiated by his brother, and improved the economy of the empire. Even so, his autocratic methods and policies made him unpopular with the Roman senate, and he was assassinated in AD 96. In the fifteenth year of his reign, at the age of 44, he was despised, stabbed to death, and then cremated.
IN MAY 2008, DONNA AND I visited historic Rome, Italy. Donna’s sister, Jonon, joined us on our trip. We were very excited to see the city. We spent some time viewing St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel, but what greatly interested me was the historic, ancient ruins in the old part of the city. There were awesome piazzas, with incredible water fountains throughout Rome. We took pictures of all of them. When we arrived at the ancient part of the city, we saw acres and acres of quite ancient, crumbled, and broken-down buildings. We saw foundations and partial walls, but the roofs and ceilings were long gone. We saw the remains of many ancient streets and parks. We also saw several huge, impressive, memorial arches that commemorated historic achievements of the emperors of bygone days, and wars that had been won.
However, the most impressive historic building by far was the ancient Flavian Amphitheater, the historic Roman Coliseum. It stood tall, equal to about six or seven stories of modern-day buildings. The ancient two-thousand-year-old edifice had many broken down walls and floors. It originally covered about ten acres of land. In the first century, it was built to accommodate about sixty to seventy thousand people. It was the most impressive coliseum in the Roman world.
This was the site where the historic gladiators warred, fought, and often died in battle, with the crowds screaming for blood. This was the place where hundreds of Christians were sent and thrown to lions and tigers as a sport for the Roman audience. I have studied Foxes Book of Martyrs, which details some of the believers who were brought there to die because of their testimony of faith in Christ and Christ alone. Pastor Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, Syria, was devoured by wild beasts. A believer named Nicodemus suffered at Rome. Alexander, Bishop of Rome, and his two deacons were martyred there, as were Quirinus and Hernes, Zenon, a Roman nobleman, and about ten thousand other Christians (chapter 2, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).
I walked soberly and humbly throughout the historic coliseum, remembering the things that I had read in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as well as many other books by the church fathers. From inside the ancient, broken down, huge, gaunt looking coliseum, I could see where the thousands of Romans would stand and scream for more blood and even death to gladiators, or as Christians were being thrown to wild beasts.
Donna and I spent about two hours walking up and down the halls, climbing stairs, etc. Finally, we stood on what I thought was the second floor, overlooking the center part of the coliseum where the battles were fought, and the Christians were chewed up by hungry wild beasts.
There in front of me was a sign that said, “Here is where the emperor would sit when giving life or death instructions.” For a moment, we just stood there and pondered what this meant for hundreds of lives over many, many years of time. Then, a big surprise: Right beside the sign about the emperor was an object that caught my attention. It was a tall, impressive sculpture in the form of a cross. It was not a crucifix, just a naked cross. I looked at the cross, and then I looked at where the emperor sat.
I thought, “Wow, all the emperors of Rome have come and gone, from Julius Caesar to Romulus Augustulus. They are dead, now only dust.”
Donna and I saw the many historic, ancient buildings, now in ruins. We saw where the infamous Roman despots would have been seated.
The ancient buildings of Rome are now ruins, and the infamous roman emperors are now in the grave. The Roman Empire has died.
But, the cross of Jesus Christ still stands.
Please hear me: the great Roman Empire has fallen, but the cross still stands, and the church is alive!
The great apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” He wrote in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Colossians 1:20, he proclaimed, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross.”
Historic Rome has fallen, but the cross still stands!