就在十多年后，罗马在图密善（Domitian）皇帝令下，又发起了另一轮逼迫。这第二波反对教会的运动时间拖的更长，从公元后81到96年，并且范围遍及全地。罗马对教会的围剿，不但按部就班，而且来势汹汹。成千上万的基督徒因此丧命、放逐、逃窜。历史学家告诉我们，提摩太（Timothy）也就是在这段期间被人用棍棒活活打死的。在使徒约翰死后60年出生的特图里安（Tertullian）宣称：“使徒约翰先是被推下滚烫的油锅中，却完好无恙，之后才被流放到孤岛上。”  由于缺乏亲眼目睹的一手见证，我们不必坚持这一传统的真实性，但的确，它准确地反映了罗马抵挡基督教运动的激烈程度。据说，尼禄用沥青或松脂涂抹在基督徒身上，然后把他们捆绑在纸莎草或木柴捆中，或者把他们钉在浸泡过碳酸油的十字架上，然后，刺穿他们的喉咙，免得他们尖叫，并趁他们还活着的时候放火，把他们当火炬来照亮他的花园宴会。
An Apostle in Exile
by John MacArthur
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
We often think of Revelation as a prophetic look at thesecond coming of Christ. We think of the judgment that awaits the world because“He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those whopierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” (Revelation1:7). We tend to look at the promise of God’s wrath in horror, but alsowith a sense of relief that it will not fall on us.
But before the visions of the book of Revelation revealthe subject of God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners and the return ofChrist, it opens with three chapters addressed to churches. Specifically,Christ dictates a message through the apostle John to the seven churches inAsia Minor: “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches:to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and toPhiladelphia and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).
Those were actual congregations located in townsthroughout what we know today as Turkey, listed in an order that follows theancient postal route. Each of these churches were founded as fruit of theapostles’ ministry (primarily Paul), with Ephesus serving as the mother churchfor all the others in that region. Toward the end of his life, John ministeredin the church at Ephesus, giving him an intimate connection to all thosecongregations.
When the Lord delivered to him the Revelation, however,John was living in exile in a penal colony on the rocky island of Patmos.
On the night Christ was arrested, the Lord Himself hadwarned His disciples that persecution was coming: “If the world hates you, youknow that it has hated Me before it hated you. . . . If they persecuted Me,they will also persecute you” (John 15:18,20).
It did not take long before persecution was in fullforce. The church faced opposition from the very beginning, initially fromIsrael’s religious leaders. Likewise, it endured the hostile suspicions ofRome. Roman culture was dominated by pagan and debauched religion. Christianscould not fit in or partake of much that constituted everyday life in thatwicked society. Moreover, Christianity simply made no sense to people steepedin Roman culture. The doctrine and practice of the early church was so utterlymisunderstood that the Romans falsely accused Christians of cannibalism,incest, and other sexual perversions. Rumors spread that Christians wereatheists and political dissidents because they would not worship Caesar as god.In AD 64, the Roman emperor Nero played on these long-held suspicions todistract from his own misdeeds. That year, when a fire devastated much of thecity of Rome, the public suspected Nero was to blame. Nero shifted his deservedblame to the Christians, instituting an official campaign of persecutionagainst them across the city and beyond. It continued throughout the rest ofhis reign. During that first wave of Roman persecution, both Peter and Paulwere executed, along with countless others who were hunted down and slaughteredfor sport.
Also during Nero’s reign, Rome waged a bloody war tosuppress Israel’s hopes for independence. Nearly a thousand towns, villages,and settlements across Israel were burned to the ground, with their inhabitantsmassacred or scattered. In AD 70, Jerusalem was overthrown and the templedestroyed. What was once the capital city of God’s kingdom on earth was now inthe total control of pagans.
Just over a decade later, Rome initiated another wave ofpersecution under the emperor Domitian. This second campaign against the churchlasted longer—from AD 81 to 96—and extended throughout the empire. Rome’sassault on the church was organized and militarized. Thousands of Christianslost their lives while others were banished or fled. Historians tell us it wasduring this period that Timothy was clubbed to death. Tertullian—who was bornabout sixty years after the apostle John died—claimed that “the Apostle Johnwas first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to hisisland-exile!”  Lacking firsthand witnesstestimony, we needn’t insist on the veracity of that tradition, but it doesaccurately reflect the ferocity of Rome’s campaign against Christians. Nero wassaid to smear Christians with pitch or pine resin and bind them in papyrus orbundles of wood. Or he might crucify them on crosses soaked in creosote. Hewould then pierce their throats so they could not scream, and set them ablazewhile still alive, using them as torches to illuminate his garden parties. 
In Revelation 1:9,John tells us he was sentenced to the island prison of Patmos “because of theword of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Preaching the gospel was a crimepunishable by death. Patmos is not at all the island paradise some mightinitially imagine. It’s actually a crescent-shaped rock jutting up out of theAegean Sea, roughly ten miles long and five miles wide. In John’s day, it was adesolate, isolated place, nearly forty miles off the coast of Miletus, betweenAsia Minor and Athens. John’s sentence likely included the forfeiture of allhis property and possessions, along with any civil rights he enjoyed underRoman law. Although he was living in exile, he was essentially given a deathsentence, since he would spend the rest of his life doing hard labor in thequarries, with meager food and desperate living conditions. Already in hisnineties, John could not have expected to survive for long on Patmos.
Like Paul in 2Corinthians 11:23-29, however, the physical pain John enduredcould not compare to his anguish over his beloved churches in Asia Minor andtheir defection from the authority of God’s Word. From the letters Christdictated to the individual churches we know they were engaged in a variety ofsinful behaviors, including sexual immorality, idolatry, and hypocrisy. Theywere tolerating sin and compromising with the pagan culture surrounding them.They willingly accommodated false teachers and even helped spread their heresy.In many ways, they were examples that would be emulated by churches insubsequent ages, including evangelical churches across the Western world today.
Twenty-five years before John’s vision on Patmos, theapostle Paul warned of the dangers facing the early church. He urged Timothy,“Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but joinwith me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy1:8). In verses 13–14, Paul charged him to “Retain thestandard of sound words which you have heard from me. . . . Guard, through theHoly Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
Paul knew persecution and suffering would reach Timothy’sdoorstep. He also knew how easy it would be to crumble and compromise whenthreatened with prison, torture, and death. Throughout his final epistle,he sought to prepare his young apprentice for future trials. He continued inchapter 2:
Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. . . .Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1, 3)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as aworkman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2Timothy 2:15–17)
Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness. . . .But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations. (2Timothy 2:22–23)
Paul’s concern wasn’t just for Timothy, but for the wholechurch. He understood the spiritual threats that loomed on the horizon forGod’s people:
In the last days difficult times will come. For men willbe lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedientto parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips,without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited,lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness,although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. . . . But evilmen and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.(2Timothy 3:1–5,13)
Throughout his ministry, the apostle Paul carefullywarned about the danger of succumbing to false teachers and the need to bevigilant and discerning in the face of their threat.
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those whocause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but oftheir own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive thehearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans16:17–18)
But he also understood that the fight to maintain thedoctrinal and moral purity of the church is not exclusively external—thatplenty of threats come from within as well:
For the time will come when they will not endure sounddoctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate forthemselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn awaytheir ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3–4)
As he prepared to leave the Ephesian church, Paul gave theelders there a vivid warning to guard the flock God had entrusted to them:
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come inamong you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men willarise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.Therefore be on the alert. (Acts20:29–31)
Not thirty years later, that church had drifted fromtheir love for Christ into empty piety, while several of the surroundingcongregations had succumbed to some of the very corruptions Paul warned of.
As the oldest surviving apostle, John had lived longenough to see many of his beloved churches in Asia Minor succumb to Paul’sprophetic words. And now he was going to receive a call for their repentancefrom the Lord of the church.
(Adapted from Christ’s Call to Reform the Church)