Flavians end, Antonines begin, Christians die Domitian was succeeded by Marcus Cocceius Nerva who was quite elderly and feeble by the time he had been appointed Caesar (ruling only from 96 to 98). Nervaâ€™s reign then was brief with nothing much either to commend it or to condemn it. However, in the oddest move of succession, Nerva adopted Trajan as his son. Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, who was then about 40, though well known in Rome, had been a total stranger to Nerva up until this hasty act was suggested by the leading Senate counselor. Trajan apparently prospered greatly by being in the right place at the right time, or so it would seem.
Following the rule of Constantine the empire was given over to his sons and heirs (Constantine II, Constans and Constantius). Constantine II was killed by his brother Constans who was soon removed by another rival. This left the empire to a field officer named Magnentius, who was defeated and then committed suicide. The throne was then offered to the last son of Constantine the Great – Constantius. You may note when reading of these things, that the sons of Constantine were as much Christian as their father, and at least as much politician and conniver. After all, Constantine had been the disciple of Diocletian, and had attained to significance by being first a warrior and also the first true non-Latin Caesar; and by allowing that Christianity should become religio licita. So, the seed did not fall far from the tree.
These were followed by Julian the Apostate, who made every attempt to resurrect paganism. In this he also adapted some of the vestiges of Christianity, by aligning the pagan priesthood after the model of the rising apostate clergy. It was at this point that the remaining pagans began to use the priest as the mediator between god and man, as it was developing in the digressive churches. Christians were prohibited from teaching science and law in schools. And the temple properties were once again being returned to the state without indemnity. He immediately attempted to reestablish the intolerance and hatred of the empire through its system of temples and worship. He was unsuccessful. But while at it his writings acted as a historical nod to the authenticity of the Gospels and Acts. He quoted them all, and noted that they were the received texts of the Christians. He also referred to both letters to Corinth, that of the Romans and the Galatian letter. He also verifies the time frame of the Gospels and of Acts.
The next emperors were Jovian, Valentinian I and Theodosius. During the reign of Theodosius emperor worship and Roman pantheism was designated as paganismus: peasant’s religion. It had all but retreated from the cities of the empire for the final time. The empire or what remained was again split into two: eastern and western. The sons of Arcadius ruled in the east while Honorius held the west. Theodosius II ascended to the eastern throne and Valentinian II to the western. The temples of Roman emperor worship and paganism were destroyed by Theodosius II allowing them to be turned again into public buildings or Christian assemblies. There was persecution of both Christians and pagans throughout this period. But paganism also saw its final end as the religion of the empire by the conclusion of his reign. At the same time the seeds of Romanism had been sown and were now sprouting up into the “common or universal” (Catholic) church.
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now, if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good as to a faithful Creator.
(1 Peter 4: 11-19)