Choosing Love

The Birthplace of Purgatory

Posted by Alex Lang on

Scripture: 1Peter 3:18-22; 4:12-17

We are back to our sermon series Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity. The third part of this series is designed to tell you the story of how Christianity established its identity as a completely separate religion from Judaism. As we enter into the 90s of the first century, we find that the leadership in the Roman Empire has shifted substantially. The emperor during this period is a man by the name of Domitian. Emperor Domitian ruled the Roman Empire from 81-96 A.D. and was known for his iron grip as an absolute dictator.

Once a year, all Roman citizens were expected to worship an image of the emperor, declaring the emperor to be their Lord. In essence, this act was a way to publically declare that the emperor is the person who rules my life and I will follow whatever he says. Most people living in the Roman Empire were fine with this arrangement and even encouraged it.

But there were some who were unwilling to worship the emperor and declare him their Lord because their religion forbade such worship. The Jewish religion was one such example of this, and as a result Domitian simply made them pay a tax known as the Fiscus Judaicus. If you pay the tax, then you don’t have to worship the emperor. But this arrangement was not quite as clear among Christians.

Christians found themselves in a bit of a grey zone. When officials would come to them and say, “You need to worship the emperor.” They would say, “No, we can’t do that because we worship Jesus.” Then the official would say, “Are you Jewish?” And they would have to answer, “No. We are not Jewish.” This would cause the official to say, “Well, then you need to worship the emperor. If you don’t, then I have to impose penalties on you.”

This Sunday we are going to talk about what those penalties were and how these circumstances impacted the writing of the letter of 1Peter, which led to the belief in a place called purgatory. I hope you enjoy a wonderful weekend with your friends and family. I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!


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