Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul was placed in a gloomy dungeon, there to remain until his course should be finished. Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and the nation, he was the object of universal execration – Acts of the Apostles, p.490
Day 4 of the Great Controversy Tour. She had decided to come on it with her friend.
A lover of Christian history and travel, it was an opportunity she could not pass up. Today’s focus was on The Early Christian Persecutions. After a buffet breakfast, they visited the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Titus’ Arch, the Roman Forum and Mamertine Prison. The ancient prison is located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill in Rome. According to the travel guide, the Mamertine Prison had two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s conquered enemies were imprisoned and died, of starvation or strangulation. It was where the apostle Paul was confined. She paused to take some photos before going inside. She took a photo of the sign which read the “prison of the Saints and Apostles Peter and Paul.”
As she began to descend into the dark coldness, she thought of Paul being a sick, old man, cruelly thrown in there and friendless, except for Luke and Onesiphorus whose frequent visits cheered him up. Luke was a great comfort to him because he enabled him to communicate with fellow believers and the outside world.
It was indeed a very gloomy place. She shivered. It was from there that Paul was taken to Nero’s vast judgment hall where he pleaded not for himself but for all the people who could still be reached by the Gospel. From there he was taken to his execution. It is believed that Peter also spent his final hours in the prison before he was taken to his execution.
As she listened to the tour guide, she tried to imagine what it would have been like for her to be in prison for her faith. Would she languish and lose hope or would she be like Paul who wrote such encouraging letters from the prison here in Rome to the different churches. In his letter to the Philippians, he was rejoicing as he shared his experience. He wrote, “But I want you to know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have resulted in advancing the gospel, so that my imprisonments in Christ have become known throughout the entire palace guard and to all the rest. And a great many of the brothers in the Lord, having become confident because of my incarcerations, have dared to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). He seeing the positive side to all of this. His adversity brought more people to Christ and his attitude encouraged others.
Could she be like Paul who, although he was in chains, was not chained to his circumstances? Would her faith hold up? Then she remembered his words to Timothy: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but everyone forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17). Paul was never alone. God was always present.
Would God be there for her as He was for Paul? As if in response to her lingering doubts, Isaiah 43:2 came to her mind, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Peace and comfort filled her heart. She had the assurance that no matter what she will face, God will be there with her just as He was with Paul.
Sources: Sacred Destinations; Bible Hub; Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Roma Today