The subject ‘Hell’ itself is an extremely important subject to which the martyrs strongly suggest us to keep in mind of. The importance of hell to the martyrs has been interpreted in a couple of ways for each of the martyr. The martyrs we discussed this week were the martyrdom of Polycarp and Perpetua/Felicitas. I will discuss each martyr in as simple detail as I can.
The martyrdom of Polycarp is a story that took place in a city in Asia Minor, called Smyrna. Polycarp was an old man who served as a bishop in the city. He was the oldest living apostle (of St. John) to live during that time. His story began with a vision of a pillow under his head bursting into flames. He said quietly, “I will be burnt alive” his nearby friends heard this and they prayed together. Skipping forward to the story Polycarp was martyred, by being burnt alive, for his devoted faith in Jesus Christ. The importance of hell for Polycarp was severely important or else he wouldn’t have chosen this ending for himself. His philosophy was to rather suffer a bit on earth rather than suffer eternally. I would like to share with you one of the sentences that Polycarp said in terms of the subject of hell.
So basically the Proconsul says, “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.”
Then Polycarp replies with, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
That sentence in my opinion is really something because Polycarp shows that he isn’t worried by some fire that puts out in an hour rather than being burned into flames that last forever. To add to this statement, Polycarp refuses to turn to evil rejecting what’s right. In his opinion that sounds rediculeous. For many years he’s been serving God and he has been nothing but good to him, so rejecting that to save his own skin sounds super rubbish at this point.
In the story of Perpetua (one of my favorites by the way ) mainly took place in the prison of Rome. There isn’t much said about the early life of Perpetua, but she had said a few things about herself and we can figure some things out just by reading from context. Perpetua came from a noble family. Her father had a high position of authority and was a big deal in those times. Perpetua was raised with good education. By education I mean the knowledge of reading and writing. To be able to read and write is an extremely important skill that many aren’t able to obtain. Most of her martyrdom document was written by Perpetua herself, that is until the day of their execution someone else continued the document for her. Anyways, now you get the idea of who she was like. When Perpetua has converted to Christianity, she and her christian friends were arrested and sentenced until further due.
Many hardships came by during prison times, but good things happened as well. Perpetua’s story consists of the visions she had that determined her ending. After the visions it was clear what she and her friends had to face with and the reward they were to receive if they faced it. Now onto the point, Perpetua’s view of hell was basically the same as Polycarps. she believed that going back home to her son and family by rejecting God wasn’t the right thing to do altho very tempting. By trusting in God she experienced no pain during the fight with the beasts. By enduring all that suffering she knew that she would be greatly rewarded by God.
Felicitas was one of Perpetua’s Christian friends whom was married and carried an 8 month old child. This was a bad timing for her to be pregnant for 8 months and to be arrested. She griefed that she wasn’t able to be of encouragement for her friends on the day of execution with them. You might be confused as to why she wouldn’t be able to join with them. You see, in Rome there was a rule where pregnant women weren’t allowed to be in the amphitheatre. because of that Felicity prayed to make a premature child birth so that she’s able to be amongst her friends during the execution. God answered and allowed her to give birth to a baby girl. She gave her daughter to someone who was able to take care of her. Felicity too didn’t experience pain like Perpetua. Her view of hell was that she too couldn’t betray god for everything he has done for them. To avoid hell she put her full trust and faith in God and continued to suffer for him.
Thanks for coming by and reading this essay. I hope you liked or learned something from it. Let me know in the comments which martyr you found to be the most inspiring. I’ll be posting more soon and have a great rest of your day!