Night in the Roman Colosseum

No Christian can leave that site of bloody carnage the same man or woman.

R.A. Rentfro, Pastor-Evangelist. Washington Conference

It is night as I take leave of the bus at famous Victor Emmanuel Monument. A few quick steps bring me to a view of a part of Rome's ancient ruins. A surge of emotion sweeps over me at the sheer grandeur of these three lone columns—silent witnesses from the past. But tonight my goal, my secret ambition for years, is to visit the Roman Colosseum after dark. In the darkness of this Roman night, I write by flashlight my feelings and impressions.

The towering remains of this unbelievably well-preserved ghost of the past rise above me. In fancy I hear these pleasure-loving Romans of yesteryear cheering—not quite like the cheer of an American football audience—theirs are frenzied voices screaming as I have never heard human voices shout before.

Just below me, with the help of the flashlight I look into the stalls where once were caged half-starved animals. I see the passageways lead­ing to the arena! My ears seem to hear the beasts roar! A vision of the filled Colosseum looms before me. I look about me into a human sea of thousands of horribly expectant faces. They are waiting to see human beings die. Christians will soon be led to their death . . . their bodies torn asunder! How can these hu­man beings be so steeped in cruelty toward their own flesh and bone? The vast Colosseum is filled with them, fifty thousand Romans and Caesar himself with members of the Roman Senate.

Below me a guard opens the doors and a band of Christians is led into the center of the arena. Will not God save them? Is there no pity in this crowd? Can fifty thousand human beings cry unfeelingly for the blood of this little band of men and women? The crescendo of their frenzy increases. My ears—do they de­ceive? Everyone seems gripped by some fiend­ish power. Frantically I search for some sym­pathetic face in all that maddening throng. Lo, who is this? That young woman to my left. She is not shouting. She sits there quietly wiping her eyes. Perhaps her lover must die today!

The little band of Christians await their fate, scarce two hundred feet from me. Some are on their knees; some quietly stand with upturned faces. Another gate swings open. It is a huge one. The beasts are now visible, drifting into the arena accompanied by the roar of this perverted Roman crowd. They pause as if con­fused by the screaming throng. The little band remain unmoved. Not one recants his stand for Christ. God alone can save them now or let their martyrs' blood be spilled that more of these bloodthirsty creatures may be saved.

The animals charge the brave little band. Suddenly, the young woman at my left rises to her feet—not weeping, but with a face shining with a holy radiance. She leaps into the arena and rushes to the side of her lover. In a few short terrible moments it is all over. The fight is over—the victory is won—not for Rome, but for Christ. Voices of praise are stilled while Romans cheer.

My God, what have I done for Thee? Tears flood down my face, as I determine to be a bet­ter preacher and pray for the Holy Spirit to fully possess my soul.

It is still night in Rome. I stand awed before the visioned scene of the past. The stars shine above me. The Roman crowd have vacated the Colosseum. The Christians have witnessed with their lives to His conquering glory. I stand alone with my Saviour amid the ruins of that pagan Colosseum. In solemn memory of those who once witnessed there with their blood, I plead anew for the outpouring of His Holy Spirit to tell to all the world the good news of this salvation, to exalt the name above every other name for whom these noble fellow Chris­tians died.

No Christian can leave that site of bloody carnage the same man or woman. With tear­stained face I walked from that Colosseum de­termined by God's help to preach Christ and Him crucified as never before. On that Roman night I heard anew these words deep within my soul: "There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 250, 251.

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R.A. Rentfro, Pastor-Evangelist. Washington Conference

February 1958

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