During the days of Emperor Trajan, John the Apostle, the last surviving of the twelve disciples, passed away of natural causes. Then Trajan himself fell ill, suffered a stroke, developed dropsy, and died in 117 at age 64. His widow conspired with Hadrian to bring him to the throne. He was tall and elegant, his hair curly, and he sported a beard to hide the blemishes on his face.

In 124–125, Emperor Hadrian provided a little relief for suffering Christians. Anti-Christian riots had broken out in Asia Minor, and the governor had written Hadrian for advice. The emperor, whose nod against the church might well have led to a Christian holocaust, proved neutral. He ordered cases against Christians tried, but he decreed that the defendants had to be proven guilty before they could be condemned. Slanderous attacks on them were forbidden.

Now, if our subjects of the provinces are able to sustain by evidence their charges against the Christians I have no objection. But I do not allow them to have recourse to mere clamorous demands and outcries to this end. If therefore anyone accuses and proves that the aforesaid men do anything contrary to the laws, you will pass sentences corresponding to their offenses. On the other hand, I emphatically insist that if anyone demand a writ of summons against any of these Christians merely as a slanderous accusation, you proceed against that man with heavier penalties, in proportion to the gravity of his offense.

But while Hadrian was indifferent toward Christianity, he was bitterly opposed to Judaism. He ordered Jerusalem rebuilt as a Roman colony and renamed Aelia Capitolina. Like a miniature Antichrist, he erected pagan altars on the temple site—leading to another Jewish uprising and bloodbath. It was during that same year, 135, that Hadrian, 59, fell sick with a painful, wasting illness. He begged for hemlock. No one would oblige him and he suffered three years before dying on July 10, 138.

Children, this is the last hour. You heard that the enemy of Christ would appear at this time, and many of Christ’s enemies have already appeared. So we know that the last hour is here. Keep thinking about the message you first heard, and you will always be one in your heart with the Son and with the Father. (1 John 2:18,24)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 10.

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