Ignatius, a disciple of the apostle John, and a successor of Peter and Evodius, was in the service of the church of Christ at Antioch in Syria. He was a very God-fearing man, faithful and diligent in his ministrations. He was called Theophorus, that mean’s, “The Bearer of God”, apparently because he often bore the name of God and his Savior in his mouth. He was used to say frequently, “The life of man is a continual death, unless the Christ live in us.” Likewise, “The Crucified Christ is my only and entire love.” And, “He that allows himself to be called after any other than Christ, is not God.” And again, “As the world hates the Christians, so God loves them.” The Emperor Trajan, after the victories which he had achieved against the Decanis, Armenians, Assyrians, and other eastern nations, gave thanks at Antioch unto the gods, and offered great sacrifices unto them, as though these victories had proceeded from them. Ignatius, reproved the Emperor for it openly in the temple. The Emperor got highly enraged on this account, ordered Ignatius to be apprehended, but due to the fear of an uproar and also because Ignatius was held in great respect in Antioch, he did not have him punished there but handed him to ten soldiers and sent him to Rome, to have him punished.
In the meantime his sentence of death was made known to him and also the place where he was to die. He was told that he would be torn to pieces by wild beasts at Rome.
On his way, he wrote several consolatory epistles to his friends, the faithful in Christ Jesus and also to different churches, as to those of Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia, Trellis, Magnesia, Tarsus, Philippi, and especially to the Church of Christ at Rome.
It appears that the thought of being torn to pieces by the teeth of wild beasts was constantly on his mind during the journey; not as a matter of dread, but of earnest desire.
Having arrived at Rome, he was delivered by the soldiers to the governor, together with the letters of the Emperor, which contained his sentence of death. He was kept in prison several days, until the feast-day of the Romans, when the Governor, according to the order of the Emperor, had him brought forth into the amphitheater. First of all they sought by many torments, to induce him to blaspheme the name ofChrist, and offer sacrifice to the gods. But when Ignatius did not weaken in his faith, he was forthwith condemned by the Roman Senate, immediately to be cast before the lions.
As Ignatius was led away from the presence of the Senate, to the innermost enclosure, or pit of the lions, he frequently repeated the name of Jesus in the conversation which he, while on the way, carried on with the believers, as well as in his secret prayer to God. Being asked why he did so, he replied, “My dear Jesus, my Saviour, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece”.
When the whole multitude of the people was assembled, to witness the death ofIgnatius, he was brought forth and placed in the middle of the amphitheatre. Ignatius, with a bold heart he addressed the people which stood around, “O ye Romans, all you who have come to witness with your own eyes this combat; know ye, that this punishment has not been laid upon me on account of any misdeed or crime; for such I have in no wise committed, but that I may come to God, for whom I long, and whom to enjoy is my insatiable desire. For, I am the grain of God. I am ground by the teeth of the beast, that I may be found a pure bread of Christ, who is to me the bread of life.”
As soon as he had spoken these words, two dreadful, hungry lions were let out to him from their pits, which instantly tore and devoured him, leaving almost nothing, or, at least, very little, even of his bones. Thus fell asleep, happy in the Lord, this faithful martyr of Jesus Christ, A. D. 111, in the 12th year of Emperor Trajan.