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Who was Nero?

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Nero (AD 37 to AD 68) served as the fifth emperor of Rome from AD 54 until his death on June 9, 68. He became emperor at the age of 16 and died at the age of 30 from suicide.

Nero's reign involved several connections with events mentioned in the New Testament. When Nero became emperor, Christianity had already arrived in Rome. Paul's letter to the Romans, written in 55, was directed to numerous Christians living in Rome during this time. Jews from Rome were among those who heard the gospel at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, likely soon returning to their city to form the first groups of Christians.

In Acts 25, Paul first appealed to appear before Caesar. From approximately AD 60—62, the apostle Paul lived under house arrest in Rome while awaiting a court appearance. The end of the Book of Acts notes, "He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance" (Acts 28:30-31).

The Bible does not specifically state whether the court appearance occurred, but Paul was evidently freed and continued to share the gospel. First and Second Timothy and Titus were written upon a second Roman imprisonment Paul incurred that resulted in his death sometime between 65—68 under Nero.

The massive fires of Rome in AD 64 left tremendous damage to the city. Nero was involved in blaming the city's Christians for the fire, resulting in a period of intense persecution of Christians. Early traditions cite Nero as the one who commanded (or was at least involved in) the deaths of Peter and Paul in Rome during his reign.

Though Nero took leadership of Rome at an early age, he also came to an early end under dire conditions. Declared an enemy by his own government, he fled Rome and later took his own life. Turmoil was so high by the time of his death that a time called "The Year of Four Emperors," in which Rome had four rulers in a single year, followed.

In the fifth century the church leader Augustine mentioned that many believed Nero was or would be the Antichrist mentioned in the New Testament. Some have further contended that the number of the Beast in Revelation of 666 is connected with Nero. Regardless, the idea that Nero represented an enemy of Christianity was in existence from an early time due to his persecution of believers and church leaders in Rome.

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