“Is he dead?” The prisoner heard the voice echo through his cell, but was powerless to respond. A sharp pain shot through him as the talons of a whip met his flesh. He groaned.
“Not yet.” Another voice bounced across the cement walls.
Heat flashed across the prisoner’s face. Forcing his eyes open, he saw the blurry image of a guard waving a torch before him. Straining against his metal shackles, the prisoner attempted to pull himself up—but the whip struck him down.
“Are you ready to say goodbye?” The first guard leaned in toward the prisoner’s face. “Today is the day. You will say goodbye to your God. Or you will say goodbye to this world.”
It took all his strength, but his words came forth in short gasps. “I have already… said goodbye… to this world…”
Grunting, the second guard loosened the shackles and roughly pulled the prisoner to his feet. The iron door slammed behind him, and the guards dragged him through a cavernous maze of corridors until they arrived in an expansive marble hall with towering pillars and opulent decorations. Scents of luxurious foods greeted his senses and awakened his hunger.
“You’ve arrived in time for the feast.” The emperor loomed above him. “Come, sit. Eat.”
The guards released the prisoner, and he fell weakly to his knees.
“Certainly you are hungry. When did we last feed you?” Feigning ignorance to his suffering, the emperor pulled the prisoner to his feet. “Oh. Yes. You’re so full of your God, you don’t need our food. But maybe your hunger has finally brought you to your senses?”
The prisoner remained silent.
“So your God was powerless to feed you over these past weeks. Powerless to release you from our chains. But we have power enough to feed a nation, or to starve the entire population without mercy. We have power to take prisoners, or to set them free.”
Fighting to remain standing as the emperor loosened his grip, the prisoner’s eyes wandered to the feast set before him.
“You can have it all back, you know. The power, the prestige. Just renounce your faith in that impotent God of yours. Cease speaking of that weak savior who is incapable of saving you from death. I will restore your title. And you can eat with us—here, now. The food is abundant. And savory to the taste. You are hungry. Yes?”
“I hunger, yes.” The prisoner spoke in a strained whisper. “But there is a hunger that goes deeper.”
“You are aware that if you choose against feasting with us today, you will become a feast yourself. Tomorrow. In the Colosseum. You may be skin and bones, but the beasts will be too hungry to take notice.”
An invisible strength consumed the prisoner. “I do not fear death.”
“We’ll see about that. Tomorrow.”
Fierce heat permeated the Colosseum. The sounds of ravenous beasts reverberated against the walls. Looking toward the waiting crowd, the prisoner saw himself among them. He remembered the days when he would feast on the suffering of others—when he believed he held the power of life and death within his hands and refused to show mercy.
And he remembered how it all changed when he encountered the God who used His infinite power to overcome death and release an infinite supply of mercy. He thought of the people he’d shared this freedom with. For them, he would be strong; for freedom, he would not waver.
The guards led him forward on the platform until he stood next to the emperor.
“One last time, prisoner. Renounce your Savior. Or you will taste death.”
The emperor’s voice threatened to permeate the prisoner’s mind until another, more powerful voice whispered to him. “By the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony, they overcame; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Lifting his voice for all to hear, the prisoner spoke boldly. “My Savior tasted death for me, and He is able to save me from the clutches of death. Yet even if He does not—I will not bow to any other God. My Redeemer lives, and though my skin be destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” Stepping forward into the arena, the prisoner saw a great banquet spread before him. “For me, death will be savory to the taste.”
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