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by Richard Ramsey

Reprint from a Word & Work Magazine prior to 2012


“Back to the Catacombs?”

        This was my subject at a recent Bible conference.  In it I surveyed some of the world conditions today and showed that already in many countries true Christianity exists only as an underground movement.  Christians need to become expert in the methods of operating as an outlawed organization.

Rome persecuted Christians for over 200 years.  There were times of ease, followed by times of enforcing the death penalty against them.  Christians learned to hide their identity and to hold worship services in secret.  Their favorite hideout was the catacombs.

        The catacombs were underground burial places.  Some archeologists have estimated that there are approximately 750 miles of these underground tunnels with as many as 6,000,000 graves there.  Inscriptions abound to show that the Christians not only buried their dead but that they held worship services in these underground passageways and chapels.

        The Romans respected burial places and did not molest them.  Therefore Christians were able to meet in these underground secret burial places when they would have been thrown to the lions if caught meeting publicly.

        Hitler hounded out Jews and exterminated them.  There were many persons like those in the Anne Frank episode who managed to survive by hiding out.  Prophecy tells us that the Anti-christ someday will try to exterminate all believers in God.  True believers in that day will survive only if they go ‘back to the catacombs’, that is, find a way of secret existence. 

         Already in some countries today persecution is strong.   Churches of Christ in Poland, for instance, are considered an illegal organization and their meetings, when discovered, are broken up by police.  They are able to worship only in secret. In many countries where a state religion is legally established or even just tacitly admitted, members of other religious groups can only meet in private, unmarked, unadvertised places.

       The techniques of the underground movements are well known.  Our armies used them extensively in World War II. Communists operate successfully in our country through these methods.  No government has ever been able to stamp out an underground that is effectively organized.  Even the most ruthless dictator never knows but what his most trusted friend is secretly plotting against him. 

       If an anti-God government should take over our nation, older Christians would be liquidated, younger ones brainwashed, and would have to hide their true identity and meet secretly. A typical Christian service under such circumstances might consist of two or three Christians meeting for prayer in a barber shop with the Christian barber cutting the hair of one of them.  Evangelists might pose as traveling salesmen, business men, doctors, government officials, etc.  Secret symbols for identifying other Christians would have to be devised. 

        A Christian’s hope is in the Second Coming of Christ.  We would that he come soon and take us to be with himself in eternal glory.  But if he delays his coming and evil times do descent upon us, we would do well to be prepared to meet them. 

     The Apostle Paul once fled from Damascus by being let down over the wall in a basket during the night.  Christian leaders might have to flee during the night to some prearranged fishing camp stocked with canned goods where they might continue to direct Christian activities in secret.

       The hardest thing for us who live in easy going America to realize is that this is not fantastic dreaming.  We just cannot get it through our heads that in Russia an China millions on top of millions of human beings have been killed for no other reason than that they would not renounce their faith in God.  We cannot comprehend that millions of Jews were exterminated for no other reason than that they were Jews. We cannot get it through our head that attempts at church services in many countries today bring swift prison sentences.  Why don’t we wake up?


   Richard Ramsey was a preacher of the Gospel for many years in Hammond, LA.  He also established and held  a Bible Study Group for students at Southeastern Louisiana University that met in the Church of Christ Bible Chair Bldg-next to his home


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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10