Christ's followers suffered humiliation, suffering, and persecution. They were stripped of their possessions and driven from their homes. They were "falsely accused of the most dreadful crimes and declared to be the cause of great calamities…As they became the objects of popular hatred and suspicion, informers stood ready, for the sake of gain, to betray the innocent. They were condemned as rebels against the empire, as foes of religion, and pests to society. Great numbers were thrown to wild beasts or burned alive in the amphitheaters. Some were crucified; others were covered with the skins of wild animals and thrust into the arena to be torn by dogs. Their punishment was often made the chief entertainment at public fetes. Vast multitudes assembled to enjoy the sight and greeted their dying agonies with laughter and applause" (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 40).
But despite this, the number of Christians increased. Since Satan wasn't succeeding in wiping them out through brutal persecution, he tried a more deceptive approach. "Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart" (page 42).
This is how compromise and corruption entered the church. "The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith." Pagan rituals and festivals became a part of the Church's practice. "The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated" (page 45).
Though ridiculed for their faith, early Christians remained faithful to the teachings of Christ and His disciples. "Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God's professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusionslli, which the faithful in ages past imperiled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be followers of Christ" (page 46).
We are living in the end times. Our only safety is to build on the solid rock of God's Word. As such, let us ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we study the Bible, understand its teachings, accept them into our hearts, and share them to others.
To learn more about persecution in the first centuries, read The Great Controversy by Ellen White at https://greatcontroversyproject.org/.