The Watchtower September 1, 1951, in a wonderful article entitled “Hated For His Name”(pp518,519) describes the persecution and martyrdom of steadfast Christians in the first 3 centuries AD.
“By the year (A.D.) 64 Christianity was prominent throughout much of the Roman Empire, including the capital city Rome itself. Their individual characteristics, form of worship and steadfast refusal to compromise thereon had madethe Christians sure targets of hostility and ridicule. That year, the tenth in the reign of Emperor Nero, Rome was swept by a conflagration so great it is yet the object of poetry and legend....Diocletian assumed the crown A.D. 284.
At first he seemed friendly to the Christians, but in the year 303 he gave in to persuasion and opened the tenth persecution, probably the most ferocious of all. Suffocation by smoke, forcible drinking of melted lead, mass drownings and bumings, breaking on the rack of men and women alike ran the empire with blood. In a single month 17,000 were slain. In the province of Egypt alone, 144,000 such professed Christians died by violence in the course of this persecution, in addition to another 700,000 who died as a result of fatigues encountered in banishment or under enforced public works”.
So What's the problem?
The problem is that the religion of Jehovah Witnesses has set a limit of 144,000 faithful Christians that could have possibly existed in the 19 centuries prior to 1914.
In response to the above article a rather astute Witness asked a pointed question
WT 1952 1/15 p. 62 Questions From Readers
"According to the article “Hated for His Name” in the September 1, 1951, Watchtower, hundreds of thousands of Christians died in the “ten persecutions” starting in Nero’s time, 144,000 dying in Egypt alone during one of the persecutions. How can this be harmonized with the Scriptural limitation of 144,000 placed on the number being in Christ’s body, and which position was the only one open to Christians during those centuries?—J.A., Dominican Republic."
Now note the WT following response.
"The article did not class with any finality the individuals that died during these persecutions, but spoke of the results in a general way. Note that a key qualification was made in the case referred to in the question: “In the province of Egypt alone, 144,000 such professed Christians died by violence in the course of this persecution, in addition to another 700,000 who died as a result of fatigues encountered in banishment or under enforced public works.” The victims are identified as “professed Christians”, not Christians in fact. Many of those persons might have been caught in the wave of persecution, but may never have actually preached the truth or followed in Jesus’ footsteps, being only professed Christians. They knew the world they lived in was rotten and they were listening to the message of the Christians and willing to die for it even though not in line for the high calling in Christ Jesus. Many professed Christians today might be willing to die for their faith, but still not be Jesus’ footstep followers and meeting the Scriptural requirements for such."
Isn't that insulting to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for staying true to their Christian beliefs? I mean how does the WTS know these were not real Christians? They know because of a questionable numerical theory developed without scholarship from a passage in a symbolic book. Talk about Judgmentalism.