“Received Up Into Heaven” 

“Received Up Into Heaven” 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

With the death of Nero, a path to the imperial throne was opened to Vespasian by those soldiers serving under the former’s command. Vespasian had made a reputation for himself in the conquest of Britain and the subjugation of Jewish revolts beginning in AD 66. Thus, given the opportunity by his men, Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty, which his son, Titus, would succeed. As emperor, Vespasian left the task of quelling the Jewish rebellion to his son, Titus. Thus, Titus remained in the theater of conflict while his father returned to Rome.

In AD 70, Titus crushes the Jewish rebellion by destroying Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Vespasian dies from an illness within a decade, opening the throne to his son, Titus. As emperor, Titus completed the Roman Colosseum and dealt with the crisis of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Upon his death, Titus’ younger brother, Domitian, became emperor and built the Arch of Titus in AD 81 to commemorate Titus’ conquest of Jerusalem. Titus serves only about three years as emperor.

It is of note that the triumphant arch Domitian dedicates is to Titus, who only completes his father’s work in Judea and Jerusalem. No doubt, Vespasian would have approved seeing as he desired to lay the foundation for his family’s rule. In life, Vespasian had likewise sought to emphasize his son’s actions. In other words, though ambitious, Vespasian was generous enough to share the spotlight with his son to further his machinations. As homecomings go, Titus was a son well-received by his father. One can question if the son was as accomplished as his father, given the brevity of his reign. If for no other reason than establishing the desired optics, though, Vespasian knew to give Titus a grand reception upon the completion of his task on the battlefield, since it glorified himself as well.

I recently completed a study on the Harmony of the Gospels; that is, the complete narrative one finds when fleshing out the revealed narrative of Christ by coalescing all four gospel accounts into a single account.  I noted that despite being the shortest gospel, only Mark ends in a manner consistent with the once-coveted literary “happily-ever-after.” Indeed, Mark 16.19-20 has Jesus returning to the Father and the disciples carrying out their Master’s work. Matthew ends his gospel with our Lord’s promise to remain with us. Luke ends his thoroughly-researched gospel by showing the rejoicing disciples continuing in their praises to God. John ends the last written gospel by telling us that despite not having a complete record of Christ’s life, we have enough information to develop a saving faith.

As a Christian, I appreciate the perspective of each inspired gospel author. I have always been partial to John’s gospel with its unique approach, but now find myself most enamored by Mark’s inspired conclusion. In stark contrast to the prodigal son, in which a rebellious son squanders his father’s inheritance in the far country, but finds a gracious, welcoming father upon his repentance, we have in Mark’s closing an obedient Son returning triumphantly to the deserved adulation of His Father. The text is simple enough. The New American Standard Version states, “…He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16.19).

That was what Jesus eagerly anticipated. The Hebrews writer said it was this impending joy enabling Him to endure the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12.2). If Titus deserved a triumphant arch for doing his father’s bidding, shouldn’t a much more deserving Son receive from His Father the name above all names? (Philippians 2.9-11) No Christian doubts Jesus was worthy of this honor, but is there not something uplifting about reading the confirmation Mark provides? Given what Jesus accomplished, we relish this affirmation since we know His vicarious sacrifice enables us likewise to join Him in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5,8-9). We can see by faith Stephen’s vision granted him before his martyrdom of the Christ standing at God’s right hand, looking at human events intently (Acts 7.56). Truly, He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4.14-16), interceding for us (Romans 8.34).

Further Reading:

Wasson, Donald L. “Vespasian.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2020,www.ancient.eu/Vespasian/.

Chilver, Guy Edward Farquhar. “Vespasian.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 June 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Vespasian.

Wasson, Donald L. “Titus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2020, www.ancient.eu/titus/.

“Arch of Titus.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Titus.

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Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Remarkable Statements, In Historical Context

Neal Pollard

AD 30—Tiberius, who became cruel and mad, was the Roman Emperor when the church was established. Under his reign, right around the time of Pentecost, Rome was filled with terror after the murder of his once trusted advisor turned traitor, Sejanus (tribunesandtriumphs.org). Sanderson Beck comments that he was “preoccupied with sexual and sadistic perversions” the last several years of his life (he is believed to have been murdered)(san.beck.org). Jerusalem was directly governed by Rome. Acts, though probably written in the 60s, begins its historical chronicle around AD 30.

  • Acts 2:41—“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
  • Acts 4:4—“But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
  • Acts 5:14—“And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”
  • Acts 6:7—“The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
  • See also Acts 12:24 and Acts 19:20,

AD 62-63—Nero, described as licentious, cruel, tyrannical, murderous, criminal, arson, vain,  perverse (tribunesandtriumphs.org) and, by historian Donald Wesson as a “cross-dressing exhibitionist” (ancient.eu), spearheaded the first organized persecution of Christians (N.S. Gill, ancienthistory.about.com). Tacitus says he blamed the Christians for his own burning of Rome. Many are the accounts of the cruel ways Nero put them to death (eyewitnesstohistory.com). Eusebius reports that Nero put both Paul and Peter to death (Church History, Book 2, Ch. 25). Before his death, Paul would report of such rapid growth throughout Nero’s reign. Peter’s outlook could not have been brighter.

  • Colossians 1:23—“if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

AD 90s—Domitian, best remembered as “the evil emperor who murdered thousands of Christians” (tribunesandtriumphs.org), reigned when John wrote his epistles and the book of Revelation. He was notorious for his cruelty and detachment from reality. John writes Revelation in large part to steady the Christians to withstand the onslaught of persecution caused by Domitian. His message to the Christians during the reign of Domitian was consistent:

  • 1 John 4:4—“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
  • 1 John 5:4—“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
  • Revelation 1:6-7—“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

How bad did things look, from an earthly perspective, during the reigns of evil rulers like Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian? The thing is, the early Christians did not look at things from an earthly perspective. As those trying to walk in the footsteps of New Testament Christians, will we imitate their faith and that perspective?

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