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Vespasian emerged from the years of
confusion that followed Nero's death to rule with a more stalwart hand than any before
him. Slowly, he began to curtail the powers of the Senate even more, as the Romans saw
their freedoms slowly fading away. Coming in after him was the autocrat Titus (79-81) who
showed his contempt for God by destroying the Jewish temple. Then came Domitian who
stepped up the autocratic spirit even more, only to be assassinated on September 18, 96 AD.
He was the last of 12 Caesar's who ruled Rome during this tumultuous period. It was a time
when personal liberty was abased. Indeed, Christ had proclaimed that the truth would set
men free.(Jn ) The Romans had adopted a lie and personal freedom was the victim.
The Senate attempted at that point to
get things back under their control. The previous emperors had been elected by the
soldiers through civil war. Now the Senate asserted itself to nominate a brief set of
emperors. But democracy was not in the cards for the future of Rome. She had an imperial
calling that would see the likes of and iron hand crushing any who would oppose her. She
would be ruler of the world under the firm grasp of Caesar.
Rome had entered into the Golden Age of
empire. So engrossed in material comforts were these people that they fell into a stupor
of contentment. This consumption of wealth completely drugged any impulse that might
challenge imperial censorship or authoritarian rule.
Then I saw another angel flying in
midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth -- to
every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give
Him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens,
the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
A second angel followed and said,
"Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink
the maddening wine of her adulteries."
A third angel followed them and said
in a loud voice: "If any one worships the beast and his image and receives his mark
on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been
poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur
in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises
forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his
image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Rev 14:6-11 niv)
In 1996 Judge Robert Bork, President
Reagan's choice for Supreme Court Justice who was turned away by a liberal Congress,
drafted the book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah to detail the extent to which America
had turned away from the Christian roots that made her great. While devoting 343 pages to
the subject, Judge Bork detailed that America would be far better off if she turned back
the clock rather than press ahead to the uncertain liberal future. He talked of the
various sources that were eroding the foundation of American society, including radical
egalitarianism, radical individualism, feminism, the decline of respect for intellect, the
erosion of standards, "multiculturalism," judicial usurpation of democratic
powers and the anemia of mainline churches.
In his book, Bork demonstrated how
popular culture had eroded the American mainframe. In the book's chapter on the
"collapse" of popular culture he demonstrated the change in lyrical content in
An example of popular music from the
Oh, but you're lovely,
With your smile so warm. . .
There's nothing for me but to love
Just the way you look tonight.
Bork compared this with the 1990'2 Snoop
Doggy Dogg's "Horny":
I called you up for sexual healing.
I'm callin' again so let me come get
Bring the lotion so I can rub you.
Assume the position so I can f---
Bork concluded, "It's not just the
racism and violence of hate rock, the violently obscene and brutal lyrics of rap music and
the obscenities and wild violence of motion pictures." Indeed, this profusion of smut
included the Internet as well.
Columnist Mona Charen noted that when
one progresses to the future, he must be careful not to disengage himself from the past.
Noting that the '60s revolution, that was the first American leap from her Christian past,
Charen wrote on December 30, 1996, "History is not the march of progress, as the past
generation had amply demonstrated. As the new century nears, our challenge will be to
rediscover that there are values higher than untrammeled personal freedom."
Rome marched ahead towards a Golden Age
while ignoring the values that made it all possible. The march was on a road that
eventually leads to her oblivion. The proposals of President Clinton, to sneer at the past
in order to enter into a Brave New World, were exactly the equivalent of the call that
incited ancient Romans to do the same. And did America really believe she could dodge the
inevitable Roman fate?
As we in America come to the realization
that we are the wealthiest people to have ever lived on the face of this planet, we would
do well to look carefully at the example of Rome. The wealthy came to a point of desiring
only one thing: peace and prosperity. They sacrificed everything to attain these
objectives. And they gave up even their precious freedoms.
Rome itself, through the efforts of the
Caesars, was turned into a literal showcase of architecture that became the model and envy
of the entire empire. By the end of the second century Rome yielded in splendor to no city
in the fabled east. So renown was the fame of this city, that municipalities all over the
empire transformed their cities into little Romes.
The famous and magnificent Roman baths
could accommodate 3,000 bathers at once. The Pantheon, built by Hadrian, was an
architectural marvel. It was also a place of worship to their false deities. It stood as a
proud reminder of the humanism that had captivated the people of Rome. It was a defiant
symbol of the fact that Caesar had rejected the words of the Apostle. Apart from God, Rome
had set its course to pursue wealth and power.
Roman military roads fanned out in every
direction in the empire. The volume of goods distributed in Western Europe reached a level
that it never reached in the next 1,000 years. Upon the roads thundered the might of a
military that kept the empire in perfect peace for hundreds of years until the reign of
Marcus Aurelius. Rome had found her fortune in her own might. She had discovered the peace
she sought for.
The city of Rome housed the stalwart
Coliseum that held 75,000 people. One hundred days of games was declared by the emperor
Vespian to celebrate the opening of the mighty colossus, as wild beasts and gladiators
made a bloody spectacle to entertain the crowds. It was here that the martyrs of Christ
made their faith public, by laying down their lives for the amusement of their fellow man.
Jesus left the temple and was walking
away when his disciples came up to Him to call His attention to its buildings. "Do
you see all these things," He asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here
will be left on another: everyone will be thrown down." (Matt 24:1-2 niv)
Glorification of their conquests was the
predominant Roman theme. The arch of Titus was set to memorialize his triumph over the
Jews and the destruction of the temple. It tells of the story of his marvelous victory as
he took the booty: the sacred trumpets and the seven-branched candelabrum. Titus looms
large, as an invincible conqueror, a god crowned with victory.
But as we imagine the scene in which
Titus destroyed the temple and dispersed the Jews, we are reminded of the earlier kingdom
of Babylon that had flushed the Jewish nation out of their homeland. As we remember the
work of their king, Nebuchadnezzar, we are caught in awe as we realize that Rome was
indeed the Babylon of their own time. And when we see the defilement of everything that is
Godly in our own culture we come to a greater understanding of Rome's presence in us. As
we see the personage of Jesus placed in a bottle of urine in the name of art (a project
sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts which is subsidized by the American
taxpayer) we come to grips with the reality that we too have desecrated the temple of God.
Yes, those who will not receive the message of truth are certain to profane that which is
holy and righteous.
To demonstrate how this perverted
association of artists displays the sickness in today's apostate church, Jane Alexander,
chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts proclaimed in defense of her organization,
"We're part of a very large discussion that's going on among certain forces in America
-- political, philosophical and cultural. So I never doubted that we would be under fire.
But I was surprised by the intensity of that attack, the distortions and false
accusations, the questioning of the endowment's commitment to American values, the
questioning of even my own deeply held Christian values. I resent it, I resent it
terribly, because I grew up a Christian and I'm very spiritual, very religious."
And how did this President Clinton
appointee demonstrate her spirituality? This was found in her description of the art she
supported: "Art can be very disturbing to people. But art is liberating. It allows
people to experience their humanity in a way nothing else can. I don't think there's
anything that's human which is alien to an artist, even if it sometimes offends or even
frightens us." Offense to God has become a common American theme.
On July 13, 1995, the House Republican
leaders agreed to cut off federal funding for the National Endowment for the arts within
two years. This decision was put into practice on July 18 when the legislative body passed
a spending bill that was slated to reduce federal financing of the organization by 40
percent in 1996. The measure also affirmed the two-year deadline for a complete cutoff.
This affirmed the convictions of US citizens on the issue.
Now we are introduced to Golden Rome. It
was the era of Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, "If a man were called to fix the period in
the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and
prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that time which elapsed from the death of
Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by
absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. . .The forms of the civil
administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who
delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the
accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the
Republic had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom."
But the Romans were too preoccupied with
luxury and comfort to worry about freedom. In spite of a history that had unveiled the
likes of Nero, they could be certain in the succession of one gracious monarch after
another, they had made the correct choice in looking to an earthly king to resolve their
problems and bring them peace.
"The two Antonines (for it is of
them that we are now speaking) governed the Roman world forty-two years, with the same
invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue," Gibbons wrote in The Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire, ". . . Their united reigns are possibly the only period of
history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government."
So the Antonine emperors, who were known
for their ability to maintain humane government, the recognition of the rights of
provinces, and the enlargement of the ideas of universalism, became the people's gods. It
didn't seem to Romans that turning their backs on Jesus had any particular negative
ramifications on their society. In fact, their Caesars established the most dominant
empire that the world had ever known.
I watched as the Lamb opened the
first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four creatures say in a voice like
thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! It's rider
held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
(Rev 6:1-2 niv)
But even in the magnificent reign of
these Caesars, there were cracks beginning to form in the Roman frame. Indeed, during this
time under Trajan, the empire continued to expand. But eventually blockades were
established along the boarders. This became a testimony that the empire could no longer
Yet the people had chosen a god in the
personage of their Caesar. That the Caesars began to envision their own immortality can be
read in the words of a servant of Trajan. The king had sent out a man named Pliny to deal
with the problems that beset the provinces. It was a period when Christians were being
persecuted for their beliefs, and Pliny was to be the administrator of justice to the
rebellious. As he arrived at Bithynia in Asia Minor to carry out the royal decrees he
wrote to Trajan, "For it well becomes you, whose every word and action deserves
immortality, to give laws that shall forever be permanent."
Acknowledgments such as this, coming
from the patrons of Caesar, attributed to this earthy king the attributes of God himself.
But could Caesar render to society anything that would have permanent value? Could he
really institute laws that would be perpetual for all time? Was the Roman monarch the god
that the populace proposed that he really was?
Hadrian was the Caesar who established Rome's
civil service as a full-blown bureaucracy in Rome. Likewise, during the era of these
powerful and influential kings, the authority of rulership became centralized. The prized
democratic institution of the Senate became no more than a tool in the emperor's hand.
It was also during the reign of Hadrian
that a policy of retreat began. Rome had now degenerated from the role of the world's
aggressor to the empire's defender. The barbarians were steadily pressing on the distant
boarders. So, by the time of Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was at constant
war to protect itself.
Gibbons wrote in The Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire, "Antoninus diffused order and tranquility over the greatest
part of the earth. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing very few
materials for history; which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes,
follies, and misfortunes of mankind."
So, during the early years of the
Antonine emperors, the general persecution of Christians abated for a season. It was a
period that enabled the Church to grow in strength and organization, to prepare it for the
intense struggle ahead. It was a time when Rome prospered.
"The virtue of Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus was of a severer and more laborious kind," Gibbons wrote in The Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire, "It was the well-earned harvest of many a learned
conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a lucubration. At the age of
twelve years, he embraced the rigid system of the Stoics, which taught him to submit his
body to his mind, his passions to his reason; to consider virtue as the only good, vice as
the only evil, all things external as things indifferent."
Marcus Aurelius is considered to be one
of Romes finer Caesars. But it was Marcus Aurelius who reinstated the persecution of
Christians. This was a state of affairs that lasted until the reign of Constantine. So,
does it surprise you that it was also during the reign of Marcus Aurelius that the Rome
began to crumble under the weight of barbarian invasions? Is it so astonishing that the
one who reinstated Christian persecution also witnessed the beginning of the decay of his
The signs of weakness and decay were
beginning to emerge. Dio Cassius, who was a historian of the third century, considered the
death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of his son Commodus as the beginning of the end
for Rome. "Our history," he stated, "now descends from a kingdom of gold to
one of iron and rust."
According to Gibbons in The Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire: "Of all our passions and appetites, the love
of power is of the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man
requires the submission of the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, the laws of
society lose their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity. The
ardor of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success, the memory of past
injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all contribute to inflame the mind, and to
silence the voice of pity. From such motives almost every page of history has been stained
with civil blood; but these motives will not account for the unprovoked cruelties of
Commodus, who had nothing to wish and every thing to enjoy."
Commodus was a prime example of the
Roman deification of emperors. He was a virtual re-enactment of Nero. His sexual
immorality new no end, as he caroused with mistresses and "pretty boys." The
Eastern gods were worshipped in the court circles but worship was not enough for him. He
wanted to be one of them, so in defiance to the Holy Trinity of God, he proposed his own.
The new trinity that he proclaimed included the Eastern gods of Isis, Serapis, and
Gibbons wrote, "The manly pride of
the Romans, content with substantial power, had left to the vanity of the East the forms
and ceremonies of ostentatious greatness. But when they lost even the semblance of those
virtues which were derived from their ancient freedom, the simplicity of Roman manners was
insensibly corrupted by the stately affectation of the courts of Asia. The distinctions of
personal merit and influence, so conspicuous in a republic, so feeble and obscure under a
monarchy, were abolished by the despotism of the emperors; who substituted in their room a
severe subordination of rank and office, from the titled slaves who were seated on the
steps of the throne, to the meanest instruments of arbitrary power."
The mad ruler made great headway in
bringing the pagan beliefs of the East into Rome leading the populace to further apostasy
as a result. But he paid dearly for his sacrilege and rebellion and his athletic trainer
strangled him in a bath in 192 AD. His terrible reign marked the end of the "Golden
Age" that was so carefully planned out by Augustus. It marked the beginning of the
empire's collapse, to demonstrate to all mankind what happens to a people who profane the
name of the Lord and refuse to heed the warnings from His word. It was time for God to
judge the seditious and defiant legacy of Rome. It was time for the kingdom to receive the
reward of disobedience.
Slowly the inadequacies of Roman life
began to devour their kingdom. While the working class continued to be denied the benefits
of wealth, the institution of slavery continued to drive down the wages. There were no new
conquests. Their borders were established. There was nobody left to loot in order to
support an economic system that never got adequate attention.
The border raids of the barbarians,
which began rather sporadically under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, eventually became a
permanent state of invasion. It became so pronounced that by the end of the second
century, much of Rome's wealth was focused on maintaining a military to stay their
enemies. Taxes for the big government that was necessary to maintain the peace within
borders became so high that confidence faded along with business interest. Civilization
had yielded itself to militarization. Big government became king, and the populace
survived simply to support it.
By the time of Septimius, any concept of
Roman self-rule had vanished. The Emperor all but abolished the Senate, killing twenty
nine of its members. The tax burden continued as he increased the size of the army and the
rate of their pay. But the procurement of money by the government from its subjects was
not adequate to stem the tide of its own failures and decadence. Barbarians invaded Italy,
Spain and Gaul. Persia invaded from the East. Plagues broke out devastating whole regions.
* * *
Calvin and Hobbes ponder at what is
lying before them on the ground. "Look, a dead bird," the pubescent youth
notifies his friend.
"It must've hit the window,"
marvels the friendly beast.
"Isn't it beautiful? It's so
delicate," says the junior philosopher as they continue to stare in astonishment.
"Sighhh. . . Once it's too late you appreciate what a miracle life is. You realize
that nature is ruthless and our existence is very fragile, temporary, and precious. . .
But to go on with your daily affairs, you can't really think about that. . .Which is
probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. . .
It's very confusing."
Then as they walk off, Calvin interjects
one last thought: "I suppose it will all make sense when we grow up."
is a graduate of the prestigious music department at CSULB where he studied under Frank
Pooler, lyricist of Merry Christmas Darling, and sang in Poolers world renown
University Choir alongside Karen and Richard Carpenter. During this time Don was also the
lead composer of the band, Clovis Putney, that won the celebrated Hollywood Battle of the
Bands. After giving his life to God, Don began attending Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa to
study under some of the most prominent early Maranatha! musicians. Subsequently he toured
the Western United States with Jedidiah in association with Myrrh Records.
Don served as a pastor at Calvary Chapel Bakersfield to witness thousands of salvations
through that ministry. As the music/concert director, Don worked for seven years with most
major Christian artist of that time while producing evangelical concerts attended by
thousands of young people seeking after God. Dons Calvary Chapel Praise Choir
released the album Let All Who Hath Breath Praise the Lord on the Maranatha! label.
years of Dons life were spent as the praise leader of FirstBaptistChurch in Bakersfield
during a time of unprecedented church renewal. Don teamed with the leadership to
successfully meld the old with the new through a period of tremendous church growth.
During this exciting time, Dons praise team, Selah, produced the CD Stop and
Think About It.
Today Don is
the leading force behind Wigtune Company. This
webbased project located at www.praisesong.net has provided several million downloads of
Dons music and hymn arrangements to tens of thousands of Christian organizations
throughout the world. More music can be found at Don's Southern
Cross Band website at www.socrossband.com.
The book Holy
Wars represents Dons most recent effort to bless the church with biblical
instruction and direction in praise and worship. This heartfelt volume is an offering not
only to Gods people, but also to God Himself.
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