Pretty pictures? Or lies. . .


Deuteronomy 4:9-12


“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice.

[Updated post]

Are images that attempt to portray Jesus idolatrous? I have been thinking about this for a long time. Today, in Evangelical and Fundamental churches, much of the teaching on idolatry centers on Paul’s statement that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), or condemns the exaltation of anything in our lives that takes the place of God. But what about the literal making and using of images of Jesus?

Jesus Christ

isn’t an illustration in a Children’s Bible,

a doll in a manger,

a flannelgraph, stained glass,

statue in a cemetery,


or appealing sketch of a laughing man.

He isn’t even the central figure

in an amazing mural

in our nation’s Capitol.

All of these things are lies that diminish

our understanding of the Lord and of walking by faith.

Bible-believing Christians are using so-called pictures of Jesus on blogs, in videos, movies, emails, and even on T-shirts. Please study this issue prayerfully. It isn’t a trivial thing. The question is: If we use them, can we call ourselves Bible-believers? May the Lord never say this about us: 

Hosea 4:17

17 Ephraim is joined to idols;
Let him alone.

Being Biblical

What does God’s Word teach about this? Here are some important passages:

We are not to make images and likenesses. Exodus 20:4-6

Whoever keeps the whole law, yet offends in one point, is guilty of breaking the entire law. James 2:9-11

Obedience to God is love for Him. John 14:21

True worshipers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:22-24

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

A side note – An accusation, and a little about old arguments

Awhile back, in preparing this I came across a blog that leveled a very old charge against Christians who object to images of Jesus. This is the charge: That because of the Incarnation, if we say that He should not be depicted, we are denying His humanity. But I confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh – that He is God in the flesh – but also affirm that because images of God are forbidden, and since Jesus Christ is God, that therefore images of Him should not be made.

Another old argument strikes a blow at making these images. It argues that because God the Son is both God and Man it is impossible to portray Him, for His Deity can never be portrayed.  

Romans 8:24

24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

Being reasonable

1)     We can’t know how Jesus looked during His earthly ministry – no artist is capable of doing this. The prophet Isaiah, and John in Revelation, described some of Jesus’ characteristics. Here is Isaiah’s description, which reveals a negative, that the Lord wasn’t handsome as so many images picture Him:

Isaiah 53:1-3

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

In Revelation, John described what He saw, the Lord Jesus Christ as He is now, having risen from the dead and ascended to the Father; not as He looked when He fed the 5,000, or walked on the waves of the sea. (Seeing the Lord as He is now would make us fall at His feet as if dead, just as John did.)

Revelation 1:13-15

13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

2)     Particular depictions of Jesus may appeal to us but repel others. 

Having concern for the lost

You probably don’t worship images, kiss them, or bow before them in prayer – but some people do and think that this is right worship. Do you want to stand with them in darkness, or be a light to them? Do you want to preach Christ crucified to them, or offer them a lie?  

1 Peter 1:8-9

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

Being honest

I’ve tried not to be discouraged by the seeming blindness of Christians to the obligations of the second commandment, but it is difficult when even mature Christians dismiss them. After studying and praying, I can see that there is no ultimate argument that will convince others, who in many ways are better Christians than I – only the Lord can convince and convict. May He pity us! May He help us to get ready for His return! And may we find comfort in the knowledge that someday He Himself will destroy these things.

Isaiah 2:17-21

17 The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
18 But the idols will completely vanish.
19 Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.

Isaiah 33:22

22 For the Lord is our judge,
The Lord is our lawgiver,
The Lord is our king;
He will save us—

For further study

Idolatry Condemned“J. Vernon McGee on Pictures of Jesus and Idolatry”

IdolatryCondemned YouTube channel  – “On God’s Covenant to Save His People From Idolatry”


Reading through Revelation – Background: The Man whose persecution banished the Apostle John to Patmos

Revelation 2:9


I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Beloved brethren, these verses are all that is uplifting about this post, which is limited to facts and information about a sad and selfish man who once had absolute rule over God’s children – life and death. He is only one of many throughout history. May we stay sober and wide awake for the purpose of prayer. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Arki (Patmos) Strongyli - Photo: Waldviertler

Arki (Patmos) Strongyli – Photo: Waldviertler

. . . Because of its desolate and barren nature, Patmos was used by the Romans as a place to banish criminals, who were forced to work at hard labor in the mines and quarries of the island. Because Christians were regarded as criminals by the Roman emperor Domitian (ruled A.D. 81-96), the apostle John probably suffered from harsh treatment during his exile on Patmos. An early Christian tradition said John was in exile for 18 months.

(from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)


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Titus Flavius Domitianus (A.D. 81-96)

John Donahue
College of William and Mary

Early Career

Domitian was born in Rome on 24 October A.D. 51, the youngest son of Vespasian, Roman emperor (A.D. 69-79) and Domitilla I, a treasury clerk’s daughter.[[1]] Despite a literary tradition that associated Domitian with Flavian poverty, the family’s status remained high throughout his early years: Vespasian was appointed to the prestigious proconsulship of North Africa in A.D. 59, and seven years later was granted a special command in the East by the emperor Nero (A.D. 54-69) to settle a revolt in Judaea; Titus, Domitian’s older brother by at least ten years and Vespasian’s eventual successor as emperor, had married well in the 60’s and was chosen as a legionary legate under Vespasian in the East.[[2]]

Unlike Titus, Domitian was not educated at the emperor’s court, yet he received sound training in Rome in the same way as any member of the senatorial elite of his day. The imperial biographer Suetonius records that Domitian gave public recitals of his works, conversed elegantly, and produced memorable comments; as emperor, he would write and publish a book on baldness.[[3]] Domitian’s adolescence was also marked by isolation. His mother had long been dead, he was considerably younger than his brother, and his father was away for much of his teenage years, first in Africa and then in Judaea.[[4]] An obvious outcome of all of this was his preference for solitude, a trait that would contribute significantly to his difficulties with various constituents as emperor.[[5]]

Little is known about Domitian in the turbulent 18 months of the three emperors, but in the aftermath of the downfall of Vitellius in A.D. 69 he presented himself to the invading Flavian forces, was hailed as Caesar, and moved into the imperial residence.[[6]] Guided by Gaius Licinius Mucianus, Vespasian’s chief advisor, Domitian represented the family in the senate and suggested that other issues be postponed until Vespasian’s arrival from the East. Eager for military glory himself, Domitian soon led reinforcements to Germany, where the Batavian auxiliaries of the Rhine legions had revolted. The uprising failed before he could arrive, however, and the literary accounts of his achievements are not to be trusted.[[7]] It was also during this period, perhaps in late A.D. 70, that he married Domitia Longina, daughter of the highly regarded general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, whom Nero had forced to commit suicide in A.D. 66. For all appearances, it was an excellent choice. The name of Corbulo was synonymous with military achievement, and the general had left behind a substantial clientela. Even so, the marriage was troubled. An only child died young, and Domitia was probably exiled by her husband c. A.D 83. Later, she would be recalled to the palace, where she lived with Domitian until his death.[[8]]

Domitian’s role in the 70’s was determined largely by Vespasian’s choice of Titus as his successor. To him fell a series of ordinary consulships, the tribunician power, the censorship, and the praetorian prefecture. Domitian, on the other hand, was named six times to the less prestigious suffect consulship, retained the title of Caesar, and held various priesthoods. He was given responsibility, but no real power. Nothing changed when Titus acceded to the throne, as Domitian received neither tribunician power nor imperium of any kind. The brothers were never to become close, and as Titus lay dying in September 81, Domitian hastened to the praetorian camp, where he was hailed as emperor. On news of Titus’ death, the senate chose first to honor the dead emperor before elevating his brother, an early indication perhaps of Domitian’s future troubles with the aristocracy. At any rate, after waiting an extra day, Domitian received imperium, the title Augustus, and tribunician power along with the office of pontifex maximus and the title pater patriae, father of his country.[[9]]

Titus Flavius Domitianus - A.D. 81-96


As emperor, Domitian was to become one of Rome’s foremost micromanagers, especially concerning the economy. Shortly after taking office, he raised the silver content of the denarius by about 12% (to the earlier level of Augustus), only to devaluate it in A.D. 85, when the imperial income must have proved insufficient to meet military and public expenses.[[10]] Confiscations and the rigorous collection of taxes soon became necessary. On another front, he sought to promote grain production by calling for empire-wide limitations on viticulture, but the edict met with immediate opposition and was never implemented.[[11]] On the other hand, there were notable successes. The great fire of A.D. 64, the civil wars of A.D 68-69, and another devastating fire in A.D. 80 had left Rome badly in need of repair. Domitian responded by erecting, restoring, or completing some 50 structures, including the restored Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol and a magnificent palace on the Palatine. The building program, ambitious and spectacular, was matched by hardly any other emperor.[[12]] He was also able to maintain the debased currency standard of A.D. 85, which was still higher than the Vespasianic one, until the end of his reign. The economy, therefore, offered a ready outlet for Domitian’s autocratic tendencies. There were failures, but he also left the treasury with a surplus, perhaps the best proof of a financially sound administration.

Domitian’s reach extended well beyond the economy. Late in A.D. 85 he made himself censor perpetuus, censor for life, with a general supervision of conduct and morals. The move was without precedent and, although largely symbolic, it nevertheless revealed Domitian’s obsessive interest in all aspects of Roman life. An ardent supporter of traditional Roman religion, he also closely identified himself with Minerva and Jupiter, publicly linking the latter divinity to his regime through the Ludi Capitolini, the Capitoline Games, begun in A.D.86. Held every four years in the early summer, the Games consisted of chariot races, athletics and gymnastics, and music, oratory and poetry. Contestants came from many nations, and no expense was spared; the emperor himself awarded the prizes.[[13]] In the same manner, Domitian offered frequent and elaborate public shows, always with an emphasis on the innovative: gladiator contests held at night; female combatants and dwarves; food showered down upon the public from ropes stretched across the top of the Amphitheater.[[14]] Thus did the emperor seek to underscore not only Rome’s importance but also his own and that of the Flavian regime.

Beyond Rome, Domitian taxed provincials rigorously and was not afraid to impose his will on officials of every rank. Consistent with his concern for the details of administration, he also made essential changes in the organization of several provinces and established the office of curator to investigate financial mismanagement in the cities. Other evidence points to a concern with civic improvements of all kinds, from road building in Asia Minor, Sardinia and near the Danube to building and defensive improvements in North Africa.[[15]] Less easy to gauge is Domitian’s attitude toward Christians and Jews, since reliable evidence for their persecution is difficult to find. Christians may have been among those banished or executed from time to time during the 90’s, but the testimony falls short of confirming any organized program of persecution under Domitian’s reign. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that Jews were made to feel uneasy under Domitian, who scrupulously collected the Jewish tax and harassed Jewish tax dodgers during much of his rule. As with Christians, such policies did not amount to persecution, but it does help to explain the Jewish fears of expulsion present in the sources.[[16]] On balance, the tradition of Domitian as persecutor has been greatly overstated, yet given his autocratic tendencies and devotion to Roman pagan religion, it is easy to see how such stories could have evolved and multiplied.

Military Affairs

While the military abilities of Vespasian and Titus were genuine, those of Domitian were not. Partly as an attempt to remedy this deficiency, Domitian frequently became involved in his own military exploits outside of Rome. He claimed a triumph in A.D. 83 for subduing the Chatti in Gaul, but the conquest was illusory. Final victory did not really come until A.D. 89. In Britain, similar propaganda masked the withdrawal of Roman forces from the northern borders to positions farther south, a clear sign of Domitian’s rejection of expansionist warfare in the province.[[17]] The greatest threat, however, remained on the Danube. The emperor visited Moesia in A.D. 85 after Oppius Sabinus, the Moesian governor, had been killed by invading Dacians. In the First Dacian War, initial success against the aggressors by Domitian’s praetorian prefect, Cornelius Fuscus, allowed the emperor to celebrate his second triumph at Rome in A.D. 86. Fuscus was subsequently killed trying to avenge Sabinus’ death, however, and Domitian soon returned to the Danube, where Roman forces, under the newly appointed governor of Upper Moesia, Tettius Julianus, defeated the Dacians at Tapae in the Second Dacian War, most likely in A.D. 88. Matters remained far from settled. In January, A.D. 89, the governor of Upper Germany, L. Antonius Saturninus, mutinied at Mainz. The revolt was promptly suppressed and the rebel leaders brutally punished. Later that same year, Domitian attacked the Suebian Marcomanni and Quadi in the First Pannonian War, while offering the Dacian king Decebalus a settlement to avoid conflicts on two fronts. Compelled to return to the Danube three years later, Domitian fought the combined forces of the Suebi and the Sarmatians in the Second Pannonian War. Few other details are available beyond the fact that a Roman legion was destroyed in a campaign that lasted about eight months. By January, A.D. 93, Domitian was back in Rome, not to accept a full triumph but the lesser ovatio, a sign perhaps of unfinished business along the Danube. In fact, during the final years of Domitian’s reign, the buildup of forces on the middle Danube and the appointment and transfer of key senior officials suggest that a third Pannonian campaign directed against the Suebi and Sarmatians may have been underway. Even so, there is no testimony of actual conflicts and the evidence does not extend beyond A.D. 97.[[18]]

The Emperor’s Court and His Relationship with the Aristocracy

Domitian’s autocratic tendencies meant that the real seat of power during his reign resided with his court. The features typically associated with later courts – a small band of favored courtiers, a keen interest in the bizarre and the unusual (e.g., wrestlers, jesters, and dwarves), and a highly mannered, if somewhat artificial atmosphere, characterized Domitian’s palace too, whether at Rome or at his Alban villa, some 20 kilometers outside of the capital.[[19]] Courtiers included family members and freedmen, as well as friends (amici), a group of politicians, generals, and praetorian prefects who offered input on important matters.[[20]] Reliance upon amici was not new, yet the arrangement underscored Domitian’s mistrust of the aristocracy, most notably the senate, whose role suffered as Domitian deliberately concentrated power in the hands of few senators while expanding the duties of the equestrian class. Senatorial grievances were not without basis: at least 11 senators of consular rank were executed and many others exiled, ample attestation of the emperor’s contempt for the body and its membership.[[21]] The senate’s enthusiastic support for the damning of Domitian’s memory, therefore, came as no surprise. Nevertheless, the situation must be placed in its proper context. By comparison, the emperor Claudius A.D. 41-54) executed 35 senators and upwards of 300 equestrians, yet he was still deified by the senate![[22]] Domitian’s mistake was that he made no attempt to mask his feelings about the senate. Inclined neither by nature nor by conviction to include the body in his emperorship, he treated the group no differently than any other. Revenge would come in the form of an aristocratically based literary tradition that would miss no opportunity to vilify thoroughly both emperor and his rule.

Death and Assessment

On 18 September, A.D. 96, Domitian was assassinated and was succeeded on the very same day by M. Cocceius Nerva, a senator and one of his amici. The sources are unanimous in stressing that this was a palace plot, yet it is difficult to determine the level of culpability among the various potential conspirators.[[23]]

In many ways, Domitian is still a mystery – a lazy and licentious ruler by some accounts, an ambitious administrator and keeper of traditional Roman religion by others.[[24]] As many of his economic, provincial, and military policies reveal, he was efficient and practical in much that he undertook, yet he also did nothing to hide the harsher despotic realities of his rule. This fact, combined with his solitary personality and frequent absences from Rome, guaranteed a harsh portrayal of his rule. The ultimate truths of his reign remain difficult to know.


The bibliography on Domitian is too vast for thorough treatment here. The works listed below are either main accounts of the emperor or pertain directly to issues raised in the entry above. For a comprehensive listing of sources, see Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 238-255.

Anderson, J.C.”Domitian’s Building Program. Forum Julium and Markets of Trajan.” ArchN 10 (1981):41-48.

Atti congresso internazionale di studi Flaviani, 2 vols. Rieti, 1983.

Breeze, D. J. The Northern Frontiers of Roman Britain. London, 1982.

Carradice, I.A. “Coinage and Finances in the Reign of Domitian, AD 81-96”, BAR International Series, 178, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1983.

Coleman, K. M. “The Emperor Domitian and Literature.” ANRW II.32.5: 3087-3115.

Friedländer, L. Roman Life and Manners under the Early Empire (trans. of Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms in der Zeit von August bis zum Ausgang der Antonine, 7th ed. by L. A. Magnus), London, 1968.

Garnsey, P. and Saller, R. The Early Principate: Augustus to Trajan, [Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics No. 15], Oxford, 1982.

Girard, J-L. “Domitien et Minerve: une prédilection impériale.” ANRW II.17.1: 233-245.

Griffith, J. G. “Juvenal, Statius and the Flavian Establishment.” Greece and Rome 16 (1969): 134-150.

Heintz, Florent. “A Domitianic Fleet Diploma.” ZPE 120 (1998): 250-252.

Jones, B. W. The Emperor Domitian. London, 1992.

Levi, M.A. “I Flavi.” ANRW II.2: 177-207.

Levick, B. M. “Domitian and the Provinces.” Latomus 41 (1982): 50-7.

Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G. Continuity and Change in Roman Religion. Oxford, 1979.

McGinn, Thomas A. J. “Feminae Probosae and the Litter” CJ 93 (1998): 241-250.

McCrum, M. and Woodhead, A. G. Select Documents of the Principates of the Flavian Emperors, Including the Years of Revolution, AD 68-96. Cambridge, 1966.

Millar, F. The Emperor in the Roman Word. Ithaca, 1992.

Platner, M. and Ashby, T. A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. Oxford, 1929.

Southern, Pat. Domitian: Tragic Tyrant. Indiana University Press, 1997.

Syme, R. Tacitus. Oxford, 1958.

________. “Domitian, the Last Years.” Chiron 13 (1983): 121-146.

________. The Augustan Aristocracy. Oxford, 1986.

Talbert, R. J. A. The Senate of Imperial Rome. Princeton, 1984.

Vinson, M. “Domitia Longina, Julia Titi, and the Literary Tradition.” Historia 38 (1989): 431-450.

Wallace-Hadrill, A. Suetonius: The Scholar and His Caesars. London, 1983.

Waters, K. H. “The Character of Domitian.” Phoenix 18 (1964): 49-77.


[[1]] Ancient sources: Tac. Agr.; Cass. Dio 67; Plin. Pan.; Statius, Silv.; McCrum, M. and Woodhead, A.G. Select Documents of the Principates of the Flavian Emperors (Cambridge, 1966).

[[2]] Compare, however, Suetonius’ claim at Dom.1: “He is said to have spent a poverty-stricken and rather degraded youth: without even any silver on the table.” The passage is typical of the hostility directed toward Domitian in the literary sources.

[[3]] Suet. Dom. 18, 20; in praise of his literary talents, see also: Plin. NH Praef 5; Statius, Achil. 1.15; Silius Italicus, Pun.3.621. But there were just as many hostile accounts of his literary prowess: Tac. Hist. 4.86; Suet. Dom. 2.2. Since none of this evidence survives, there is no way to judge the validity of these conflicting assessments. That the controversy even exists, however, helps to confirm that Domitian was well educated.

[[4]] Domitian was likely left in the care of his uncle, Sabinus II. See Tac. Hist. 3.75. Whether he resided in Rome with his uncle during this period is less clear.

[[5]] Domitian’s preference for solitude finds particularly cruel expression in Suetonius, who portrays him as spending hours alone every day catching flies and stabbing them with a needle-sharp pen while emperor. See Dom.3. Dio (66.9.5) also cites Domitian’s predilection for his own company.

[[6]] Tac. Hist. 4.86; 4.2.

[[7]] Poetic embellishment of Domitian’s military achievements: Statius, Theb. 1.21; Martial, 9.101.13; 9.10.15-16; Jos. BJ 7.85; Silius Italicus, Pun.3.608.

[[8]] Long after Domitian’s memory had been damned, Domitia still referred to herself as the emperor’s wife, perhaps an indication that she maintained at least some degree of affection for her husband. The evidence is preserved on brick stamps datable to A.D. 123; CIL 15.548a-9d.

[[9]] On honoring of Titus: Suet. Tit. 11.

[[10]] On the raising of the currency standard: Walker, D.R. , “The Metrology of the Roman Silver Coinage. Part I; From Augustus to Domitian,” BAR Supplementary Series 5, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 120, 115; Carradice, I.A. “Coinage and Finances in the Reign of Domitian, AD 81-96,” BAR International Series 178, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 9-56.

[[11]] Suet. Dom. 7.2; 14.2.

[[12]] For an excellent discussion of Domitian’s building program, see Jones, B. W. The Emperor Domitian London, 1992, 79-98.

[[13]] Capitoline Games: Censorinus, De Die Natali 18.5. In A.D. 93, Domitian also established the Ludi Saeculares (Secular Games), a celebration under the supervision of the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, an aristocratic priestly college. See Suet. Dom. 4.3; Stat. Silv. 1.4.17; 4.1.37; Martial, 4.1.7; 10.63.3.

[[14]] Night time shows and unusual combatants: Dio 67.8.4; Amphitheater celebration: Stat. Silv. 1.6.75-78.

[[15]] On improvements in the different provinces: Garzetti, A. From Tiberius to the Antonines: A History of the Roman Empire, 14-192 (London, 1974),278, 652; Leglay, M. “Les Flaviens et l’Afrique,” MEFR 80 (1968):221-22, 230-232.

[[16]] For a careful and balanced treatment of difficult evidence: Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 114-119.

[[17]] That the Chatti were not subdued in A.D. 83 is revealed by their role in Saturninus’ revolt (Suet. Dom. 6.2) and by their interference with the Cherusci (Dio 67.5.1). On the Roman withdrawal to the south in Britain, see Hobley, A.S. “The Numismatic Evidence for the Post-Agricolan Abandonment of the Roman Frontier in Northern Scotland,” Britannia 20 (1989): 69-74. Numismatic evidence (ibid., 73) indicates that the arch at Richborough was erected at this same time. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the monument served to mask the Roman retreat.

[[18]] The presence of five Roman legions in Pannonia, for example, is unusual and points to genuine Roman concern with the region. See Dusanic, S. and Vasic, M. R. “An Upper Moesian Diploma of AD 96,” Chiron 7 (1977): 291-304; Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 153-155.

[[19]] Domitian did not hesitate to conduct a variety of imperial duties outside of the domus Flavia in Rome. For some of his activities at Alba: Plin. Ep. 4.11.6; Suet. Dom 4.4; Dio 67.1.2; Juv. 4.99. Tacitus (Agr. 45) and Juvenal (4.145) refer to it as the arx Albana, “the Alban fortress,” implying the residence of a despot.

[[20]] On the emperor’s amici, Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 50-71.

[[21]] On the execution of ex-consuls: Suet. Dom.10 and Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 182-188; exiles: ibid., 188-192.

[[22]] Claudius and executions: Suet. Claud. 29.2; Apocol. 13.

[[23]] For a collection of the ancient sources stressing a palace plot: Gephardt, R. F. C. “C. Suetonii Tranquilli Vita Domitiani: Suetonius’ Life of Domitian with Notes and Parallel Passages,” dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1922, 89. For the most complete account: Suet. Dom. 14.

[24]] Domitian as lazy and lustful: Suet. Dom. 19; 22.

Copyright (C) 1997, John Donahue. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Comments to: John Donahue.

Updated: 10 October 1997

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Revelation 1:10-13, A Loud Voice

Insights into things in Heaven and on earth…


I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia:  to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea,”
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. (NKJV)

John might have been in exile, but he wasn’t alone.  Other than that he was a prisoner, we don’t know anything about his situation on that island, except that it was Sunday…

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Testing every spirit – Heaven is for Real


Proverbs 22:15

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

2 Corinthians 11:2-3

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Colossians 2:18

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind

1 Timothy 6:10

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.


I read Heaven is for Real last year – a friend who is a mature Christian loaned it to me. Before and after reading it, other Christians praised it to me. Our church is thinking about showing the movie during a fellowship time, and last night it was shown on movie night to the residents of our apartment complex. The following analysis of Colton Burpo’s experiences may seem harsh, and much of what I have to say has been said already, but we obviously need to continue to warn people.  


Colton Burpo’s experiences can’t be confirmed by anyone, even his family. There is no way to know that what he said happened “for real,” happened anywhere except in his mind. But even if his experiences could be proved, there are problems with them. They shouldn’t be seen as heavenly, but as mystical, completely subjective, and dangerous.

You may know this. If so, keep praying for the church – it is being troubled from within. For residing right inside it, and living off the sheep, are teachers and so-called prophets who are false. None of this is new – Gnosticism, subjectivism, mysticism have been with the church since the time of the apostles. Colton’s experience is simply what deception can look like in our day – warm, fuzzy, and perilously inspiring.

Heaven exists.

Of course it exists and so does Hell. But do we need this book or movie to tell us that? Why should we trust people, who lie all the time, to tell us about Heaven, when God, Who cannot lie, has already told us about Heaven and its King, the Lord Jesus Christ? In other words, God’s Book is the only book we can trust,

The Bible.

The Lord never said, “Heaven is for real,” but He did say, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:3-5)


Problems with Colton’s reported experiences

Colton described what he saw and heard in Heaven, and yet the apostle Paul refrained from repeating the words he heard in Paradise because this was forbidden: 

2 Corinthians 12:1-5

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

Colton said that he spoke with people in Heaven, that is, with people who were deceased at the time he spoke with them. Heaven is for Real states that he learned things from these encounters that he could not possibly have known. The problem is that the Bible forbids the practice of attempting to contact the dead. (This is a kind of witchcraft called necromancy Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Unknowingly, in ignorance, Colton did something that the Lord has forbidden. 

Colton’s “Jesus” must be “another jesus.”

He identified the “Jesus” he saw and spoke with as the “Jesus” in the painting “Prince Of Peace” by Akiane Kramarik, a seventeen-year-old visionary artist who has been promoted by Oprah Winfrey, and who declared on her website that, “Everything is One.”   

The “Jesus” described in the book Heaven Is For Real is nothing like the Glorified Son of God described by John in Revelation 1.

The promotion of Heaven is for Real flies in the face of Jesus’ testimony about such things – so what is the point of publishing it?

Luke 16:29-31

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’


Big business 

Publishing is an industry. Most publishers aren’t interested in truth, but in whatever version of ‘truth’ will make money. This is not only the way things are with most secular publishers but most “Christian” publishers. A reminder here: businesses cannot be “Christian”, only people can be Christian. The next time you see an ad for a blockbuster from a “Christian” publisher or filmmaker, pray that the Lord will open the eyes of His children to see


And Hollywood, who made a movie from the book, is also an industry, a huge money-maker that slanders Christians, hates God’s truth, uses His name in vain, promotes violence and every kind of sin, and makes people into idols only to destroy them.

So why read this book or watch this movie? That is, unless you plan to help someone see why it can’t be trusted. 

Colton and his family may be innocent of deliberate deception – I can’t say. But whether this deception is deliberate or unwitting, it is wrong. Also

there are probably people who are promoting

Heaven is for Real in order to

increase the confusion in the church

over what we should trust.

I believe that Heaven is for Real is meant to entice us into placing our trust within ourselves, that is, in our own subjective experiences and those of others. It is leading us away from simplicity of devotion to Christ and trust in His Word alone. There is a term for departure from the Lord and His Word,  




Hear the cash registers ring!

Every time a coin into them springs,

someone’s faith is damaged,

another soul is injured or killed!


For further study

To learn something about Pastor Todd Burpo, Colton’s father and the author of the book Heaven is for Real, visit Crosswords Wesleyan Church, and Heaven is for Real Ministries. This is only just, because this is from a perspective he would endorse.

Is “Heaven Is for Real” for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment by T. A. McMahon

Bible Believer’s Journal

Does Colton Burpo’s Book “Heaven Is For Real” Contradict The Bible? by William Shifflett