Book Excerpt: Revelation: The Way It Happened

To the north, outside the city, an army of wooden crosses clamored mutely for Josiah’s attention, every one of them displaying a crucified captive. Most of the victims now were dead, although some still contorted painfully with each attempt to tease air into their lungs. When the Romans needed crosses, they yanked the carcasses down and tossed them in heaps for the dogs to scavenge. Crucifixion filled the Roman need for intimidation, and now, few dared to venture outside the walls of the city to gather herbs. Josiah watched another escape attempt, a young man no older than he. He saw the Roman guards catch the man and strip him naked, then brutally whip him with thongs beaded with iron balls and sharpened bone, just large enough to tear the skin, until they bludgeoned all of the fight out of him, and his screams turned hoarse—a familiar sight. The Romans then spread the young man on a cross, driving spikes through his hands and feet. They raised the cross and dropped it into a prepared hole, steadied it in the ground, and left him there to die. Some victims died in hours, while others struggled for days, wishing for death. But all of them departed this world the way Jesus led, sharing in his agony outside the walls of God’s holy city.

Josiah’s stomach churned; he could watch no more of this suffering. He turned away from the wall and made his way back to the other side of the courtyard, minutely preferring the dismal scene inside the city. Below, starving hordes of people made civil law impossible. Uprooted from their tent sites in the north of the city, the visitors now did their best to survive in the streets of Old Town to the south, still unable to return home. Vacant eyes stared back up at Josiah, devoid of life even before death arrived. Our skin was black as an oven, because of terrible famine, the prophet Jeremiah had written. Josiah watched as a young family trudged up the stairs to the courtyard and, ignoring the Temple, stumbled instead over to the cattle pens, where the priests kept animals for sacrifice. There, they began to gather dung to eat—some put in containers to carry out; some eaten before they left the pens.

(Editor’s note: Yes, this war of 70 AD really happened and is recorded in history. This is the destruction, the gehenna (translated in many Bibles as “hell”) that Jesus warned Jerusalem about.)

–Revelation: The Way It Happened, 2010, pp. 21, by Lee Harmon

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