The Other Side of the Coin    Sermon by Pastor David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – June 25, 2017

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You may be wondering

why I have this huge replica of a Roman coin

here at the pulpit with me this morning.

Well, a few weeks ago we spoke about Caesar's image on a coin

and how Jesus used that coin-a Roman denarius-

to answer his enemies

when they tried to trap him with a trick question

about paying taxes to Caesar.

And we talked about how we are like coins

with an image stamped on us, by the pressures surrounding us-

how we should not let

'the world around us squeeze us into its mold'

but, instead, we should reflect the image of Christ.

That was all about

Caesar's image on the front of the coin.

 

Well, today we'll talk about THE OTHER SIDE of the coin-

how the back side of a couple Roman coins

can help us better understand the Bible

and can strengthen our faith.

Everything we need to know in the Bible

is plain and clear to the ordinary reader.

It was written for fishermen and shepherds,

wives,   mothers,   tax collectors   and sinners.

The Bible was not written for theologians. 

 

So, we don't need a bunch of experts

to enable us to understand the Bible.

Jesus praised the Father

for hiding the Gospel message

from wise and intellectual ones

and revealing it to babes.

 

But we can sometimes gain a little extra insight

from things like archaeology.

Archaeology also helps strengthen our faith,

because it proves the written Word of God contains

true and factual history

of what actually happened in Bible times.

The Bible is not a fairytale

that begins with a line like

"Once upon a time in a place far away…"

No, the Bible contains true and factual history.

 

Archaeology is the study

of physical objects people in the past have left behind:

lost coins, abandoned buildings, graveyards and tombs,

--whatever may have ended up buried

in rubble or trash heaps.

The first archaeologists were actually treasure hunters

searching for hidden treasure

left behind by pirates

or other people from past generations.

 

 

New Bedford archaeological digs

may unearth discoveries from the 1700s or 1800s,

or they may unearth arrows, spear tips, and so on

left behind by native Americans a few hundred years ago.

In contrast with this, archaeologists in Bible lands

uncover relics from 2,000 to 5,000 years ago.

 

There are many people, places and events in the Bible

that were found only in the Bible-not in any secular history books.

And people who were hostile to the Bible

ridiculed those stories as fairytales or fables, not true history.

But over the past 100 years or so,

archaeologists have dug up evidence

proving that those people actually lived,

that those places actually existed,

and that those events actually happened.

For example,

scholars questioned the existence of the people the Bible calls Hittites.

Genesis 23 says Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah

from Ephron the Hittite.

And 2nd Samuel 11 tells how King David committed adultery

with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

Scholars dismissed the Hittites as being as non-existent

as leprechauns and fairies.

But in 1906

archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey

discovered the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital

where they also found a huge collection

of Hittite historical records.

   

Similarly, critics of the Bible doubted the facts about Pontius Pilate,

the Roman governor who

condemned Jesus to be crucified.

But in 1961

in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Caesarea

a team of archaeologists

uncovered a block of stone

with Pontius Pilate's name on it.

It was like a building cornerstone inscribed

with words dedicating the building.

It said Prefect Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea,

was dedicating the building to the Roman emperor.

That block of stone verified as true

the very things that critics of the Bible had been denying.

 

The Bible accounts have been confirmed

by archaeological discoveries, not only in Israel and Turkey,

but also in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Rome and other places.

 

Now, before I talk about this huge replica of a Roman coin,

I should mention that archaeologists often find coins

minted by ancient civilizations.

Sometimes they find a large cache of coins-a real treasure-

when they dig up a city that had been buried suddenly

like the Roman city of Pompeii in that was covered in ash

by a volcanic eruption of Mt.Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Or, when they salvage a sunken ship

that was transporting treasure.

But much of the time, the coins archaeologists find

are the ones that fell out of someone's pocket

or were otherwise lost by their owner.

 

Ancient coins help make clear who was governing,

and changes in government.

Different governments minted their own coins,

and different Caesars replaced the previous Caesar's image

with their own.

So, when coins are found along with ruins of buildings or fortifications,

that helps the archaeologists

identify the artifacts and their time in history.

 

Coins also help us understand things that are said in the Bible.

For example,

at Luke 12:33 Jesus talked about purses that wear out.

He said,

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."

We don't usually worry about our purses wearing out today,

but back in those days,

small bronze coins called "lepta"

were usually poorly manufactured

and had irregular edges that were often sharp.

So, a leather purse filled with coins like that

would soon wear out.

And that's why His listeners back then

would understand what Jesus meant

by purses 'wearing out.'

And it's a similar situation

with this huge replica of a Roman coin.

It helps us understand a mysterious reference

in the book of Revelation.

As I begin reading Revelation, chapter 17,

let's pretend that we're living back then

in the First Century,

at the time when John wrote the Revelation

and it began circulating among the churches.

And as I read, let's STOP

when I reach the point where this coin explains the verse

to a First Century reader.

[  READ  Revelation 17:1-9  ]

 

Notice, it says, "seven hills on which the woman sits."

 

Now, the Apostle John wrote the Revelation

during the 2nd half of the first century.

People all over the Roman Empire

who read copies of John's Revelation at that time

would have stopped right there,

and said to themselves,

"Hey, wait a minute!  I know who that woman is."

And they would have pulled a coin just like this-

only much smaller, of course-about the size of a quarter-

out of their pocket or purse.

They would have seen the image of Caesar on the front of the coin,

and then they would have flipped it over

to look at the other side of the coin.

So, let's take a look at the back of this coin.

There you see a woman sitting on seven hills

-- just like what John described in the prophecy.

And her name appears beneath her:  ROMA.

So, the city was Rome.

And God told John to write about it using

a symbol that was familiar to people over most of the earth

where the Gospel was being preached,

because they already had a coin in their purse

showing a woman sitting on seven hills.

This coin is NOT a denarius-

the coin most often mentioned in the New Testament.

It is a  replica copy of a Roman "sesterius."

A sesterius was a copper coin a little larger than our quarter or 25-cent piece.

But a sesterius was worth a lot more than that.

About 2 or 3 hours pay for a farm worker.

So, in today's money, it would have been worth around $40.00

to people in the Apostles' days who carried one

in their pocket or purse.

 

The face of the coin bears the image of Roman Emperor Vespasian.

It was minted during his reign around 70 or 71 A.D.

And here on the other side of the coin,

the letters "S" and "C" means the Senate was consulted.

The various Caesars either actually did consult the Senate

or at least gave lip service to sharing power with the Senate

by putting the "SC" on their coins.

And this coin helps US TODAY to understand Revelation

- that the 'woman sitting on 7 hills' is ROME.

 

Now, there are different opinions today

as to whether this means

ancient imperial Rome-the Rome of the Caesars-

or papal Rome, where the Vatican sits.

I'm not going to get into that in this sermon.

It's a controversy that has Christian scholars

coming down on both sides of the issue.

But one point is very clear:

This coin that everyone had in their pocket or purse

makes very plain that the woman sitting on 7 hills

is Rome.

Revelation is a great big puzzle

full of mysterious signs and symbols,

and this coin gives us the answer

to a big piece of that puzzle.

==========================

 

I also brought along some replicas of ANOTHER Roman coin

-- very similar to this one, but with an important difference

-- I'm going to ask the ushers to pass out

these coins now, so you can HAVE ONE IN YOUR HAND

when I talk about them.

 

I brought about XX with me,

but I didn't know how many people would be here today,

so I'll leave it up to the ushers whether they should go to everyone,

or just one per family.

 

I was going to give this sermon a few weeks ago,

when I was candidating-before you called me as pastor-

but I didn't want anyone to think

I was handing out money to bribe people to vote for me.

 

I'd like you to keep these coins,

as a reminder of what we talk about today.

But, if you don't want to keep them, you can drop them

on the table in the vestibule.

You'll notice that each coin is in a little plastic envelope

with a story about the coin.

Let's read that together.

It says,   [  READ  ]

 

This is another sesterius with Roman Emperor Vespasian's

head on the front

like the HUGE coin I have here with me at the pulpit.

 

This coin in your hand gives us proof

that Bible prophecy comes true-

in particular, the prophecy Jesus spoke

at Luke 21:20-24.  

We read it a few minutes ago

as part of our responsive reading.  Jesus said:

20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

 

 

This prophecy was fulfilled

within the generation after Jesus gave it.

Notice Jesus said in verse 21 that those in "Judea" would need to

flee to the mountains,

and in verses 23 and 24 he said "this people" -

 the people of Judea - would be led away captive

into all nations"

Now take a look at the back of the coin in your hand.

It says "JUDAEA CAPTA" on the back,

and it shows a Jewish woman sitting captive

with the Roman Emperor standing over her.

Emperor Vespasian was celebrating

how he took Judea captive after an uprising by the Jews.

 

Taking Judea captive was such a big deal

that the Roman emperors Vespasian

and his sons Titus and Domitian after him

kept minting "Judea Capta" coins

in gold, silver & bronze for 25 years.

 

So, this coin proves that what Jesus predicted

actually came true.

Yes, Bible Accounts are real history and real prophecy.

 

So, please keep this coin and the little story card that comes with it

 as a reminder of just how real the Bible is.

 

These coins strengthen our faith in the Bible.

 

And this is IMPORTANT because THE BIBLE IS KEY

to getting us through our daily lives

AND the difficult days that lie ahead.