It is a difficult task to keep our spiritual eyes open and look towards our heavenly hope in this life. The fallen nature of humanity craves “things” of this world. It hoards possessions and constructs projects that glorify earthly life. But these projects crumble in several short years leaving but a trace of their original builder. God takes no joy in earthly ventures that bring attention to their human builders. He has developed architectural blueprints for a much greater structure—the Body of Christ. Those who follow God’s instructions to add to this entity bring glory to God and build a legacy that will last for eternity. This article will discuss the concept of building a lasting legacy.
The Legacy of Herod the Great
This author has previously written 4 articles on the Herodian dynasty, beginning with Herod the Great. These are chronicled on this site for the interested reader. However, we will now discuss the engineering achievements of Herod the Great. Most people are not aware of the architectural genius of this man. Herod was known in antiquity as a great builder. Many of his projects were advanced hundreds—even thousands—of years before their time. Indeed, these projects have been examined in recent times and architects have marveled at his accomplishments. The picture below demonstrates an aqueduct Herod engineered to carry fresh water many miles from Mount Hermon in northern Israel to Caesarea Maritime on the Mediterranean Sea. There was no fresh water in that city. The second picture shows today’s ruins of Caesarea Maritime. Herod originally constructed the city for the Roman army, who occupied Israel for many years. Herod named it after Augustus Caesar. This city also functioned as a deep seaport worthy of docking large ships from all over the world. It was an engineering marvel—far ahead of its time. Herod accomplished this with concrete piers and supports, which hardened underwater. This was the first water hardened concrete deep-sea port of its kind!
The above picture is also at Caesarea Maritime. It portrays an amphitheater Herod built for the Romans who inhabited the city. It stood in the days of Pontius Pilate, who crucified Jesus. This amphitheater is a predecessor of modern day football stadiums. Concerts and theatrical plays still play frequently at this amphitheater.
Herod the Great constructed a number of palaces in the Holy Land. He inhabited all of them at various times. The picture below portrays the ruins of his palace at Masada. It stood high above the Dead Sea and was secluded and impenetrable to enemies during his lifetime. The Jewish Zealots retreated there to avoid annihilation by the Roman army who pursued them. It took the Romans 2 years to build a siege ramp to the top of the mountain. They then attacked the Zealots and finally defeated them.
Herod’s grandest achievement was the expansion of the Temple Mount and construction of the Herodian Temple. This project took more than forty years to finish. It was completed well beyond Herod’s lifetime, but it was designed and engineered by Herod and his architects. This temple was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World at that time. The huge stones quarried and inserted into the temple complex were 50-200 tons apiece, and they fit so tightly that a credit card could not penetrate the joints. Many of these stones still stand today in the Western wall supporting the Temple Mount. Each stone demonstrated Herod’s special indented rectangle around the perimeter of the facing. A picture of the Holy of Holies is also shown below. Herod the Great designed the entire Temple complex. The walls were toppled and Temple destroyed by the Roman military in 70 A.D. Jesus prophesied this destruction forty years before its occurrence and prior to His crucifixion. “Do you not see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matt. 24: 2). Even the Gospel of Matthew was written prior to the Temple’s destruction, verifying the truth of Jesus’ prophecy.
The following picture is an image of the sculpted facing of the Arch of Titus in Rome, constructed shortly after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The arch still stands today and confirms the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. It shows the Menorah, golden trumpets and other precious golden implements used in the Temple—all captured by the Romans and transported to Rome.
The above picture demonstrates the Antonia Fortress, which was adjacent to the Temple Mount. Herod constructed this for the Roman garrison responsible for keeping the peace in Jerusalem.
The last picture reveals the ruins of another of Herod’s famous palaces—the Herodian. Herod built this palace near Bethlehem, and resided there when the Magi came from the east in search of the Christ child. This palace was spectacular and it is likely Herod was later buried there. All that is left today is a pile of rubble, resembling the cone of a volcano from afar. Jesus was born to an impoverished couple in a stable literally within sight of this great palace. We are all familiar with this Christmas story. Angels announced the glorious birth of God’s Son to lowly shepherds tending flocks of sheep in the nearby hills. These sheep birthed the lambs used for the yearly Passover sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple several miles away. The Messiah who would one day rule the world was also crucified in Jerusalem as “the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Magi from the east came to Bethlehem to find the Christ child after the shepherds had paid their respects to Jesus and his parents.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying:
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, “and you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.
….. and having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way…. Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi (Matt 2:1 – 6; 12; 16-17).
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2-3).
Just before his death, Herod killed the infants of Bethlehem (perhaps 20-30) in an attempt to execute the prophesied Messiah. Herod’s assassination attempt failed and he died a terrible death shortly thereafter.
Herod the Great left marble palaces and millions of tons of huge stones – quarried and chiseled with his distinctive embellishment. These were set into magnificent buildings. He had hoped this would be his legacy to the world. Instead, his legacy down to this time remains the children he massacred in an attempt to execute the Messiah. Very few people even know that Herod was an architectural genius. Today Herod’s edifices lie broken and scattered beneath the earth and sea.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem—just a stone’s throw from Herod’s royal palace. He was not adorned with a crown or purple robe. He was born in very poor circumstances, wrapped in burial clothes and laid in a manger—a cow’s feeding trough. The infant mortality of that day was so high that many such children seldom survived infancy.
Jesus died a criminal’s death of crucifixion on a wooden cross. He left the world poor with no material belongings. The Romans even took His robe as He died naked on that cross. Yet, Jesus left a rich legacy of “living stones,” that spread around the world. Jesus’ kingdom is alive and well. It stands as the enduring legacy from the One who humbled Himself and set aside His privileges as God to become a lowly man and die for the sins of mankind. What a glorious legacy He left for us!
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2: 4-11).
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8: 9).
What is Your Legacy?
Jesus has left us a legacy to emulate. He has also left His Word about building a legacy. His teachings grace the pages of the Synoptic Gospels. We will list several of these:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall (Matt. 7:24-27).
Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal (John 6:27).
Human nature covets possessions. It foolishly desires to build earthly structures. These material ‘things’ feed imaginations about leaving wonderful legacies to those who follow. But even Kings and Presidents were forgotten and their estates crumbled with their memories in mere decades after their death. God creates an enduring abode in heaven for each believer, and the hope for that is sufficient for this life.
For we know that if the earthly tent, which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven…(2 Cor. 5:1-2).
A godly life lived in devotion to Jesus Christ is of great value for every believer. Its legacy will far surpass any earthly estate that can be amassed.
But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out if it either (1 Tim. 6:6-7).
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16).
We are quickly passing through this world. Ideally, the legacy of a Christian’s life should be the spiritual mark he/she has left upon those left behind. Material projects are merely temporary and crumble rapidly with time. Spiritual constructs are cherished for generations. These add to the Master Builder’s house in this world, making it more grand and glorious. The God of creation will remember each of these spiritual constructs and richly reward the believer in eternity.