The Last Sacrifice
This historical fiction book by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer is the second in the " The Last Disciple" series and is published by Tyndale House Publishers.
The Last Sacrifice is written for kids ages 18 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Other belief systems
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Emperor Nero has sentenced Gallus Sergius Vitas, a member of his own inner circle, to death. While Vitas awaits the lions in the arena, a stranger visits him and beats him about the head, rendering him unrecognizable. In this state, Vitas is smuggled out of prison and replaced by man who resembles him. At the last minute, Nero's closest adviser, Helius, notices that the man being killed in the arena is not Vitas.
Helius also learns that Vitas' wife, Sophia, is still alive, even though she had been invited to commit suicide by Nero. The same people who faked Sophia's death are responsible for rescuing Vitas. Helius sees them as a threat to Nero, so he sends a man named Chayim to find Sophia and blackmails Jerome, Vitas' brother's bodyguard, into agreeing to murder Vitas.
John, the last living disciple of Christ, is also being hunted. Vitas' brother, Damian, a man who used to be a gladiator but is now a well-known slave hunter, has been hired to find John. Damian and his bodyguard, Jerome, kidnap a man who they think is John. They torture him until they realize that the man in their custody is not actually John. They find out that John is being taken to Alexandria and travel there to find him.
Vitas had previously been given a scroll and told that he must decipher the letter it contains to figure out where he must go and what he must do next. He wakes up on a ship bound for Alexandria. John is also on the ship, and the two men become acquainted and learn to trust each other. The ship's crew is angry at being forced to leave port early — without any paying passengers — and they tie John to a cross and throw him overboard. Vitas dives into the ocean and saves John. The ship eventually lands in Alexandria, where men who mistake John for Vitas abduct him. He is put on another ship. By coincidence, Vitas runs into his brother, Damian, who has only recently learned that Vitas is still alive. Vitas has grown to love John as a brother, and he, Damian and Jerome rescue John.
Chayim tracks down a pregnant Sophia and the man escorting her on the isle of Patmos. The Roman soldier in charge of the island, Lucullus, learns about Sophia and realizes that she must be important if Helius is looking for her. Lucullus abducts Sophia before Chayim can get to her. When asked to verify her identity, Chayim pretends that Sophia is not the person he is looking for, thereby causing Lucullus to let her go.
Many of the characters in The Last Sacrifice are based on real historical characters and early Christians, such as John. John and other believers say that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is the Son of God. The story is about the conflict between these Christ followers and the followers of Nero, who are persecuting them.
The authors believe in a preterist point of view. In other words, they feel that the tribulation period mentioned in the Bible occurred during the first century and that Nero is the Beast described by John in the book of Revelation.
Other Belief Systems
The two belief systems represented in this book besides Christianity are Judaism and Roman emperor worship. All the characters are either Roman or Jewish. Most of the Jews adhere to Judaism, though a handful of them believe in Christ's resurrection. Many of the Romans are portrayed as heathens who worship emperor Nero; however, a few believe Christ is the Son of God.
A few women are referred to as whores, and a visiting Roman calls Jerusalem a "city of hell."
Many violent scenes are graphic. An underling is commanded to cut out the tongues of two Christian women so they can't sing hymns before being thrown into the arena. The women are described later as being chained and kneeling in prayer while blood flows from their mouths. Damian tells Jerome to beat a snitch by choking him and smashing his ribs with his fist. Nero signals for soldiers to drown an 8-year old boy. The boy is the son of Nero's former wife Poppea, whom Nero murdered by kicking to death.
The captain of the ship, which Vitas and John are on, tells the story of how he once killed a mutinous Jew by drowning him in pig's blood. The same captain has Vitas whipped for jumping in the ocean to save John.
Helius has a slave boy's father killed in front of the youngster by tying the man between two carts and having oxen pull him apart. A messenger brings Damian a human head in a bag with a message that Vitas is still alive. The story is told of a lawyer who committed suicide by shoving a sponge down his throat with a stick. Rebels in Jerusalem ambush Roman soldiers, smashing one in the head. A rebel is killed when a sword is thrust into his belly. Two other characters, Boaz and Falco, die after being stabbed in the gut.
On the isle of Patmos, a dwarf named Strabo bites the end of a goat's nose off in an attempt to teach the animal that he has authority over it. Lucullus tortures Strabo by kicking him and then hanging him by his feet and placing a burning oil lamp on the ground directly under his head.
While seated in front of the crowd at the arena, Nero kisses a young boy with whom he is in love and is planning to marry after having him castrated. Lucullus tells Sophia that he plans to keep her as his whore. Damian spends time with (a clear euphemism for "has sex with") a lonely rich woman and enjoys looking up the skirt of a woman from whom he is attempting to get information. It's mentioned that Roman soldiers raped Strabo's wife.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Although Vitas is a portrayed as one of the good guys, he is willing to take part in immoral activities to carry out his benevolent deeds. One such occasion was when he and his brother rescued John from the ship at the end of the story.
- What did Vitas do correctly?
- What did he do that may not have been in God's will?
Does the final result justify the means?
Life in Rome during the first century was difficult for Christians.
- If Christians were persecuted for their belief in God here in America, how would your life be the same?
How would you live differently?
At the end of this book, the authors mention their belief that the Beast was Nero and the Tribulation period mentioned in the Bible took place in the first century.
- Do you agree? Explain.
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Readability Age Range
18 and up
Hank Hanegraaff, Sigmund Brouwer
Tyndale House Publishers