Doctrine of Triumphal Procession

January 3, 2015


A. Background and Preparation for the Triumphal Procession.
1. In the Roman army, there were three categories of officers.
a. Company grade officers were called centurions.
b. Field grade officers were called tribunes.
c. General officers were called priator or imperium. When an imperium was victorious, his army lined up and saluted him with a tremendous shout: “AVE IMPERATOR.” So the victorious general was called an imperator.
2. The highest honor that could be given to an imperator was a Triumph (TRIUMPHUS).
a. No imperator could have a “triumph” unless he held the office of priator, counsel, or dictator. This was why Publius Scipio was not allowed a triumph after expelling the Carthaginians in Spain.
b. No general could have a triumph unless he also had led in a battle where at least 5,000 of the enemy had been slain in a single battle.
3. A Triumph always included a procession.
a. The Senate had to approve the triumph and vote a sum of money to defray some of the expenses.
b. On the day appointed for the triumphal procession, the Senate declared a holiday and the entire population of Rome came out of their homes and stationed themselves along the Via Sacra, steps of buildings, streets, and on specially built scaffolds for better viewing.
c. All the temples were opened, decorated with garlands of flowers. Incense burned on every altar. The city was literally filled with perfumes and incense.
4. The victorious imperator assembled his troops outside the Gate of Triumph and delivered an oration commending his army on their victory. At the end of his speech, he decorated the heroes. The highest honor was the CORONA (Latin), equivalent to the Greek STEPHANOS, translated “crown.”
5. There were six categories of crowns given by the military. Each had a great monetary reward that went with it.
a. CORONA OBSIDIONALIS or CORONA GRAMINEUS, a golden wreath woven of golden strands; also called golden grass. This guaranteed $150,000 taxfree income a year. This decoration was given for breaking a blockade.
b. CORONA CIVICA, wreath of golden oak leaves, given for the highest type of valor in battle or for unusual acts performed by a civilian.
c. CORONA NAVALIS, the medal of honor for the navy. It was given to the first sailor to board an enemy ship during battle.
d. CORONA MURALIS, awarded to the first soldier to scale the wall of a besieged city similar to our Distinguished Service Cross. This was only given to enlisted men.
e. CORONA CASTRENSIS, awarded to the first soldier to reach the enemy lines in a battle, or to any enlisted man who did unusual things in battle.
f. CORONA TRIUMPHALIS, awarded to a victorious army general who commanded a winning army, or men who did secondary things of valor. The CORONA TRIUMPHALIS was awarded to the victorious general or imperator as a part of his triumphal procession.
6. Then the imperator gave a command, and the finance corps distributed to every Roman soldier a large sum of money for his part in the campaign. Then the general mounted his chariot with four horses and commanded them to fall in. They presented arms, and he moved in his chariot to the gate.
7. At the gate, the imperator was met by the Roman senators and magistrates of the city. They welcomed him in the name of the Senate and people of Rome. Then he rode through the gate.

B. Description of the Order of the Roman Triumphal Procession.
1. The procession had a very definite order. The senators, magistrates, and counsels walked ahead first, followed by several bands of trumpeters playing the marshal music of the day.
2. Then came a long train of carriages, extending for miles, on which were displayed various pictures of the country that had been conquered. Some artists even portrayed certain battles. There were models of forts and cities which were captured.
3. Then followed all the plunder of the campaign. Gold and silver coins by the millions were in thousands of chests, plus arms, weapons, horses, all kinds of furniture, statuaries, pictures, vases, jewels of all kinds, precious stones.
4. Next came a flute-playing band, followed by the white bulls, which were destined to be offered as sacrifices, followed by the priests carrying their sacrificial knives. They were followed by animals of that region, such as elephants, lions, tigers, and other animals.
5. Next came the enemy’s arms, their captured standards, weapons, followed by the leaders of the enemy country and army and members of their family.
6. They were followed by all the prisoners of war in chains.
7. Then came the decorations and other tributes of respect and gratitude from allied kings and states, plus other decorations that belonged to the victorious general.
8. Behind them came the lictors of the imperator marching in single file, carrying their fasces (ax tied up with a bundle of rods) decorated with laurels.
9. Then came the victorious general or imperator himself, standing erect in his chariot, pulled by four horses. He had a wreath of laurel on his head. He was holding in his left hand a very beautiful scepter made of gold, topped with an eagle, called a baton. In his right hand he carried a laurel branch. He wore a purple toga embroidered with gold. Suspended from his neck was a golden ball.
10. Standing behind the imperator in the chariot was a slave. The slave held an Etruscan crown, encrusted with jewels. The slave would continually repeat two phrases into his ear as millions of people cheered him. First he would say “SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI,” i.e., “so the glory of the world passes away.” Then he would say the phrase translated, “Look after yourself; remember that you are only a man.” That is an idiom that means “I advise you that you are only a human being.”
11. In the next chariot was the family of the imperator.
12. Then followed, mounted on horses, his staff, senior officers, and following them were the other men who were decorated that day.
13. Bringing up the rear was the entire body of infantry in marching order. Their spears were decorated with laurel wreaths. As they marched along, they carried on conversations with some of the citizens, sang some military hymns, and generally had a very good time.
14. This procession took all day and sometimes there was so much plunder that it took three days.
15. Just as the procession ascended the Capitaline hill, the leaders of the conquered army were pulled out of ranks, taken to the Mamertime dungeon, and brutally slaughtered.
a. Only one emperor, Aurelian, ever spared a leader, i.e., the beautiful Queen of Palmira, named Zenoiba. Instead, she was pensioned off and lived the rest of her life in Rome.
b. In fact, Cleopatra said she would never be in a Roman procession. Therefore, she allegedly committed suicide by allowing a cobra to strike her. She refused to be publicly jeered and then slaughtered in the Mamertime dungeon.
16. We know the order of such triumphs from the writings of the Triumph of Pompei the Great written by Appian, the Triumph of Amelius Paulus written by Plutarch, and the Triumph of Vespasian and Titus written by Josephus.
17. When it was announced that the enemy leaders had been slaughtered and the oxen had been sacrificed, the imperator took the laurel wreath he had been wearing, walked to the altar of Jupiter, and placed the wreath in the lap of the statue of Jupiter, giving thanks for the victory.
18. Then a public banquet was held in honor of the imperator that lasted from six to eight hours. During the course of the banquet, the imperator was given a TRIUMPHALIS DOMUS, which was a beautiful mansion, called the House of Triumph. A statue of him was placed in the vestibule so that the next generation could appreciate what a great hero he was. At the same time, he was given a large amount of money from the treasury and a lifetime pension.
19. After the banquet, the imperator was preceded by torches and pipes, and escorted by a crowd of citizens to his home.
20. In Roman history, there were only 350 Triumphal processions in the 1000 years of that history. Over 300 of them were held up to the time of Titus and Vespatian. Thereafter, since Augustus was the head of the Roman army, he would not permit very many of them due to jealousy in the palace.
21. So the triumph was one of the greatest of all honors that could be given to a Roman general. So it’s not surprising that in at least eight passages in the New Testament there are references to the Triumph.

C. The Triumphal Procession of our Lord.
1. The third heaven was where the triumphal procession of our Lord terminated. Our Lord’s triumph proceeded through billions and billions of light years of space in the second heaven or stellar universe. The triumphal procession terminated with the Father’s command to “sit down.” Only the true humanity of Christ actually sat down.
2. At that moment, our Lord received the greatest of all honors, which was his third royal commission or warrant and the title “King of kings, Lord of lords, the Bright Morning Star.” Being without a royal family to complement His new title, the Church Age was inserted for the calling out of a royal family. Every believer in this dispensation is a member of the royal family of God.
3. So the ascension is the termination of the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union. His resurrection, ascension, and session is the manifestation of our Lord’s great victory at the cross.
4. No believer ever permanently resided in heaven until our Lord’s ascension and session. He is the ultimate imperator.
5. A triumphal procession occurred when all the Old Testament saints were transferred from Paradise to the third heaven. Eph 4:8, “Therefore, it [Old Testament] says [Ps 68:18], ‘When He ascended into heaven [third heaven], He led a host of captives in a triumphal procession from a state of captivity, and He gave spiritual gifts to men.’”
a. The temporary residence of the Old Testament believers was in a compartment in Hades called Paradise.
b. Just as decorations and monetary gifts were given in any triumphal procession, so the same occurred in our Lord’s: “He gave spiritual gifts to men.”
c. These spiritual gifts are used to glorify our Lord’s spiritual victory. Every believer has received a spiritual gift.
d. So in the analogy to the triumphal procession, two results are emphasized in this passage.
(1) The transfer of the Old Testament believers from Hades to heaven.
(2) The initial distribution of spiritual gifts to the royal family of God.
e. The aorist active indicative from the Greek verb AICHMALOTEUO means to take prisoners in a war or to exhibit prisoners in a procession. In this case, the captives who are being transferred are Old Testament saints who were “imprisoned” in Hades, waiting to be moved to the third heaven.
f. This could only be accomplished after our Lord was judged for our sins on the cross. For although every Old Testament believer had believed in Christ, Christ had not yet been judged for their sins historically.
g. When all the sins were judged, the veil in the Temple was split, and that was the beginning of the transfer of literally millions of Old Testament believers from Hades in the heart of the earth to heaven in a triumphal procession. Their former residence is called Paradise in Lk 23:43. It’s also called Abraham’s Bosom in Lk 16:22.
h. When Old Testament believers died, their soul and spirit went into Paradise. They followed in the triumphal procession of our Lord Jesus Christ as He ascended from earth to the third heaven.
i. So Eph 4:8 refers to the transfer of the Old Testament saints from Paradise to the third heaven, which Paul describes in 2 Cor 12:4 as the “New Paradise.”
6. We know this transfer occurred from Mt 27:51-53. “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and rocks were split, and tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep [died] were raised. And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.”
a. This veil was almost a foot thick. Only God Himself could rip it. Furthermore, it stands forty feet high, and it was ripped from top to bottom. God Himself ripped that veil to show that entrance into heaven was now available for not only Old Testament believers but for any believer who dies now.
b. The resurrection of these Old Testament believers was a part of the leading of the captives in Hades out of their captivity, and transferring them to the third heaven. It conveys some idea of how the Old Testament saints were transferred to the third heaven after our Lord’s efficacious spiritual death on the cross.
c. Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom was the compartment in Hades where all Old Testament believers went after their physical death. They resided there until our Lord’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session.
d. Under the analogy of the Roman triumphal procession, Old Testament believers were transferred from Paradise in Hades to heaven, but this was a part of a triumphal procession.
e. This analogy to the triumphal procession is based on the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is totally the victory of God.

D. Summary of Ephesians 4:8. “Therefore, it [Old Testament] says [Ps 68:18], `When he ascended into heaven, He led a host of captives in a triumphal procession from a state of captivity, and He gave spiritual gifts to men.’”
1. No believer could reside in heaven until our Lord was judged for the sins of the world.
2. The giving of spiritual gifts was part of our Lord’s ministry in the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union. It had two directions.
a. Toward the Jews, Mt 24-25.
b. Toward the Church, Jn 14-17.
3. A Roman triumphal procession displays the captives as prisoners of war, and the distribution of spoils. There is also the giving of honors, gifts, and spoils.
4. The spiritual gifts were initially given by all three members of the Trinity.
a. God the Father, Heb 2:4, was involved in giving spiritual gifts as a witness to the triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ.
b. Jesus Christ, Eph 4:7-8, gave the initial spiritual gifts to the first generation of the Church Age. That follows the analogy of the Roman imperator giving out gifts.
c. God the Holy Spirit subsequently gives spiritual gifts, 1 Cor 12:11.