Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020)


Ravi Zacharias

Evangelist, Christian apologist, broadcaster, and prolific author, Ravi Zacharias, 74, died May 19, 2020, at his home in Atlanta, Georgia, two months after announcing doctors had discovered a malignant sarcoma tumor on his sacrum—a very rare cancer.

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According to his obituary by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), “Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias was born in Madras, now Chennai, India, March 26, 1946, in the shadow of the resting place of the apostle Thomas, known to the world as the ‘Doubter’ but to Zacharias as the ‘Great Questioner.’ Zacharias’s affinity with Thomas meant he was always more interested in the questioner than the question itself.”

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He attempted suicide when he was 17 years old. But while recovering in a Delhi hospital, he heard the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible by the apostle John: “Because I live, you will also live” (John 14:19). In response, he found the truth of the gospel and a personal passion for sharing it worldwide.

According to a report by Christianity Today, “he preached in more than 70 countries and authored more than 30 books in his 48-year career, teaching Christians to engage with skeptics and arguing that the Christian worldview has robust answers to humanity’s existential questions.”

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His most recent book, published just last month, is Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure (Zondervan, 2020), co-authored with Abdu Murray.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How a Middle Eastern Worldview Helps Us Better Understand Jesus: A Q&A with Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray]

In the book he wrote, “The story of the gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more.’ I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me.” (Seeing Jesus from the East, page 86.)

“Today, my thoughts and prayers are with Ravi’s wife, children, and extended family members as well as friends, colleagues, and the millions of lives who have been forever changed by his life’s work to bring people to Jesus,” said Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO, HarperCollins Christian Publishing. “Though saddened by the loss, we will continue to celebrate his legacy. His books, research, and ministry will continue to impact how the world understands Christianity for years to come. We’re grateful to have been his publisher for many years, but more importantly we’re grateful for his ability to inspire the world.”

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In the book The Logic of God (Zondervan, 2019), Zacharias wrote, “I came to Christ after a life of protracted failure and, unable to face the consequences, I sought to end it all. It was on a bed of suicide that a Bible was brought to me, and in a cry of desperation, I invited Jesus Christ into my life. It was a prayer, a plea, a commitment, and a hope.”

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Billy Graham: 1918 — 2018]

When he was 37, Zacharias preached at the invitation of Billy Graham to 3,800 evangelists from 133 countries attending the inaugural International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983. One year later he founded and began leading RZIM, which now has 97 speakers and has as its mission, “to reach and challenge those who shape culture with the credibility of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Its global radio and TV programs are Let My People Think, Just Thinking, and Just a Thought.

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Zacharias was a contributing scholar for The Jesus Bible (Zondervan, 2016), which is available for immediate access to Bible Gateway Plus members. In his study essay for John 3:16 about the uniqueness of Jesus, he wrote:

One of the most thought-provoking scenes in Scripture is the exchange between Jesus and Pilate, the Roman governor. The question Pilate asked is one of the most important questions of life: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). How tragic that he asked it of the One who embodied the answer, but never waited to hear that answer. He proved that intent is prior to content: before the mind receives any content, the intent of the heart is already influencing perception (Mt 13:13).

Is it not often the same with us? I remember many times in my youth how I dreaded the truth in incriminating situations. Like the poet Francis Thompson wrote in the Hound of Heaven, “I fled him, down the nights and down the days; I fled him, down the arches of the years.” We may ask Jesus why he is the truth, yet we never take the time to examine why he made such a claim. The answer has ramifications for us that often we don’t want to hear.

Yet the fact remains that we will never understand who we are until we understand who Jesus is. He made the incredible statement to Pilate, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (Jn 18:37).

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Theologian and author, Alister McGrath, writes, “As evangelicalism became increasingly aware of the importance of rediscovering and reasserting the public truth of the gospel, Zacharias emerged as one of the leading exponents of the new concern to engage cultural and political opinion-makers. Many would single out the first Veritas Forum at Harvard University in 1992 as marking a significant change in the apologetic landscape. Christian writers—including Zacharias—showed they were able to defend the rationality and relevance of the gospel in public debate.”

Ravi Zacharias is survived by his wife of 48 years, Margie; daughters, Sarah and Naomi; son, Nathan; and five grandchildren.

Read HarperCollins Christian Publishing Remembers Apologist Ravi Zacharias and Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020) and His Legacy at The Gospel Coalition.

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