Prolific Bible Teacher Ravi Zacharias Dies at 74 From Cancer
By Tess Farrand, Associate Content Editor
Ravi Zacharias, a prolific Bible teacher, evangelist and apologist, died at age 74 from cancer on May 19, 2020, just two short months after his diagnosis. Just last week, his family stated that there were no other viable options for treatment.
Dr. Ted Baehr notes, “Ravi was not only a personal friend for many years, but his great apologetic ministry to intellectuals was in many ways similar to our ministry to the Entertainment Industry: considered, solid and good news. I have many funny stories of conversations with Ravi when I was speaking at his weekend events, but will take them with me to heaven to laugh with Ravi about at Jesus’ banquet table.”
Zacharias was on Movieguide®’s Board of Reference. On several occasions, he asked Dr. Ted Baehr to speak, and he himself spoke several times at Movieguide®’s Faith Promise banquet in Atlanta where he lived with his wife, Margie.
Zacharias is survived by Margie and their three children, Sarah, Naomi and Nathan.
“My dad’s humility, grace, tenderness for people, and above all love for the Lord are forever imprinted on my mind, my heart, and my life. His love for our family will be impossible to replace until we join him in heaven one day,” said Sarah Zacharias Davis of her late father.
Zacharias’s global ministry, RZIM, shared more about his life:
Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias was born in Madras, now Chennai, in 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. His mother, Isabella, was a teacher. His father, Oscar, who was studying labor relations at the University of Nottingham in England when Zacharias was born, rose through the ranks of the Indian civil service throughout Zacharias’s adolescence.
An unremarkable student, Zacharias was more interested in cricket than books, until his encounter with the Gospel in that hospital bed. Nevertheless, a bold, radical faith ran in his genes. In the Indian state of Kerala, his paternal great-grandfather and grandfather produced the 20th century’s first Malayalam-English dictionary. This dictionary served as the cornerstone of the first Malayalam translation of the Bible. Further back, Zacharias’s great-great-great-grandmother shocked her Nambudiri family, the highest caste of the Hindu priesthood, by converting to Christianity. With conversion came a new surname, Zacharias, and a new path that started her descendants on a road to the Christian faith.
Zacharias saw the Lord’s hand at work in his family’s tapestry, and he infused RZIM with the same transgenerational and transcultural heart for the Gospel. He created a ministry that transcended his personality, where every speaker, whatever their background, presented the truth in the context of the contemporary. Zacharias believed if you achieved that, your message would always be necessary. Thirty-six years since its establishment, the ministry still bears the name chosen for Zacharias’s ancestor. However, where once there was a single speaker, now there are nearly 100 gifted speakers who on any given night can be found sharing the Gospel at events across the globe; where once it was run from Zacharias’s home, now the ministry has a presence in 15 countries on five continents.
Zacharias was a man of deep scriptural awareness and frequently posted about the eternal hope believers have in Christ. He also authored over 20 books, including Why Jesus? and Jesus Among Secular Gods.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…”
—2 Corinthians 4:16
— Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) May 15, 2020
RZIM stated how Zacharias’s ministry and beliefs will echo the hope of eternity with Christ.
It was his third visit to Angola [Prison] and, such is his deep connection, the inmates have made Zacharias the coffin in which he will be buried. As he writes in Seeing Jesus from the East, “These prisoners know that this world is not their home and that no coffin could ever be their final destination. Jesus assured us of that.”
Like him, Zacharias’s children are strong forces in the Kingdom of God.
Naomi posted an encouraging IGTV video just last week of one of Zacharias’s favorite hymns, “How Great Thou Art,” while he was undergoing treatment in Houston, TX.
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• What a gift from @metromusictherapy. Thank you, Naomi. Thank you, @wellspringintl . . . #repost @wellspringintl This moving tribute of How Great Thou Art by @metromusictherapy was dedicated to @RaviZacharias last week when he was still receiving care in Houston. With a heartfelt introduction from Naomi Zacharias, Director of Wellspring International, we hope this rendition of one of his favorite hymns speaks to your soul. #ThankYouRavi
Many in the Christian community continue to post touching tributes of Zacharias’s legacy on social media.
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Today heaven rejoices and welcomes home a giant of the faith. Today we miss and mourn the loss of a friend and a teacher. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “When you come to a religion, you come to a place. When you come to Jesus Christ, you come to a person.” Ravi Zacharias Today Ravi meets Jesus in person. That’s amazing.
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Life well lived! “My longings, my hopes, my dreams, and my every effort has been to live for Him who rescued me, to study for Him who gave me this mind, to serve Him who fashioned my will, and to speak for Him who gave me a voice” Ravi Zacharias ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ We had the greatest honor of meeting @ravizacharias at @passion268 this year. Of course, we asked to take a picture, then later his assistant came to me and said Ravi would like to pray over @legitsadierob and @christian_huff after he speaks today 😭🙌🏻 No words! ⠀ ⠀ He was one of the greats, and he has received his reward. We will miss him here, but his life, his influence, his words have made an everlasting, truly eternal impact on the world that will not be forgotten.
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Well Done. Ravi Zacharias was a hero, mentor, and personal friend. He was a giant in the faith, giving Christians around the world confidence in their beliefs, while challenging the world to consider the exclusive claims of Jesus. Ravi opened doors for me, shared our stage at @pulse.movement and @together.generation events, and spoke into my life in ways that I will never forget. He has left an incredible legacy of young evangelists and apologists through @rzimhq and beyond. Just a few weeks ago, Ravi and I were celebrating the impact of our ministry collaboration over Holy Week, which proved to be his last ministry event while on earth, where his message went out to possibly his largest audience ever – over 100 million people according to Nielsen ratings – with over 135,000 people responding to the Gospel. Ravi glowed with excitement, “What a work if God!” Ravi was faithful until the end. While we mourn his passing, and pray for sweet Margie, and their dear family, we know that all of heaven rejoices, and that an entire generation is ready to pick up the torch as a result of his legacy. On Saturday, May 30th, we will be honoring his legacy and sharing a recorded message from him, for an event simply called Make Jesus Known. I can’t think of a better way to honor Ravi than to continue equipping a generation to follow his lead. I love you Ravi- thank you for changing my life. Say hi to Jennie for me. I can’t wait to celebrate together in glory. 🙏 #thankyouravi #ravi #ravizacharias
Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John 11 provide a source of comfort in the wake of this deep loss:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
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