Expedition 44 is a covenant community dedicated to cultivating a discipleship culture that is wholly devoted to King Jesus.
Expedition 44 was founded by Dr. Will Ryan. It represents a way of life wholly devoted to living as a disciple of Jesus. It is made up of a global assembly of believers united to the Kingdom of Jesus. Dr Ryan and Matt Mouzakis co-host a YouTube channel based on Biblical Theology called Expedition 44 that has about 100,000 subscribers world wide. There are also various small groups, Bible studies, weekend retreats, and conferences associated with Expedition 44.
The notion of the “image” doesn’t refer to a particular spiritual endowment, a secret “property”…The image is a vocation, a calling. It is the call to be an angled mirror, reflecting God’s wise order into the world and reflecting the praises of all creation back to the Creator. That is what it means to be the royal priesthood: looking after God’s world is the royal bit, summing up creation’s praise is the priestly bit.
– N.T. Wright, The Lost World of Adam and Eve (W/ John Walton)
Expedition 44 represents a way of life based on the pursuit of true discipleship. As those bearing the light of Jesus, we are called to both keep and cultivate life for the Lord in our communal body of believers. The Biblical vision for that culture is Christoformity, or Christlikeness. Nurturing Christoformity was at the heart of the Pauline mission. As New Testament priests, we are charged to mediate Christ in everything. Expedition 44 is based on Biblical Theology teachings encouraging a way of life completely devoted to the Lord.
The next section of this book, (Part 1), will seek to explain how the author has taken ancient discipleship thinking and applied it to those in His Spiritual family to redefine wholly devoted living to the Kingdom of Jesus within our American culture. Everything in the expedition 44 life points towards Jesus, but don’t get too wrapped up in this section. You might find it interesting, but it is just meant to explain a more in-depth pursuit of Jesus that might help you to identify what your journey looks like and pray over the journey of other brothers and sisters within the same kingdom calling. It will also serve as a background or foundation for the authors thinking on for the following parts of the book.
THE MOSAIC MEANING
Expedition 44 was started by me, Dr. Ryan years ago as a bit of a family crest or coat of arms and has developed into so much more. When I was young, I decided I was different than those in the world in that I wanted to dedicate my life to following Jesus. Many have made that profession and like me, had very little idea of what it really meant, particularly at the time they made the confession.
In ancient times people were often communally represented by what they had in common. For God’s people of Israel, it began with spreading blood over a doorpost. Throughout history people have sought to show their allegiance in similar signs. The flag, a crest, a heraldic symbol, a cross, or even something as simple as a mark on the ground showing a common understanding completed by both parties (the idea of the ixoye) expressed the sign of a common spiritual bond. In eastern society you are communally responsible for those with you. It is very different from our western me-istic thinking. This was the mindset of the early church, that together we are one in the kingdom of Christ. The cross was the culmination of this way of thinking in Christ, but the tone was set to begin thinking this way many years before. Today we have mostly lost this kind of communal consideration and without it, much of the original cultural understanding of proclaiming the kingdom of God has been lost.
There are several ways that this style of thought is described in the Bible and throughout history. The writing of Hebrew itself is actually a bit of a pictograph language with each letter describing a visual identity, many of which contain Biblical truths and meanings. Each letter is a symbol and understanding the letters and how they work together gives insight to deeper meanings, themes, metaphors, and visual imagery throughout the Bible. For thousands of years throughout ancient culture we see these images take form. Representations of an image to signify groups of people or tell a story are very common in the ancient eastern world both inside and outside of scripture.
In western thought we understand the term icon a little bit better as something that represents an image that people might put on a pedestal or desire. Sometimes the idea of an icon was more aligned to words that described idolatry. An icon served as an image that represented something deeper that you claimed. It was and still is associated with spirituality. There were several examples of this kind and other types of imagery in the ancient world. Although Expedition 44 and its logo has been treated like an icon over the years it is actually closer to a Biblical mosaic.
Mosaics date back to the 3rd millennium B.C. and were a major part of Mesopotamian culture. They were pictures that represented something significant in life and were made with whatever could be found. Stones, seashells, bone, and other materials were used to decorate walls and floors for thousands of years. Into the Middle Ages, this was a popular way to create motifs and still continues to be an icon of religious imagery in basilicas around the world. Stained glass is a simple example of a mosaic. The word mosaic as you can imagine, has its roots in the Bible. History shows us that Moses through the law, would give the Hebrew people a collection of small images to live by. (This was the law but so much bigger than the law.) Together all of these images made a collective whole. Similar to the progression we see in the New Testament giftings of various members making up the church. We as westerners understand some of the New Testament picture of spiritual gifts and how they work together but have a hard time understanding the mosaic law because naturally we don’t think of these commands as imagery that builds a complete life. The Lord, through Moses, would give his people a collection of descriptions that would describe holy life and together when practiced by everyone would build a picture of complete devotion to the Lord. Groups of people, families, and tribes would regularly build a collection of imagery, usually something very simple that described who they were. They were communally devoted to a way of living that the image represented. Biblical Mosaics are based on Mosaic covenant.
THE SURFACE MEANING
Years ago, I came up with a symbol that would represent an ancient communal kingdom like way of thinking; it is a symbol that resembles a shield with a front and backwards 44. It has taken on a lot of meaning to me and others bearing the logo to be set apart to a more ancient way of life considering the calling of the kingdom on your life, and the lives of those you are in Biblical covenant with.
The backwards 4 represents Christs backwards, or counter cultural (to our world) kingdom. The first should be last. One of my life themes or motif is to live in the backwards or upside down Kingdom that Christ not only taught but lived.
I am going to encourage you to think in a way that resembled ancient Hebrew and early church culture rather than the culture we live today. Our western thinking doesn’t really consider this kind of representation any more, but the Hebraic, more eastern style of conceptual thought will come to life. The number 44 in the expedition 44 logo on a very surface level represents things like a .44 magnum, my favorite hunting pistol caliber. Throughout the years it has been referred to by many in the 4×4 community (which I am really into), it was also my jeep number when I raced, and has other significance within our family but I think you get the idea. Many hunters, competitive shooters, 4×4 enthusiasts and others have found themselves wearing shirts and hats with the symbol aligning themselves with perhaps part of what the 44 represented, yet often they didn’t fully understand the connection or meaning behind the symbol. It was just a cool image that represented something in their life, in many ways it was more of an icon by that description than anything else. It is very “faith like” in this way. Many will come to desire a relationship with God and accept on a very basic level what that means, yet not first understand the depth that comes with such a relationship. Some will even want to claim ownership, yet their life never takes form to truly represent the mosaic thinking behind what the image represents to those that hold it closer.
I would often hand out 44 t-shirts on 4wheeling trips and people would love them. They would plaster stickers on their jeeps and take great pride that they were part of this select die hard group. I own a private shooting range and the symbol has also taken on a similar form with the competitive firearms crowd. It has been donned in the form of patches, branded into wooden handles, team jerseys, and various other things. There are many other pockets of life that the symbol has represented over the years but perhaps the one closest to its true form is in our church culture. From men’s and women’s weekend retreats to theology videos; the Christian crowd has come to see the symbol on a basic level in a way closer to the real significance of its meanings. To them it is a sign of those that are wholly devoted to the Lord.
Many understand a small part of what the symbol might represent but very few end up understanding the entire mindset. Over the years it has carried with it a very in depth, almost secret sacred definition. Let me explain the deeper meanings behind the symbol.
I want to introduce you to a sect during the second temple period called the Essenes אִסִּיִים . They were similar to the Pharisees or Sadducees except dedicated to Biblical (more than Rabbinical) truth. Similarly, it seems today that we have gotten away from seeking the truth of the scripture and Christians are often more defined by tradition similar to the way the pharisees or Sadducees may have acted “religiously.” Part od the Expedition 44 culture is to be less “religious” and more scripturally motivated.
The Essenes were a tight community of dedicated believers who devoted themselves to the scripture and actively sought to preserve what they held sacred to life. Josephus shares that they practiced piety, celibacy, the absence of personal property and of money, the belief in communality, and commitment to a strict observance of Sabbath. He further adds that the Essenes ritually immersed in water every morning, ate together after prayer, devoted themselves to charity and benevolence, forbade the expression of anger, studied the books of the elders, preserved secrets, and were very mindful of the names of the angels kept in their sacred writings. (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews)
So rewind 2000 years and we find a group that in obedience to the prophet Isaiah, went to the desert to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:1-5). Though small in number (ancient sources indicate 4,000), they exerted significant influence on the religious community of their day. Some have even alluded that they may be the converts mentioned in Acts 6:7.
Now, as in any group, things often get generalized. Such as we say the Essenes were basically pacifistic scholarly types, but as we would argue for any group, not all of them followed this description. The Essenes had their issues, and I am not building a case by any means to be just like them. But they did share some observable qualities that Jesus asked of His church that we seem to have lost in our American or Western influenced culture. They went against the grain of their cultural society to live the way they believed the scriptures taught. They didn’t want to be influenced by anything other than the Word of the Lord.
The Essenes are most known for the Dead Sea Scrolls which are commonly believed to have been their library. But most people don’t realize that this was not the main body of the Essenes but a more aggressive offshoot of them. The place in Qumran where the scrolls were found in the ruins seem to have been a fortress, used as a military base for a very long period of time. Some have argued that this doesn’t make since for the Essenes as they were mostly monk type pacifistic group, yet the facts would confirm that this was indeed part of their community.
There is something that sheds light on this with the discovery of the seven scrolls at the first cave in Qumran. Most of the other scrolls, like in cave four were fragments and scholars believe that they were likely fragments when they were placed in the caves, because they were worn out – retired. All written words were sacred according to Jews, so these scrolls were placed in a Genizah. You might think of this as a protected burial place, nearly every synagogue in the world has one. But many of the scrolls besides these are in much better condition and it is largely assumed that the Essenes were the authors of these scrolls and much of the Pseudepigrapha.
There is a scroll here called the war scroll. It is very eschatological in nature describing the great war that Revelation describes as GOG- MaGOG. What’s interesting is this was written before the book of Revelation. You see they thought the Messiah was coming again and the war would be within their lifetime. Whoever wrote the war scroll, was writing in a spoken dialect of Hebrew and they understood Roman warfare and Persian rule; in other words, they were incredibly well prepared and gave their life to readiness for the coming kingdom.
There is a group known as the Essaioi, and Philo’s Therapeutae describes them as pursuing an active life. The War Scroll, or The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, was different than many of the others, it has a different writing style, even the jar of clay and Asphalt seal was different. The scroll describes a war in two distinct parts, first (the War against the Kittim) described as a battle between the Sons of Light, consisting of the sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, and the exiled of the desert, against Edom, Moab, the sons of Ammon, the Amalekites, and Philistia and their allies the Kittim of Asshur (referred to collectively as the army of Belial), and [those who assist them from among the wicked] who “violate the covenant.” The second part of the war (the War of Divisions) is described as the Sons of Light, now the united twelve tribes of Israel, conquering the “nations of vanity.” In the end, all of Darkness is to be destroyed and Light will live in peace for all eternity.
When we make the connection that this scroll was likely written by this particular group of Essenes, we find the terminology that they refer to themselves as the SONS OF LIGHT.
Interestingly there are many verses in the Bible Like Jn 12:36 that make note of SONS OF LIGHT. What is interesting about this regarding Expedition 44 is that I (Dr. Ryan) am wired a little bit more towards writing a war scroll such as the minority group of the Essenes referred to as the Sons of Light and Matt (who co-leads the video series with me) is a pacifist such as the majority of the Essenes; yet together I like to think we continually bring out the best in each other and have a bit of a communal covenant between us in regard to understanding Biblical Theology. Much like the Essenes in their culture, we are the studious remnant who seek to preserve and live out the true intentions of the scriptures.
Throughout the Bible numbers matter, they are important and sometimes carry Biblical truth. I would advise not getting too hung up non these numbers and the study of them (numerology), but I do believe we can gather value from them in some areas of study.
In the Bible, God’s chosen ones (both Jew and gentile) are attributed to the number 22, which has some ties to the book of Revelations and the day of judgment (which Biblically appears to have more correlation to 70AD then it does to a dispensational idea of end times). It is usually referred to as the number of completeness. But then you get more specific by narrowing it down to those more deeply devoted (I might even say as true disciples); you see that number doubled which is a concept from Isaiah that is applied to those that are within the Lord’s favor and often ask for or are given a double portion, the number 22 doubled is 44. The idea is that we bring God all of who we are and all of what we can offer. In the Old Testament the word Nephesh would best describe all that God has given us as a person. We can only offer 100% of what we have no more. Yet when we give God our complete life, he takes that life and does exceedingly more than what was possible in of itself. He multiplies what is given (at the altar). Throughout the Bible that is what is often implied by a double portion. It would be like saying I want you to give 110%. That’s western culture thinking. We can’t give more than 100%. Biblical thinking says that Christ gave all for us and asks that we do the same. By Grace we offer our complete lives to Him and he continues this reciprocal dance of Grace by taking that life and doing more than we could ever fathom, God’s part is better than ours. Not 110%, not 200%, something more like 70X7. This way of thinking is rooted deep within the Old Testament narrative and is echoed throughout the pages of the New Testament. We often miss it because we read these pages with 20th century eyes. Expedition 44 represents the expedition of life to completely give God your life and ask that in Him, you might do exceedingly more to the glory of the kingdom. Giving all that is humanly possible while God multiplies that offering and answers by what is his double portion in the spiritual kingdom and is innumerable in His eyes.
The numerology of number 44 is efficient, disciplined, and confident. The number also bears with it the idea of spiritual beings guarding or preserving. Interesting how both of these traits also would have described the Essenes and the first priests. The Essenes were priestly, they were scholarly, they were incredibly devoted in their way of life, and were not influenced by the world around them. They were missional to the scriptures and aware of the spiritual climate of their world.
THE SONS OF GOD
When we study the term often used for spiritual beings in the Bible, sons of God (Bənē hāʾĔlōhīm), it often unfortunately carries a negative connotation perhaps based on Genesis 6. However, I would encourage you to take on the understanding that this term in basic form simply represents all spiritual entities initially created by the hand of God. It has no male or female designation. We are told, and most would believe, that eventually 1/3 of all of these beings fell from the heavenly realms to be opposed to God. (I would argue that this number is more controversial than you might think though, so don’t give it too much weight.) Yet when we enter into covenant relationship in the new kingdom we are also described as “Sons of God” (again gender neutral, so some say sons and daughters of God to align with our western thought) which shows that we are recreated directly by the hand of God. That we are adopted into this royal lineage and now considered sons of God.
In this manner, Matt and I both have 4 children each and have often considered the matching fours to indicate our children as heirs of the kingdom as the spiritually reborn sons and daughters. Occasionally we place 4 stars on each side of the logo to signify the nature of our children as recreated spiritual beings. Stars were a metaphor for those that ruled the “heavens” in ancient times. Our unending prayer is that our children become stars of the future kingdom in which we reign and rule.
THE DEEPER (DIRECTIONAL) CALLING
There is a notion (especially within more Orthodox Christianity) that perhaps the way that we live on this earth will have an impact on our rank, jewels, or proximity to God (direction) in heaven or in the recreated heaven and earth. The expedition 44 way of life implies that we desire to make the spiritual investments here as called into Christlike living that could have lasting eschatological affects. But this is not to be confused with some kind of pie in the sky dispensational fantasy, quite the opposite. We believe that we were “saved for” the life work of Christ’s kingdom here and now. This is a journey or expedition that we might be found faithful, humble, and obedient servants here on earth and on to the final destination of the recreated heavens and earths as we take on our new spiritual bodies. Life and salvation are a journey with Christ as the king of the eternal kingdom.
I might be walking on thin ice with some where I am going next, but I assure you it is Biblical thinking. This is going to seem like a bit of a rabbit trail, but it will come together in the end. Throughout the last 2000 years many have sought to understand the complexities of the re-creation of the new heavens and earth. In my last book, “This is the way?!,” I venture into this a little bit more, so I won’t get to far into it here. We aren’t given the full story in the Bible. We don’t have the New Heavens and Earth or recreated being’s manual yet. But we are given a few hints in the story of the Biblical Narrative that is given to us. We know that some of us will rule angels (I Corinthians 6:3). We also are told that every knee will bow. What does that mean? I have always found it interesting that if God desires that all come to Him, and He is omnipotent or able for all to come to Him, then possibly, could He have found a way that all might come to Him? Is that what every knee will bow means eschatologically? Perhaps we all should be hopeful universalists in that sense. As you can imagine this kind of thinking also will influence your thoughts of hell, but as I said, my previous book explored some of this so I will mostly leave it alone here. Personally, I don’t see the framework for Universal reconciliation, but I might say that I am hopeful. Wouldn’t it be great if all of the world for all of time could be reconciled to Jesus?
Now that I have that out of the way, my point it to say that some may serve in different capacities in the final state of the recreated heaven and earth. Perhaps it is possible that some will rule and others will be ruled in the heavenly realm. It is interesting that some view this very similar to the way the Garden of Eden and the first priests Adam and Eve may have been intended. Some see Adam and Eve partnering to rule and reign with God in the high mountain temple garden over the others on the earth. What others you ask? For just a moment consider the fact that we don’t actually know God’s plan for Adam and Eve in the garden, we can only speculate. We actually don’t even know for sure if there were others living on the rest of the earth when Eden existed. I know to most traditional western readers this is starting to sound crazy but consider it as a more scriptural alternative. Consider the Genesis story as being more concerned with teaching theology (God’s relationship with the universe) as opposed to its being concerned with cosmology (how the universe was created).
Today we would call this science and many of us want to read Genesis as a Science book but that is not what it is. That doesn’t mean it is scientifically inaccurate, it just means that God’s goal in giving us this story was not to teach us science or even history for that fact! It’s not a science book and it’s not even really a history book. That is not its intent. It’s God’s love story to us showing the broken plan and the hope that what was lost will be found and given new life in a new kingdom.
This is going to take a second, have you ever read Genesis chapters one through three straight through? You would likely stop for a second and think that it is restating creation, that it tells the story twice. Isn’t it interesting that Genesis one does not mention Adam and Eve? Genesis 1 says God created humanity, male and female He created them. Then Chapter 2 starts to talk about the creation of Adam and Eve. Let me challenge you that chapter 2 “could” be a sequel to chapter 1 which implies there were more people. As we look at the Bible, we see several hints at this, such as Cain finding a wife. Remember when Cain says anybody who finds me will kill me? Who would he have been talking about? His family? Why would they have killed him? It just doesn’t make sense unless there were other people on the earth. And how do you explain Cain building a city? To you have a city you have to have people, likely more than just your family. Or how do you name all the animals in one day? You don’t, it took longer. Also, did you realize that after Genesis chapter 5 Adam and Eve are never mentioned again in the Old Testament?
What about the idea that Adam and Eve were immortal? From dust we are formed & from dust you return (Genesis 1:19). I would suggest that Adam and Eve were always mortal beings, but when they ate from the tree of wisdom and were kicked out of The Garden they lost the remedy for continued life in a relationship walking with God. They were no longer eating the fruits that granted life.
So, if they weren’t the first people then what is the significance of Adam and Eve? You have probably heard it before, but they are the first pictures of priests. Genesis 2:15 says to serve and keep; doesn’t that sound like the Priestly language described in Leviticus? This is why God created us, because he wanted to be together, and if you read your entire Bible, guess how the story ends? We’re united in this togetherness relationship with God to serve and rule over God’s creation in the new Heaven and Earth. In the Old Testament the priest had knowledge and access to God‘s presence. We see this idea carried over throughout the Bible and into the New Testament as the royal priesthood of believers.
Perhaps in the New Heavens and Earth those who come to an allegiant knowledge of Christ and are found faithful to this coming kingdom while on earth are those that rule over the rest. Perhaps there are even more levels, jewels, or distinctions that will set us apart. This fits very well if you’re considering some version of being a hopeful Universal Reconciliation where every knee bowing might meaning access to the heavenly realm eschatologically. Perhaps there are different degrees of what it means to be found faithful. To be honest I don’t know, we don’t have all the cards to the entire kingdom in the narrative that we are given. It is all speculation given on the scripture that we have. As I have mentioned before, I personally do not see the theology for a universal reconciliation view concerning hell, but I am open to the fact that God could do this.
But what I do know is that I want to be considered the faithful, those set apart, those given a deeper calling, the remnant, the martyrs, those that rule, and those that found faithful in the kingdom to become immeasurably more than they brought to the alter. To completely give all of what I have been given and receive the double portion that only God can give by the power of the only King Jesus in an everlasting Kingdom. This is the heart of Expedition 44.
If you look closely at the logo you will find that within the logo lie the numbers 1441. The bar on the left is a 1, the 44 in the middle and the bar on the right is a 1. Psalm 144:1 says “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” If you can’t tell, I (Dr. Ryan) came up with this one (Not Matt!) It is often associated with the gun toting group although, that may actually be taking it out of context! The idea of the verse is complete reliance of every day on the Lord. There is a theological belief that David seemed to hold that God was supposed to fight the battles and when men tried, they usually messed things up and got in the way. That is the essence of Psalm 144:1, that David could simply be a humble instrument devoted to the actions of the Lord and not of himself.
THE SHIELD OR CHALICE
The Box with a chevron under it actually means something as well. At first it appears to be a shield, and it is. Some know that shields in ancient warfare weren’t intended for individual battle. They were best used when locked together as a communal force. This is most commonly known from the Roman Legions using the testudo or tortoise formation as a type of shield wall. As you have figured out, the shield in the 44 means we are all in this together. It’s a picture of the body of Christ.
But that’s not all. You might know that Matt and Ryan are Egalitarians. The egalitarian interpretation of Scripture is based on the view that Scripture does not limit women’s (or anyone else’s) roles and contributions in any arena, including the Church. From Eden to our role in the new heavens and earth, God’s ideal is equality. Everything in between is a mess of the earth, sin, and the fallen spiritual beings. The double line at the bottom of the shield also resembles a chalice. The chalice symbolizes communion and Christ’s blood. In Ancient culture the chalice was a symbol of life. As in other cultures there is also an ancient understanding that a chalice represents the significance over the power God gives to create life in the order of his cosmos. Men are predominantly mentioned in the Bible (due to culture) but the chalice is a constant reminder that we men need women (and I might argue are equal in God’s eyes.) Thus, the eternal chalice is the female uterus, where human life begins. That’s why some say ancient chalices were shaped the way they were. It started with the appearance of humans on Earth, and it will continue until the end of time. The chalice shaped V in the 44 logo is a constant reminder that Man and Women together are the recipe that God gives and communally we are all working together as if we were in one accord moving together as one locked shield.
- There are 44 days between Jesus’ crucifixion and his ascension to Heaven.
- There were 44 months in Jesus’ ministry
- Jesus was crucified over a period of 4 days. In addition, the four gospels are the story of Jesus, his life, and his ultimate mission, as told by Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.
- There is a huge significance in the correlation of the number 44 and sonship (& Daughters) in the Bible.
- The number of candles used in a Hanukkah celebration is traditionally forty-four
- The number 10000 is used 44 times in the Bible.
- The word tribulation is used 44 times in the Bible and typically best describes a tough journey or expedition (not the end times!)
Expedition 44 represents a way or walk of life for those who more than anything else, wish to be true disciples of Jesus, fervently devoted to a deeper calling of intimacy in Him.
The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, is one of the oldest artifacts connecting biblical history to the ancient world dating over 2800 years old with the inscription dating at 840 BC. Stelae (plural of stele) are monuments in the form of upright stone slabs or pillars that are often inscribed. The language of the inscription is Moabite, very similar to Hebrew. It uses an alphabetic script almost identical to the Old Hebrew (or Paleo-Hebrew).
You might notice what resembles several “44” inscriptions on this stone and other paleo- Hebrew relics. Some of the imagery behind X44 is to capture the ancient mindset of those devoted to God as indicated by the earliest known images from Ancient Israel.
The “Moabite” language was a different dialect of the common language spoken (and written) in this region that could just as well be called an early form of Hebrew. Several biblical names and events are mentioned on the stele with amazing specificity.
This stele contains several lines of Aramaic referring to an individual who killed Jehoram of Israel, the son of Ahab and king of the house of David. The account can be found in 2 Kings 9:24.
References to biblical history contained in the Mesha Stele inscription include:
- ‟Israel” – six times
- ‟Omri …king of Israel”
- ‟The men of Gad”