“If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes. If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13:9-10)
“And they…led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.” (Luke 4:29-30)
The once great nation of America, founded upon Christian principals and deemed invincible to the rest of the world, has now become a kingdom divided against itself. Many prophetic voices are now saying this kingdom will not stand and civil war is a real possibility. Many who profess Christ are arming themselves with the weaponry of man, preparing to defend themselves, their families and their property. Given what the Bible says, and the examples of faith set by those we purport to follow, is this wise?
As with every question, the answer comes down to another question: is our perspective from the kingdom of heaven on earth or the kingdom of man? To understand who we are to be when faced with suffering or death, we need to look to those we purport to follow, most notably Jesus Himself. When faced with the greatest injustice ever perpetrated in history, Jesus stood in the Garden of Gethsemane awaiting false accusation, conviction, beatings, the cross and death. When one of His followers took up the weapons of man to fight, Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26).
When Jesus later faced the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate asked Him if He was a king and Jesus said yes. Then Pilate, coming from a worldly perspective, asked why, if He was a king, His people weren’t fighting for Him. Jesus replied that if His kingdom were of the kingdom of man His servants would indeed be fighting, but that His kingdom was not of Pilate’s kingdom but of another realm entirely. In Jesus’ realm battles were fought on a different front and with different weapons. Truth is, neither Jesus [who was martyred] nor any of His disciples or apostles [who, save John, suffered the same fate] were ever recorded taking up the weapons of man. If not these, how are kingdom citizens then to defend themselves?
In the passage from Luke 4 above we find Jesus proclaiming Himself publicly to be the Messiah for the first time. Those attending threw Him out, taking Him to a high hill with the intention of throwing Him off a cliff to His death. I think it reasonable to assume far more people were present than Jesus could have handled had He tried to defend Himself. But then something miraculous happens, as He simply “passed through their midst.” He just walks right through a large, angry mob trying to lay hands on Him. In a similar story, Jesus has just fed perhaps 20,000 people with five loaves and two fish. After seeing such a miracle, Jesus perceives they are about to take Him by force to make Him their king. Once again, Jesus simply “withdraws from them” to be alone.
King David, who spent considerable time avoiding enemies, said, “Hide me in the shadow of Your wings, from…my deadly enemies who surround me” (Psalm 17), and, “My soul takes refuge in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by” (Psalm 57). Hiding in God is a theme he often repeats, and Zechariah records, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness” (Zech. 12).
I believe the message here is God blinds the worldly to the existence of the godly, while He “watches over” and hides those who are His from those who are not. This is the way men of faith defend themselves, they pray and let God do it. As with all things kingdom, it comes down to faith vs. flesh. In the verse from Revelations above, Jesus says those who have ears will hear this message that calls for “the perseverance and faith of the saints.” He says if we are destined for persecution and captivity we must, without resistance, accept it [weapon of faith], and that he who kills with the sword [weapon of flesh] MUST be, in turn, killed by it.
Furthermore, who are we to be as kingdom saints, at all times, and in every circumstance? The kingdom’s government is “Built upon the shoulders of the Prince of Peace, and there is no end of His government or of peace” (Isa. 9). Matthew 5 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” According to this we are to be peacemakers even in times of persecution. James says, “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3). Is the kingdom of man about to come for us? I believe so. Are the times we are living in just the start of what will only be increasing persecution? I also believe this. Can we really reconcile being peacemakers in the face of persecution, and stocking up on AR-15’s?
“But Mike, but Mike, I’m not buying my gun to start fights, but to defend my family!” Would not Jesus’ disciple who took up the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane have said the same thing? He just wanted to defend Jesus. And while we’re here, let’s look at Luke 2, where Jesus seems to be teaching a different message when He tells His disciples they need to sell their coats and buy swords. One of them reports they have two, and He says, “It is enough.” Well, if He says “whoever,” indicating everyone, has a coat should sell it an buy a sword, why would He then say two were enough for thirteen of them? That would be a pretty flimsy argument for me to make if, only thirteen verses later, one of the disciples took up one of those two swords to cut off the ear of one of those who had come out to get Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and was soundly rebuked by Him for doing so.
Again, Jesus said if we were destined for captivity it would be better to suffer that [which He did] than to kill by the sword. Peter discusses government and masters and servants in 1 Peter 2, speaking of how we are to respond to those in authority over us. Then he says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.” It is my humble opinion the conclusion of the matter is this: those who take up the weapons of the flesh stand to forfeit the protections of God, and I must question the understanding of the kingdom those have who do choose to do so.
Kingdom citizens are in God’s hands and they submit in faith to what God decrees for them regardless of the suffering it engenders or how it looks to the world. I am reminded of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s response to Nebuchadnezzar when commanded to bow the knee to his idol or be thrown into the furnace, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire…But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods…” (Dan. 3). Total trust in God regardless of the consequences in the flesh.
I close with a passage from John 12, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” While this is not one of those issues that may cost a man his salvation, I caution you, chose wisely your weapons in the upcoming struggle. Get rid of your guns and your intentions to fight fire with fire, and even if you are killed you will have glory in heaven! You can trust in the protections of God and accept His sovereign will in your life, regardless of how that may play out in the flesh, or trust in the weapons of man and [according to Jesus’ promise] be killed by them in return. Will you then appear before your Judge as one who “loved his life?” “This calls for the perseverance and faith of the saints. He who has an ear, let him hear.”