God's Kingdom Ministries
Serious Bible Study



Chapter 29: The Sword of the Spirit

Eph. 6:17 speaks of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is the final piece of armor for believers, and it is their only offensive weapon. Paul equates this sword to “the word of God.” The metaphor was taken from the common Hebrew phrase, “the edge of the sword,” as in Exodus 17:13,

13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge [peh, “mouth”] of the sword.

Peh is the 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it means “mouth.” It signifies the spoken word. So Exodus 17:13 literally reads, “the mouth of the sword,” as if the sword could speak. So also, we read about Christ in Rev. 1:16, “out of His mouth came a sharp sword.” This was John’s way of saying that Christ was speaking the word of God. Heb. 4:12 also says,

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Physical swords are dull in comparison to the sword of the Spirit. Physical swords can separate a head from its body, or, when a priest uses it to prepare a sacrifice, it can divide joints and marrow; but the sword of the Spirit can divide soul and spirit and judge (discern, distinguish, separate) “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Living Word

Both types of sword speak, as it were, but the results are different. Physical swords speak words of death; the sword of the Spirit is the word of life. It is “living and active,” because it brings life to all. If we fail to understand this, we will surely misunderstand verses such as Rev. 19:15,

15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down [patasso] the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath [orgay] of God, the Almighty.

The NASB translators followed the common church mindset, thinking that the sword of the Spirit is destructive in its effect upon the nations. While it is certainly a weapon of spiritual warfare, the results are quite different from that of a physical sword. The Greek word patasso (“to strike, smite”) has a dual meaning. The lexicon says that it means:

1.       To strike gently: as a part of the member of a body

2.       To smite down, cut down, to kill, slay


It is not difficult to see that these definitions fit (1) the sword of the Spirit, and (2) a physical sword. Hence, the same word can be used for very different purposes with different and even opposite outcomes. In the case of Rev. 19:15, Christ smites the nations, not to destroy them, but to “rule them with a rod of iron.”

A rod of iron is an unbreakable scepter, not a crowbar that is used to bludgeon them to death. Christ is not being depicted as a stern tyrant but as an absolute Monarch who rules through love.

Love, after all, is the essence of His nature. Even though He does indeed bring judgment (as a father judges his children), He strikes His children “gently,” because His purpose is to correct them, not to kill them. The sword of His word may be stern, when necessary, but the outcome is much different from the outcome of a physical war, when men die by the “mouth” of the sword.

The Nations Saved

So after Christ smites the nations with the sword of His mouth, we read about the New Jerusalem and how the nations will have access to it. Rev. 21:24-26 says,

24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it… 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

Moreover, Rev. 22:1, 2 says,

1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Why would the nations need healing? Perhaps it is because the sharp sword from the mouth of Christ has smitten them “gently,” as in wounding them, not killing them. This principle was established in Hosea 6:1,

1 Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.

Again, Isaiah 54:7 says,

7 “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In an outburst of anger, I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Many in the church have been conditioned to think of God’s judgment, wrath, anger, etc. as being permanent, or “everlasting,” when in fact it is temporary. Divine judgment is for correction, not for permanent destruction. Even when people literally die as a result of divine judgment, there is a resurrection coming at which time every knee will bow and every tongue will confess/profess Him to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10, 11).

The Greek word often translated “everlasting” or “eternal” is aionian, which means “age-abiding.” It is from aion, “eon, age.” Aionian is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word olam, “hidden.” The root word is alam, “to hide.” When applied to time, it refers to an unknown, hidden, or indefinite period of time.

All of the sacrifices were said to be olam, not because they were to be performed forever, but because no one knew how long they would be required to perform them. The “everlasting priesthood” (olam) that God made with Phinehas in Num. 25:13 (KJV) lasted just three centuries.

Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the whale was said to be “forever” (olam) in Jonah 2:6, but this was only three days—not “forever.” The length of time in which he would be in the whale’s belly was hidden from him.

So the psalmist could write in Psalm 67:4,

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth.

Again, Psalm 22:27 says,

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before You.

Does this mean that the nations will be exempt from judgment? Of course not. They will certainly endure judgment until the Creation Jubilee sets all men free to return to their inheritance. The purpose of divine judgment is to ensure that the nations will “turn to the Lord” and that “all the families of the nations will worship” the true God. While judgment can be quite severe, it is also remedial and corrective in nature, so that God may fulfill His law of Jubilee.

Ever-Increasing Judgment

In Rev. 19:15, the judgment of God by the sword of His mouth is described thus: “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God.” Many assume that this means permanent destruction. However, there is a positive side to this. One treads grapes, not merely to destroy the grapes but to extract the new wine for God’s Table.

There were three first-fruit offerings that were to be given to God each year. At the time of barley harvest, they offered the first of the first-fruits (barley) in a time of unleavened bread. Seven weeks later, they offered a new grain offering of wheat, which was “baked with leaven” (Lev. 23:17).

Months later, at the end of harvest, they offered a third first fruits offering by pouring out a drink offering of the new wine during the feast of Tabernacles. Before they could offer this drink offering, they were required to tread out the grapes, signified by the Day of Atonement.

These three first-fruits offerings were treated differently, because they represented three different groups of people. Barley represents the overcomers—those who, like Christ, are “unleavened.” When the wind of the Spirit blew through the barley, the chaff was easily separated and blew away.

Wheat represents the church—those who were leavened. Wheat needed to be threshed in order to remove the chaff.

Grapes represents the unbelievers, whose judgment was pictured as treading out the grapes in God’s great winepress. The purpose of such treading, however, was to extract wine for God’s Communion Table, to be served along with unleavened bread. (Wheat flour that was baked by the baptism of fire turned the leavened bread into the equivalent of unleavened bread. Hence it qualified for God’s communion.)

These three elements of God’s communion were judged differently. Barley received the least amount of judgment; wheat was judged more severely; grapes were judged most severely. Yet the final outcome was that God could “fellowship” (i.e., have communion) with the entire creation.

God will not be satisfied with bread alone on His Table. That would be a very dry Communion. Every time that believers meet to partake of Communion, they testify of the final Communion, in which God fellowships with His entire creation. All things are put under His feet, so that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

Such is the effect “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”