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A study of Revelation 13-15. This is book 5 of an 8 part book series.
Category - Bible Commentaries
The section about the beast of the sea closes with Rev. 13:10, saying,
10 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 [or endurance] and the faith of the saints.
What does this have to do with the two beasts of Revelation 13? First of all, the beast from the sea persecutes the overcomers, known to Daniel as “the saints of the Most High.” Therefore, if these saints are killed by the sword, it is not on account of divine justice, but rather injustice. So this principle is to be applied to those unjustly killing the saints, and we cannot conclude that the saints were killed because they deserved it.
More to the point, however, this statement points to the Old Covenant mindset that was seen when Israel refused the sword of the Spirit offered to them first at Mount Horeb. By refusing to hear the word for themselves (Exodus 20:18-21), they were left with mere physical swords with which to conquer Canaan. By contrast, Jesus gave spiritual swords to His disciples and told them to conquer the world by these means.
So in the end, what Israel did to the Canaanites was done to Israel. Whatever Canaanites survived the genocide fled into other nations or were reduced to captivity. God judged the Canaanites for killing babies as part of their religious practice. Jerusalem later did the same (Jer. 19:4, 5, 6). And so God treated them by the same standard of measure, according to the law in Lev. 19:33, 34, 35, 36, which Jesus confirmed also in Matt. 7:2,
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
John then references this principle of equal weights and measures in Rev. 13:10. Who are those “destined to captivity”? It is those who have cast off the law and authority of God and have usurped power as if the kingdom was theirs. Who are those who must be killed with the sword? It is those who have killed with the sword, having an Old Covenant mindset while yet in rebellion against the law of God.
Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter was still bound by an Old Covenant mindset. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter wanted to defend Jesus with a sword, thinking (as any normal devoted follower would) that his actions were good and right. But Jesus rebuked Peter in Matt. 26:52, 53, where we read,
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
Peter’s outlook was yet carnal, in spite of the fact that he had performed miracles of healing (Luke 10:9) and had cast out demons (Luke 10:17). The same Peter who confessed Jesus as the Christ in Matt. 16:16 turned and became an adversary (“satan”) to Jesus a few verses later (Matt. 16:23).
The Roman church has chosen to honor Peter in the seat of its authority, the so-called “chair of Peter.” In placing the church under Peter’s authority, they inadvertently took upon themselves Peter’s problem with carnality as well. This is why it is so important to be under Jesus’ covering and not the covering of men. Men’s coverings seem good, because one can rise to their level of spiritual growth, but in the end, those same coverings also limit growth according to the limitations of the one who covers.
(In my own experience, I found that when I rejected the word of the Lord and placed myself under man’s covering, I took upon myself his limitations and his problems as well. I learned a valuable lesson by hard experience.)
This was the core spiritual problem that arose when the people demanded to be ruled by a man, rather than to be ruled by God alone (1 Sam. 8:7). When the people looked to Saul for leadership, they followed him in his rebellion against God. 1 Sam. 13:13, 14 says,
13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.
As we have stated so often, Saul was a type of the church, for he was crowned on the day of Pentecost, or “wheat harvest” (1 Sam. 12:17). He represents the kingdom of God under the temporary rule of the tribe of Benjamin prior to the full kingdom ruled by Judah (David). So also have we seen the rule of the church under Pentecost for the past forty Jubilees. It had problems of rebellion from its second Jubilee cycle, even as Saul rebelled as early as his second year (1 Sam. 13:1 KJV).
The Roman church, believing its earthly organization to be “the church,” is of the opinion that it will never be overthrown, nor will its rule ever end. It does not believe or teach the story of Saul and David. The Roman church has been a rebellious church for many centuries and has persecuted its “davids” even as Saul did. Like Saul, the Roman church usurped the authority of Christ, and like Saul, they had the audacity to believe that they did so with God’s approval—or at least with immunity from divine prosecution.
And so the verdict is given in Rev. 13:10. Those destined for captivity must go into captivity. Those who live by the sword must die by the sword. These were common sayings in that time showing that divine justice will prevail in the end. No race, nation, or earthly church can claim immunity when it is in rebellion against God. Divine justice is dispensed impartially.
No one can claim immunity on the grounds of having a special relationship with God. The Jews made this mistake in earlier times. The Roman church (and many other churches) have made the same mistake in later times. Yet the key to understanding this entire issue is knowing the story of Saul and David and how they functioned as types of the church and the overcomers. The keys of the kingdom are not given to Rome or any other city, but to those who possess the keys of revelation that open up the “key” Scriptures to our understanding.
Rev. 13:10 says that this principle of equal justice “is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” What does this mean? The idea of faith alone is emphasized by Paul in Rom. 4:4, 5. James emphasizes works as the evidence of faith (James 2:17, 18). The book of Hebrews focuses upon endurance, or perseverance (Heb. 12:1), which appears to be a subset of the “works” that James taught. But in Rev. 13:10 we see both faith and endurance as practical qualities of the saints being persecuted by the beast from the sea.
In view of the fact that this beast was destined to overpower the saints for a season, it was important to have both faith and endurance. While there were always many differing opinions within the ranks of the Roman church (even to this day), the most serious “sin” in its eyes was to refuse to believe that the Roman church was the true church and that salvation came only through church membership. In other words, to put it in Old Testament terms, one had to remain under Saul’s covering, rather than joining David’s band of men hiding as “criminals” in the caves and forests.
Most of those who were tortured and killed were those who renounced the covering of the Roman church, believing that the true church was composed of membership in the book of life in heaven (Heb. 12:23). Just because the Roman church baptized someone and considered him to be in good standing did not mean that he was a genuine Christian. Being a true Christian had to do with one’s faith in Christ alone, they said. Faith in the church is not the same as faith in Christ. That is the key issue. When we consider the scandals of pedophilia that have exposed many priests, bishops, and even cardinals in Rome, all of whom were “Christians” as defined by the Roman church, are we to agree with them? Are we not rather to believe God’s word than man’s interpretation?
Is it possible to say that such pedophiles have faith and endurance? What is endurance? Is it the ability to remain as a church member while ignoring the immoral behavior of its leaders? Is it not rather the ability of its men of faith to endure the persecution that comes from the church when they raise objections? Where does our loyalty lie?
Loyalty usually comes down to a choice. In this case, when the church does wrong, shall we remain loyal to the church or to Christ? Our loyalty is evidence of where we have placed our faith. And since most people have faith in both the church and in Christ, it really boils down to which one we recognize as a higher authority when one must choose. In the end, “no man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).
Jonathan was the son of Saul and the heir to the throne. However, Jonathan loved David (1 Sam. 18:1) and knew that David was truly called to be the next king of Israel. When Jonathan was commanded to kill David, he refused (1 Sam. 19:1, 2). His disloyalty to his father brought wrath upon him, and Saul even threw his spear at him (1 Sam. 20:30, 31, 32, 33).
But Jonathan is a tragic figure, because he remained in Saul’s house until the day of his death. Though he loved David, he died with Saul (1 Sam. 31:2, 3, 4).
Jonathan represents a true believer who remains loyal to the house of Saul. As a prophetic type, he represents those Roman Catholics who genuinely have faith in Christ, but who also remain loyal to the Saul-church. Perhaps they represent all those who lamented over the immorality of the Vatican during the “golden age of pornocracy” that characterized the early tenth century. Perhaps they also represent those who abhorred the torture and murder of the Inquisitions from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries.
In the end we can only trust God to judge each case righteously. Is it possible to be an overcomer within the house of Saul? The case of Jonathan may be evidence that it is possible. However, what shall we say when we look at his end? Jonathan died with his father and was therefore unable to be part of David’s government.
I would not say that such “jonathans” will die like Jonathan, of course, nor even that they will lose their salvation. The judgment of the law is not applicable in the same way to each individual within the bigger prophetic picture. Everyone must be treated as individuals, and each person is unique. But surely this speaks some truth that ought to be applied in various ways according to each individual situation in the day that divine judgment falls upon the modern house of Saul—the Roman church.