May 22, 2010 on 7:02 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on A SWORD FROM HIS MOUTH ( Ch. 1:16b)

When we think of a sword in a mouth, perhaps we would typically think of a circus sword-swallower. But in that instance a sword is going into a mouth, whereas in this text a sword is protruding out of His mouth. It seems too bizarre to be literal, so what does it symbolize here?

An obvious observation is that a sword is used as a weapon, both offensive and defensive. But what would that imply here? War between nations? Personal combat? Spiritual combat? And how would that fit in with our themes of justice and mercy combined in each symbol of Christ in Revelation 1? And how does this harmonize with the description elsewhere in Scripture of Jesus as ”Prince of Peace”?

Perhaps the sword as an executioner of justice is easiest to find. In Revelation 19:15 we see the same portrayal of Christ with the sword from His mouth as He rides a white horse at the head of the heavenly armies to execute justice on the earth at the end of time, and a terrible slaughter results. But where is mercy in this picture: Consider the fact that Jesus is also coming to rescue His people, so His use of the “sword” on the wicked is an act of mercy to the saved. When the wicked attempt to physically exterminate God’s people, Jesus intervenes to physically rescue them.

Yet in a sense this is but the final conclusion of an ongoing spiritual battle through the centuries. Ephesians 6:11-18 reveals a serious spiritual warfare between good and evil, with spiritual weapons being used, including the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Hebrews 4:12 talks about the Word being sharper than a two-edged sword, capable of discerning even the thoughts and intents of the heart. On the one hand it exposes the true condition of the heart, which is in actuality an act of mercy to lead us to repentance and salvation. At the same time it is also our weapon of choice against spiritual foes. Compare how Jesus used the Word as a weapon to defeat the devil in His confrontation with him in the wilderness (see Matthew 4 and Luke 4).

But how does this fit the picture of Jesus as “Prince of Peace”? He once said “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34. Jesus came as the Truth, to demonstrate what the truth was all about, but truth is not popular amid a culture of deception. Consequently it aroused antagonism and persecution. In the end of the salvation story, there will be eternal peace, but getting there involves pain and suffering, and yes, battles, spiritual ones which sometimes have physical consequences. Often we feel this battle raging within ourselves, but Jesus stands ready to give us victory even now.

Ultimately Jesus executes justice and recovers the earth from the grasp of Satan and his follower, while God’s children inherit a re-created world of peace without sin and sinners, where they will spend eternity with their merciful Savior. Meanwhile, while still in this world of sin and suffering, they can have spiritual peace as they rest in the love and care of their Lord and Savior, trusting Him fully.

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