He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword
In a passage whose context is the time of Jacobs trouble, God indicates that He will correct Israel. Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished. (Jer. Jer. 30:11). He promises Israels preservation and retribution in kind to those who oppress her: Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey (Jer. Jer. 30:16). Upon His arrest at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stated this principle, Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword (Mtt. Mat. 26:52b). The basis for such retribution is Gods law of capital punishment established after the flood: Whoever sheds mans blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Gen. Gen. 9:5). The Beast, the False Prophet, and the Harlot all persecute the saints and so the Harlot will be ravaged according to Gods will (Rev. Rev. 17:16-17+) and the Beast and the False Prophet will be killed to become the first occupants of the Lake of Fire (Rev. Rev. 19:20+; Rev. 20:10+).
However, variations in the Greek manuscripts at this phrase indicate that retribution by justice may not be the meaning. The MT text has: εἴ τις ἔχει αἰχμαλωσίαν, ὑπάγεὶ εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρᾳ, δεῖ αὐτὸν ἀποκτανθῆναι [ei tis echei aichmalōsian, hypagei ei tis en machaira, dei auton apoktanthēnai] , if anyone [is] for captivity, [then] he is going; if anyone [is] for [the] sword, he must be killed. In the MT text, the subject in each case is the believernot his enemy. This appears to be a simple statement setting forth the trust which the saints must maintain in Gods sovereign appointment of their role in history. If it is a saints God-appointed role to serve as a martyr, so be it! A similar theme is found in a passage concerning Gods judgment of Israel:
And it shall be, if they say to you, Where should we go? then you shall tell them, Thus says the LORD: Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. (Jer. Jer. 15:2)Depending upon which text we follow, this passage may describe retribution by Gods sure justice (Rev. Rev. 14:9-12+) or the need to cling to His sovereignty in the midst of affliction (Rom. Rom. 8:28). Both are taught by Scripture.
Here is the patience and the faith of the saints
Patience is ὑπομονὴ [hypomonē] , meaning to abide under. It indicates stead-fastness and perseverance while enduring toil and suffering.1 It is through faith and patience that the promises of the believer are attained (Heb. Heb. 6:12). John was himself a brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ . . . on the island that is called Patmos (Rev. Rev. 1:9+). Jesus recognizes the patience exhibited by the churches of Asia (Ephesus, Rev. Rev. 2:2+; Thyatira, Rev. Rev. 2:19+). Patience is a command which the Lord gives believers. Because the faithful church of Philadelphia kept this command, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world (Rev. Rev. 3:10+). The patience in this verse is directed to those who find themselves in the midst of the Great Tribulationperhaps the most dangerous time of all history for believers upon the earth.
The patience and the faith is found here: in the realization of Gods sovereignty. Whatever befalls these Tribulation saints, they must rest in the knowledge that it is according to Gods will and that they can never perish.2
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom. Rom. 8:35-37 cf. Ps. Ps. 44:22) [emphasis added]God will avenge His elect once the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were was completed (Rev. Rev. 6:10-11+). In the meantime, they were not to love their lives. Instead, they must hold their testimony to the point of martyrdom, knowing their death was but a gateway to a place of intimacy and rest with the Lamb in heaven (Rev. Rev. 7:14-17+). Although many would die, Jesus assured them, not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls [emphasis added] (Luke Luke 21:18). These would be required to lose their lives in order to possess their souls, for to keep their lives meant taking the mark and being doomed for eternity. At all costs, they must not draw back to perdition (Heb. Heb. 10:36)!
Although a remnant of Jews is hidden and protected in a special place in the wilderness (Rev. Rev. 12:6+, Rev. 12:14+), the vast majority of the people of faith will be within the domain of the Beast, the persecuting little horn (Dan. Dan. 7:21, Dan. 7:25). Jesus understood the intensity of this time and the resulting rarity of finding people of faith at the end:
Then the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke Luke 18:3)Their patience accomplishes several things: it witnesses of the reality of their faith and the glory of God; it makes them perfect and complete (Jas. Jas. 1:4); and it allows the cup of Gods wrath toward their persecutors to fill to the brim (Rev. Rev. 14:10+; Rev. 16:19+).
1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 846.
2 The importance of Gods sovereignty is a teaching which is sadly lacking among many Christians today. This is a side-effect of the drift of Christianity away from a God-centered toward a man-centered frame of reference. God is seen more as a big buddy in the sky Whose primary role is to make my life better. Could it be, having come to faith in Christ, in numerous cases our suffering might actually increase?