And Away We Go! – Revelation 13:9-10 03/21/21

And Away We Go! – Revelation 13:9-10 03/21/21


Our text today is short, Revelation 13;9-10. Please take the time to read it, and to read it in multiple translations. John opens with a solemn call for our attention, a call to hear and respond to that which is significant.[1] It’s the same expression Jesus repeatedly used when He was teaching, it shows up six times in the synoptic Gospels. It’s the same expression Jesus used when He was addressing the seven churches of Asia.[2] “ If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”[3]


With that opening, we quickly run into a problem. There are significant textual variants in the ancient manuscripts. These result in conclusions regarding the passage’s meaning which are 180º apart. The NKJV translates this ~


10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.[4]


Alternatively the NIV translates it as ~


10 If anyone is to go into captivity,

into captivity he will go.

If anyone is to be killed with the sword,

with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. [5]


It seems that this is an example of bringing Hebrew idiom directly into the text,[6] something John tends to do. The Hebrew was then literally, word for word, translated and inserted into the Greek.[7] Now that sounds good, but it seldom works out well. The problem is that the Hebrew language operates under a different set of rules than the Greek language, which in turn, operates differently than English. A literal translation of the first set is:


· first clause, “If some into captivity,”[8]

· second clause, “into captivity he goes.”[9]


The problem is, in the clause expressing the condition,[10] the “if” of the if/then construct, that is, technically, the “protasis,” does not have a verb.[11] Being tasked with producing a comprehensible manuscript, the temptation would be to add to the text to make it make sense.[12] The result; there are at least a dozen variant readings to this text.[13] How do we determine which is correct? Once we come to recognize the problem, and many study Bibles will have notes pointing out the problem, we start by praying that the Holy Spirit will guide our minds. Ultimately, even as we use our intellect, we humbly recognize this is a spiritual book requiring spiritual discernment.


Following this, we can, and we should, look at the immediate context, and knowing how dependent Revelation is on the Hebrew Scriptures, we should examine any Old Testament antecedents. We may want to look at some commentaries, recognizing that these are not inspired writings. We may examine different translations, we may look at a parallel Greek/English Bible; we can certainly look into the grammatical rules of the Greek language. Then, we can start to tease out our own conclusions.


In this case, one key tool in our arsenal is the Old Testament background to this text. Many study Bibles will have notes pointing you to related passages elsewhere in the Bible. With just a little effort we quickly discover that Revelation 13:10 is actually a paraphrase from Jeremiah, merging two passages together,[14] Jeremiah 15:2 followed by Jeremiah 43:11. Jeremiah prophesies to Israel, warning them that God had destined them to go into captivity and/or to face death. This was a penalty for their unbelief and the resulting sin.[15]


The context is completely different for Revelation, and it’s difficult to see how this would apply to believers’ persevering under great trails.[16] In Jeremiah, punishment was the result of the people’s sins.[17] In contrast to this, there’s no indication, in Revelation, that this coming suffering is in any way related to punishment. In Revelation, imprisonment and execution are the result of something entirely different; faithfulness in the face of Satanic world rule.[18]


With this in the background, we can begin to draw some conclusions. A better translation, based on the best manuscripts, consistent with both immediate context and the antecedent passages in Jeremiah, is as the NIV renders it ~


10 If anyone is to go into captivity,

into captivity he will go.

If anyone is to be killed with the sword,

with the sword he will be killed.[19]


We’ve already seen this coming through the trampling of the outer court of the temple (a reference to the Church) for 3 ½ years, through the persecution of the two witnesses (a reference to the Church) for 3 ½ years, the victory of the Saints (a reference to the Church) over Satan through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, the persecution of the Woman (a reference to the Church) for 3 ½ years. Apparently, as contrary as it is to our human thinking, it is actually foreordained that suffering will come into our lives… and we’re expected to submit to it.[20]


I have to tell you, this will be really hard for us independent minded North American Christians. We’re much more likely to fight back, to rebel and stand up for our rights. We’re much more likely to take up the sword, or the hunting rifle, or the pistol, than we are to humbly accept what God allows into our lives. We want to go out in a blaze of glory. In spite of this, as Christians we’re commanded to obey the state, the governing authorities;[21] Romans 13:1.


There is a caveat to this; when the state oversteps its bounds and demands of us things that either is reserved for God, such as worship, or that God has forbidden, then Christians are not to submit.[22] We need to be careful, now, to make sure it is about God and not about ourselves and our own rights when we do this. But here’s the catch. Once we’ve determined that the government has gone too far and we can no longer in good conscience obey it, even then we’re called upon to submit to the punishment that the state decrees for our noncompliance;[23] 1 Peter 2:19-20. It is simply assumed that we will accept the suffering that results from our disobedience.


Our response to whatever comes into our lives is always be a loving one. Remember, we read the Revelation through the lens of God’s love; 1 John 4:7-11. It’s not natural to respond to those who are causing us financial loss, suffering, and in some cases death, in this way. But let’s face it, Christianity is not a natural religion, it is and always has been a supernatural religion, if I can even legitimately use the word “religion” to describe a relationship with Jesus Christ.


Verses 9 and 10 give us how we’re supposed to respond in the face persecution.[24] This is how we’re supposed to respond in the face of temptation to deny Jesus with our words, our actions, or our lives. As we think about everything we’ve seen, starting all the way back in chapter 8, all of this could produce a spirit of fear in our hearts. Don’t let that happen. Remember, love is the foundational element of the Christian faith, and that informs everything else; 1 John 4:17-19. Worrying about what is yet be in the future accomplishes nothing. Focusing on our call to be faithful in our current context, now, that can accomplish a lot!

[1] Uriah Smith, The Prophesies of Daniel and the Revelation, Revised, (Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, CA.: 1944), 334. [2] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 705. [3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 13:9. [4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 13:10. [5] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 13:10. [6] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, (United Bible Societies, New York, NY.: 1998), 675. [7] David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 750. [8]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 13:9–10. [9]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 13:9–10. [10] Accessed from Protasis | Definition of Protasis at Dictionary.com on 3/11/21.