When Jesus walked on this earth, the beloved disciple (John 13:23) reclined at the side of Jesus. Later when this same John sees Jesus (Revelation 1), we are told that he falls down before Jesus as though he were dead. What did John see that caused him such dread from the One he loved so much?
John uses numerous metaphors that describes this encounter with Jesus. I would like to draw your attention to one of those: “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword”.
What is meant by this?
The term “sword” is often used to describe God’s Word. For example,* “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12, 13). Therefore, we can conclude that flowing from the lips of Jesus is the very Word of God. At times, God’s Word is described as food that nourishes (Psalm 119:103). Other times, his Word is described as rain that brings life (Isaiah 55:10,11). What is the “sword” metaphor describing?
In Romans 13, Paul writes, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” In other words, the sword is a metaphor for the righteous punishment that the State is too carry out on behalf of God. A close look at the Hebrews 4 (above) shows us that the Word is also doing a work of judgment, a judgment that roots out the hidden sins of the heart.
In Revelation, this sword of judgement is directed towards two different groups of people. The first is the world. “And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7, 8). Jesus will some day judge the unbelieving world with a great and terrible judgment.
However, it might come as a surprise to us that Jesus also will direct the sword of judgement at the church. Jesus says,* “*Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16). Pergamum was a church that was guilty of idolatry and immorality. Some among them were guilty of pagan worship and sexual practices outside of God’s perfect will. And so the Lord warns them to repent. And if they do not, the punishment will be great and eternal.
Do we hear these words? Paul wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:1-6). OUCH! The consequences of such ongoing behaviour is God’s wrath and exclusion from his Kingdom.
In C.S.Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe we hear Beaver say of Aslan, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Jesus is good and therefore we can lay our head by his side and we can taste His gracious Word for nourishment and life. However, he is not safe, He is the King. We are called to fear him. Is there any sexual immorality even named among us? Do we have things we desire more than God (idolatry)? If so, we must repent and flee such sinfulness.
This is a good warning for a young church. This is a gracious warning for every believer. Let us flee from sin and run in faith towards Jesus. For he is good.