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(From Forerunner Commentary)
At first glance, Jesus Christ seems to be commanding His followers to sell even their clothing, if necessary, to buy weapons. But if we examine this scripture more closely, as well as the preceding and following events, we can better understand His instruction.
Christ first asks the disciples if they were provided for when He sent them out. His reference to an earlier event provides the background for the commands in Luke 22 (see the notes at Matthew 10:7-10). Jesus' earlier instructions—when the disciples were sent out as ambassadors to announce the presence of a King and a Kingdom—are distinctly different from these later instructions just before His death and resurrection, when He would no longer be with them in person.
With this background in mind, we can see the contrast in Christ's instructions, and how His death would require a change in approach for the disciples as they conducted His work.
In Luke 22, Jesus first calls to their attention that they were divinely provided for during His earthly ministry. They did not lack anything. He is reiterating that they will still be provided for, but their circumstances would not be as comfortable as before. They would have to trust even more and perhaps be satisfied with less. God would still provide for them, simply because it is a fundamental part of His nature, but things would not be as easy.
We can see this principle at work in the account of the first Pentecost after Christ's ascension. There were many signs and miracles, and undoubtedly every person present remembered that day for the rest of his life! As the church started out, there were miraculous healings and other gifts of the Spirit being manifested seemingly on a regular basis. However, when we read the accounts of the apostles later in their lives, there are no records of the same public miracles or healings.
Had God left them? Was He displeased with their work? Had they lost their faith? Was He limiting their supply of His Holy Spirit? On the contrary, the apostles were maturing spiritually, and God did not need to bolster their faith in the same way through astounding manifestations of His Spirit. "Elementary school" was over. Now they were growing up spiritually and had more serious work to do.
In the same way, Christ warned the disciples in Luke 22:36 that their responsibilities would be increased, their journeys lengthened, the dangers greater, and the physical costs higher. God would still be with them, but they would begin to be more acutely aware of their physical circumstances and have to trust in Him to an even greater degree.
Christ's instructions in verse 36 are primarily spiritual, but there are true physical principles in them as well. The disciples would be going on much longer and more arduous missions now, and they would have need of a moneybag and knapsack. But shortly after His original instructions to the disciples in Luke 9:3 and Luke 10:4, He showed them that material wealth is of little importance:
Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34)
Yes, they would have need of bags to carry their provisions, but again, Christ teaches them not to be limited to the physical and temporal in their contemplations. It was exceedingly more important that the "bags" the disciples carried with them be spiritual moneybags, symbolizing good works that would never decay or be stolen. While there was a physical application of His instruction, the real lesson was a spiritual one.
In the same way, Christ's instruction to buy a sword had an immediate application in that it would fulfill in part the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12: By carrying weapons, the disciples would be classified by others as transgressors or criminals. In this instance also, the spiritual application far outweighs the physical.
The disciples' reaction shows that they did not really grasp His intent. Their response is, "Lord, look, here are two swords," to which He replies, "It is enough." He is not saying that two swords would be enough to defend twelve men. If that were His intent, He would have said, "They are enough." Instead, He is showing that the discussion was over. It was a mild rebuke showing that the matter was closed, as in "Enough of this!"
Through His capture and trial, Jesus Christ demonstrates that neither He, nor the disciples, nor anyone following Him, needs to take up a weapon:
But Jesus said to [Judas], "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus [Peter (John 18:10)] stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:50-53)
The parallel account in Luke 22:49-51 shows that Christ was so opposed to this sort of violent reaction by Peter that He miraculously undid what Peter had done!
Peter was walking by sight. He did not yet grasp that God was completely in control; nothing would happen to him or to Jesus that was not according to God's ultimate plan. God's plan entails so much more than just length of days or freedom from injury! This physical life is the training ground, not the end. One who stays faithful to his commitment to God will not die until God's purpose for him is complete!
It is given that all men die (Hebrews 9:27), and our death may even be a violent one—of all of the apostles, only John died a natural death. As servants of God, we can expect to be persecuted in the same way our Master was (II Timothy 3:12). But that does not give us cause to take up arms if it means harming someone else! Christ shows that those who trust in physical protection will be let down, while those who trust in God to defend them will never suffer anything that does not ultimately fulfill His purpose.
Jesus Christ's words in Luke 22:35-37 are not instructions for us to be physically armed or to trust in our own might for our physical defense. There will always be a weapon or a foe that is stronger than any physical defense we could muster. God tells us to stay above the fray and to trust in Him for our defense.
If He sees fit to let persecution or injury befall us as a consequence of our own foolishness or sin, we should learn from our mistake and continue on. However, if we are reviled, slandered, or even physically persecuted for righteousness' sake, and we take it patiently—that is, if we endure it without reaching for a sword—this is commendable before God (I Peter 2:19).
David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword
The second horseman is perhaps the most easily identifiable of the famed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, since both of its symbols, the fiery red color and the great sword, are well known to represent war. However, underlying this facile identification of the symbols are a few interesting details that add depth to them.
The Greek word John uses for "red" is purros or pyrros, meaning "the color of fire" (compare our words "pyre," "pyromania," "pyrosis"). This is not the normal Greek word for red (eruthros), but a more specialized term that suggests fieriness or flickering reds, oranges, and yellows like a flame. It is the same word that John uses to describe the redness of the Dragon (Satan) in Revelation 12:3 (the third and only other occurrence is in a proper name, Sopatros Purrou, which is strangely not fully translated in Acts 20:4). This particular color intimates heat and ferocity like an out-of-control wildfire.
The Hebrew language does not have a similar, biblical term. However, the color red or scarlet in the Old Testament frequently symbolizes blood, whether the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49-52; see Hebrews 9:19) or the blood of violence (II Kings 3:22-23; Isaiah 63:2-3; Nahum 2:3; etc.). Scarlet has two other interesting meanings: that of wealth and luxury (II Samuel 1:24; Proverbs 31:21; Lamentations 4:5; etc.; see Matthew 27:28; Revelation 17:4; 18:12, 16) and of sin (Isaiah 1:18; see Revelation 17:3). One could make a case that all these meanings could apply to the second seal.
The horseman's "great sword" is a translation of máchaira megálee. Again, this is not the ordinary sword of war (romfaia) but a short sword or long knife like a dagger. Frequently, máchaira is the knife used to prepare a sacrifice or to slaughter an animal for food. It is also the sword worn by magistrates and executioners. That the red horseman's sword is "great" (megálee) means either that it is larger or longer than usual or that it is highly effective in doing its job. Surprisingly, romfaia appears in Revelation 6:8: "And power was given to [the four horsemen] to kill with sword, with hunger, with death. . . ." A "great sword," then, is the equivalent of a thoroughly effective instrument of death.
The sword is often a symbol of God's judgment. David writes in Psalm 7:12, "If [the wicked] does not turn back, He [God] will sharpen His sword." In Isaiah 34:6, 8, in the context of the Day of the Lord, God combines the sword of judgment with the idea of sacrifice and slaughter:
The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. . . . For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Even to His own people, if they do not obey Him, God promises, "I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of My covenant" (Leviticus 26:25). Like this horseman, "the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace" (Jeremiah 12:12). Clearly, the purpose of the great sword given to the rider of the red horse is to inflict violent death on masses of people in divine judgment.
As if there never was any intent to obscure the meaning of this figure, John's description of the red horse says matter-of-factly, "And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another" (Revelation 6:4). This second seal plainly represents conflict, war, destruction, and bloody death.
Of course, this parallels the second point in Jesus' Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24:6-7: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." The wording implies an expected increase in conflicts due to the stresses of the time leading up to the end. In other words, amplified contention is a precursor of the end time.
It is interesting to note that the second seal is introduced by "the second living creature saying, 'Come and see'" (Revelation 6:3). Revelation 4:7 gives us the order of the living creatures as lion, calf, man, and eagle, so the living creature that introduces the seal of war is probably the calf. Just as the first seal's introduction by the lion presages the white horseman's prime characteristic of ferocious pursuit of prey, so does the calf foretell the red horseman's main trait.
The calf, young bull, or ox, as translations variously render it, is known for its staying power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Psalm 144:14; Proverbs 14:4; Hosea 4:16). An ox can pull a plow or wagon or turn a mill all day for days on end without complaint. Some have been known to work and work until they die from exhaustion. Rarely will one make its frustration or weariness known. A calf or ox will just keep going—a relentless, untiring worker.
We are to consider the red horse and his rider along the same lines. In this vein, they compose a picture of inevitable, unceasing, untiring, insatiable warfare. Perhaps we are to think of them in terms of a wild ox, as God describes it in the book of Job (Job 39:9-12).
A wild ox cannot be trusted to do its domesticated cousin's chores; he is just as likely to charge and gore anyone who tries to yoke him! Likewise, David cries out, "Deliver Me from the sword, . . . from the horns of the wild oxen!" (Psalm 22:20-21). Isaiah 34:7 uses the same imagery: "The wild oxen shall come down with them, and the young bulls with the mighty bulls; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust saturated with fatness." Though the ox can be a placid, indefatigable worker, a wild ox can be a gory terror!
The red horseman, with its fiery red horse, great sword, and relentless aggression, is a fearsome symbol of unremitting, intensifying, uncontrolled, horrific conflict. God intends this figure to instill terror in mankind in the hope that he will repent of his enmity and be saved from its destruction and death (II Peter 3:9-13).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Three): The Red Horse
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