Revelation 13:10

Sermon preached on May 18, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
In 2008 the Boston Celtics won their 17
th NBA title. It was their first one since 1986. They played the Lakers in the finals and won it in six games. They won that game 131-92. It was the most lopsided win ever in a championship-clinching game. I don't usually like games where one team is way out in front—but since the Celtics hadn't won a championship in so long I enjoyed that game in spite of that. Actually it was nice because Boston fans and even the Celtic players could start celebrating early. There's an old saying in sports, I think it came from Yogi Berra.

"It's not over till it's over."

That's very often true. But in basketball, in some games there's point in the game where people realize that one team is going to win. If there's 10 minutes left in the game and they're down by 20 points, there's still the possibility that they can come back and win. But there's some point after that, whether it's at 6 minutes or 4 or 3 minutes to go, and they're still down by about 25 points, it becomes evident to everyone that the outcome is inevitable. It's too late for the team that's behind to come back and win. They is not enough time left on the clock. The team that is down can and should play hard for the remaining time—but the writing is on the wall. They're not going to win the game. At that point the right thing to do is to still play your heart out—but you should be a good sport and graciously accept defeat. The thing I don't like to see in sports is where the team that has lost the game will start a fight in the final seconds of the game. They don't accept the inevitable and lash out inappropriately. This happens sometimes in hockey—a week or so ago there was a fight in the last seconds of a game between Montreal and Boston. I didn't see the fight but it could have been that one of the players on the losing side wouldn't accept the inevitable.

What does God have planned for your life? What does God have planned for those who are faithful to Him? How should you react to this plan?

If you're a Christian some people will say to you,

"God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. You're going to be healthy, wealthy and successful in all you do."

That's what some prosperity preachers will tell you.

The first part of it is true. God does love His people and He has a wonderful plan for their lives.

But it really depends on how we define 'wonderful'.

To us it means something extremely good. If something is wonderful it gives pleasure, delight. We think it means that God has good things for us.

But when I lived in Newfoundland I found out that the word 'wonderful' had another meaning. If some people there had a terrible, terrible, pain, a pain that was very severe—they would go to the doctor and describe it as a 'wonderful pain'. By that they mean that the pain was unusual in its severity.

At the end of John's gospel Jesus described how Peter was going to die. He said to Peter, (John 21:18–19)

"I tell you the truth,
when you were younger you dressed
yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you and lead you where you
do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate
the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God."

Would you describe Peter's death as wonderful? In a certain sense it was. He glorified God by it. God had a marvelous and glorious plan for how Peter would die. It was wonderful.

So in that sense you could say that God has a wonderful plan for all of our lives. I believe that you could describe Stephen's death as wonderful. When he was dying heaven opened up and he could see Jesus at God's right hand, ready to welcome him. It's thought that all of the apostles except John died a martyr's death. God's plan for their lives was wonderful.

God has a plan for each one of us. In Psalm 139:16 David said to God,

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

And in Job 14:5 Job said,

"Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number
of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed."

Our lives are in the hand of God. When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he pointed to God's control of the whole situation. He said to them, (Genesis 45:7)

"God sent me ahead of you to preserve
for you a remnant on earth and
to save your lives by a great deliverance."

Our text, on the other hand, speaks of something that is the opposite—of the persecution of God's faithful people. Verse 9 tells us to pay close attention to it. It says,

"He who has an ear, let him hear."

In other words, pay close attention to this. This is vitally important. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 705)

"The exhortation in 13:9 was used repeatedly in the letters in chs. 2 and 3 to encourage the readers not to compromise and to bear up under the consequences of suffering for their faith."

Listen up. (Revelation 13:10)

"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."

The great truth we see here is that

God's plan for some Christians is that of captivity and for others of being martyred.

This is their destiny. Our text is based on two passages in Jeremiah. Jeremiah 15:2 says,

"And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' tell them,
'This is what the Lord says:
'Those destined for death, to death;
those for the sword, to the sword;
those for starvation, to starvation;
those for captivity, to captivity."

And in Jeremiah 43:11 we read,

"He will come and attack Egypt,
bringing death to those destined for death,
captivity to those destined for captivity,
and the sword to those destined for the sword."

These passages in Jeremiah are about the punishment of the unfaithful people of God. God's patience had come to an end and these punishments were inevitable the disobedient people.

It's quite similar to what God said about Judah in 2 Kings 23. We read,

"Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him
who turned to the Lord as he did—
with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength,
in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away
from the heat of his fierce anger,
which burned against Judah because
of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger.
So the Lord said, I will remove Judah also from
my presence as I removed Israel,
and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple,
about which I said, 'There shall my Name be."

It was too late for the people of Judah. Even though they had a godly leader, a great king in Josiah, the nation was destined to be removed. There was no stopping it.

Our text is like that. Only it's not about being punished because of sin, it's about God's people being punished for faithfulness to Him. It says,

"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."

The HCSB put it this way,

"If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes.
If anyone is to be killed with a sword,
with a sword he will be killed."

Grant R. Osborne says, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 505)

"some form of the divine 'must' is to be supplied due to the context of divine sovereignty…"

Thus we see that

sometimes it is God's will that His people suffer.

Jesus said to His disciples, (John 16:33)

"In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world."

He also said to the church in Smyrna, (Revelation 2:10)

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
I tell you, the devil will put some of you
in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution
for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death,
and I will give you the crown of life."

And to the church at Ephesus Jesus said, (Revelation 2:3)

"You have persevered and have endured hardships
for my name, and have not grown weary."

And in 1 Peter 4:12 Peter wrote to Christians and said,

"Dear friends, do not be surprised
at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange were happening to you."

God said to Ananias about the apostle Paul, (Acts 9:15–16)

"This man is my chosen instrument to carry
my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before
the people of Israel. I will show him
how much he must suffer for my name."

We think that all of the apostles except the apostle John suffered a martyr's death. John probably spent the last years of his life as a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos.

Daniel was one of God's people who went into captivity. As well as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were faithful to God, they were beloved by God—and yet they suffered.

Think of Job. He suffered precisely because of his faithfulness to God.

Think of David's friend, Jonathan, son of King Saul. I think he was a great man of God, a great servant of God. If his father Saul had been faithful, Jonathan would have been king over Israel. But God's plan for his life was that the kingdom be given to another—to David. Jonathan didn't begrudge David the kingdom. He wasn't jealous of him. He knew that God had chosen David and was willing to serve under David. But even that hope was disappointed. It was God's plan for him that he perish on Mount Gilboa with his father Saul.

Uriah the Hittite was one of David's loyal soldiers. It is quite possible that he was one of God's people. He wouldn't go home to his wife when David urged him to. He told David that he wouldn't go home when the ark of God and his fellow soldiers were staying in tents.

What did God have in store for him? It was for his wife to become an adulteress and for him to be murdered by David because of it.

What about the man born blind in John 9? He spent much of his life blind. Why? Jesus gave the answer in John 9:3. It wasn't because of his sin or his parents sin,

"but this happened so that
the work of God might be displayed in his life."

Or think of Ahimelech the priest of the Lord, who fed David and gave him Goliath's sword, not knowing that David was fleeing from King Saul. Ahimelech and all the other priests of the Lord at Nob were put to death by Saul because of this supposed treachery. That was their destiny.

God has a plan, a destiny for each one of us. This plan may involve great suffering. We must be prepared for it.

What God tells us is that in the face of undergoing persecution,

you are to exercise patient endurance.

What does this mean? C. Haas, M. de Jonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel write, (A Translator's Handbook, 1993)

"It is likely that this is more than an affirmation that such a person's arrest and imprisonment is inevitable; it is a way of counseling that person to submit to arrest and imprisonment, without trying to escape his or her God-given destiny."

Robert H. Mounce writes, The Book of Revelation (NICNT; Revised; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 253.

"The first couplet would teach that the believer must accept what God has ordained, and the second would warn against any attempt on the part of the church to defend itself by the use of force. Barclay writes, "It is an intolerable paradox to defend the gospel of the love of God by using the violence of man.'"

We must faithfully submit to God's will. 1 Peter 2:20–24 says,

"if you suffer for doing good and you endure it,
this is commendable before God.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.'
He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.'
When they hurled their insults at him,
he did not retaliate; when he suffered,
he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself
to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body
on the tree, so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed."

In 1 Peter 4:19 we read,

"So then, those who suffer according
to God's will should commit themselves
to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

It's not wrong to flee from persecution if you can. But if you cannot, you must not fight back. We must not make war on those who are seeking to destroy the church. In Matthew 26:52–54, when Peter took out his sword and started swinging it in order to save Jesus, our Lord said to him,

"Put your sword back in its place,
for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Do you think I cannot call on my Father,
and he will at once put at my disposal
more than twelve legions of angels?"

And in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 the apostle Paul said to Christians,

"For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world."

Paul goes on to talk about the power of the Spirit, the power that Christians have to,

"demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ."

Paul had elaborated on this in 2 Corinthians 6:4–10. He wrote,

"Rather, as servants of God
we commend ourselves in every way:
in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
in beatings, imprisonments and riots;
in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
in purity, understanding, patience and kindness;
in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
in truthful speech and in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness
in the right hand and in the left;
through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report;
genuine, yet regarded as impostors;
known, yet regarded as unknown;
dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich;
having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

We are also told in Romans 12:17–21,

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends,
but leave room for God's wrath,
for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge;
I will repay', says the Lord.
On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry,
feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."

Trust God. You are in His hands. We are to be like Jesus. When they nailed Him to the cross He asked His Father to forgive them. We are to be like Stephen, who, when he was dying, asked the Lord not to hold that sin against them.

You Christians have a destiny—one where you will dwell with your Savior Jesus on the new heaven and the new earth forever and ever.

But how you get there is also part of your destiny.

What if you find out that you have terminal cancer? What should you do? Should you ask for healing and if you don't get it be disappointed in God? No. Embrace your destiny and give glory to God.

You are to live and die to God's glory. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20–21

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

For those of you who are not Christians,

unless you repent and go to Jesus you will have a most horrible destiny—that of being cast in the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15 says,

"If anyone's name was not found
written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Only Jesus can save you. Turn from your sins and ask Him to save you. He's your only hope.