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  • CAN A CHRISTIAN BEAR ARMS AND DEFEND HIMSELF AND OTHERS

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    CAN A CHRISTIAN BEAR ARMS AND DEFEND HIMSELF AND OTHERS

    Introduction

    Many people ask if it is proper for Christians to bear arms, is it proper for a Christian to defend his or her life and or is it proper to defend others using lethal force?

    Many Christians opt to be conscientious objectors when it comes to arms and do not believe at all that it is ever proper for a Christian to kill another human being even when it is in a life or death situation of self defense.

    Other Christians on the other hand believe that is is proper to defend themselves, defend their loved ones and even their neighbor. Many Christians join the armed forces while others prefer not to do so because as we said don’t feel that a believer should be in any way the cause of another person’s death.

    I understand that this is a noble cause, it is not ever pleasant nor a light thing to take a person’s life in any event, but the question is not that, it’s is it ever not a sin to kill a person although a very serious thing. How does God view all of this, when is it acceptable, according to God to end someone’s life?

    At the end of this study we will be able to draw the proper conclusions as to what God thinks is proper and acceptable and not what even believers with good intentions believe is proper.

    After all, why do we study and read the Bible? As believers there are two main reasons why we do.

    Notwithstanding that we need to start from the certainty that the entire Bible is God’s word. If we don’t start from this foundation then it will not matter in the end what the Bible says.

    In addition we cannot pick and choose what we want to believe and what we prefer not to believe according to our own opinions. Bringing our own bias and opinions to the text of Scripture is to force it to say what we want and this is violating God’s word and the true meaning God gave to it.

    So we study and read the Bible because we want to know first and foremost God. There is NO OTHER way to know God if not to know Him and how He really is, as He reveals Himself to be in His revealed word. There are no shortcuts to get to know how God really is!

    The second reason why we read and study the Bible, hopefully, is because it is the way God speaks to us, the way by which He gives us the right ways and the right paths to walk into as we live in this world. Basically, it is in God’s word only that we get to know His revealed will for us. It is in His word that we know what God is doing and will do and how He desires that we live out our life. If we do things God’s way we will be blessed if we don’t then we will have problems and even serious and dangerous ones.

    So the bottom line is this one, it really does not matter what we think or believe, it does not matter what our opinion is, we need to know what God thinks and desires, we need to know God’s opinions and then change our mind, our opinions so that they match up with God’s.

    In fact one thing that many believers probably don’t know or realize is that the word used in the New Testament Greek used for repentance is the word metanoia which literally means change of mind

    So we see that the essential and only way we can effectively repent is by changing our minds regarding what we think is right and to then agree with how and what God thinks, in other words as Paul says in

    Romans 12:2 be not conformed to the ways of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

    Know God, know His will, know His mind, then change to line up and agree with His and that will affect the way we live as we will think and therefore behave as God desires.

    This study will therefore examine the Biblical view of self-defense.

    When we speak of using lethal force we must remember that we are talking about self-defense defined as “protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others.”

    Self-defense is not taking vengeance. Self-defense is not inherently punishing criminals although it does often turn out to be so.

    Self-defense involves preserving one’s own health and life when it is threatened by life threatening actions of others. Using potentially lethal force in self-defense, means using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used have the potential to kill the attacker.

    As Christians, we want to know how to apply the Bible to current issues in society. We live in a country with approximately 250 million guns and approximately 300 million people. Furthermore, in the US it is estimated that law abiding citizens defend themselves using guns approximately one million to two million times a year.

    There are a lot of guns in America, if we had a real gun problem we would really have a problem. There is no gun issue as some want to make us think, at least not among legal, law abiding carriers, the problems are mostly among the criminals. As a matter of fact, this is exactly the reason why lawful, honest, responsible citizens should have the right to carry and bear arms to protect themselves and others from these criminals who carry guns illegally and will use them to harm the citizenry.

    So, what does the Bible have to say about guns actively being used for self-protection?

    As always, we want our hearts and minds to be ruled and informed by Scripture not by our emotions, not by our experiences, and certainly not by the world. The Scriptures have much to say about this topic, therefore it is relevant and worth examining it in the Church.

    This study will be organized in five sections.

    First, we will look at the Biblical obligation to preserve life.

    Secondly, we will look at the Biblical view of bloodshed and what is blood guilt.

    Thirdly, we will look at passages dealing with the application of lethal force in self-defense.

    Fourth, we will look at what the Bible says about possession of weapons and skill in using weapons.

    Fifth, we look at limitations and warnings about self-defense.

     

    The Biblical Obligation to Preserve Life

     

    God in His word requires that we preserve and defend life. The Bible clearly teaches that we must preserve life and defend our own lives and the lives of other people.

    In fact we can start looking in the New Testament at a very particular and all encompassing Scripture.

    1Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches that our bodies are not our own. Instead the believer’s bodies belong to God. Our bodies are His property and so we are not permitted to treat or destroy them as we please:

    19 Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; 20 for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.

    Not only are we to take care of our bodies in a proper way and the life contained therein, but we have an obligation to preserve the body and the life of other people as well.

    By the way, when many ask if it is permissible or is it a sin for a believer to smoke anything, well, the answer is evident from this passage, no they cannot! Yes! It is sin! We cannot submit our bodies to things that are potentially dangerous and damaging, things that can cause disease and death.

    Or at least we should not do it willingly and purposefully. It is obvious that in the world there are damaging and dangerous things to our bodies such as pollution of all kinds, however, we do not actively submit our bodies to these damaging things, this is a different issue. This however places us, without being fanatic about it, before and important issue regarding this subject, we are responsible to not purposefully and negligently damage the environment when it depends on us.

    Psalm 82:4 declares an obligation to protect those who are in danger:

    Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

    This is a commandment, rescue, imperative, the weak and needy,deliver them, imperative, out of the hands of who? The wicked!

    Consider also Proverbs 24:11, this passage commands that we have a duty to preserve the lives of those innocent and helpless people whose live are in danger.

    Proverbs 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

    Again, these are imperative commandments and by the way, this passage in no way at all gives us the obligation to save murderers from execution as some would actually infer. This is talking about people who are helpless and defenseless.

    This is why every single Christian must be pro-life and anti-abortion in all its forms. Who is more innocent and helpless than children in their mother’s womb? However this does not stop or is limited to babies in the womb but it is extended to all human innocent and defenseless life.

    In fact the following verse of Proverbs 24 we just read states this:

    Proverbs 24:12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

    You see? We cannot play the ignorance card with God! God will hold us responsible for what we did regarding this duty God commands. In fact this brings us to look at another well known passage:

    Ezekiel 33:6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’

    If we are aware therefore that danger is coming to others and we fail to warn others of the danger, we are guilty of harming the victims. We are responsible, we are our brother’s keeper!

    This does not mean that we can make people always heed our warning.

    The following verses also say that if the people refuse to heed the warning of the watchmen, the watchman is not guilty if they are harmed.

    There are other principles in the Mosaic law that teach that if we fail to actively guard the lives of others, we are guilty of the lives.

    Deuteronomy 22:8 teaches that if someone falls from your roof and you failed to install a safety fence around the edge, you would be held liable for the death of that person.

    Likewise, in Exodus 21:29-31, if a man has an ox which is prone to harm people, the owner is held liable if he fails to confine it and the ox harms or kills others. If the ox harms someone, the negligent owner is fined. If the ox kills someone, the negligent owner is to be put to death with the ox.

    The principle could hardly be stated more forcefully: we must protect our life and the lives of others.

    There is also another very, very important principle we must look at now that we have seen these facts and it is this one:

    Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    This is a very important passage as it commands us to love God above all, love Him with all of our being, but the second commandment Jesus claims is like the first one, that is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    It is therefore not loving at all not to defend a person from harm and danger even if the harm and the danger comes from another person.

    It is obvious, based upon 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that we are required to defend and protect life, our own life as it belongs to God and therefore if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves we must use the same principle that we would use for ourselves.

    Unless we use negligent behavior toward ourselves then we are not demonstrating love toward ourselves so that we will then not be able to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Let us look for example at the next passage:

    Romans 13:9-10 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Now many would say at this point: “see it says thou shalt not kill” so how can we use lethal force?

    Wouldn’t we be killing in using  self defense? Yes obviously it would be killing someone.

    There is a great distinction however between being murderers, taking lives for unjust and criminal reasons or for hatred and negligence and killing to preserve or defend our life or the life of others.

    In fact the word kill used by Paul is a translation of the Greek word foneúseis which in Greek means murder and there is a difference between killing and murdering, although some may disagree.

    This is true even in the Hebrew language when we read the law in the Old Testament:

    Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.

    The Hebrew word used here translated kill is the word ratsach (raw-tsakh’) which means especially to murder:

    In conclusion regarding this section let’s examine another passage which puts things into better perspective. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves we must therefore defend them when and if they are attacked, doing this means that we are not being cowards, if we do not we act as cowards.

    The Bible condemns cowardice by the way:

    Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

    The word fearful here is in reference to people who act with timidity, who live in a state of fear and do not show boldness and courage, in other words people who are too fearful to do the right thing so they let evil and harm come about and proliferate. These are the cowardly!

    Look at what God’s word says about this:

    Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

    You see? The wicked flee, they are afraid even when nothing is going on,  they are cowards and by doing so evil prospers, but the righteous instead display courage and when they do evil does not proliferate.

    2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    No doubt many of us have heard the famous Edmond Burke quote which says:

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    Even though this is not a biblical quote it is however in line with Scripture because it is exactly for this reason that evil advances and proliferates, this is cowardice that has infiltrated itself in the church so that the fear of man does not confront sin in the world and even worse in the church, such behavior allows the world and sin to come in and proliferate in the church as well.

    Although Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to pray for them and to treat them with love He does not say this in violation to all the other commandments and principles of God. God’s word cannot and does not contradict itself.

    We are called to love one another as Christ loved us and no greater love is there that a man lay down his life for his friends:

    John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

    John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

    So as we see all this, besides the spirit of what Jesus commands, in other words that we are to love our brethren and family sacrificially to the point of denying ourselves, He also tell us that if required we are to actually sacrifice our physical life in order to protect or defend our family both our own family and our church family. Our love must be like His which in order to save us gave His own life.

    For example husbands are called to love our wives as Christ loves the church.

    Ephesians 5:25-30 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

    As we see based on what it says here, we are to love as Christ loves, giving ourselves even if it means literally sacrificing our own physical life for others. Loving our neighbor principle is actually found even in verse 28.

    What does this have to do with self defense? Everything! Just because we bear arms and are able to defend others with weapons precludes several things we have seen, first we must be willing to do so by not being cowardly, secondly it does not mean that we cannot be injured or even killed in the process.

    However the commandment is to defend and preserve life and to place other people’s lives above ours but that in a one on one self defense situation we do have the God given right and responsibility to attempt to defend and preserve our life from a murderer even using lethal force.

    Exodus 2:11-12 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

    This is the greatest clearest possible example of defending the life of our brethren as we have in Scripture.

    God never reprimanded Moses for doing this nor has it ever been mentioned in Scripture as something God condemned.

    Let us now move on.

    The Biblical View of Bloodshed and Blood Guilt

     

     

    So we did clearly see that we have a Biblical obligation to protect life.

    Now let’s look at the Biblical view of bloodshed and blood guilt. For many believers the doctrine of bloodshed and blood guilt is a mystery all together. Why?

    Because when we look at this topic, we enter an area that requires a great degree of cultural re-calibration on our part.

    As we read through the Old and even the New Testament, it’s very clear that blood, from animals as well as humans, has a great significance which is not recognized or understood in modern American culture and most of if not all of Western culture.

    We must therefore, as we mentioned before, re-adjust our perception of the meaning and the value blood so that it will fit God’s view. Remember that our opinion counts only if and when it lines up with God’s opinion.

    So now let’s look at some very relevant and important passages regarding this subject and contrast them with what our culture thinks about bloodshed or understands about blood guilt, which is very little if anything.

    Genesis 9:5-6 5 And surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require; At the hand of every beast will I require it. And at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man’s brother, will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man.

    This is a very relevant and very important passage regarding this very subject. God gave these words to Noah after God judged and destroyed all life on the earth because mankind was entirely wicked Genesis 6:5-7, and only Noah and his immediate family were spared by God’s grace and mercy and choice.

    This episode is pre-Mosaic law. Many instead would think that this is obsolete thinking which no longer applies to humankind today because it comes from the Mosaic law. However, it does not come from Mosaic law.

    Anything God declares such as this and did so before the law is an eternal decree, like the rainbow as well is a decree that concerns human kind, in other words, until there is mankind these declarations stand and are actually above and beyond the Mosaic law.

    God is saying here that: If a man was killed, the man or the beast who caused the death must pay with his/its own life.

    God says here, “I will require the life of man.”

    Killing or bloodshed was not always wrong. However, when it is wrong according to God, the penalty was and is ultimate, a life for a life therefore is a pre-law concept although we see it written in the law of Moses.

    What God is teaching us here is that there is actual sanctity in shed blood. Why?

    Two reasons:

    1) Life is precious to God, and the life is in the blood. When blood is shed, something precious is lost. You might not think blood is precious, we usually tend to consider blood to be just a “bodily fluid”. It is, however, extremely precious to God. We know it is precious though because we know that without it there is no life at all, without it there is death.

    2) An attack on man is an attack on the image of God in man. In God’s view of bloodshed, it is not merely a physiological event, but it is an assault on His divine image. Why is murder punishable by death? God says it is because “For in the image of God made He man.”

    We bear God’s image and likeness and destroying it is a grievous sin against God Himself.

    We learn more about God’s view of bloodshed from David. David is a man who loved God and who was loved by God. God raised him up to defend Israel. God sent David to physically fight to defend Israel.

    When David killed Goliath and Philistines in battles, it was at God’s command. They were almost all righteous killings.

    Now, with that understanding, let’s look at a few passages:

    1 Chronicles 28:3 “But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’

    1 Chronicles 22:8 But the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

    David wants to build a temple for the Lord and this is a good desire. Yet, because of the wars he fought in, and because David had “shed much blood upon the earth in God’s sight.” David killed many men in the sight of God, and that disqualified him from this particular spiritual service.

    But wasn’t David obeying God in engaging in these wars? Yes he was. Did David sin in shedding this blood? No he did not. However, shedding blood is so significant to God that David was unfit to for building God’s temple.

    Killing someone is never a lighthearted thing. Our culture casually depicts killing, television, movies, and video games, whether legitimate or illegitimate killing is portrayed with such a frequency that most people are relatively desensitized to it.

    Let’s also remember that David also had Uriah murdered although he did not do it with his own hands he ordered, he conspired to have Uriah killed full knowing Uriah would die if he was placed where David said to place him 2 Samuel 11:14-17.

    Although God forgave David for that sin in that He spared his life 2 Samuel 12:13, the consequence was serious and part of it was that even for that innocent blood shed alone David could not build the temple of God.

    Here is the bottom line: Shedding blood, taking the life of another, is a big deal to God. Life is forfeit if one wrongfully takes the life of another.

    Even if someone is the “good guy”, they become “marked” in the eyes of God. I didn’t say they are guilty. I am merely saying that God viewed even Godly David differently because David had killed men (though righteously but one not).

    Bloodshed must have the same significance to us. It is never a light thing, even if we may be in the right, even if we do it righteously.

    The Biblical view of bloodshed however does not end here. We need to understand what weight does the shedding of innocent blood has.

    To do so we must see what blood guilt is.

    We need to understand one thing, when we talk about innocent blood this does not mean that man is inherently innocent. The Scripture clearly teaches us everybody without exception is a sinner and no one is righteous, in fact God sees all of mankind as completely wicked and corrupt,
    see Romans 3:10-18.

    We are sinful from birth as David says:

    Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

    So we can understand this concept clearly no one is sinless and therefore guiltless before God, we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory Romans 3:23.

    Because of Adam we all sinned and we are all unrighteous Romans 5:12.

    So how in the world can we call blood innocent if no one is innocent? God decides to call it that way not because man is inherently innocent or without sin but because in a real sense God is the only One who has dibs on people’s lives, the only One who has the power to give life or to take it.

    Now on that statement by itself one could argue that people never ever have the right to take a life and therefore even self defense or capital punishment or war are not things God agrees with.

    Obviously we know that this is not true at all as Scripture clearly shows us that in those instances taking a life not only is allowed but expected.

    Innocent blood is when a person is murdered without a God given mandate. Innocent blood is innocent when murdering is done because of hatred, it is when murder is premeditated or and even killing someone in a fit of rage. Innocent blood are people who have done no wrong in God’s eyes to deserve to be executed by human justice or even God’s divine wrath. This is why the most innocent and defenseless human beings are unborn babies in the womb who are murdered for sinful and selfish reasons but who inherently did no wrong to deserve the death sentence. This is why this type of murder is especially heinous and is an abomination in God’s eyes.

    These instances and for these reasons is when God’s prohibits killing a person and why he calls it innocent blood. Even though a person is a sinner and is unrighteous it’s God who sets His parameters for judgment upon those people and it is God who sets His parameters as to when a person is allowed to take another life.

    Even human God given justice such as capital punishment has to be meted by God’s standards of justice. This is why vengeance belongs to God only and not to us. Vengeance is not justice and we cannot be vindictive. Self defense is not vengeance but it can be a form of justice.

    Therefore, innocent blood is not per say innocent because the person is not a sinner or because a person bears no guilt for being a sinner, nor because everyone deserves to die because of their sinfulness, blood is considered innocent by God when the person does not deserve death by man from a certain divine prerogative, although we know that the wages of sin is death Romans 6:23. Physical death and mostly spiritual death.

    God talks about this subject in His word and we need to understand this concept very well because we culturally cannot understand it because culturally we have not been taught these things, even in the church we are not taught these things and this is why many get the wrong ideas and the erroneous concept regarding these things.

    Premeditated killing of other human beings is wrong and killing in a fit of emotion is also wrong and is prohibited. However, as we will see later, accidentally taking the life of another is also wrong when negligence is involved.

    We must do all that we can to avoid it and stay as far away as possible from taking a life.

    Having stated this prohibition, let’s look at some of the qualifiers to this prohibition.

    In the Bible God says:

    Leviticus 24:16-17 And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death. 17 ‘ Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.

    Verse 17 shows us that “killing” was a crime which required capital punishment. “Killing” here is defined above.

    Note again that not all killing is wrong. In the immediately preceding verse 16, there were times (such as in civil judgments) in which “killing” was commanded and sanctioned. Blasphemers were to be killed. Likewise, in verse 17 itself it commands that “whoever murders any man shall surely be put to death.”

    We already see here the two qualifiers to the command “thou shalt not murder.”

    We saw earlier in the examples of the ox and the roof that if one caused someone’s death through their negligence, they were also deserving of capital punishment. Therefore killing a man for causing a negligent death was actually permissible.

    Exodus 21:12-15, Numbers 35:6-34, and Deuteronomy 19:1-13 give further qualifications to the prohibition to kill. Here the Lord deals with accidental killing where there is no negligence.

    God defines accidental killing this way, in Deuteronomy. 19:4: “…whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past…”. It even gives an example: “as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies”.

    These passages also establish God’s instruction regarding the cities of refuge.

    God says in these passages that if a person committed unintentional killing, meaning that, if a person accidentally killed someone not motivated by anger or hatred, and there was no negligence involved then their life is forfeited. Guilt was established and the person was still guilty of killing and could be put to death by the avenger of blood, but there was a way of escape.

    If a person committed accidental killing, and there was no negligence, they would not be put to death if they fled to one of the designated cities of refuge.

    This was like being under arrest. Number 35:25 says that if the person wandered out of the city of refuge, you may be put to death if the avenger of blood finds you.

    The person guilty of accidental killing had to stay in a city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Then they were free to return home. This was also a symbol of Christ, in whom like the city of refuge we must remain hidden! Christ is the high priest whose death takes our guilt and sets us free.

    God made a merciful provision then, but it did not remove the fact that a person was worthy of death even for unintentional killing.

    Premeditated, intentional killing, as well as killing in passion, was absolutely forbidden.

    Such a one had no protection in the cities of refuge and was to be handed over and put to death (Exodus. 21:14, Deuteronomy. 19:11, Numbers 35:16 ).

    This far, we see that killing someone out of 1) hatred, 2) negligence, or 3) even sheer accident were subject to capital punishment.

    However, in the case of sheer accident without negligence, God established a network of cities of refuge which made merciful provision to spare the life of the killer.

    Blood Guilt

    So, what is blood guilt?

    What did blood guilt do? What other reasons did God had to hate shedding of innocent blood that brought guilt in Israel?

    We find the answer in the Scriptures:

    Numbers 35:30-34 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. 31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. 32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. 33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34 Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.

    Innocent blood that was shed without being avenged by human justice polluted, contaminated the land within it was shed, and there is nothing, even today, that can atone for the pollution of the land except the shedding of the blood of the one who shed it.

    Many think that with Christ’s atonement this no longer applies, in reality it is not so, as it says there even then there was no atonement available in the Levitical system that could atone for the blood guilt of that shed blood.

    This means that even today God requires that murderers be punished by capital punishment.

    Remember the mandate for capital punishment was given by God to Noah prior to the law and it is a mandate for all mankind not just for Israel.

    This is very important because based on this if man does not obey God’s capital punishment mandate God will take care of it Himself. In the mean time though, where there is no capital justice applied the land is polluted and the blood shed caused in it will be judged and avenged by God by judging that land and its government because its inhabitants are not applying God’s type of justice.

    So as we see, innocent blood shed causes blood guilt and blood guilt without true justice, which is capital punishment of the ones who shed the blood, causes the pollution and contamination of the land upon which it is shed, causing God’s judgment to fall not only on the guilty murderer but also upon the government and the country in which this happens.

    Even David understood this very well, in Psalm 51 the great Psalm of repentance for killing Uriah, he understands perfectly this concept of blood guilt as he asks God to deliver him form it:

    Psalm 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

    God’s judgment for blood guilt that is not atoned for by the execution of the murderers will almost always will be manifested by the increase of murder in that society.

    This situation brings more and more cause more bloodshed and blood guilt ensues  in that land as God has said this very thing in:

    Ezekiel 35:6-7 therefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you.

    This is a declaration of God’s judgment upon those who shed innocent blood and upon a society who allows it to happen without God’s justice being applied.

    We can carefully confirm this fact by noticing that in countries or states where capital punishment is not practiced for the relative murders committed the number of homicides and violent deaths increases greatly.

    Even when a death in Israel occurred by obvious murder, a slaying occurred and they could not find the culprit God required His people to actively take part in what today we would call an act of repentance to be delivered from the blood guilt of that person’s blood shed. We find this instruction with its subsequent warning in:

    Deuteronomy 21:1-9  If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him: 2 Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain: 3 And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke; 4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley: 5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried: 6 And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: 7 And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. 8 Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them. 9 So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.

    As we see the Israelite society and government had to actively repent of the sin of bloodshed that was committed in the land. In addition since the murderer could not be found and executed a death of atonement had to occur. In this case the death of a heifer and active repentance on the part of the elders.

    In the case today the sacrifice of Christ would atone when a murderer is not found, arrested and executed, however in this case the church should as Israel did actively show repentance and broken heart and spirit.

    However this is part of the problem today the church does not even attempt to repent of the sin of abortion since the government actually has decriminalized this murder and accepts it without punishing who commits it, so how can we can expect the church to repent of other murders, however it is our duty to ask God to forgive us otherwise the warning God gave Israel will stand for every people.

     

    Old Testament Passages on Lethal Force and Self-defense

    Exodus 22:2-3 “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. 3 “If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.

    There are two cases found here. In the first case, if someone breaks into a home at night, and they are killed by the home owner, the home owner was not held guilty of murder. They are not deserving of capital punishment. In that case the person did not need to flee to a city of refuge to preserve their life.

    The understanding is that at night, it is dark, and if someone has invaded your house, they do not announce if they are there merely to steal jewelry or tools. In the dark, there is no way of knowing if someone is coming to kidnap, to rape, or to murder nor if they are armed. Thus a person is blameless if the criminal is killed in that situation.

    The passage does make it clear that if a man is breaking in at night with the intent of theft or worse (rape, murder, kidnapping, etc.), the defendant can righteously defend himself with lethal force to prevent the commission of the crime).

    In the second case, it says “if the sun has risen on him”, and one kills the intruder,then one is guilty of his bloodshed. The understanding is that in daytime, there is light, one can discern the intentions of the home invader. The crime in question here is theft (“if the thief”). It is not legitimate to kill someone who is merely stealing your property.

    In creating civil laws, we see here that not all crimes are worthy of death.

    In the daytime, it is assumed that the intention of the intruder can be discerned. If he is a thief, he may not be killed by the defendant. However, if the intruder is there to commit a different crime—assault, murder, kidnapping, rape, etc. different laws/rules would apply.

    Though the crime of theft is not worthy of death, kidnapping was worthy of death (Exodus 21:16, Deuteronomy 24:7) as was murder.

    Matthew Henry writes: “…if it was in the day-time that the thief was killed, he that killed him must be accountable for it, unless it was in the necessary defense of his own life. … We ought to be tender of the lives even of bad men; the magistrate must afford us redress, and we must not avenge ourselves.”

    Now let’s look at two examples of defending your own life against murderers.

    Nehemiah 4:8-23, in Nehemiah 4, Israelites have been sent back from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem.

    They were rebuilding their lives with the sanction of the civil ruler, King Artaxerxes. This was not a wartime scenario. It was closer to a racial integration scenario where racists wanted to kill them.

    Think of the KKK threatening black homeowners and students or Islamic terrorists today. In fact this is even a more relevant example for us today. Terrorists who want to harm us because of race and religion and their hatred, it would basically be the same exact scenario of the days in question in the era of Nehemiah. The Jews were surrounded by people who hated them and wanted to kill them.

    These were citizens, not soldiers. Nehemiah 4:13 says that people stationed “people by families” around the city. These were not trained soldiers or law enforcement officers. They were merely concerned residents and settler, citizens, not professional soldiers or law enforcement agents.

    Note that these families were armed, with “their swords, their spears, and their bows.” This is a situation where they are willing to apply lethal force to defend themselves.

    Let’s briefly discuss swords, spears, and bows. Swords and daggers killed Ehud, Amasa, and eighty priests. At longer ranges, we know bows and slings killed men like Goliath, King Joram, and King Ahab.

    Spears killed men like Asahel, Absaolm, the Israelite man and the Midianitish woman, and many others.

    These are the handguns, shotguns, and rifles we have today. These were implements of lethal force. In fact, at close range, a sword can be more deadly than a handgun.

    These ancient weapons are as deadly as their modern counterparts. This flies in the face of the opponents of the Second Amendment who claim that our weapons today are too dangerous and too lethal as the old weapons.

    Note that the Jews were carrying these weapons for personal defense and for civil defense, and that these are “assault weapons”, namely, the same types of weapons that armies would use for offensive purposes. Why wouldn’t they want assault weapons (for those weapons are the most effective weapons for defending oneself)?

    Why would you not want to use the best tools available for the task at hand?

    Against what are they defending themselves? The crime of unlawful, racist murder. Hate crimes. They are defending their lives and their homes. So as we see it is very, very appropriate for us to apply this today in our society as well.

    Nehemiah 4:14 specifically says, “fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

    It is good and right to defend your family, even using lethal force weapons.

    One final observation of this passage: In self-defense, these citizens did not merely own weapons. rather, where they perceived a risk of harm to their persons, they carried their weapons with them, as many people legally carry weapons with them today, for the purpose of self-protection:

    Nehemiah 4 17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. … verse 21 So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. ….verse 23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.

    If you live somewhere where you have reason to be concerned about crime, this would be similar to legally carrying a weapon to defend your family, even when running daily errands to the store.

    Esther 8-9 The final Old Testament passage we will examine is in the book of Esther.

    Here we have a historical example arranged by Divine Providence. In this account, the Jews are under threat of racial violence.

    The civil authority, King Ahasuerus, grants them legal permission to use lethal force in self-defense:

    Esther 8:11-12 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives — to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions…

    So they had legal sanction to “protect their lives” using ultimate force, much as we do today in most parts of this country. They weree allowed to “kill and annihilate” in order to “protect their lives.”

    As people under obligation to obey God, not just stay within the civil laws of Ahasuerus, what do the Jews do with this legal freedom?

    Esther 9:1-5 the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.

    Verse 2 The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people….

    verse 5 Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction,

    We see that they were given legal sanction to defend their lives with lethal force, they did not choose non-violence. Rather, as it says in verse 11, to “protect their lives”, they use the “sword” (verse 5).

    Here is another example of widespread use of weapons in self-defense—a non-wartime, non-law enforcement scenario.

    New Testament Passages on Lethal Force and Self-defense

     

    At this point, one may be thinking this is all relegated only to Old Testament principles and thinking.

    Let’s turn to some passages in the New Testament dealing with lethal force and self-defense.

    Buying and carrying a sword

     

    Luke 22:35-39 And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” 36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” 39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.

    Here’s the context. Jesus and his disciples have just had communion. They are about to go in a time of prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus says these words to His disciples, and it’s as if they are saying today, “Look what we have with us, Lord. Two guns!” Jesus responds, “It is enough.”

    If you read commentaries on this passage, there are a number of questions which are not clearly answered. There are questions about the applicability of this passage, regarding the intent of Jesus, and the meaning of His response.

    Whatever the interpretation of this passage may be there are a few broad-stroke observations we can make about this passage.

    1 Jesus expected them to have swords and anticipated a time when those without swords would need to acquire them.

    2 Among eleven disciples, they did have two swords—this is almost a 1:5 ratio.

    3 Jesus expected them to carry the swords on their person as they traveled from the city to the garden to the prayer meeting.

    It is difficult to make absolute claims beyond these observations, but the observations themselves have significance.

    Namely, among those closest to Jesus, some carried personal weapons in His presence with His consent even to communion and to prayer meetings.

    We cannot make absolute claims as to the reasons, right or wrong, for the carriage of these weapons.

    Perhaps it was in anticipation of trouble from the Jewish leadership. Perhaps it was protection against mere robbers.

    Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:26 cites the “perils of robbers”. Though there are questions we can’t answer, we do know they possessed these weapons, that they carried these weapons, and that Jesus knew and consented.

    Furthermore, Jesus spoke of some time, present and future, when the disciples would need to acquire personal weapons, even more urgently than garments.

    Certainly if Jesus wanted them to have the pacifist view He would have never told them to sell a garment to buy a sword. This would make absolutely no sense. The swords in questions were actual swords, as we said they would be side arms today which are hand guns. Now everybody knows that swords were used for personal defense and not to slice bread.

    This leaves the only other option why Jesus tells them to sell a garment any buy swords, it has to be for self defense.

    The Garden of Gethsemane

     

    Now, the next passage we come to follows these events. Jesus and the disciples are in the garden, and the men come to arrest Jesus. At least two of the disciples are armed, with the knowledge and consent of Jesus.

    Here is the question: Will they use the sword against the armed multitude which has come against Him? Let’s look at the three passages which recount this event.

    Luke 22:49-53 (NAS) 49 And when those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And a certain one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. 52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as against a robber? 53 “While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”

    Matthew 26:51-56 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” 55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

    John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

    In these three passages, you get a sense that Jesus is saying,

    “Though we have a right to employ our swords in defense of this unrighteous arrest, we are intentionally putting aside our lawful right, and I am allowing myself to be taken without resistance.”

    See how this is expressed: “Lord shall we strike with the sword?” “No more of this.” “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” “Put up your sword… or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father… all this was done that the Scriptures…might be fulfilled.” “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup…?”

    Why Christ tells Peter to put up the sword:

     

    1 Christ is willingly laying down His life, though He has the right to use sword and also angelic legions to deliver Himself from this unjust arrest (Luke 22:51, John 18:11).

    2 Those who are quick to resort to violence will die by violence (Matt 26:52). The Lord hates the one who “loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).

    The sword is not always the appropriate response, especially in persecution for Christ.

    There is greater protection than swords God’s presence but this is mostly in situations of direct persecution or personal offense for the Gospel sake.

    So as we see there are plenty of principles in the Old and New Testament that give the believer the right and the duty to protect their lives and the lives of others even by the use of lethal force.

    As we have seen in Jesus’ case that in certain cases when the authorities are tyrannical and wicked and unjust we could have certain God given rights to employ force and resist them with force.

    Possession of weapons and skills with weapons a good and useful thing

     

    Having looked at a number of passages that deal with weapons and self-defense, let’s spend a little time discussing Scripture’s view of owning weapons and being skilled in their use.

    The imagery of weapon use and skill at weapons use is often employed in Scripture, and it is often portrayed as a positive or desirable thing. The Lord’s might is something good, and it is often depicted using martial terms (Zechariah. 9:14, Psalm 7:13, 18:14, 21:12, 64:7, Habakkuk. 3:11, Deuteronomy 32:42, 2 Samuel 22:15). Even the Scriptures are a spiritual sword (Ephesians. 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). God’s word as a sword comes out of the mouth of Christ (Revelation. 1:16, 2:16, 19:15).

    Possession of weapons is never discouraged in Scripture. In fact, in 1Samuel 13:19, it is negatively reported that no spears or swords were found in Israel because of the Philistines:

    1 Samuel 13:19-22 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” 22 So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son.

    This episode shows us how a tyrannical oppression will first disarm the people it oppresses. This is the danger of gun control especially when it is in defiance of Constitutional rights. This shows that all those governments who disarm their citizens do it to eventually oppress them and dominate them.

    Let’s look at two verses from the Psalms:

    Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

    Psalm 18:34 He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze

    Skill and ability to use weapons here, whether literal and/or metaphorical, is positively portrayed in these verses.

    Further, we have accounts of David, not a soldier, not a law enforcement officer, but a youth, employing ranged weapons skillfully (with God’s help) against bears and lions.

    This is domestic use of lethal weaponry, non-military use, with non-military training. The weapons used by young David are not “kiddie” slingshots. They are powerful enough to kill a bear and lion–in today’s market, we’re talking about a .44 magnum, not a .22, in the hands of someone too young to be in the army.

    We might be tempted to think that was just for dealing with animals that could threaten sheep. But aren’t humans worth even more protection than sheep?

    We understand that according to Scripture, in matters not of worship or church government, whatever is not forbidden is permitted.

    We are not claiming that ownership of weaponry for the purpose of self-defense is required or obligatory for the believer. It is not required nor is it obligatory but it is permitted by Scripture.

    Warnings

     

    We will conclude our study with some warnings.

    Trusting in the sword

     

    First of all, it would be a mistake to leave this study trusting in only the sword. Guns, knives, weapons… these are mere tools, and none of these things can guarantee us protection or safety any more than owning a fire extinguisher guarantees our house won’t burn down.

    Psalm 44:6-7 For I will not trust in my bow, Nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, And have put to shame those who hated us.

    We see in Nehemiah 4:14 that the people were armed and willing to use their weapons, but they were mostly trusting in the Lord:

    “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses…. 20 “At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

    We are not to put our trust in weapons alone.

     

    As tools that are useful, but they are only dead, inanimate tools, at the end of the day.

    “…the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’s.” 1Samuel17:47

    Although the Jewish people possessed weapons and were not afraid to use them in legitimate godly ways they knew far well that they could possess weapons, know how to use them proficiently, they could have a powerful army but they understood that if God was not with them, if they did not use their weapons in conformity with God’s will and His principles their weapons and even their military might would be useless.

    Psalms 20:7-8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

    God gives a very stern warning to His people, as we said God does not mind that His people be armed and trained skillfully with the use of their weapons, yet God says:

    Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

    The fundamental thing is we trust in God first and foremost then we can have weapons.

    Improperly resorting to the sword

     

    We must beware of improperly resorting to the sword. I would hope the passages dealing with the shedding of blood and the blood guilt impressed upon us the narrow limitations for when it is proper to employ lethal force. It is never to be done in hatred, never in revenge, never in jealously.

    David in his pride nearly murdered Nabal, but Abigail restrained him. David would have killed Nabal…and regretted it.

    1 Samuel 25:32 And David said to Abigail, Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me: 33 and blessed be thy discretion, and blessed be thou, that hast kept me this day from bloodguiltiness, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.

    Employing potentially lethal force out of anger, hatred, jealously, or revenge is always wrong and is condemned by Scripture.

    When we are insulted or cursed, when our wife or our mother is insulted or cursed, we are not to resort to violence.

    This is the true and only meaning of turning the other cheek.

    27 But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you,28 bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. 29 To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also. 30 Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. (Luke 6:27-30)

    There are a lot of great virtues depicted in the classic westerns. The propensity to break into fistfights or gunfights when honor is insulted however this is not godly virtue.

    The Lord, not us, is to take vengeance and set things right. An insulting slap in the face is something we can suffer as a Christian.

    What if you are badly wronged? What if your wife or daughter is badly wronged? You must stop an attack that is in progress, but afterwards, you must not seek revenge.

    Romans 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

    A wrong admiration for the “man of violence”

    We must not admire the “man of violence”.

    Proverbs 3:31-32 Do not envy a man of violence, And do not choose any of his ways. 32 For the crooked man is an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright.

    Those who resort to violence rather than Godliness are not to be admired. There are many similarities between David and Joab. Both were skilled at killing men, and both had killed many men. Were they both men of violence? Here is the difference: David, first and foremost, sought the Lord, trusted the Lord, and loved the Lord. Why didn’t he do violence against Saul? It wasn’t because Saul was his father-in-law. Rather, it was because Saul was the Lord’s anointed. It was because of David’s regard first for the Lord that he would not resort to violence.

    On the other hand, Joab, over and over, resorted to the sword to deal with problems. Joab was a man of violence.

    Proverbs 1:16 For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood.

    Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;

    Earth was destroyed in the day of Noah because “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). God hates violence. There is a narrow scope in which it is applied righteously, but it is only because of sin that such skill is necessary.

    Beware of influences in your life which would encourage admiration of a Joab rather than a David.

    Perspective

     

    Lastly we must keep the right perspective on this subject. Though we see sanctions and even have a qualified directive from Christ to possess personal weapons, we must remember three points.

    First, in the remainder of the New Testament, we actually have no further examples of believers taking up the sword.

    Secondly, the emphasis in the remainder of the New Testament is decidedly not geared toward the issues of physical self-defense or righteous use of lethal force. Rather, we see more emphasis on Godly living, suffering affliction and persecution for Christ, and grasping the precious doctrines of Christ and the Gospel.

    Thirdly, possession of weapons and acquiring the skill to use them in self-defense is permitted but not required by Scripture.

    Believers should be conscious that personal self-defense is legitimatized by the Scriptures, just as the use of construction tools, cooking tools, transportation tools are legitimized by Scripture. And these matters of self-defense should hold in our minds and in our affections the same position as those other legitimate, but transitory, matters.

    The tendency in some circles is to make the topic of self-defense of primary importance. Though heavenly beings do battle and render judgments with the sword, in the perfection pictured in both the garden of Eden and in the Heavenly city, the primary activities are fellowship with God, fellowship with His people, singing in worship, and living in peace. That is our destination.