Is it True if You Live by the Sword You Will Die by the Sword?

When Jesus makes the statement “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword,” He is referring to the truth that if a person lives a violent life bent on killing others by the sword, that person will most likely be killed by the sword themselves.

Contributing Writer
Published Nov 03, 2021
Is it True if You Live by the Sword You Will Die by the Sword?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew records what happened the night Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52). It is helpful to understand the broader context of this verse in order to ascertain the meaning of Jesus’ statement.

In Matthew 26, Jesus had just been betrayed by Judas Iscariot and the soldiers were coming to arrest the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the same time the soldiers were seizing and arresting Jesus, Peter drew out his sword and cut off the high priest’s ear (Matthew 26:50-51; John 18:10).

Some commentators believe Peter was actually aiming for Judas; however, since Peter was not a trained swordsman, he hit the high priest’s ear. Immediately, Jesus rebukes Peter’s action by telling Peter, “‘Put your sword back in its place” and “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Jesus then heals the high priest’s ear and reminds His disciples that His death must happen in this way in order for the scriptures to be fulfilled (Luke 22:49-51; Matthew 26:52-54).

Is Living and Dying by the Sword True?

Since Jesus spoke these words, they are true. If a person lives by the sword, they will die by the sword. When Jesus makes this statement to Peter and the other people present, he is telling them that those who live in violence, hostility, and anger will die by the sword.

If a person consistently lives a violent lifestyle, they will most likely be killed by the sword. During the time of Jesus’ ministry, the weapons soldiers had were mainly swords. Guns, bombs, and other similar weapons had not been invented yet.

Each person who lived by the sword, such as a soldier or a person who was bent on killing another person, would very likely be killed in battle or be slain by another violent person. In this exact situation between the Lord and Peter, Jesus is trying to inform Peter that violence is not the answer.

Jesus did not need to be protected by earthly swords or men because He is God, and He could summon more than 12 legions of angels at His request (Matthew 26:53). Salvation for all mankind could not come any other way apart from Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

If Jesus had never been falsely arrested, He would have never been sentenced to the death penalty of crucifixion. Dying for the sins of the world was the exact reason Jesus was born into the world (Matthew 26:53).

Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:1), which means if He needed to or wanted to escape the clutches of these evil men, he could have escaped, and He ultimately could obliterate all of the people present. However, this was not Jesus’ intention for coming to the world as He came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).

Biblical Pacifism?

Many people have believed that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:52 constitutes the meaning that followers of Christ should never participate in war. Notice when Jesus corrects Peter that the Lord never tells Peter to toss his sword to the side nor does He forbid Peter to ever use it again (Ibid.).

Rather, Jesus tells Peter to put his sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). Christians do not need to think this verse entails a person is sinning when they become a soldier or when they serve in war.

When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus, different people, tax collectors, and soldiers were asking John about the ethical and right way to live. John the Baptist does not tell the soldiers that they must not serve in the army, but rather tells them, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14).

Likewise, if serving in war or being a soldier was wrong, Jesus would have told His disciples this information. What Jesus does tell His disciples is that there will always be wars and rumors of wars going on until the end.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:6-13).

There is a time and place for war (Ecclesiastes 3:8). There is nothing wrong with a Christian serving in the army or going to justified war.

As rightly stated by Christian writer Scott Slayton, “Christians can support war with a clear conscience when the result of that war will be more people living in freedom from disorder, injustice, and fear.”

God does not want believers to be enslaved by others nor does He want His children to sit on the sidelines as their country gets plundered. Wartime efforts are established in order to protect the country, the people, and the values of the country.

Normally a country will only go to war if it is absolutely necessary. An example can be found in the necessity of war as shown in World War II.

If the Allies (United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, and China) did not fight against the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan), Hitler and the Nazis could have taken over the world. This shows us the necessity, importance, and value of engaging in just wartime.

Living by the Word

In everything we do, the Lord wants us to live by His Word. While it is true that if you live violently by the sword you will die by the sword, if you live by the Word you will grow in wisdom, grace, and Christian maturity. There is a time and place for war, but there is also a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

When Jesus makes the statement “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword,” He is referring to the truth that if a person lives a violent life bent on killing others by the sword, that person will most likely be killed by the sword themselves.

If a person is constantly trying to engage in battle and violently hurt others, one day it will be reflected back to them. God wants all of His children to grow in Christlikeness, maturity, and wisdom, which can be done by praying to the Lord, studying the Bible, and applying biblical truths to your own life.

In everything, Christians need to live in accordance with God’s instruction, guidance, and direction as found in the Bible.

For further reading:

What Does the Bible Say about Wars?

Laying Down the Sword

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

What Is the Full Armor of God?

Did God Condone Violence Found in the Old Testament?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/pamela_d_mcadams

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.


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