Biblical doctrines Church History The Papacy

Live by the sword, die by the sword

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and his ‘friend’ brought soldiers to arrest Him just before His crucifixion, to His disciple who had just used a sword to cut off the high priest servant’s ear, Jesus said:

Put up again your sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matthew 26:52 KJVER) (emphasis added)

Often now I hear of Christians speaking of justification to take up arms against tyrants when it seems what Jesus said in the New Testament that we should not. We live in a secular world and it is not our role to police it. Governmental institutions have been set up to administer the law to evil doers. But what about tyrants? Is there a right to resist them or are we to use the existing institutions?

Back in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Central American Jesuits designed posters 306a5419acdda88e267f1ac7b9e5a6b9to motivate [peasants] to overthrow corrupt politicians. The posters for this Bellarminian liberation theology depicted an angry Jesus Christ in the image of Che Guevara, swathed in fatigues, draped in bullet-belts, holding a submachine gun at the ready, a Rambo Jesus, a Jesus whose Sacred Heart called for social action that included killing. The American bishop scare aroused the same dynamic in the 1770’s. What was considered by many to be the most influential sermon on the subject was preached to Boston’s Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company by Rev. Jonathan Mayhew’s successor at Harvard, Rev. Simeon Howard. Simeon Howard received his early preaching experience in Nova Scotia – or Acadia, as the French settlers called it. He experienced first-hand the uprooting and expulsion, by British soldiers, of some three thousand French Catholic Acadians, along with their Jesuit priests. Cruelly, often violently, the Acadians were forced to emigrate to various American colonies, with no compensation for property or livestock. (Longfellow memorialized the event in Evangeline).

With a casuistry [the use of clever but unsound reasoning] that would have delighted Cardinal Bellarmine, Rev. Howard’s famous Artillery Company sermon openly advocated the use of violence against a political tyrant. Our duty to defend personal liberty and property, he argued, is stated in Scripture at Galatians 5:1 – “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” True, Rev. Howard admitted, Christ requires us to “resist not evil – love your enemies, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5), and “recompense to no man evil for evil – avenge not yourselves” (Romans 12, 17, 19). But these precepts apply only to cases of “small injuries,” Howard said, not large ones, such as tyranny.

Nor, said Rev. Howard, should we fully accept Christ’s commandments on property. “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world” (John 2:5), and “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth” (Matthew 6:19), and “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42) – such precepts as these, Rev. Howard said, are “indefinite expressions” which “we have a right to limit.”

Now, the defensive application of lethal force is reasonable, and noble, and patriotic. But it is not recommended by Jesus Christ. The Jesus of the Scriptures cautions that life by the sword means death by the sword. It is Rome, not Jesus, that commands the use of lethal force – Rome, whose natural-law society was built on the willingness of the individual to risk his own life in killing to preserve the Religious State. And it was Rome that Simeon Howard beseeched his audience to emulate: “Rome, who rose to be mistress of the world by an army composed of men of property and worth.”1

This is what the scriptures have to say on this subject.

Romans 13:1-8 (KJVER) Let every soul be subject to the higher powers [governing authorities]. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  2 Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil. 5 Wherefore you must needs [necessarily] be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For this cause pay you tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. (emphasis added)

Since the epoch of Emperor Constantine, the Roman papacy has fostered the concept that the ruler who terrorizes wrongdoers is necessarily a Christian. Pope Sylvester, the Bishop of Rome who supposedly converted Constantine to Christianity, saw nothing strange in a warrior coming to faith in a crucified Christ by slaughtering his enemies. This thinking pervaded Sylvester’s successors, as well as the Crusades, the Holy Roman Empire, European nationalism, the American Revolution, the War of Southern Secession, and the wars of the twentieth century. Indeed, perhaps the black papacy’s2 most admirable psychological conquest is that Protestants generally agree that armed rulership is an authority instituted by God for Christians to exercise. Since there is no scriptural authority for a member of the Body of Christ to bear any kind of armament whatsoever other than the figurative weaponry of God’s Word, agreeing to such a principle signifies prima facie adherence to the moral guidance of him who bears the power of Almighty God on earth, the person who legitimately bears the mark of Cain in a long succession begun with Peter. Yes, the popes can truthfully declare that “Peter” is their foundation by holding in mental reservation that the Hebrew [word]payter, pronounced “payter,” means… firstling, which of course is Cain’s primary attribute as firstborn of Eve.3 (my emphasis added)

black pope

This then helps us understand the thinking behind the Templars sending earthly armies into liberate Jerusalem from the Muhammadans. The Templars were the army of the Roman Catholic Church and fully supported by the Papacy. The concept is very much Jesuit policy and “in the flesh” when Christian warfare is only “in the spirit.” Jesus said:

“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)

Christ said to Pontius Pilot (John 19:11) “…You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above”. Clearly He was showing him Who was really in charge. The authority is given to evil rulers to rule well over all including God’s people. Even the nation of Israel was subject to evil rulers, for example, during the time of the Egyptian (400 years) and Babylonian (70 years) captivities.

Supporters of the argument favoring lethal-force Christian rulership usually stand on a single scriptural passage. It’s that verse in Luke 22 [verse 36] wherein, as the betrayal nears, Christ admonishes his disciples, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” I have often heard Christian militiamen (some of whom I am not ashamed to call my friends) use this to justify arming themselves against the minions of unjust rulers. But Jesus explained otherwise in the very next verse [Luke 22:37]: “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ [see Isaiah 53:12]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.” In order to fulfill prophecy, Christ had to be numbered among lawbreakers, which bearing swords would certainly make of the disciples of any true Prince of Peace. As soon as the disciples produced two swords [verse 38] – the minimum number constituting the plural “transgressors” – prophecy was fulfilled. Christ then told them “It is enough” [verse 39]. From then on, no more cloaks were sold, no more swords bought.4

What follows in Roman 13, after those verse ordering our obedience to the “powers that be” and to pay our taxes, is those aspects of the law that God expects all Christians to obey first and foremost in regards to our fellow-man.

Romans 13:9,10 (KJVER) For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 10 Love works no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (emphases added)


  1. F. Tupper Saussy, Rulers of Evil, Useful Knowledge About Governing Bodies, Ospray Bookmakers, Reno, Nevada, pp. 150,151, 1999.
  2. The black papacy means the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the real power behind the scenes in the Vatican.
  3. Ibid., pp. 284, 285.
  4. Ibid., p. 285.

By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.