Regarding the dragon depicted in Revelation 13, verse 8 (NASB) reads:

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Then Revelations 13:10 (NASB) reads:

If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

What is the relation between these two verses? Does verse 10 imply that all those whose names are written in the book of life will be slain by sword or end their lives in captivity? Or that some of them might and others not? Or is verse 10 referring to those who are not written in the book of life?


3 Answers 3


Variant readings

There are over a half-dozen variants1 in the Greek text of v.10, which may somewhat cloud the interpretation. One source calls the Greek text "notoriously corrupt".2

The NASB - based on the 27th Nestle-Aland edition of the "Critical Text" (CT) - relies here primarily on the Codex Alexandrinus (5th c.):

εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει·
If anyone is [destined] for captivity, to captivity he goes
εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι.
if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed
Ὧδέ ἐστιν ἡ ὑπομονὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις τῶν ἁγίων.
Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

The Textus Receptus (c. 1598)3 has (with NKJV translation):

εἴ τις αἰχμαλωσίαν συνάγει, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει·
He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity
εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρᾳ ἀποκτενει, δεῖ αὐτον ἐν μαχαίρᾳ ἀποκτανθῆναι.
he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword

An additional variant is found in the Antoniades Patriarchal Text (PT)4:

εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ἀπάγει, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει·
If anyone is to go into captivity, he will go into captivity.*
εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρᾳ ἀποκτέννει, δεῖ αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρᾳ ἀποκτανθῆναι.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword, he must be killed.


Arguments can be made for understanding the text to refer to either the saints or to those whose name has not been written in the book of life, depending on the choice of variants as well as the literal text itself of some variants. Modern Orthodox commentator Lawrence Farley notes:

There is some uncertainty about the second half of the couplet. Rather than the reading “if anyone is to be killed with the sword,” some manuscripts read, “if anyone kills with the sword.” If this latter reading is the correct one, the thought will then be that God will judge those who persecute the Church. Either way, the Church is called to endure the coming trial, confident in the final triumph of God.5

Despite inconsistencies in some of the manuscripts, the verse seems to quote or allude to Jeremiah 15:2:

“And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Those destined for death, to death; And those destined for the sword, to the sword; And those destined for famine, to famine; And those destined for captivity, to captivity.” ’

The variant chosen by the NASB agrees with how the verse was quoted in antiquity by Andrew of Caesarea (563-637), the first to write a complete commentary on the Book of Revelation. He writes

Each one, it says, is to receive the wages befitting the labors done. Those who are prepared to do evil to their neighbor will be imprisoned by the devil and will succumb to spiritual death by the satanic dagger, and in those deeds in which they were defeated, they are to be enslaved6 to him ... Those who have pure faith and immovable patience7 in tribulations will not be blotted out of the book of life of which also the all-merciful God will show us in fellowship with them, considering worthless the sufferings of this present time compared to the future glory to be revealed8 to the saints and walking bravely on the narrow way9, so that at its end in the future age, finding glory, repose and spaciousness, we might co-reign with Christ ...10,11

Oecumenius (10th c.) offers a similar explanation in his commentary

Answers to questions

What is the relation between these two verses? Does verse 10 imply that all those whose names are written in the book of life will be slain by sword or end their lives in captivity? Or that some of them might and others not? Or is verse 10 referring to those who are not written in the book of life?

For the textual variant selected by the NASB (and also cited by commentators in antiquity), I would say that it is those whose names are not written in the book of life who are destined for captivity (by the devil) and for being slain with the sword. Another Orthodox commentator writes:

Only those will bow down to the Antichrist whose names are not written in the book of life by the Lamb. Only by patience and faith will the saints be able to defend themselves against the Antichrist. And they are consoled ... with the assurance that he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword, that is, that a righteous recompense awaits the Antichrist.12

Because of the different textual variants, however, one is likely to find explanations taking a different view.

1. Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament (11th ed.), p.657n
2. Mazzaferri, The Genre of the Book of Revelation from a Source-critical Perspective, p.372
3. Modified Beza 1598 Textus Receptus, found in The New Testament in Greek (Scrivener, 1881)
4. English translation from Eastern Orthodox Bible: New Testament
5. The Apocalypse of Saint John: A Revelation of Love and Power
6. cf. 2 Peter 2:19
7. James 1:3ff
8. Romans 8:18
9. Matthew 7:14
10. 2 Timothy 2:12
11. tr. from the Greek in E. Constantinou, Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation (Ph.D. thesis, Université Laval, 2008)
12. Averky Taushev, The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of Ancient Christianity


The sevenfold phrase which has been repeated at the end of each of the messages in Rev. 2–3 (and which is also found in the teaching of Jesus, Matt. 11:5; Mark 4:9; Luke 14:35) is repeated here with slight variation: If anyone has an ear, let him hear. It serves to put the specific challenges faced by each assembly in their context into a wider narrative, that of the conflict between the dragon and beast, and God and the lamb. The proverbial saying that follows takes it rather abrupt grammar from the clear antecedent in Jer. 15:2, though the four destinies there (death, sword, starvation, captivity, reduced to three in the parallel saying in Jer. 43:11) have been reduced to two. In Jeremiah, the context is the certainty of the coming judgement of God on Jerusalem but here it is the certainty of the oppression by the beast. In both cases the rhetorical impact is to discourage violent response, following the ‘quietist’ focus of the Book of Daniel.

Some important manuscripts have an active verb: those who ‘kill with the sword will be killed’, bringing it into line with Jesus’ saying in Matt. 26:52 (see the comment listing the manuscript evidence). But the original in Jeremiah and the parallel with the previous saying means that the minority of manuscripts who have two passive verbs (‘anyone who will be killed…will be killed’) should actually be preferred. These fates are not specific to either those who follow the beast or those who do not, but the followers of the lamb are clearly not exempt from such ends. As John has said from the very beginning (1:9), patient endurance (hypomonē) is the essential quality of any disciple. The faith (pistis) of God’s people can have either a subjective or an objective sense, that is, it can refer to their faith and trust in God, or their own quality of faithfulness (pistis can mean either) and the two are closely related. John’s vision report encourages his audience to continue to trust in God and remain faithful because, despite the apparent triumph of the evil empire, God is still sovereign and his judgement will come.


It refers to those who were not written in the book of life.

It is better read in Young's Literal Translation (YLT).

Rev. 13:8,

" And bow before it shall all who are dwelling upon the land, whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;"

The English translations that use "earth" instead of "land" are making an assumption, and not allowing for the original use of "earth" or "land" from the OT. Whichever "land" or nation that God sent His prophet to warn was the "earth" or section / territory of the entire earth that was falling under God's judgment. So, using the word "earth" did not mean the whole entire earth, but just the land or nation that was under judgment.

The other word that confuses many is "heavens". Many times in prophesy it referred to the ruling authorities (the king, queen, princes, governors, etc.) of that land or nation, and their palaces or abodes. The "heavens" of the land (the principalities of Eph. 3:10) were over and above the people of that nation, and were a type of "heaven" exercising authority over their people.

We then always have to determine which nation / land the prophet was sent to warn of the coming judgment of God in order to know which "heavens" and which "earth" was affected.

For instance, in Isa. 13:1 Babylon was the nation under judgment. So when we read that section of prophesy we can then identify the "heavens" of Babylon as the king of Babylon and all of his rulers, and the entirety of his kingdom. The "earth" of Babylon was the land and / or people of Babylon.

Therefore, Isa. 13:5,

"They are coming in from a land afar off, From the end of the heavens, Jehovah and the instruments of His indignation, To destroy all the land." (YLT)

"from the end of heavens" was the borders of the kingdom of Babylon; and "to destroy all the land" only applied to the land of the nation of Babylon.

And, Isa. 1:10,

" For the stars of the heavens, and their constellations, Cause not their light to shine, Darkened hath been the sun in its going out, And the moon causeth not its light to come forth." (YLT)

Was symbolic of the king (sun) and queen (moon) being removed from the power and authority they had held under their ruling "heavens" of Babylon. That their light would no longer shine was the prophetic language of being removed from power.

WE apply the same usage of prophetic language to Revelation. Who was the prophet, and who was He speaking to?

Rev. 1:1,

"A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him, to shew to his servants what things it behoveth to come to pass quickly; and he did signify [it], having sent through his messenger to his servant John," (YLT)

Christ was the prophet, the message was from God, and was shown to John. We remember that Christ was sent to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24).

Rev. 1:7,

"Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the land. Yes! Amen!" (YLT)

Those who pierced Him lived during the first century A.D. The tribes of the land referred to the land of Judea and Palestine where Christ and His apostles had been preaching the gospel of the new covenant.

So, Revelation was the prophesy of the judgment that was to come upon the wicked of the land of Palestine and Judea for crucifying the Messiah and for persecuting His saints. Therefore the "heavens" in this prophesy were the ruling authorities over the "land" or "earth" of Judea and Palestine.

In Rev. 13:8 all those who bowed down and worshiped the "sea beast" - the predator ruling power / government from the pagan nations that surrounded Judea which was the Roman empire - were all those who worshiped the Caesars of Rome who claimed to be gods. And, they were not written in the book of life of the Lamb (Christ) who was slain from the foundation of the world.

And, in Rev. 13:10, the ones who were making war against the saints (vs. 7) were those of the ruling authority (Romans) who led the saints into captivity, and who killed the saints with the sword. They would in turn be led themselves into captivity and be killed by the sword.

The code for understanding Revelation is the Old Testament. We have to find and understand the meanings and definitions of the prophetic language used in the OT before we can know how to read Revelation, or for that matter even the entire NT.

If you would like to read more about the sea beast and land beast of Rev. 13, see my post "The Signs of Revelation - Part V: The Animal Symbols of The Battle" here.

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