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Why a Royal Scepter of Iron?: Digging Deep for Iron

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Why a Royal Scepter of Iron?

Digging Deep for Iron

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A scepter is an emblem of royal power and, accordingly, most look grand and luxurious, often with royal crown jewels. Scriptures mention an assortment of precious metals and gemstones. In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus spared Queen Esther’s life when he extended his golden scepter as she approached him in the courtyard (Esther 5:2). The following verse describes a scepter made of iron for the victors in the Church of Thyatira at the Messiah’s return:

“But hold on to what you have until I come. The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations—and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery—just as I have received this from My Father. I will also give him the morning star. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:25-29, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

The Messiah’s scepter, also made of iron, is described as follows:

“Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice” (Hebrews 1:8, HCSB).

“The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:14-16, HCSB).

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the “treading of the wine-press” illustrates divine judgment, as in Isaiah 63:2; Revelation 14:19, 20; Joel 3:9-13. This is not about forcing citizens into conversion by beating them into submission; it is about a time of shattering wickedness in all its forms. Evil is to be resisted, overcome and ultimately destroyed. During the Messiah’s peaceful reign nations will never again train for war (Isaiah 2:3-5).

Why are these scepters made of iron and not something more magnificent? Why not wood? A shepherd’s staff was likely made of wood (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). Is iron simply figurative? Revelation 2 and 3 are addressed to churches of God (Revelation 3:1) with encouragement about overcoming evil and tribulation. Yet these chapters have notable, repetitive counsel for anyone who has an ear to hear. Tribulation or trouble is associated with a fiery furnace, which is used to shape iron: “But the Lord selected you and brought you out of Egypt’s iron furnace to be a people for His inheritance, as you are today” (Deuteronomy 4:20, HCSB).

Iron does seem common for a scepter, but perhaps there are good reasons. Iron was an everyday element to ancient people—they knew how to use it. Job was acquainted with the process of extracting iron from iron ore: “Iron is taken out of the earth” (Job 28:2). Isaiah described the smith’s technique with iron (Isaiah 44:12, 54:16). It was used for all sorts of purposes anciently: chariots, tools, nails, gates, walls, weapons, armor. It is also used figuratively in scripture to represent affliction, fortitude, slavery, strength, destruction and great obstacles. Scientific aspects about iron convey relevant meaning as well.

Iron Science

Iron is the most common element in the earth by weight. It accounts for almost all the Earth’s core. Its low cost, abundance and strength have since antiquity made it man’s most-used metal. It even gives blood its crucial ability to snatch oxygen from the air and carry it to where it’s needed in the body (Simon Quellen Field and Theodore Gray, Elements Vault, 2011, p.36).

If an athlete is deficient in iron, this impairs the body’s aerobic processes, brain and muscle metabolism and endurance, performance and normal immune response. That’s because iron carries oxygen from your breath to your hard-working tissues. Iron-deficient anemia can be described as one big bad threat to success even for the fittest, most well prepared athlete (ironman.com). Endurance is positively a theme in our personal spiritual races.

Earth’s solid inner core is composed primarily of iron. At 10,292°F this iron is as hot as the sun’s surface, but the crushing pressure caused by gravity prevents it from becoming liquid. The outer core is a thick fluid layer of iron, nickel and small quantities of other metals. This flow of liquid iron generates electric currents, which produce magnetic fields (physics.org). Iron is a key part of earth’s magnetic field.

A compass needle aligns itself and points toward the top of earth’s magnetic field. Compasses give us a consistent sense of direction. Lodestone, an iron ore, is a natural, permanent magnet. The first use of lodestone as a compass is believed to have occurred in Europe around A.D. 1100. The word lodestone comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “leading stone,” or literally, “the stone that leads” (madehow.com).

Of course, God’s Holy Spirit is a guiding compass.

Modern Uses of Iron

  • This dictionary entry of iron conveys its scope of usefulness:
  • A ductile, pliable, metallic element, scarcely known in a pure condition, but much used for making tools, machinery, etc.
  • An instrument, utensil, weapon, such as a sword.
  • A tool heated to smooth out wrinkles in fabric.
  • A “9-iron” is used to get a golf ball out of a sand hazard or tall grass.
  • The blade of a carpenter’s plane.
  • Used to treat anemia of the blood.

Iron can even be skillfully rendered into delicate art. It conducts electricity and heat very well. Cast iron skillets are loved because of how remarkably well they conduct and hold heat; maintaining one involves using oil and high heat, otherwise it will rust. Iron’s major drawback as a construction material is that it reacts with moist air, corrodes into rust, decomposes and can crumble into pieces. These attributes can be compared to human beings, who are affected by their surroundings, yet likewise have the potential to be strengthened by adversity through God’s Spirit. Relationships can help maintain and restore us, like a tool, as the phrase “iron sharpens iron” implies.

How does iron “break evil into pieces?” Iron may have drawbacks, but its strength and malleability are the foundation of modern structural engineering for such man-made marvels as the iron lattice Eiffel Tower, railways, skyscrapers, dams and huge ships like the Titanic.

Scientific analysis of wrought iron rivets used in the sunken Titanic’s hull seams suggested they were created by inexperienced tradesmen. Wrought iron was made by hand at the time, and brittle fracture was found as the rivets’ failure. The Titanic needed over 3 million rivets that, due to the large number, had to be contracted out with many companies. This draws attention to the importance of iron’s exact heating process to ensure its strength, which parallels resisting and shattering evil.

Shattering Evil

In conclusion, ironically, iron emerges as ordinary and extraordinary simultaneously, inside us and around us, perfectly fitting for a scepter. While Christ lived as a vulnerable human, being affected by His surroundings and adversities, He overcame evil through the power of God’s Spirit. Appropriately, His iron scepter reflects pure strength, with which He will again face evil and dissolve it. Humans who use spiritual endurance to follow Christ’s example and overcome evil will also be given an iron scepter.

Time is needed to shape, sharpen and strengthen us that we may overcome just as Christ did (John 16:32-33). There will be a time for war and a time for healing and peace when our Messiah returns. A royal scepter of iron not only shatters the wicked, its attributes embody the plight of humanity leading up to that moment.