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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 Esther 5:2And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter.
American King James Version×
). 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 Revelation 2:25-29 [25] But that which you have already hold fast till I come. [26] And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: [27] And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. [28] And I will give him the morning star. [29] He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
, 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 Hebrews 1:8But to the Son he said, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom.
American King James Version×
, 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 Revelation 19:14-16 [14] And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. [15] And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. [16] And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
American King James Version×
, HCSB).

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the “treading of the wine-press” illustrates divine judgment, as in Isaiah 63:2 Isaiah 63:2Why are you red in your apparel, and your garments like him that treads in the winefat?
American King James Version×
; Revelation 14:19 Revelation 14:19And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God.
American King James Version×
, 20; Joel 3:9-13 Joel 3:9-13 [9] Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: [10] Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. [11] Assemble yourselves, and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause your mighty ones to come down, O LORD. [12] Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. [13] Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
American King James Version×
. 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 Isaiah 2:3-5 [3] And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [4] And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [5] O house of Jacob, come you, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

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 Revelation 3:1And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things said he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.
American King James Version×
) 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 Deuteronomy 4:20But the LORD has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be to him a people of inheritance, as you are this day.
American King James Version×
, 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 Job 28:2Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.
American King James Version×
). Isaiah described the smith’s technique with iron (Isaiah 44:12 Isaiah 44:12The smith with the tongs both works in the coals, and fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms: yes, he is hungry, and his strength fails: he drinks no water, and is faint.
American King James Version×
, 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 John 16:32-33 [32] Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now come, that you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. [33] These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
American King James Version×
). 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. 

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