Is there significance in having them beheaded vs. other forms of killing?
ESV - 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
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✿ Beheading inflicts more pain and beheading the enemies was the custom in the middle East historically. We are seeing more such examples: ❶ David beheaded Goliath and cut off his head and carried it to Saul (1Sam. 17:51,57). ❷ A Philistine beheaded Saul (1Sam. 31:9). ❸ Ishbosheth, the youngest son of Saul was beheaded by the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah. They were captains of bands under Ishbosheth (2Sam. 4:2). They deceived the servants of Ishbosheth, causing them to think they were going into the house to get wheat. Finding the king alone they killed him, beheaded him, and took his head to David in Hebron (2Sam. 4:6-12). Why they did this is unknown, unless they thought David would reward them for killing his rival to the throne of Israel (2Sam. 4:8-12). This, however, was not the way to gain favor with David (2Sam. 1:3-16; 4:9-12). Even though David beheaded Goliath, for he didn't tolerate the murder of innocent men as a means to succeed (2Sam. 4:8-12; 1:3-16). ❹ Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee, who had beheaded John the Baptist.(Mt. 14:10) His niece and his brother's wife live publicly with him. John the Baptist warned him, it is not lawful to marry her(Lev. 18:6,16; 20:21). She plot to kill to behead her enemy and she wanted John Baptist's head in a charger. What wickedness! This incestuous, bloody, adulterous, depraved mother! She was determined to rid herself and her husband of this troubler of conscience. Jerome says she was so wicked that, after gloating over the head of John, she drew out his tongue and pierced it with a needle. ✿ Jesus warned the Jerusalemites that God's patience was running out as they were martyring one by one every true messenger of God, A to Z (Abel to Zechariah)! (Mt 23:35). While beheadings were relatively common in Middle East, the Jerusalemites murdered Jesus on the cross in a more cruel way than beheading as he bore the thorns in his head and inflicted more pain. ✿ Six reasons for their beheading in Rev 20:4 : 1. For the witness (testimony) of Jesus 2. For the Word of God 3. For not worshiping the beast 4. For not worshiping his image 5. For not taking his mark upon their foreheads 6. For not taking his mark in their hands ✿ There are lots of good physiological reasons why enemies ﬁnd heads fascinating, and powerful, and tempting to remove. The human head is a biological powerhouse and a visual delight. It accommodates four of our ﬁve senses: sight, smell, hearing and taste all take place in the head. It encases the brain, the core of our nervous system. It draws in the air we breathe and delivers the words we speak. ✿ An impressive concentration of nerve endings and an unrivalled ability for expressive movement, our heads connect our inner selves to the outer world more intensely than any other part of our body. This extraordinary engine room – distinctive, dynamic and densely packed – is set on high for all to see. Human necks may be, compared to other mammals, quite ﬂimsy, but separating heads from bodies is still hard to do. ✿ Countless stories of botched beheadings on the scaffold attest to this, particularly in countries like Britain, where beheadings were relatively rare and executioners were inexperienced. The swift decapitation of a living person requires a powerful, accurate action, and a sharp, heavy blade. No wonder the severed head is the ultimate warrior’s trophy. Even when the assassin is experienced and his victim is bound, it can take many blows to cut off a person’s head. ✿ John saw thrones, and these tribulation saints sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them] proving that all saints will rule with Christ in some capacity as kings and priests in Millennium and in eternity (Rev. 1:6; 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10; 12:5; 20:4-6; 22:4-5 Lk. 22:30; Rom. 8:17; 1Cor. 6:2-4 2Tim. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Ps. 149:6-9 Dan. 7:18,27).
In my opinion, beheading was specified here because it was most closely associated with executions performed under the auspices of the Roman Empire, particularly in the case of Christians who were Roman citizens (as Paul was, for example), although Rome (both then and later) used other forms of capital punishment, as well, such as in the case of Christ. The reference would have linked these individuals in the minds of contemporary readers specifically with Roman persecution at that time. I do not believe that it implies any "special" status in God's eyes related to this particular form of martyrdom.
“The soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezek 18:4). In my opinion, the death of the soul is called the “second death” in Rev 2:11 and 20:6. This is by everlasting fire - and the fires of Hell can also incapacitate much of the soul over a period of time before its final judgment. For any normal death there is a period of rigor mortis which stabilizes the body so the soul can depart in a natural way. In my opinion, a beheading temporarily interrupts the normal separation of soul from body so that there is a period where the dead person is unable to attempt any spiritual act of vengeance upon his enemies. The period may be weeks, months or even a number of years. Any desecration of the body during or immediately after death may temporarily incapacitate the soul in its journey from the physical to the spiritual realm. I believe this is the reason beheading was so instinctively popular over the earth in the past, and will be resumed in the future when the soul will become a universally accepted fact.
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