“If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow.” – 2 Kings 10:6
The purpose of terrorism is to shock an enemy and through fear incapacitate them. The hope is that the fear instilled in an enemy will be greater than its will to resist. Terrorists are seeking to incapacitate through decapitation. It’s working. The modern day terror group ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is already surpassing Al Qaeda in its recruiting and geographical gobbling up of territory. ISIS is doing this through the gruesome media imagery of decapitation. Few groups have risen to prominence as fast as ISIS and they are rising on the swipe of their swords and saws. Their brutality is proving to be an effective intimidation strategy causing whole cities to surrender to their demands for fear of the consequences.
The vivid realities in the world today are not for the faint of heart. Media is bringing the gory blood lust of decapitation into our living rooms. No longer is such evil an isolated incident. Beheadings are something that have garnered the world’s attention. There is a sinister influence intertwined with these beheadings.
Beheadings are nothing new. Beheading, historically, is a cost effective efficient means to execute a person. They were usually performed with an axe or sword. Later in Europe the guillotine was the instrument of choice. If performed properly beheading is a humane way of executing a person. The beheaded person loses consciousness in 2-3, at most 7 seconds. Death is the result of a sudden loss of blood pressure and blood. The severing of the spinal cord and loss of oxygen not to mention the effects of shock all lead to a swift death. Capital punishment has been abolished in Europe but beheadings continue to this day in parts of the Middle East (e.g. Saudi Arabia). And the fashion in which beheadings are performed nowadays are far from humane.
Beheadings are a favorite practice not only of terror groups. Drug cartels have used beheading for years as a means of not only eliminating their opposition but making a statement to discourage others from opposing their illegal commerce. Cartels seek to emasculate local government officials with such tactics. We are told by those who study such things that decapitations occur on a daily basis. There are hundreds of beheadings that occur around the world. It is the contemporary media presentation of beheadings that have brought this practice to our attention in an all too up front and personal way. 
Beheading is something found in the Bible. David cut off the head of Goliath (1 Samuel 17). King Saul’s son Ishbosheth was beheaded (2 Sam. 4:5-7). Jehu, in fulfillment of Elijah’s prophetic word against the house of Ahab, beheaded Ahab’s seventy sons. He sent letters stating “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow” (2 Kings 10:6). For fear of retribution from Jehu his command was fulfilled. Jehu also put the prophets of Baal to the “edge of the sword” (2 Kings 10). This is an extremely gruesome chapter in Israel’s history. Taken in isolation we could easily be appalled. But King Ahab had been exceedingly wicked and evil. The LORD through Elijah had warned him (1 Kings 21:21-22). Ahab brushed off the prophetic warnings and persisted in his wicked ways. He reaped what he sowed.
In the New Testament John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod (Matthew 14:10; Mark 6:16, 27; Luke 9:9). James was beheaded (Acts 12:2). The followers of God have been persecuted and destroyed viciously throughout history. Beheadings are nothing new.
Beheading can be an instrument of the governing powers or the instrument of those opposed to the governing powers. What is the purpose and message of the beheadings used by such groups as ISIS today? Psychological warfare is definitely one purpose of beheadings. When one person beheads another it communicates total control over total vulnerability. It feeds the savage seduction for power for the one doing the cutting. It starves the one victimized of any hope of mercy. Islam is the perfect conduit for such interactions.
Why are beheadings rising to such prominence? There’s something in the fallen sinful nature that is prone to rubber neck and watch the gruesome, especially when it involves blood and dismemberment. Perhaps today’s generation has been desensitized to bloodletting through video gaming where decapitation is commonplace. The raging rebelling warrior spirit of the disenfranchised is also drawn to the gruesomeness of beheading. The cell phones of captured terrorists commonly contain images of decapitation. And in a vile demonic way beheading has become a kind of rite of passage and initiation into terror groups. It’s a badge of honor to a terrorist to be a part of a group that will go all the way in brazen beheadings.
We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). Humanity has a mind to think and a chest with a heart to make decisions. There can be little doubt that any and all efforts to scar and dismember humanity are rooted in Satan’s raging maniacal effort to desecrate the image of God by marring the human body. Separate the head from the bodies’ heart. When you see the grisly ghastly destruction of human beings you can be sure the ultimate author of it is Abaddon, The Destroyer (Rev. 9:11).
The response of the world to the images of beheadings is telling. But what does it tell us? Time will tell. We are confronted with beheadings today and it takes our breath away. But since 1974 when abortion was legalized literally millions of abortions have been performed using techniques far worse than beheading. Abortions are performed with such techniques as Suction Aspiration or Curettage, and Dilation and Extraction all of which are mercilessly and disgustingly gruesome. And while terrorists have begun more frequent beheading of children, they are no match for abortions destruction of the human in embryo. Apparently, based on the absence of an enduring outcry, people have become used to such carnage. There certainly are images of abortion as gruesome as that of the terrorist’s beheadings. Just Google “Images of Abortion” and you’ll see. If we can become accepting of abortion, will we also grow to accept beheadings? What does this tell us about human nature; the sinful nature? There’s something seriously wrong here.
The church is described as a body with Jesus as its Head (Col. 1:18). The decapitation of a human body is a demonic statement of removing Jesus the Head from the Church Body. It is a demonic statement against Jesus Christ. The prophetic word of scripture tells us many saints will be beheaded in the latter days (Rev. 20:4). To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). But there may be a more serious separation taking place that is being exposed through the ghoulish terrorist henchmen. Does not the absence of grief and being appalled at abortion and possibly the one day desensitization to the imagery of terror decapitation expose a fatal disconnect between the heart of Christ and the heart of humanity?
The apostle John was inspired to write, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). If that verse indicts those who withhold “goods” from those in need, isn’t it even more indicting for those who stand by and accept the destruction of humanity as long as it doesn’t personally affect them? Let me tell you something; ISIS is literally at the southern borders of the United States and it very possibly won’t be long before beheadings are taking place on our soil. If they come to our churches and start beheading people, then what will you do? Will you renounce Christ to live? Or will you join the ranks of beheaded saints?
In Revelation we are told that the saints “overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11). Have you been forgiven and cleansed from your sin by the blood of Jesus through faith in Christ? What is your testimony? What does you response to the brutality in the world expose about how you really feel in your heart? Do you love your life more than Jesus? The time may come when such a decision may have to be made. What will you decide?
Why beheadings? Beheadings reveal the dark destructive demonic talons that have sunk into Christ-rejecting humanity. But maybe the gruesome bloodletting exposes something else. Maybe the present or eventual innocuous response of “Christians” to what is happening to their brethren also serves to identify the tares from the wheat. If we can look on with curiosity at the gruesome images with no tangible response other than a “My, my, isn’t that terrible,” then there’s no pulse to our spiritual heart. If we can watch the carnage with nary a prayer or letter to a government official or vote or demonstration or some kind of responding action, are we alive spiritually? If we can watch the carnage and just let it go business as usual, what does that flat-line tell us of our spiritual heart beat?
But what can we do? We can pray. And we can seek the Lord’s intervention on behalf of our persecuted brethren. Seek the Lord to protect them. Seek the Lord for His will to be done. Seek the Lord in full surrender to see what He might want “me” to do. Seek the Lord and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Pray and be ready to put shoes on your prayers.
We have two choices. Jesus said, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: . . . . Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34, 40). And Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 45-46). Why beheadings? Maybe to get our attention about a choice we need to make.