It is generally agreed in orthodox church circles today that the present “global-war” must be viewed as a judgment of God upon the earth. To be sure, another explanation is offered of this conflict. It is said that we are fighting for the most precious heritage which man can possibly enjoy, namely, the right and liberty for each man to live his own life,. And we are fighting for this invaluable possession over against the forces of barbarism and cruelty. This explanation would explain the present world-wide conflict solely from the viewpoint of man. However, it is generally acknowledged, particularly in orthodox church circles, mankind today is being visited by the judgments of God.
One hears much today of the terribleness of war. And, indeed, who will describe the misery which is the inevitable result of a conflict such as is being waged today, the like of which the world has never before witnessed? The world had not even recovered from the horrors of 25 years ago when it was plunged into another catastrophe greater than the one before. The scars of that conflict are still in evidence among us. What a misery a war as of the present must leave in its wake! What an agony of soul caused by the fact that thousands upon thousands fail to return from the various battle-fronts! Besides, how many will there be who are rendered helpless invalids throughout their mortal days? “War is hell”, declared a certain general some years ago; and, although he with these words clearly revealed that he had not the faintest conception of hell, we are all nevertheless agreed as to the terribleness of war.
This, however, views war merely from the human point of view. There is another aspect of war which is oftentimes entirely lost sight of. Do we, as people of God, ever ask ourselves the question, “However terrible this war and all wars may be, would it not be more terrible if, in this world of sin and darkness and corruption, all wars and rumors of wars would cease?” Do we sufficiently realize not only that God is somehow realizing His eternal kingdom through these catastrophes, but that the holy and just and righteous God cannot reveal Himself differently to a perverse and godless generation than in the way of judgment? Would a different manifestation of the God of our salvation be more comforting and reassuring to the church of God? However dreadful war may be and however terrible the misery may be which always follows in its wake, is it not true that war, when viewed from the viewpoint of God, assumes an entirely different aspect? It is said that wars are the result of sin, also of the sins of the church, and that if the people of Cod confess their sin this war will soon end, that victory will be ours. But is it Scriptural to teach that if the church of God confess her sin, these wars will cease in the midst of the world? It seems to me that we must view these matters from another and more realistic point of view.
Indeed, wars are the result of sin. This is an undeniable fact. Lust for power has been a cause of war throughout the ages. History abundantly testifies to this fact. Men like Alexander the Great and Napoleon were certainly driven on by a mad thirst for world-domination. And does it not belong to the creed of Nazism that the German race is the superior race, and that all other peoples must be subject to it? Besides, is it not generally acknowledged today, also in the democratic countries of the world, that this present conflict and the last world-war are inseparably related to each other? Must we not now lay the groundwork for a lasting and enduring and just peace and avoid the mistakes which were made some 25 years ago? Moreover, what else than war can we expect of men (including ourselves) concerning whom we confess that they are conceived and born dead in sins and trespasses, haters of God, and enemies of one another? Is not war the natural result of -the principle of enmity which fills the hearts of all men? Surely, war is the result of sin. None would dare refute this fact.
Moreover, also in this respect the church of God has a calling. Firstly, she must not entangle herself with the world in a vain seeking of a vain peace. One hears much today of a righteous and enduring peace. However, there is no righteous and enduring peace except the peace of Calvary. And the church of God must, never permit herself to recognize any other peace. Any other peace except that of Calvary is surely nothing else than the attempt of sinful man to establish prosperity, to destroy the results of sin without confessing sin itself. And it is the calling of the church, not only to refrain from this activity of the world, but also to proclaim the judgment of God upon it and be the party of the living God and of the Prince of Peace also in this respect. Secondly, it is the calling of the church to shew forth the light of God’s Word and proclaim the gospel of God in Christ, This we must do in order that out of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue the church of God may be gathered and all the people of God, according to God’s sovereign will, may come to the knowledge of the truth,. And in this proclamation of the gospel of God the church may well remember that it pleases the Lord to save all classes of men, so that the prayer for the salvation of those who are in authority must not be neglected, if only we remember that God saves also from among them those whom He elected before the foundation of the world. However, even so and also by means of this shewing forth of the light of God’s Word, the church will be the party of the living God over against the world. The church is surely a definite, elect people whose calling it is to be the party of the living God over against a world which lieth in darkness. This church the Lord will lead into everlasting heavenly glory. Throughout the history of this time the cause of God will be opposed by the party of darkness. This party of darkness is, naturally, the stronger from every point of view. And, hence, the church must understand that her future hope does not lie in an ultimate salvation of the world and an earthy restoration of all things. Rather, she must be the party of the living God and never fail to proclaim the judgment of God upon an unrepentant and unbelieving world. This life of the antithesis is our calling. And besides, it pleases God to save His church also through the hatred of a naturally stronger world in order that our salvation may proclaim the praise of His glory.
We must bear in mind that God cannot reveal Himself over against this wicked world except as the God of judgment. We too often forget that it is God Who wages war. Too often we view war as merely waged by men. We ought to remember that Jehovah has declared war on this world already from the beginning of (time. These wars and rumors of war whereof Scripture speaks are declarations of God Himself and are inseparably connected with the coming of His kingdom. This, I say, we must ever bear in mind, if we are to be comforted also in the midst of the present world-conflict. War must be viewed in the light of God, only in the light of God. Only then will we be able to understand that it would be more terrible if the living God would permit a wicked world to live at peace.
The living God is always judging the world. And this judgment is ever a judgment of condemnation. The Lord’s attitude towards the world is never an attitude of love but of wrath. This the Heidelberg Catechism would teach us in Lord’s Day 4 where we read that God punishes the wicked with temporal misery and eternal punishment in hell. Temporal misery is not temporary misery, which is but for a short time, but it refers to the eternal and unchangeable wrath of God, which, because it is eternal and unchangeable, therefore also strikes the wicked in this time. What other attitude could God assume towards the wicked whom His soul hateth! For the Lord is the living God. He is a Light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is the Absolute Good, the God of infinite perfections. As such He is the God of eternal love and righteousness. The remark is heard so often nowadays that the God of love cannot permit this catastrophe to continue much longer. They who express these sentiments forget, however, that God’s love is fundamentally divine self-love. Jehovah loves Himself as the absolute good. And as the God of righteousness He eternally wills Himself and is perfectly devoted to Himself. This also explains His relation to the creature, particularly man. Loving Himself He only can love those who are like unto Himself. Hence, He loves His people, not as they are in themselves, but only as they are in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And loving His people in Christ Jesus He blesses them, seeks their eternal happiness and salvation, and exercises covenant-fellowship with them. How different, however, is the Lords’ attitude towards the wicked, the reprobate world. Them His soul hates every day. Life and blessedness we can experience only in fellowship with the Lord. Apart from Him is death. That the Lord alone is life and peace also the sinner who forsakes Him must experience. This he experiences in the way of misery and death. Never does the Lord stand in an attitude of love towards him. Never does he experience peace within his soul. The Lord is against him and causes all things to work together unto his eternal ruin and destruction. And also, in this life misery and death is his lot. The ravages of sin are experienced daily in his body. He is filled with spiritual darkness and death. Never is it his privilege to experience the blessedness of the service of the living God. This judgment of God also reveals itself in wars and rumors of wars and other world-wide calamities. Special judgments of the Lord they are, when Jehovah causes even the world to pause, as it were, and taste the very evident outpouring of the wrath of God upon an evil world. Surely, these wars are also caused by the spirit of enmity and, hatred which lurks in every human heart. But it is the living God Who, through man’s wickedness, plunges this godless world into ever increasing misery and sorrow. Was not the last war the war to end all wars? In vain, however, will a wicked world which refuses to acknowledge the living God succeed in banishing wars and rumors of war. In vain will this wicked world establish an era of peace and happiness without the living God. In vain will this world liberate herself from the results of sin. In vain will she seek an end of these miseries, until at the end of time the world will be united against the cause of God and Christ here below, only to be plunged immediately thereafter into everlasting desolation.
Can the Christian derive comfort from this presentation of Scripture? Indeed he can. Surely, to pursue after a just and righteous and enduring peace is like pursuing a phantom or the end of a rainbow. What comfort can we derive from praying for and seeking a peace which cannot be? If, however, we conduct ourselves as the party of the living God, we can be comforted with the thought that these judgments are the judgments of a living God, the manifestation of the God of our salvation towards a wicked world. Let us confess our sins, humble ourselves deeply before God, not to secure thereby an end of world hostilities, but to experience the blessedness that, in the midst of these judgments in which also the church is involved, we may taste the peace that even now God is caring for us and causing all things to work together for our salvation.