And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
Wars and rumors of wars. . . .
From the dawn of history man has been at war. Adam and Eve declared war against God by allying themselves with Satan, bringing death upon themselves and us. Immediately their own intimate relationship of friendship as husband and wife was sorely disrupted. Eve did not love Adam any more after she had fallen and he still stood in the state of righteousness. She lured him into joining her in her rebellion against God, so that they became companions in sin, hiding from God. Eve felt a twinge of agony in her soul when Adam sought to excuse himself for his sin by pointing to the woman God had given him.
The breach of sin had already cut deeply into their lives, a breach that only grace can heal. This breach became more violent as time progressed. Cain rose against Abel and killed his brother, because his brother was righteous and he was evil. The seed of the serpent in the generations of Cain made war against the church, the descendants of Seth. After the flood this strife became even more evident. When the descendants of Noah united themselves in alliance against God, God looked down from heaven upon their foolishness, confused their language and scattered them over the earth. As they spread, they grew into tribes and nations which were soon making war with one another, each trying to gain supremacy over the other. The history of the old dispensation cannot be read without shuddering at the cruelty of the sword, which cut up mothers with child, mutilated prisoners, and wiped out whole generations. We read of horses running around without hoofs, of kings under the victor’s table, trying to snatch food that was thrown to them, even while their thumbs had been cut off. Israel, representing God’s covenant people, was always in the center of the conflict. First they were victims of Egypt’s oppression, then threatened by Syria’s pride, then sorely wounded by Assyria’s onslaughts, led into captivity by haughty Nebuchadnezzar. Yet Babylon’s insatiable greed for power was soon imitated by the Medo-Persian lion with eagle’s wings, then by the Macedonian empire as a bear with three bones in its mouth, followed by the Roman Empire, the leopard with fowl’s wings, as described in Daniel 7.
All of these conflicts were only the preliminary skirmishings of the wars and rumors of wars in the new dispensation, which Jesus speaks of as signs of the times. These wars were still limited to a small area of the globe. As the nations spread farther and farther, covering all the ends of the earth, the wars also take on a far broader scope. The red horse of Revelation 6 follows wherever the gospel is preached; and soon bloody conflicts arise, as one nation tries to gain supremacy over others, as one king sets his throne upon the ashes and ruins of his predecessor. More and still more tribes, nations, and kingdoms are involved. Larger and more destructive instruments of war are invented as history rushes toward its end. More recent times bring up such names as Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, and their imitators. Our present generation has known two world wars, a Korean war, a war in Viet Nam, constant turmoil in the Mid-East, disturbances in South America, in Asia, and even in the tribes of Africa.
Wars and rumors of wars, and the end is not yet.
War is a horrible thing.
Although many of us have never had to pass through the anxiety of real warfare, we do know something about it. We have read about it, and heard of the horrible experiences of those who were involved in World War II with the invasions of Hitler. Our young men have been called into service, have seen actual conflict, have lost their friends, have suffered wounds; some have not returned. Many families have felt the care of anxious waiting, the bitter loss of a dear one.
War is horrible. Heated passions, bitter wrath, lust for gain, envy and hatred lift their foul heads. Sirens scream; men, women, and children, stricken with fear, flee to the nearest bomb shelter to sit huddled together, dreading the outcome. War planes thunder over head, bombs scream and burst into fire, houses and factories, dams and bridges, whole cities crumble under their devastating blast. Cattle, and crops are destroyed, fields are ruined for years to come. Dead bodies lie unburied on the streets, others are maimed, crippled, to become basket cases the rest of their lives. Who can estimate the damage of a single war? Think, for example, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left in total ruin only thirty years ago.
War wreaks unimaginable physical destruction, but the ruin it does to man’s soul is even worse. War is accompanied by dishonesty, deceit, treachery, stealing, as if they were to be condoned. Drunkenness, drug addiction, rape, the vilest immoralities are taken for granted. Men become worse than beasts, as if there were no God in heaven.
The aftermath of war brings the misery of hunger and starvation, the onslaughts of various diseases and uncontrollable epidemics. Today doctors are still puzzled by some new virus that makes its appearance from time to time. All modern medicine cannot cope with these judgments that God sends upon the earth. It has been said that “war is hell”; although this is a bit of exaggeration, it surely reminds us of the reality that awaits a rebellious world steeped in iniquity.
These modern wars are still nothing compared to the conflict that must still come, when all the world’s ingenuity will prepare armament and weapons to be used in an all-out war involving all the nations and peoples of the earth. The last battle of Armageddon still remains to be fought. The end is not yet.
What causes war?
Jesus says, “All these things must come to pass.” Why the “must”?
Wars, rumors of wars, fear, death, destruction, all are in the eternal counsel of God, fulfilling His purpose. The Church shall be purified, protected and gathered from the Babylon of this world. The eternal day must come in the fullness of time. The cup of iniquity shall be filled. Wicked man must indulge his final vanity, sin his final sin, wreak destruction in his final war.
Why does man war?
The cause of war, as far as man is concerned, lies in his unbelief. Unbelief is always the root sin out of which all other sins must follow. Eve preferred to believe Satan rather than her God, even when the devil flatly contradicted God with the bold falsehood, “Ye shall not surely die.” Having put God out of her thoughts, the next step was easy. How that tree charmed her! How strong became that proud desire to be as God, knowing good and evil. How irresistibly her hand went out to the forbidden fruit!
Having done away with God, the fallen human race disposes of God’s law to set up its own standard of right and wrong. Today every person decides for himself what his moral standard will be and how far he will live up to it.
James says (James 4:1, 2), “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
Man first makes war against God, then against his neighbor. In his heart is always that sinful ambition to be as God. Man lives only unto himself, to seek himself, to satisfy his pride, his lusts, his evil passions. Bitter hatred, cruel jealousies, cold vengeance must follow. Many kings and rulers have actually set themselves up as if they were God, worthy to be worshipped by men. Think of Pharaoh who defiantly asked Moses: “Who is God that I should obey Him?” Think of Nebuchadnezzar, who set up a golden image with its dimensions according to the number six ofRevelation 13, demanding that every prince and ruler in his kingdom bow down and worship the image, How Nebuchadnezzar’s fury burned when he discovered three Hebrews, whom he had exalted to positions of authority in his kingdom, publicly refusing to bow down and worship their benefactor! The hottest furnace was not sufficient to pacify his rage—no, not until he saw the presence of the Angel of Jehovah protecting His servants was his fury abated. Even then Nebuchadnezzar refused to bow down before the living God. He still boastfully said: “Is not this the great Babylon that I have built?” The Caesars and Herods wanted to be recognized as God, even as the Savior of the world. They are the fulfillment of Psalm 2: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us:” In their representatives the kings of earth join with the chief priests and rulers of Israel to crucify the Christ. Throughout the new dispensation they purpose to destroy the Church, that the very name of God may perish from the earth. The kings of the earth reach their culmination in the Man of Sin, that Abominable One of whom Daniel speaks, who sits on the throne, of the nations as if he were God, bringing utter ruin and desolation upon the earth as the measure of iniquity fills up.
He Who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord holds them in derision. For, as Jesus assures us, “the end is not yet.”
The disciples had asked Jesus: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” They had spoken of “end” in the sense of “finish” or “completion.” Jesus now refers to that end, but uses another word which means “goal.” He emphasizes that history does not merely run its course, but that the Most High carries out the purpose of His will toward His own destiny, or goal. Nations may rage, and peoples may imagine vain things; but God has eternally set His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as Lord over all in the highest heavens! All of man’s strivings are vain. They may boast of fighting wars to prevent or to end all war; but as long as they stand in rebellion against God, they can only hate, defy, and oppose the neighbor. They fill the measure of iniquity unto the day of wrath.
In the meantime the white horse of Revelation 6 runs his course, gathering God’s Church, conquering and to conquer, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ forever and ever. God is King forever, let the nations tremble!
“See that ye be not troubled.”
Our Lord impresses upon us a double admonition. The first is: “See, take note.” The second is: “Be ye not troubled.”
Do not let your heart be troubled as if some strange thing has come to pass upon you. Do not let your soul be troubled, as if Satan and evil men have control of the affairs of this life, as if God were not on the throne.
Our Lord understands the thoughts and the imagination of our hearts, even better than we do. He knows our doubts, our fears, which arise from our shortsightedness, especially when trials and affliction are our lot, or when our hearts bleed because of the ragings and tumults of the nations. The Lord warns us: “Be ye not troubled, but find your peace in God alone.”
God has the hearts of kings and rulers in His almighty hand, to turn them at His will. God reigns supreme in the heavens, over Satan who does his worst because he has a little while, and over the enemies that would wipe God’s name from off the earth. Nothing happens, not even in that broad arena of warfare in which nations clash in mortal combat, that God does not determine and control, so that even war serves His purpose toward the gathering and purifying of His saints, and the hastening of His eternal day.
Be alert; watch in prayer.
Let the Word of God always be your guide, the lamp before your feet and the light upon your pathway. Only when we search the Scriptures and recognize the signs of Christ’s coming can our hearts rest in peace in God, even during wars and rumors of war.
Hear Christ say in the ragings of the nations: “Behold, I come quickly.”
Be able to respond: “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, quickly.”