Whose interested in war? We aren’t involved in fighting wars now, we don’t even have an active draft for young men. Why think about war?
Well, that’s just the point.
Lest we become complacent and relegate wars to ancient history, we had better do some serious thinking about war as it applies to us today.
Looking back, we notice that war has played a large role in our American history. We have been involved in nine wars: The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Put them all together and they cover 42 years or about one-fourth the time of our country’s existence. Over one-half million of our young men were killed during these conflicts. In the past, wars have certainly touched the lives of Americans in a direct and personal way.
What about the future?
Two things are significant here. We have just lost our first war; no matter how the politicians may try to cover up, we lost the Vietnam War. The cause for which thousands of young Americans gave their lives, namely, to safeguard South Vietnam from a Communist takeover, failed. Today all of Vietnam is in the hands of the Communists. We lost, not because we lacked military might; no, we have plenty of weapons. We lost because we lost the will to fight. Americans did not want war any more. This is significant. The second thing is that we do not have an active draft program. Our army is “voluntary”. We are cutting back the acceleration of weapon production. It seems as if America is pretty much putting war out of its mind. Will there be war no more? Are young men safe in planning their future? Is this wonderful? Must we thank God for this? Does this make the future bright for youthful Christians?
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
War is an expression of man’s depravity as a result of sin. We can be sure that as long as the earth remains, there will lurch within the dark recesses of man’s heart the urge and lust for conquest. God described man’s evil in these terms, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually”, Gen. 6:5. In the New Testament, the Spirit tells us, that the natural man is, “filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate,” etc, Rom. 1:29. Adam fell into sin as a king, the king of the creation; and now that desire to rule over all the earth is corrupted, not lost, but corrupted so that man dreams of world conquest and the lust for power courses through his veins. He longs for the earth’s wealth and wants to take what does not belong to him. Of these things, war is composed.
That nature of man is the same today, no matter what the lie of Liberalism within the churches may say. War is like a lion in the breast of every man. Man is not improving, society is not becoming better. No, man is becoming worse and the drive for war is stronger than ever.
This is not to say that all war is sinful.
Pacifism seems to be the “in” thing within the modem church today. Surely, the Christian does not extol war. We shudder to think of it; it is repulsive; it is the terrible curse of God upon sin. How can anyone ever glamorize war? Bloodshed, wounded soldiers, assaulted innocents, devastated land, the cries of the widows and orphans, chill the heart. No, we do not say that war is desirable in itself. It is easy for us to understand how the pendulum has swung from militarism to pacifism.
War, however, must be viewed within the framework of God’s authority granted to government. We read in Rom. 13:4, “For he (that is the ruler) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He does this in two ways, first, by punishing criminals within society, either byimprisonment, fines, or ultimately capital punishment. Secondly, he does this by protecting the citizens from attack. War is part of the arsenal of self-defense. This may be either of one’s own country, or if by treaty a country promises to help protect the right of existence to another country. Within the framework of protection from attack, war is a legitimate tool of government.
We readily admit that the application of this principle is what creates problems. How is a war of self-defense to be distinguished from a war of aggression? Our recent debacle in Vietnam demonstrated this only too well. Shouldn’t we learn one thing, that the citizen, no matter how informed he may be, is hardly in a position to make a correct judgment on the legitimacy of war. There are so many secret commitments, so much political intrigue, that the responsibility of the moral aspects of war rest to a large extent upon the elected officials. True, within the framework of our type of government, the citizen is responsible and must exercise that response correctly; yet when it comes to war, there certainly are limitations upon this ability. It seems rather. presumptuous for a citizen to stand up and lead a large segment of our citizenry against the government, to oppose war, on the basis of common knowledge.
CHRIST, THE LORD OF WAR
The privilege of a Christian is not to get overwhelmed in a debate that seems to produce only confusion, rather to evaluate events in the light of Scripture and acknowledge that the Lordship of Christ affords inestimable comfort in trying to understand the sovereignty of God over against war.
God’s Word declares clearly, “By me kings reign,” Prov. 8:15. Or, “The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, as rivers of water he turneth it whithersoever he will,” Prov. 21:1. God is indeed sovereign over kings.
This sovereignty is rooted in His will to redeem His church out of the fallen world and to crush the serpent and his brood, once for all. This He did by the blood of Calvary. At the cross, Christ established Himself as God’s Ruler in the midst of the world. He took from Satan any claim he had upon His people and secured righteousness for His own. Christ now directs all things for the sake of the salvation of His beloved church. True, He also did this already in the Old Testament by type and shadow. Babel is a powerful example. According to Gen. 11 the whole world remained as one people in the plain of Shinar. God knew that that could not continue for two reasons. First, He willed to gather His church from nations, not just individual people; and secondly, while they were united as one, they posed as a threat to God’s covenant people, they would easily destroy the very elect from their midst. So for the elect’s sake, God came down and confused their languages, formed the nations, and scattered them over the face of the earth.
Since then, the dealings of the nations have had a direct affect upon the church that is in the midst of them. The nations exist for the church, not the other way around. This includes the wars of the nations. Rev. 6:4 makes plain that the red horse follows the white horse and serves it. The preaching of the gospel is first; the red horse of war follows and serves the gospel. How? By the distraction of the nations in war, the godless rulers do not try to wipe out the church from the face of the earth. The church under God’s providential direction is able to be gathered by her mission work while the nations tight battles.
WAR AND THE END OF THE WORLD
Matt. 24:6 speaks of wars, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” As part of the continuing process that leads to the end of the world, wars must be fought and the threat of still greater wars must prevail.
It is also Scriptural that man will succeed in causing wars to cease. This has been true in history; temporarily men are able to bring peace among the nations. This will be supremely true at the time of antichrist. For a time, the wounded head of the beast,Rev. 13:3, will be healed. The division brought by Babel will be taken away, and the nations will enjoy unity. They will usurp falsely, the fulfillment of Isa. 2:4, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Already these words are inscribed upon the United Nations building. Antichrist will claim for himself the peace promised by the prophets to the children of God in heaven. Doesn’t this explain the attitude on the part of many American people already? They lost the will to fight. Nations talk about detente, peaceful co-existence, arms limitation, etc. Are we not on the threshold of antichrist? How careful the Christian must be to realize that the “peace” of antichrist will not be his safety and surety. Rather, it will occasion the great tribulation prophesied in Rev. 13; for all who will not recognize the beast, antichrist, will be persecuted.
There is one more thing as far as war is concerned. It will be the final great downfall of the nations. Because the nature of man is always the same, and antichrist does not change the heart of man, man’s lust for war persists. The heathen nations, such as China, the third-world nations, will rise up against the nominally Christian nations, such as America, in the last and final battle called Armageddon, cf. Rev. 20:7-9. This will demonstrate that apart from Christ, man cannot build a great society. Man can only produce a kingdom built on sinking sand. The fearful cry of the ungodly will be, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” While foolish man stands poised with his long range missiles and nuclear armaments. While man begins that battle, he will never finish it: for in the midst of it Christ will personally return. The sun will be darkened, the moon will turn into blood, the earth will quake, tidal waves will destroy the cities, and man will cry unto the mountains to cover them and the seas to swallow them up. Yes, war will be the last event in history, not to allow man to destroy himself, but to show that God’s judgment upon the fallen human race is true. Hatred, envy, and death is his portion.
CHRIST OUR PEACE
Hence, we do not set our hearts upon the peace of the world. We realize that earthly, national peace will bring persecution for the Christian. Yet, that does not disturb us as young people. Terrible prospect, you say. Yes, it is from a natural point of view. Yet, from a spiritual perspective it will signal the nearness of the personal return of Christ. As God speaks in judgment to the ungodly, He speaks of the sure promises of the return of Christ to His people.
This is the blessed hope for all of God’s children.
Now we have peace in Jesus Christ. No, not peace among the nations. Peace as Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” John 14:27. This peace endures through all the hardships of life, wars, persecution, afflictions. It is sure and steadfast, for it is implanted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God.
We have the privilege to set our hearts upon a true international and lasting peace that will be the true fulfillment of all Scripture’s prophesies. When Christ comes, He will destroy the wicked, burn the present heaven and earth in fire, Rev. 21 and II Peter 3:7. He will create a new heaven and earth, and upon it shall descend the Jerusalem, the glorified Church made up of people from every nation under heaven. The redeemed shall sing a new song, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, people and nation,” Rev. 5:9.
International peace brought about by Jesus Christ, whose salvation, changes the hearts of men from hatred, lust, covetousness, unto love, contentment, and praise.
How great is the salvation of our God.
He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth!