No More War!… But When?
"And they will hammer their swords into plowshares;… Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war" Isaiah 2:4 NAS
War is a painfully sad part of human nature…and history. Even Jesus warned of "wars and rumors of wars" before he would return to establish world-wide peace. (Matthew 24:6) How will Isaiah’s prophecy ever be fulfilled?
Today a decade after 9-11 many are saying the war in Iraq to eliminate "weapons of mass destruction" was worse than useless. Why? No evidence of WMD’s was ever found—and the war created something that did not exist—Al Qaeda in Iraq. The war destabilized Iraq and fanned the flames of internal ancient ethnic/religious conflict. Besides taking the lives of over 4,000 military personnel with over 31,000 wounded in action, there has been the suffering of non-combatant Iraqis. Iraqbodycount.org reports that civilian deaths in the Iraq War since 2003 is estimated at 115,000. Just like previously prolonged wars—Vietnam and Korea—the toll has been appalling.
Although casualty figures may be lower than in the major wars of the 20th Century, the economic cost of post 9/11 wars has shaken national and world-wide economies. Estimated war costs over the past 9 years averaged $3,000 per second. (For Iraq the bill reached $800 Billion and for Afghanistan $500 Billion.) The military budget presently eats up three billion dollars per day just to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan (America’s longest war). Furthermore, the war in Afghanistan is not over. More important, and what ears do not hear about the tragedy of continuing death—not only of those killed in action, but also from later deaths related to wounds. But that is not all….
Most shockingly are the suicides ("18 Veterans Commit Suicide Each Day," Army Times, April 22, 2010). On January 19, 2012, the New York Times reported Army officials saying: "Suicides among active-duty soldiers hit another record high in 2011." Why? Why so many? Returning veterans arrive home with personal mental wounds and scars—facing family crises and job issues. But getting the help needed is difficult and some vets do not ask for or get the care they need to undo their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not surprisingly, the old economic expression "Butter or Guns" makes it quite clear why the US expenditures for the wars have left little for the poor and needy.
But Should We as Christians Serve in the Military?
Certainly Christians—even as "pilgrims and strangers"—should appreciate and respect the governments under which they live. (1 Peter 2:11) Jesus himself was challenged about paying taxes to the government of Rome. He then asked to be shown the "tribute money"—and asked whose "portrait...and inscription" were on it? When they answered the obvious, "Caesar’s," he responded logically and consistently, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God’s." (Matthew 22:17-22)
But what about when governments expect Christians to become part of their military to defend their country? Again, Jesus himself gives us guidelines to live by. When summoned before Pilate, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight…." (John 18:33-37) Jesus was clear also when he said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52) But what exactly is the Christian’s warfare? Actually it is a personal spiritual warfare against their own flesh, the world and Satan. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; 1 Timothy 1:18, 19)
Jesus Reigns when He Returns at Second Advent
The Bible does speak of the time when, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15-16) As a matter of fact, the Scriptures also speak of the followers of Christ even reigning with power as "kings." (Revelation 1:6; 5:10) But according to prophecy, this Kingdom of Jesus Christ would not be established until Jesus would return.
Evidently at his first advent, Jesus’ disciples thought he would go to Jerusalem to set up his Kingdom immediately. Even at the time of his ascension—they wanted to know when he would restore the Kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6) But earlier he had illustrated with a parable how he would first go away—and that he would return with Kingly authority to set up his Kingdom. He portrayed himself going to "a far country"—heaven itself—to receive the Kingdom from his Father.
In the meantime, according to the language of the parable, Jesus’ followers should "occupy" (manage) as faithful stewards the "pound" (wealth—here symbolic of justification) he gave each one of them. Thus each fully committed justified believer was expected to produce personal fruitage—Christian character. What each servant would become and do would vary. Finally at Jesus’ return, he would first reward his faithful disciples, who only after their resurrection would reign with him as "joint-heirs" in his Kingdom. (Romans 8:17)
"And as they [disciples] heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he [Jesus] was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, ‘A certain nobleman [Jesus] went into a far country [heaven] to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come….’" Luke 19:11-14
But Many Christians did not Wait for Jesus to Return.
While Christians were persecuted by Pagan Rome in the first four centuries, that challenge was soon reversed when Roman Emperor Constantine saw the advantage of cooperating with Christianity.
Regrettably, many Christians by the Third Century were weary of waiting for Christ’s return to set up his Kingdom. When opportunity appeared, they joined with the secular leaders and became part of a false "Kingdom of God." They illicitly "married" the "kings of earth" and became a "harlot" system—as depicted in the Book of Revelation! As such, this false church, "Babylon," reigned over the "nations" and "kings of the earth" as a "great city." (Revelation 14:8; 17:15-18)
While the "mystery of iniquity" was festering in the Early Church (2 Thessalonians 2:2)—this nominal Christian Church then aggressively fought with carnal weapons supposedly defending the Kingdom of Christ. This so-called "Church" also mercilessly persecuted dissenters within its midst calling them "heretics" when many were really true Christians. "I saw that the woman [harlot church] was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished." (Revelation 17:6 NIV)
Christian Crusaders on the March
But not only did the false church ruthlessly persecute those within its grasp, but it campaigned in wars to re-conquer the Holy Land. From the 11th through the 13th centuries, the "Christian Crusades" ploughed through nations like a plague—to conquer and retake Jerusalem from the Muslims for the church of Rome.
The First Crusade was launched in 1095 with the battle cry "Deus Vult"—God wills it (merriam-webster.com), a mandate to destroy "infidels" in the Holy Land. Crusaders gathering in Germany first fell upon "the infidel among us,"—meaning the Jews in the Rhine river valley. Thousands of them were dragged from their homes or hiding places and hacked to death or burned alive. Then the religious legions plundered their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem, where they killed virtually every inhabitant, supposedly "purifying" the symbolic city. One Crusade of these holy wars murderously descended upon other Christians in Constantinople creating a final rift with the Orthodox Churches.
After Spain’s "Reconquesta" ended Islamic rule, the Inquisition began to restore Christian "Churchianity"—even forcing conversion of Spanish Jews and Muslims. The death toll is roughly estimated to have cost between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000 lives.
The early Reformation in the 16th Century had been notably free from bloodshed. But it was inevitable that increasing division between Christian churches in Europe would cause a series of armed internal conflicts. Protestant daughters and the "mother" church shed each other's blood in incredible amounts in national and civil wars. (Revelation 17:5) The "Thirty Years War" during in the 16th and 17th Centuries was one of the worst periods of war that Europe had ever suffered (8,000,000 lives were lost). But didn’t God authorize conquering unbelievers?
Israel’s Commission by God to Conquer Canaan by War
Yes, many ask about the justice of the of the conquest of Canaan. Why were Israelites commanded by our loving God to destroy the peoples of that Land? (Leviticus 26:7-8; Joshua 5:13-14; 24:11-13) Reading this command of God has been a stumbling-block to many. But actually even though the Canaanite peoples worshipped their lustful and cruel gods with human blood by sacrificing their own children,* in God’s eyes they are redeemable. Therefore God’s commission to the Israelites will ultimately be to the Canaanite nations’ eternal benefit!
When God had originally promised the Land to Abraham and his posterity "from the River of Egypt to the River Euphrates"—he was also told his children would not possess the Land right away. (Genesis 15:8, 12-21) Why? Because the "iniquity of the Amorite [was] not yet complete," God would permit these Canaanite nations to follow their own downward course for a few generations. But how can anyone’s death benefit them?
God Himself Mercifully Destroyed the Sodomites
When Abram himself left Ur and came into the Land, his nephew Lot who came with him, ended up living in Sodom. That city had evidentially already reached the depths of degradation. But before God would mercifully destroy it, Lot was called out of Sodom. Then God Himself sent down "brimstone and fire out of heaven" and "overthrew those cities…and all the inhabitants." (Genesis 19:1-29)
Amazingly, the Prophet Ezekiel later laments how Jerusalem’s "abominations" compared with Sodom’s and Samaria’s—although Judah had greater responsibility. (Ezekiel 16:1-59) Unfaithful to God’s Law Covenant, Israel played a "harlot" (vss. 8, 15) with other gods. So in addition to not helping the poor, other abominations were being committed.
"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." Ezekiel 16:49-50
But then, amazingly, Ezekiel finally prophesied that Jehovah would "establish an everlasting covenant with you [Judah]." (vss. 59-63 NAS) This covenant would replace the Old Law Covenant because it will be "a new covenant" and "a better covenant" with a better mediator—the Anointed. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6)
Judah to be a Mother to Sodom