The Good Warfare
"Now it came to pass in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle..." We read this in 2 Samuel 11:1 and in 1 Chronicles 20:1. In the spring, when flowers begin to bloom and trees blossom, when crops need to be planted so children can be fed, this is also the time when kings go out to battle.
The causes and consequences of war are described in Revelation 6:1-8.
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see."
And I looked, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see."
And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
The second horseman is given a great sword and is allowed to take peace from the earth. In the spring of the year, kings go out to conquer, and people kill one another. The third and fourth horsemen depict the consequences of war.
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." And I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see."
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
The results of war are famine, hunger, sickness and death.
Why does God allow so much blood to flow on earth? The answer is given in Revelation 16:1-7.
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth."
So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image.
Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
And I heard the angel of the waters saying: "You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due."
And I heard another from the altar saying, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
Warfare and the resultant rivers of blood constitute one of the bowls of God's wrath poured out on the earth as a punishment for the sins of mankind.
This does not mean that each individual who suffers in war is being punished for his personal sins, since many upright people and innocent children suffer in war. It does mean, however, that God allows wars on earth as a demonstration of the terrible consequences of man's rebellion to God.
The kings of the earth do not bear the sword in vain. They are ministers of God's wrath. This we read in Romans 13:1-7.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
The only exception is when the commands of men contradict the commands of God.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience's sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.
Everyone is to be subject to the governing authorities. This applies to all authorities. They all have been appointed by God.
Notice again the word "wrath". Rulers bear the sword as ministers of God's wrath. Christians should not interfere with the use of the sword by governments.
This does not mean that all authorities are good. Paul wrote this under Roman rule, which was ruthless and corrupt in many ways.
The king of Babylon is an example of how God uses evil and godless men to accomplish His purposes.
Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the Lord, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
'And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him.
'So all nations shall serve him and his son and his son's son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.
'And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish,' says the Lord, 'with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.
'Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, "You shall not serve the king of Babylon."
'For they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish.
'But the nations that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land,' says the Lord, 'and they shall till it and dwell in it.'
Put yourselves in array against Babylon all around, all you who bend the bow; shoot at her, spare no arrows, for she has sinned against the Lord.
War results in a vicious cycle. God allowed Babylon to destroy Israel as a punishment. Later God allowed the Medes and the Persians to destroy Babylon as a punishment for her sins. He later allowed the Medes and the Persians to be destroyed as a punishment for their sins.
Jesus was referring to this deadly cycle when He told Peter: "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). This warning is repeated in Revelation 13:9,10 - "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword."
Christians are not ministers of God's wrath. Their mandate is different.
Romans 12:17- 21
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
"Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Christians are ministers of reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.
The use of weapons of carnal warfare is incompatible with a Christian's mandate as an ambassador for Christ and a minister of reconciliation. As Paul explains:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Christians are engaged in a good warfare:
1 Timothy 1:18,19
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.
It requires bravery to follow Christ to the cross:
You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Rulers do not bear the sword in vain. They are ministers of God's wrath. They fulfill a necessary function in this rebellious world.
Christians are told to put away the sword. They are ambassadors for Christ, ministers of God's reconciliation.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive