Q: With all the discussion around the conscientious objector Desmond Doss and the movie Hacksaw Ridge, I am intrigued to know what the Bible says about war, and peace, especially given that Israel—God’s so-called “chosen people”—fought wars of both offence and defence. But where did war come from, and is there any chance of peace ever being victorious?
A: The Bible from its first chapters to the last, describes an earth continuously plagued by war. It is a reality of all times and places, both biblical and otherwise. And there is a simple reason for this: the devil, or Satan, is the one waging it, and we, humankind (although not quite all of it), act as his proxies.
The initial war mentioned in the Bible is of one in heaven, a continuous battle across the arc of history, that ends along with human history when God forever establishes His eternal kingdom. Says Revelation 12:7, “There was war in heaven.” The Greek word for “war” is polemos, which is used 18 times in the New Testament. The following verses (7–9) identify the protagonists: Michael, “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13; cf v. 10:21, 12:1, Jude 9) and the dragon, “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (12:9), who first appeared in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. According to the prophet Isaiah, the reason for the rebellion was that Satan, a created being, had attempted to assert himself as God (Isaiah 14:14). And while in the battle of the Garden of Eden Satan wins, he does not win the war. But a running battle ensues, with the purpose of not letting Christ make it to the cross so that He fails in His mission to save humankind.
We know that in this Satan was unsuccessful, and now, no matter what he does, the war is won, for Christ died and rose again, and stands as Prince of the Earth in heaven. The apostle John, the author of Revelation, was thus able to prophesy that even though Satan fights a rearguard action in his retreat, as pointless as it is, it is nevertheless expensive in human terms.
Revelation 21 pictures a post defeat new world: the earth is restored to its idyllic state, this time with a huge city in its midst, the New Jerusalem, housing the myriad members of God’s people.
The strife with all its collateral damage—pain, disfigurement, death and anguish—experienced by so many in this war is no longer felt, although it is not forgotten, for a reminder is embedded in the nail scars forever evident in the hands and feet of Jesus. But there is no death, sorrow or crying there (Revelation 21:4), for war is forever banished. ½
Every month, our Discovery Bible correspondence school instructors, Wayne Boehm, Charissa Fong and Sharon Martin, delve into the Bible to answer some of life’s and Christianity’s deeper questions.
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