To further their own desires and ideas regarding war, many so-called "New Testament Churches" go to the Old Testament to excuse their beliefs or activities in war. In other Bible questions, they discard the Old Testament entirely. When it suits their own purpose, they wrest and twist the Old Testament scriptures to justify their own actions. They have gone to such extremes that one modern clergyman has stated, "I believe the only people that should go out and do the fighting are Christians." This belief is not based on the Holy Word of God! God has not taught His Church to participate in the wars and politics of man. God's Church is different. God's Church is composed of the "called out ones." They are not a part of this world, but of the Kingdom of God — the World Tomorrow.
What Would Happen if No One Would Fight?
When one of God's servants obeys God and will not fight, he may be asked: "If everyone believed like you do wouldn't we be overrun by our enemies? We could not defend ourselves; our land would be overrun and we would be slaves'" Is this your question when you learn the Bible teaching about warfare and fighting? If so, it must be answered. Surprising enough the plain and simple answer is found in the Old Testament. In this chapter we will see God's answer to this and many other perplexing questions. Does such a question show faith and trust in the Creator God who made all things and who sustains them? God knows the needs of his servants even before they ask of Him! (Matt. 6:8). God intervenes for His true servants when they call on Him' What would happen if all the people in our land did turn to God and would trust him completely and explicitly? "If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments and do them... I will give PEACE in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid" (Lev. 26:3,6). That is the answer. God would give us peace! We would not fear other nations, they would fear us instead! How great is the God that a real Christian trusts? If all people who call themselves Christian would trust in that same God they would not need to go out and fight to bring peace. On some occasions the nation of Israel did temporarily obey and trust God. Look at the miraculous results. God even sent hornets to drive out the enemies (Josh. 24:12). Hornets may not seem like much of a weapon, but when God used them against the enemy there was no defense! When the children of Israel went over the Jordan River and marched around Jericho for seven days, God caused the walls to fall down miraculously. The enemy was destroyed. In the time of Gideon, God used a very simple thing to route the enemy. Three hundred men with pitchers, lamps, and trumpets caused the horde of the Midianites to be put to flight. And not only that, but the enemy was so much in fear and confusion that every man's sword was against his fellow (Judges 7:22). If a whole nation refuses to obey and trust God, there is only one other thing to do — trust in armaments. Since the nations today do not trust and obey God, the only protection they have are their military weapons. The problem is that this way to preserve the peace does not lead to peace. It is necessary to ever increase the number of weapons. An arms race continually increases the burden of cost on a government. Rumors of war, fear and distrust increase, and finally the weapons are used in a terrible, destructive war. There were many other examples of divine intervention by God for His people when they obeyed and trusted in Him. The same would be so today. If our nation really repented and obeyed God, we would have real peace and all the other countries would fear to attack us.
Warfare in the Old Testament
Many today cannot understand why men in Old Testament times, such as David, did fight in war. Nor can they understand why ancient Israel fought. Have you wondered about this? Surprising as it may be, the answer is found in the New Testament. Jesus said, "If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight" (John 18:36). For many centuries God did establish a kingdom on this earth, a kingdom which was entirely physical. That kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel, was originally ruled by God, by His laws and by His rulers. But the nation Israel was one of the kingdoms of this world. Its people had no spiritual citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom. They were not ambassadors of Christ. Jesus said that if His Kingdom were of this world, then His servants would fight. Israel was a kingdom of this world. It did fight. God did not offer them salvation! He only gave them physical, temporal promises. They were carnal people without the indwelling presence of God's Holy Spirit. They were concerned with the letter, and not the Spirit and intent of God's law. Since they were not offered salvation at that time, and did not have God's Holy Spirit, they had not been begotten by God's Spirit as heirs of the Kingdom of God. Since the Canaanites were so terribly wicked, God commanded His servants, His earthly Kingdom, to exterminate them. God had been patient in times past, because their iniquity was not yet "full" (Gen. 15:16). The Canaanites were committing the most evil deeds that man could imagine, even sacrificing their own children, by burning them in the fire to gods of wood and stone. They practiced every conceivable perverted act. God waited until all physical hope for them was lost, before commanding that they should be slain. As the Creator and Giver of life, God has the authority to take away life. But God has not given man that authority. Formerly God had done this by use of supernatural force on nature. He took away the life of all men except Noah and his family, in a world-wide flood. Later, it became necessary for God to exterminate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme wickedness (Gen. 19). God destroyed by supernaturally intervening in the course of nature. God did not work through a kingdom of this earth at that time, nor was any kingdom on this earth His Kingdom. Later, God established the nation of Israel. God then used the physical nation to carry out such punishment. They acted in that official capacity as does an executioner of the State today, who may have the responsibility of executing the death penalty. God has the right to choose, in any way He pleases, how He deals with man. He can decide who should die and when, if that becomes necessary. God says, "See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no God with me, I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand" (Deut. 32:39). After Israel rebelled and would no longer listen to God, His prophets, or His teachers, God rejected them. They are not carrying out His work today. Since that time, God doesn't have any of the kingdoms of this world as His own Kingdom. Today He may use various nations to indirectly accomplish His will, but they are of this world and of this time, and not of the world tomorrow. Today God is dealing with mankind through His Church. Notice I Peter 2:9, "But ye (Christians) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." God is using His Church to preach the good news (gospel) of the soon-coming Kingdom of God to the whole world as a witness. When that work is completed, the end of this age will come, Jesus Christ will return as King of Kings over the earth, and a new age of peace will dawn.
God Has Final Authority to Decide About War
Only God, as Creator and Giver of life, has all authority to destroy or command nations to be slain. Since God is Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, these things were created for His own purpose. "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure (purpose) they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11). Since God has made all things, including all mankind, all governments and authorities, He is also Supreme Ruler. He is over and above all (Eph. 4:6). He is the Lord — meaning Ruler or Master — of heaven and earth ?Matt. 11:25). Since God is Ruler and Master of heaven and earth, He also has the right and power to make laws. God has made all spiritual and natural physical laws. In addition to ruling over all, God is also the judge of all (Heb. 12:23). It is God who will judge all mankind. He will pass final sentence, depending on whether a person's deeds are good or evil. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened: another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev. 20:12). God alone is able to destroy both the soul (life) and the body (flesh) of man in the final Gehenna fire, or lake of fire (Matt. 10:28). The wicked will be utterly destroyed in that fire (Mal. 4: 1-3). Since God alone has such supreme authority, only He can tell man what to do about warfare. Only He can say whether man should or should not make war. Only God can judge when a nation must be destroyed or punished. When a nation itself decides to make war against another, whether it be an aggressor or a nation attacked, that nation takes upon itself this prerogative of God. Unless God personally commands a war, in which a nation of this world acts as an OFFICIAL EXECUTIONER, as He did to ancient Israel, any man who takes up arms against his neighbor takes the authority of God upon himself. This is in direct disobedience to God! Any person who takes part in such a war is in defiance of God and His laws and is guilty before Him! He has also revealed to man, through His Word — The Holy Bible — those laws by which man should live. He has not given man the authority to establish laws contrary to His.
Lessons Are Being Written
God is letting man go his own way for a period of six thousand years. When it is over, God will intervene in the affairs of man. Until that time, God is letting mankind write important lessons in suffering and misery. But man has not yet learned the lessons that he has been writing in human misery and woe. God is permitting man to try every form of government to see what is best. All of them have brought wrong results. They have only brought all kinds of trouble when developed to their full course. God is permitting man to try every possible way to bring peace. They have all failed. He has permitted man to try any and every thing to bring happiness. Happiness has eluded man. In the time to come, God will rule man. There will be no more governments of men. Everyone will be under the government or Kingdom of God. Men will then be living according to God's ways. Happiness will result. But for now, God is permitting man to go his own way. The result is that all generations have had war' "Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, eve n as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof" (Judges 3:1-2).
Here It Is in a "Nutshell"
The whole question about warfare is explained clearly by one verse in your Bible that we have already noticed. This verse explains why ancient Israel did make war with other nations. It explains why the Christian cannot participate in the wars of this world now. It also explains why Jesus Christ, at His return (with the holy angels, and with those saints who are then made immortal), will make war. That scripture is found in John 18:36. "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world (this order or age): if my kingdom were of this world (age), then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (this time)." Ancient Israel was a kingdom of this world. It did fight! Christians are ambassadors of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. Therefore, we as the servants of Christ, do not fight for one nation against the people of another nation of this world. When Jesus Christ does return, Christians will then be immortal, spirit beings, and will assist Jesus Christ in BRINGING PEACE TO THIS EARTH.