When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. (Mark 13:7–8)
These are the words of Jesus to His disciples, in response to their wonder and worry over the hows and whens of the “end”, when it came. War and the fears of conflict have been a part of human history, but Jesus does not say “look for these things.” He says, “do not be alarmed.”
War is real and painful and scary, and can only be truly understood by those who are right in the middle of it. I have never experienced the realities of living in a nation facing bombs and assassins or the ruthless march of tanks and artillery fire. I do not say anything as a self-imposed expert on geopolitical matters or as a philosopher studied in the history of human warfare. I only speak as someone who reads and knows the words of Jesus and what the Lord has disclosed about Himself in His Word and by the Holy Spirit. I speak as someone who knows what is right and what is wrong.
War is a matter God is well rehearsed in. He has fought and won them on behalf of His people time and time again. Israel’s mighty warrior-poet-king David understood that his own skill in battle was only due to his God:
“Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.” (Psalm 144:1)
God prepared the people of Israel for the realities and the grim necessity of war as they prepared to march into the Promised Land. God Himself provided victory for them, and overcame their enemies because of His might, not because of Israel’s own:
“No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.” (Deuteronomy 11:250
Of course, all of this was dependent on obedience to the will and law of God. God did not wage war because Israel was superior or because their culture was better — He was the one who forged their culture to begin with. God waged war for His people because He never forgets His promises:
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8)
Why say all of this?
I believe God engages in warfare for His people, and has done so, winning victories over nations that mean to harm them.
I do not believe God finds any delight in war.
I believe God is a warrior who fights against injustice, evil, and tyranny — He is not passive or gentle when it comes to these things.
I do not believe God thinks war is good for humanity.
I believe God hates when the innocent suffer; I believe that He means to end all wars between all image bearers, when the end comes.
In the very same Psalm, David does not spend time waxing about the greatness of war or his skill in battle, but rather his great big God who protects and shields the innocent from the horrors of war and the violence of evil:
“He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.” (Psalm 144:2)
David concludes this psalm by praising God for the peace He brings to a people. He does not claim Israel is blessed by their great warfare or their warriors skill in battle. Rather, the signs of a truly great and blessed people are these:
Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
blessed is the people whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 144:12–15)
This is what the Lord intends for the human beings He made in His image. The prophets Zechariah and Isaiah are granted a vision of the final end of humanity’s wars.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)
War is not the defining trait of humanity. When one nation’s government and the tyrant that leads it decides he is superior and grants himself the right to crush another sovereign nation, God is grieved. When this conquest is, as it always is, unprovoked and fueled by sheer greed and a lust for power, He is enraged.
The Lord treats all the violent scheming of the world’s tyrants as beneath contempt, only worthy of derision and total destruction. God has no kindness to give to those who scheme together to take and murder their way to what they want, no matter how many of their own people they arrest for daring to dissent or what children run screaming from the machine of war. All that awaits is rebuke and wrath:
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:4–6)
“We are defending our country all alone […] The most powerful nations of the world are just watching from afar. Only solidarity and decisiveness by Ukrainians will be able to preserve our freedom and our state.”1
One conqueror rages on and roars that this desperate, grim statement comes from the mouth of a criminal and a Neo-Nazi, while sending in hundreds of murderers to take the life of this man who is only trying to save his people, no matter his human faults and failures.
It is profoundly difficult not to be enraged beyond restraint at the leaders of the world whose sin and foolishness gave a violent despot the door to crush a nation just because he can. It is hard not to wish the same fate on this conqueror as those who rose and fell before him.
What hope do the people of Ukraine have?
Or the people of Russia who cannot stop the relentless greed of their government?
What of the world who watches in breathless anxiety, waiting for something to shift?
My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
a God who displays his wrath every day.
If he does not relent,
he will sharpen his sword;
he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons;
he makes ready his flaming arrows. (Psalm 7:10–13)
Human evildoers start wars and spill the blood of the innocent for nothing but power that fades like the fog of the morning. God Most High will finish their wars — and they will regret taking every wretched breath against those who bear the image of God.
I pray for the continued endurance of the nation of Ukraine and the safety of her people. I thank God for the nations who know the pain of a conqueror’s lust and welcome them with somber affection. I pray for the people of Russia who resist the poison of their despotic government. I long for the day when my country throws off her rags and stands as a beacon of godly government, flaws, battle scars and all.
But I know this one thing — Jesus is coming, and the New Jerusalem with Him. The heartache of the world is a cry for His return, and He will answer.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
On the other hand, for those who walk with death and evil, this won’t be good news:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
I’m just saying, I’d hate to be Putin, right now…
Come, Lord Jesus!