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Bible verses about War
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Tracing war's roots is not difficult. The first war in recorded history took place when Lucifer gathered a third of the angels and led them into battle against their Creator (Isaiah 14:12-14; Revelation 12:3-4). When God created man, for a short time there was harmony in nature and with God. But Lucifer, now the Serpent, Satan, deceived Adam and Eve into sin, the first step toward being at war with their Creator. Romans 8:7 testifies that "the carnal [natural] mind is enmity [at war] against God," as shown by man's refusal to be subject to God's governance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Some Christians go so far as to declare the Bible a "book of war." They gleefully point to God's instructions here to the nation of Israel to destroy the idolatrous Canaanites, but fail to recognize God's original promise to Israel that He would drive out the inhabitants of the land if Israel would obey Him (Exodus 23:20-30).

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Western historians, journalists, and politicians concede that "holy wars" exist, but that they are confined to highly passionate, temperamental, and undereducated Third-World countries. In the West, they say, though we regrettably have wars, they are sensible, necessary, and just!

Yet even in a "just war," must not people be stirred to anger and hatred before they can be persuaded to kill? Do not the armed forces have to recruit ordinarily peaceful citizens and then incite and train them to become killers? Does that not produce a frenzy somewhat like that exhibited in Third-World "holy wars"?

Technology and bureaucracy create a marvelous disguise for "sensible" warriors. Secretaries of Defense in business suits carry computer printouts to Congress to demand billions of dollars so the country will be prepared to kill. They make calm appraisals of prudent risks and stress legitimate national self-interest. But as matters intensify, such phrases as "evil empire," "rabid fundamentalism," and "antichrist" surface. This is the rhetoric of holy war in our own nation.

Here is a sample of "holy war" rhetoric:

Although slaying and robbing do not seem to be a work of love, and therefore a simple man thinks it is not a Christian thing to do, yet in truth even this is a work of love. The hand that wields this sword and slays with it is then no more man's hand, but God's.

None other than Martin Luther said this!

An embarrassment? Yes, but to destroy entire cities by nuclear weapons, is it not necessary to believe wholeheartedly that we were exterminating forces of evil and so were justified? This idea is what "redeems" war. It is not a sentimental pretense, but an idea that somehow we are participating in the destruction of the forces of evil. An unselfish belief in this notion will cause a person to set it up, bow down to it, and offer himself in sacrifice to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

A Christian finds himself in a particularly difficult position over war because of his conflicting loyalties. He knows and wants to obey God's commandment that clearly says, "You shall not kill." Conversely, he sees in the scriptures that God's people conducted wars and that God seemingly ordered them, assuring victory for His side. Additionally, we feel the pull to protect the empirical self, of patriotism, of the potential loss of life and limb of loved ones and property. When the things we love are threatened, we feel we must rise to their defense!

Yet war between men and nations is totally unnecessary! God shows that no individual or nation need resort to it. It comes down to relationships and responsibilities: first, the individual's relationship to God and country, and second, the individual's responsibility to God and country.

War involves sin, and thus it is totally illegal! As I John 3:4 says, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." War also involves free-moral agency. God has not given man the right to determine righteousness; He has only given him a choice to follow it or not. God has already established what is righteous. If any man—even Moses or David—or any nation makes the wrong choice, it does not make his choice righteous or God unrighteous. Finally, war involves God's purpose. He will carry out His will and plan regardless of man's actions, including his determination to make war.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Just because Israel, God's covenant nation, went to war does not justify our doing the same. Acts 7:38 says, "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us." The Bible describes Israel as both congregation (church) and state. Though God chose them, they were still a nation of this world and did many ungodly things.

Nor does popular acceptance, group approval, or national decree determine what is right. War is absolutely wrong; it is sin. It is a devastating calamity mankind has chosen to practice. In addition, it is needless, as God has shown His willingness to intervene for those who put their trust in Him and obey Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Exodus 23:20-30

God says, "I will cut them off." He does not even say at this point He would kill their enemies! God promises to fight for them supernaturally, so they would not need to fight, to shed an enemy's blood. But there was a condition: They had to obey Him. Forty years and a multitude of negative experiences later, Numbers 33:50-53, 55 describes an entirely different picture of Israel's conquest of the land. Because of their disobedience, now Israel had to do the driving out!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Leviticus 20:22

This verse concludes a section devoted to a variety of sexual sins, stating a major result or penalty of breaking the seventh commandment. This is the Bible's way of saying that when a society unrestrainedly breaks God's laws, nature will rise up as an enemy and make it impossible to live in the land. The inhabitants will be uprooted and thrust out—but not before many die in famine, war, and natural disasters. The natural process of sin will bring that nation to its knees and humble it before the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 1:26-32

Israel never really trusted God. Breaking the sixth commandment was merely the next step in the process of sin. Having committed the sin of doubt, they went on to commit the sin of war. God was determined to work out His purpose to give the land to Abraham and his descendants. Israel chose to be a war-making nation, but because God's purpose must stand regardless of what men do, he continued to back Israel in their conquest of the land and ordered wars.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

2 Chronicles 20:3-6

Is God really actively ruling His creation? His sovereignty over His creation is something we frequently take for granted. This presents a potentially serious problem because it results in our failing to think through His sovereignty's practical aspects to our personal situations. Thus, we greatly discount His involvement in our lives and His willingness to intervene for those who live by faith, indicating we are really living by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).

Far too many of us have unknowingly bought into the thinking of materialistic science and atheistic philosophy, which have ushered God right out of His creation by teaching that impersonal laws regulate everything. Impersonal laws exist, but they do not regulate everything. We can choose between that approach or what Jehoshaphat says in his appeal for direct intervention for Judah's deliverance. If what is now part of Holy Scripture is not true, we may as well throw the Bible away because it cannot be trusted. God rules, not impersonal laws that merely react.

Besides overseeing the affairs of nations, the Creator and Ruler of the universe is directly and personally involved in His people's lives. He does not merely respond to those who trust Him—He creates circumstances and events, and/or He directly intervenes to make things happen. Science and atheistic philosophies have relegated God to nothing more than a distant spectator—a Being who cannot stop men from engaging in dreadful wars even though He longs to do it. Men believe that, since He has endowed humanity with free moral agency, He is obliged to let man make his own choices without interference because interfering would somehow destroy man's moral responsibility. However, this ignores God's own plan and purpose for His creation, so it cannot be a true concept.

If this were true, free moral agency, not God, is supreme. But God is ruling, not man's free moral agency! Notice these verses from just two books of the Bible:

  • I Chronicles 5:22: "Many fell dead, because the war was God's."

  • II Chronicles 11:4: "Thus says the LORD: 'You [men of Judah] shall not go up or fight against your brethren! Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me.'"

  • II Chronicles 24:24: "For the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the LORD delivered a very great [Israelite] army into their hand, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers."

This is not to say that God has brought about every war or every scattering or directly intervened to stop every threatened war that was averted during man's history. However, the Bible's record is clear: He acts when the occasion fits His will. God's direct activity regarding His purpose and plans must be considered because His Word declares that He is directly involved in the lives of His people. He makes events happen so He can form and shape His people into His image. God is not a mere spectator viewing our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

Isaiah 2:4

Think about what a wonderful effect keeping just that one commandment will have on mankind. But also take time to consider that even as mankind will no longer learn to break the sixth commandment, it will also no longer learn how to commit idolatry, take God's name in vain, break the Sabbath, dishonor parents, commit adultery, steal, lie, or lust!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Daniel 11:36-39

Obviously, this is a man who regards the military and warfare as a kind of religion, conquering, ruling, and pillaging in the name of his "god of fortresses." The remainder of the chapter narrates what he does: attack, overwhelm, overthrow, plunder, destroy, and annihilate. The Beast is obsessed with war.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Beast's Militarism


 

Matthew 24:6-7

The wording implies an expected increase in conflicts due to the stresses of the time leading up to the end. In other words, amplified contention is a precursor of the end time. His comments specify wars between nations and kingdoms, but John's description in Revelation 6:3-4 expands this out to "people . . . kill[ing] one another." This suggests that this horseman not only deals in mass destruction in civil, border, and world wars, but also in smaller conflicts down to individual murders. Thus, the second seal also covers rising violent crime, gang activity, mob hits, assassinations, family feuds of the Hatfield-McCoy variety, and personal disputes that turn violent.

In saying "wars and rumors of wars," Jesus seems to be saying that some wars will be threatened yet not fought. This is not the sense of the Greek, however. The word translated "rumors" (akoé) is the common Greek word for "sense of hearing" (in the active sense) or "report" (in the passive sense). Jesus really means that we will hear the noise of war with our own ears and we will also hear reports of wars occurring elsewhere. In other words, wars will be taking place all over the world!

Immediately, He cautions us not to let such reports trouble us; that is, He tells us not to let the constant wars cause us to panic. Typically, if a person becomes panicky, his fight-or-flight response kicks in, and his brain shuts down. Our Savior wants us to keep our wits about us because "the end is not yet." Regrettably, war is a natural, human activity, so an abundance of war and violence is not by itself a definitive sign of the end. Certainly, the end time will be one of terrible warfare, but many other factors must fall into place before we conclude that we are living at the close of the age.

Jesus then specifies that "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Looking at this from today's perspective, we might think He is repeating Himself, but He actually makes a distinction between ethnic warfare ("nation" = éthnos)—wars between different peoples—and political warfare ("kingdom" = basileia)—wars between realms or nation-states. Oftentimes, the former are civil wars within a nation comprised of various ethnic groups, such as the former Yugoslavia. The latter, then, are what we call international conflicts like the recent Gulf Wars. Jesus' distinction tells us that war is the norm both within nations and between them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Three): The Red Horse


 

John 17:14

Jesus addresses the source of the more personal persecutions that threaten our peace. The carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7), and we can feel this hatred to a potentially terrifying degree when it is aimed directly at us. Throughout history, this sort of peace-shattering disturbance has produced job losses, divided families, uprooted lives in fleeing, imprisonment for those caught (Acts 9:1-2; 12:3-4), and for some martyrdom (Acts 7:54-60; 12:1-2).

Jesus says we can have peace through these kinds of experiences because He can give it to us. When He said this, He was not introducing a new idea. As part of the "blessings and curses chapter," Leviticus 26:6 shows that God is the ultimate source of peace, and He will give it upon our meeting the condition of obeying His commandments:

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.

Here, peace is a quality of life He can give even as he gives rain in due season. Leviticus 26 emphasizes material prosperity as God's blessing to Israel. Peace is necessary for the material prosperity of a nation. War may be the ultimate distraction from accomplishing anything positive; it is catastrophically debilitating to every area of life. Not only can it break a nation economically, but also warp its people psychologically and destroy its social structure, infrastructure, and spirit.

Should we think that peace is no less necessary to spiritual prosperity? Is it possible for us to grow into the image of God when distracted by conflict and the anxieties and troubles it produces? Even if the conflict is not directly ours, it adversely affects our ability to live God's way of life. This is why the apostle Paul counsels us as he does in I Timothy 2:1-2:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Conflict promotes self-centeredness, virtually forcing us to flee, defend ourselves or attack the other to maintain or establish a measure of control. It can also cause us to detour permanently from what we were trying to accomplish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

Romans 3:10-18

Quite an indictment of the nature that drives human society! This helps us to understand that even the struggles between nations are really only small problems grown great. Two major powers locked in a hot war may seem more complex than neighbors arguing over a backyard fence or a family quarrel, but the causes are essentially the same.

Are there problems in our families? If we make an honest search for the cause, we will find that one or both sides are lusting for something and competing for it. Either abuse of authority or an unwillingness to submit—or both—will be present because one or both sides want something and feel this is the only way to get it.

Since we cannot serve two masters, lust drives us to serve ourselves to get what we desire. The spin-offs will be insensitivity, inattention, lack of cooperation, gluttony, alcoholism, quarrels, adultery, and lying. Our children will learn to be disobedient, nervous, selfish, and rowdy.

In II Corinthians 11:3, Paul writes that men's minds have been "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." This means that the massive city, state, national, and global problems are merely individual problems multiplied by the population. Nothing will change on earth until individuals are convinced that the solution to the problems begins with them. They first have to work to change themselves before they can begin to expect the community's problems to disappear.

This principle holds true in marriage. If the cause is the same as in individual family quarrels, the solution is also the same. Love, tolerance, kindness, mercy, patience, forgiving, sharing, cooperating, and helping, all done with and through contact with the true God and the power of His Spirit activated and used by the individual's faith, will do the job.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

Romans 12:19-21

God alone has the wisdom and power and the right to take vengeance. Regarding war, Exodus 14:14 says, "The LORD will fight for you." War has never solved man's problems, and God promises that those who live by violence will die by it (Matthew 26:52). Christians must treat others with kindness, gentleness, and love (Luke 6:31; Galatians 5:14-15).

Martin G. Collins
The Sixth Commandment


 

2 Corinthians 5:20

II Corinthians 5:20, like John 18:36-37 and Philippians 3:20, defines our position by showing that we are not only citizens but also ambassadors of that heavenly Kingdom. We may love the nation we live in and be subject to its laws and authority, but we must reserve our fullest allegiance for God in heaven and His Kingdom. As ambassadors and sojourners, we do not have the legal authority to involve ourselves in the affairs of the human nation in which we reside.

The issue of war is not as complicated as it might first appear. The central fact is that God has said we must not kill. We will either be obedient to that or we will not. What determines our choice is the measure of our faith in the Bible's clear statements and examples. If we will obey God's commandments and exercise our faith in His promise, He will intervene to fight our battles for us. We never have to resort to killing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

James 4:1-3

When we think of nations at war, do we also think of what a happy situation it is that people are being killed, families separated, property destroyed or confiscated, hopes and dreams shattered, and futures ended? War produces terror, fear, pain, anger, uncertainty, guilt and - if it could be weighed - tons of heartache. War, God's Word informs us, is a fruit of coveting.

Apply these thoughts to a microcosm of national wars, family wars, that so often end in divorce. What causes these family wars? They frequently erupt for the same basic reason as national wars. Somebody is coveting, and though the scale is smaller, the results are the same.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)


 

James 4:1-3

This world is filled with wars of every size and magnitude, declared and undeclared. The strong attack the weak, and oppressed minorities fight to throw off the yoke of tyranny. Labor and management throw verbal bombs at each other. Husbands and wives do not divorce because they have peaceful, productive marriages! Increasingly, parents and children seem to look upon each other with scorn and sometimes break into open anger and fighting.

James shows ever so clearly that the root of these problems is lust, merely one expression of human nature. Human nature expresses itself in vanity, jealousy, lust, greed, murder, hatred, avarice, competition, lying, stealing, dishonoring parent, fornication, adultery, and - the most damaging of all - idolatry. In fact, we could say that all the above flow from idolatry!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

Jude 1:2

Jude wishes upon his readers specific blessings. His salutation is not the same as the apostle Paul and some of the other writers used. He specifically chooses "mercy, peace, and love," as all three are vital in times of apostasy.

He asks for mercy because they probably needed to repent. His whole reason for writing the epistle stems from the fact that they had begun to get lax, allowing false teachers and false teachings in. They needed God's mercy as they began to repent.

He wishes them peace because, obviously, a major result of apostasy is war and division. Remember, his brother writes in James 3:18 that the fruits of righteousness are produced in peace, and these people were not producing the fruits of righteousness for two reasons: false teachings and war. Thus, they needed peace

Finally, he includes "love," the prime virtue. They needed love because it would take love to resolve this situation—and not just love for God but love for one another. This is the agape form of love, not just phileo— not just caring for one another but setting the mind to do God's will for each other and for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 6:3-4

The second horseman is perhaps the most easily identifiable of the famed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, since both of its symbols, the fiery red color and the great sword, are well known to represent war. However, underlying this facile identification of the symbols are a few interesting details that add depth to them.

The Greek word John uses for "red" is purros or pyrros, meaning "the color of fire" (compare our words "pyre," "pyromania," "pyrosis"). This is not the normal Greek word for red (eruthros), but a more specialized term that suggests fieriness or flickering reds, oranges, and yellows like a flame. It is the same word that John uses to describe the redness of the Dragon (Satan) in Revelation 12:3 (the third and only other occurrence is in a proper name, Sopatros Purrou, which is strangely not fully translated in Acts 20:4). This particular color intimates heat and ferocity like an out-of-control wildfire.

The Hebrew language does not have a similar, biblical term. However, the color red or scarlet in the Old Testament frequently symbolizes blood, whether the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49-52; see Hebrews 9:19) or the blood of violence (II Kings 3:22-23; Isaiah 63:2-3; Nahum 2:3; etc.). Scarlet has two other interesting meanings: that of wealth and luxury (II Samuel 1:24; Proverbs 31:21; Lamentations 4:5; etc.; see Matthew 27:28; Revelation 17:4; 18:12, 16) and of sin (Isaiah 1:18; see Revelation 17:3). One could make a case that all these meanings could apply to the second seal.

The horseman's "great sword" is a translation of máchaira megálee. Again, this is not the ordinary sword of war (romfaia) but a short sword or long knife like a dagger. Frequently, máchaira is the knife used to prepare a sacrifice or to slaughter an animal for food. It is also the sword worn by magistrates and executioners. That the red horseman's sword is "great" (megálee) means either that it is larger or longer than usual or that it is highly effective in doing its job. Surprisingly, romfaia appears in Revelation 6:8: "And power was given to [the four horsemen] to kill with sword, with hunger, with death. . . ." A "great sword," then, is the equivalent of a thoroughly effective instrument of death.

The sword is often a symbol of God's judgment. David writes in Psalm 7:12, "If [the wicked] does not turn back, He [God] will sharpen His sword." In Isaiah 34:6, 8, in the context of the Day of the Lord, God combines the sword of judgment with the idea of sacrifice and slaughter:

The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. . . . For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

Even to His own people, if they do not obey Him, God promises, "I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of My covenant" (Leviticus 26:25). Like this horseman, "the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace" (Jeremiah 12:12). Clearly, the purpose of the great sword given to the rider of the red horse is to inflict violent death on masses of people in divine judgment.

As if there never was any intent to obscure the meaning of this figure, John's description of the red horse says matter-of-factly, "And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another" (Revelation 6:4). This second seal plainly represents conflict, war, destruction, and bloody death.

Of course, this parallels the second point in Jesus' Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24:6-7: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." The wording implies an expected increase in conflicts due to the stresses of the time leading up to the end. In other words, amplified contention is a precursor of the end time.

It is interesting to note that the second seal is introduced by "the second living creature saying, 'Come and see'" (Revelation 6:3). Revelation 4:7 gives us the order of the living creatures as lion, calf, man, and eagle, so the living creature that introduces the seal of war is probably the calf. Just as the first seal's introduction by the lion presages the white horseman's prime characteristic of ferocious pursuit of prey, so does the calf foretell the red horseman's main trait.

The calf, young bull, or ox, as translations variously render it, is known for its staying power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Psalm 144:14; Proverbs 14:4; Hosea 4:16). An ox can pull a plow or wagon or turn a mill all day for days on end without complaint. Some have been known to work and work until they die from exhaustion. Rarely will one make its frustration or weariness known. A calf or ox will just keep going—a relentless, untiring worker.

We are to consider the red horse and his rider along the same lines. In this vein, they compose a picture of inevitable, unceasing, untiring, insatiable warfare. Perhaps we are to think of them in terms of a wild ox, as God describes it in the book of Job (Job 39:9-12).

A wild ox cannot be trusted to do its domesticated cousin's chores; he is just as likely to charge and gore anyone who tries to yoke him! Likewise, David cries out, "Deliver Me from the sword, . . . from the horns of the wild oxen!" (Psalm 22:20-21). Isaiah 34:7 uses the same imagery: "The wild oxen shall come down with them, and the young bulls with the mighty bulls; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust saturated with fatness." Though the ox can be a placid, indefatigable worker, a wild ox can be a gory terror!

The red horseman, with its fiery red horse, great sword, and relentless aggression, is a fearsome symbol of unremitting, intensifying, uncontrolled, horrific conflict. God intends this figure to instill terror in mankind in the hope that he will repent of his enmity and be saved from its destruction and death (II Peter 3:9-13).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Three): The Red Horse


 

Revelation 16:13-14

When this occurs, the human beings involved in these decisions will have no idea that they are being influenced by spirit beings. Satan and his demons are invisible and accomplish their work by broadcasting attitudes and putting thoughts in people's minds. These thoughts and attitudes seem normal and natural to the people involved, yet their result is utterly inhuman and unnatural, such as the Holocaust, the Inquisition, "the killing fields," "ethnic cleansing," "total war," and the like. What has occurred throughout all of human history will happen again.

It has been said that human history is little more than a chronicle of man's wars. These wars are the result of men being influenced by invisible, evil spirit beings ever since Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out from the presence of God (Genesis 3:22-24). No people and no generation have ever been immune from Satan's attempts to keep men separated from God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Great Conspiracy


 

Find more Bible verses about War:
War {Nave's}
War {Torrey's}
 




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