War No More
23 Apr 2005, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
War No More
WHAT IS WAR? The oxford dictionary tells me that it is a quarrel between nations conducted by force, a state of open hostility, unfriendly relations…characterised by hostile propaganda and counter accusations.
A boy once asked his father, "Dad, how do wars begin?' 'Well', said his father, 'take the First World War'. 'That got started when Germany invaded Belgium.' Immediately his wife interrupted him. 'Tell the boy the truth. It began because somebody was murdered.' The husband drew himself up with an air of superiority and snapped back. 'Are you answering the question or am I?'
Turning her back upon him, the wife walked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as she could. When the dishes stopped rattling in the cupboard, an uneasy silence followed broken at length by the son. 'Daddy, you don't have to tell me how wars begin; I know now!' Tan, 1979: 1576.
'And there was war in heaven. Michael and His angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with Him.
These brief verses in Rev 12: 7-9 make the issue very clear that WAR did not begin on earth it began in heaven. Satan's jealousy over Christ's authority started a controversy that would eventually involve every member of the human race and the history of its consequences down to modern day has been shown to be a long and forbidding one.
Lucifer, now referred to in these verses as that ancient serpent, the Devil or Satan, allowed his pride and vanity to push him into rebelling against the authority and government of God.
DEAR FRIENDS, WHAT HAPPENED HERE IN THE COURTS OF HEAVEN IS A MYSTERY.
It becomes even more so when you discover what the Lord says about Lucifer in Ezekiel 28: 12-17 (paraphrased)
'…When I created you, you were perfect, full of wisdom and beauty. You lived in the heavenly Eden the place where God dwells (PARADISE). You were next to Him and wore the highest insignias (honours) of heaven…(v.14) you were the anointed angel, the one who stood at my right hand. You lived with me on my holy mountain and walked in the fire of God's presence. You were flawless and blameless from the day I created you, until sin sprang up in you and you became evil. Your nature changed and you became filled with jealousy and violence. You spread evil to all who would listen. So I expelled you from heaven…(v.17) You had become proud of your wisdom and beauty. Your high opinion of yourself led you into sin, and you rebelled against me. You let your beauty and wisdom, I gave you, corrupt you. So I cast you out of heaven, and you walked the earth in shame.'
Can you imagine this incredible scene? It is no wonder that the Scriptures make clear that there are many mysteries we will never fully understand this side of the Kingdom.
This beautiful, brilliant, highly regarded angel in the heavenly Courts was not satisfied with all he had been given. He coveted what he could never have: the authority of Christ himself.
Heaven was the place where all the trouble began and we find this detailed further in Isaiah 14: 12-14 (RSV) where it says: 'How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of the Dawn!…You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high…I will make myself like the Most High'
Though this controversy started in heaven and came to the earth the issue remained the same - THAT OF CHALLENGING THE RULERSHIP OF GOD, HIS SOVEREIGNTY, HIS RIGHT TO RULE.
Mankind has continued this challenge by maintaining that human wisdom and traditions be exalted above the Word of God and His Law - That salvation be secured without obedience to the Law of God. The scriptures tell us that behind the scenes there is an unseen power that 'worketh in the children of disobedience' (Ephesians 2:2).
WHAT IS IT THEN THAT CONSTITUTES REBELLION IN A SECULAR SETTING?
We need to understand that the character of a ruler is generally revealed through the laws upon which his government is founded, and also through the way he deals with his subjects, both loyal and disloyal.
What lies at the foundation of a rebellion is not only dissatisfaction with the laws of the government, which are generally claimed to be unjust and oppressive, but also with the way in which the government is administered.
It is also interesting to note that rebellions usually originate with one or more of the leading members of that government.
A rebel always poses as one who is anxious to improve the condition of his fellows through a revision and improvement of the government's current laws. This suggests that the rebel believes he knows more about the law and governing than the ruler who is on the throne (2 Sam 15, Isaiah 14: 12-14).
A rebellion of this nature presupposes that the existing ruler is not able to govern or he is unjust or tyrannical.
A rebel always seeks to enlist as many as possible in favour of the rebellion, and when he thinks he has enough support, he will try to overthrow the existing regime and then establish a new government founded on better laws.
The rebel then risks everything to overthrow the government under which he lives. If he succeeds, the winner takes all. If he loses, he loses everything.
However, the only way a rebel can demonstrate the benefit of his improvements is to gain opportunity and time to carry out his ideas.
And finally we need to understand, that in the end it requires great wisdom to subdue a rebellion so that all interested and concerned parties will be satisfied (Johnson, 1917: 54,55). Peacemaking is definitely a spiritual gift.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Does this process give us an insight into the way the controversy in heaven was to unfold? Let's investigate a little further.
We know that freedom of choice was given to all God's created beings, otherwise they would not have been able to develop the independent characters that God intended for them. Love, if forced, is no longer love.
Within the context of this freedom one angel in God's Government refuses to obey and sets about a course to make himself equal with the Most High. To achieve this objective Lucifer, the Light bearer, moves to set aside the constitution of the Universe, which is God's Moral Law based on LOVE. Hence, this move helps us understand Satan's continued and bitter persecution of those who love God and cherish His law.
He then endeavours to deliver everyone from what he believes is the bondage of these unjust laws and makes it his object to improve upon them, thus having it appear that he was seeking to promote the good of the universe.
God then allows this fallen angel to demonstrate the nature of his claims when he and his sympathising angels were banished from heaven to this earth…His own work must be allowed to condemn him…The whole universe must have the opportunity to see his deception (White, 1958: 42). Lucifer and his angels are now under judgement awaiting execution of their sentence when they, along with all unrepentant sinners, will be destroyed forever (Matt 25:41, Rev 20:10, 14).
It was a tragic day when Satan, through the serpent, won the allegiance of Adam and Eve. Through a misrepresentation of truth, he was able to raise disturbing questions about God and so convince the holy pair of their ability to become like God himself. Consequently, the newly created earth that was to be a jewel in the crown of the Universe was to become a battleground of contending forces led by the two great generals, Michael and the Dragon.
The great red dragon, as depicted by John in Rev 12:3, not only caused the fall of one third of the angels in heaven (v4, 9), but he tried to destroy the infant Jesus and persecuted God's faithful people for centuries. The Scriptures make plain that he will continue to pursue those faithful believers who follow the Lamb right through until 'time shall be no longer' (Rev 12:17; 10: 6).
We have already read in God's word that Satan suffered defeat in his first encounter with Michael in heaven when he rebelled against God and was cast to this earth.
The second major encounter was to climax in Gethsemane and at the Cross. Satan and Christ were to face each other as never before and, again, we praise God that Christ was victorious. Satan's initial banishment from heaven was now to become permanent, fulfilling Jesus prediction in John 12:31, when He said: '…now the prince of this world will be driven out.' Satan was defeated and knew that his kingdom was lost.
WHAT DOES CHRIST'S VICTORY MEAN FOR YOU AND ME?
IT MEANS THAT THERE WILL BE NO ONE IN HEAVEN ACCUSING US - Until the death of Christ, Satan was the legal representative of this world. Although he had usurped the kingdom, he was always man's accuser. That is what his name means. Satan, who accused us day and night before our God, has now been overthrown (Rev 12:10). Heaven is not searching for reasons to keep us out.
IT ALSO MEANS WE ARE VICTORIOUS THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB. The blood of the Lamb is the secret of the Christian's victory. But with the Christian's belief in the blood must also be 'the word of their testimony'. To believe that Jesus died in your place is essential, but our testimony of this fact must be shown in the lives we are living.
Even though history records the many martyrs who have shed their own blood for the Lord, it is important to recognise that they are still only saved by the blood of the Lamb. To the angels and the unfallen worlds the cry, 'It is finished,' had a deep significance. This victory, which accomplished the great work of redemption for mankind on this earth, was a victory for them as well as us in that it established once and for all, God's right to rule (White, 1940: 758). 'Satan saw that his disguise was torn away. His administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the heavenly universe. He had revealed himself as a murderer. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken' (Ibid: 761).
ADDITIONALLY, THIS VICTORY MEANS THAT OUR REDEMPTION IS HEADING TOWARDS ITS CONSUMATION. God makes a promise to all who are victorious over sin when He says in Rev 3: 21 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.' (KJV)
The final fate of Satan has already been decided and he knows his time is short (Rev 12:12). Jesus, looking down through time to our modern day, saw the world involved in a deception similar to that which caused the destruction of Jerusalem. We need to remember that the great sin of the Jews, at that time, was their rejection of Jesus himself, the great sin of the Christian world would be their rejection of the law of God, the foundation of His government in heaven and in earth. This rejection would particularly focus on the fourth commandment (White, 1950: 587).
THOSE THAT CONTINUE TO SUGGEST THAT THE LAW OF GOD BE SET ASIDE ARE ALIGNING THEMSELVES WITH 'THE FATHER OF LIES' AND ARE IN DANGER OF LOSING OUT ON THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Since the Cross, Satan, who has since been described in 1 Pet 5:8 'as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour', was to use and incite the established church of Western Europe to persecute those who insisted on living by the Word of God rather than by tradition (Rev 12: 6,14). This persecution of God's true church was particularly to take place during a 1260-year period from AD 538-1798. During this time we see atrocities on a scale unimaginable being carried out in the name of religion. From the disastrous Crusades to the Holy Land, to the persecution of groups in the Alpine valleys of northern Italy, and throughout other parts of Western Europe and beyond, millions were to lose their lives in the name of Jesus Christ.
Wars of Religion have been part of the troubled world in which we have lived since the time of Jesus and it comes as no surprise because the apostle Mark tells us in Mark 13: 7 'And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.' In other words, don't worry, because these things have to happen before the end can come.
The Russian, Gustave Valbert, writing in 1861 reported the following information:
'…from the year 1496 BC to 1861 AD, the time in which he was living, there were 227 years of peace and 3,130 years of war, or 13 years of war to every year of peace. Within the last three centuries, he says, there have been 286 wars in Europe. He added that from the year 1500 BC to 1860 AD more than 8,000 treaties of peace, meant to remain in force forever, were concluded. The average time they remained in force was 2 years (Tan, 1979: 1571).
The 'war to end all wars', The First World War, was to finish when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the allies at 11 am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. (Ibid: 12)
IT WAS A WAR TO END ALL WARS
Approximately twenty years later, in September 1939, over fifty countries were to take part in the Second World War. A war that killed more people, damaged more property, and cost more money than any other war in history. Led by the German dictator, Adolph Hitler and supported by Hungary, Italy, Finland and Japan plus four smaller countries, these axis powers were to wreak havoc throughout Europe and later in the Asia-Pacific region.
This war finished in August 1945 only after the United States of America dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. World War II was the most devastating and lethal war in history It involved almost all continents and countries. Millions were left without adequate food, shelter and clothing and an estimated cost of military and civilian lives totalling 55 million (Ibid: 15).
Then came the Korean War on June 25, 1950 lasting until 1953 and then the Vietnam War in 1964 through to 1973. The Middle East conflict commenced when Iraqi troops invaded the oil rich middle-eastern country of Kuwait. This was the first of the 'microchip' wars when the US was to unleash high technology weapons bringing about an uneasy peace on February 27, 1991. Then comes Afghanistan and Iraq (Ibid: 16, 18, 20).
Each year, on April 25, Australians take the time to remember those who have given their lives in service of their country and freedom. The name ANZAC is an acronym and stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. This name was first given in World War I to the Australians and New Zealand troops who fought in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. This brutal and disastrous battle, which was just a small part of the Great War that was declared in Europe on August 4, 1914, was to begin on April 25, 1915. (Bruce, 1997: 3)
ANZAC Day was not designed as a day to glorify war, rather it was seen as a day when Australians could reflect on the wretchedness, death, destruction, futility and horror that it brings to ordinary people. Each year as this day is set aside, Australians are encouraged to vow that, if all possible, wars should never happen again and to work towards finding alternatives to war so as to make the world a more peaceful place. (Ibid)
The principal focus of Anzac Day in Australia is the dawn service held at war memorial shrines. These places are considered sacred and are maintained in memory of the war dead. It is during this service that past deeds are recounted, hymns are sung, wreaths of flowers are laid, the ode is repeated, there is a minutes' silence and a bugler plays the Last Post. This piece of music was originally to give soldiers notice that they were to retire for the night and is usually played at military funerals, and particularly for this very special remembrance service.
The 'Ode of Remembrance' says:
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them (Ibid: 4).
Even amongst the suffering and death of these conflicts of war there always seems to be a story of courage and care shown for our fellow man.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, known affectionately as Simpson, was born in England in 1892. In 1910 at the age of 18 while they were docked in Australia, he made the decision to desert from the British Navy. His life from that point on found him working on coastal shipping vessels, cutting sugar cane, coalmining and eventually becoming part of the Australian scene as a swagman adding to its colourful folklore. In 1914 he joined the Australian Army under the name of John Simpson and was assigned to the medical corp. division. He left Australia for the Middle East in November of that year and landed with the first Australian troops at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. Donkeys were first brought to Gallipoli to carry water but when their drivers deserted, they were left to just wander about the area. Simpson managed to catch one, and he, along with his new-found friend, made many trips up the steep gullies of Gallipoli to the edge of the firing line. His objective was to seek out wounded soldiers and bring them back down to the medical station on the beach.
Day and night he continued this mission rescuing large numbers of seriously wounded men. His fearless and cheerful nature endeared him to those around him.
On May 19, 1915 while assisting two wounded men, he was shot through the heart, killing him instantly. The donkey later returned to the beach with out him still carrying one of the wounded men on his back.
The 'legendary man with the donkey' as he was known, was buried at Gallipoli and to this day his life has become a symbol of unselfish service and courage for one who was prepared to lay down his life for his friends.
This incident was only a small part of the Gallipoli campaign and only a small part of that Great War which was believed to be the war to end all wars.
Even as far back as 1966, at the time of the Vietnam War, more and more people were expressing the conviction that civilization, as we know it had reached a critical point in its short history.
Dr Stuart Anderson addressing a meeting of the Pacific School of Religion on October 11, 1966 says: 'History tumbles over itself in our time, Revolutions occur so fast that one can scarcely tell which is revolt, and which is reaction. The status quo is gone, and change itself is the new routine.' (Maxwell, 1967: 8).
The Reverend Malcolm Boyd in the Wall Street Journal Feb 8, 1967: 'This is an epoch of massive challenges'…'foundations are shaking.' (Ibid)
Early on the morning of August 25, 1966, sightseers standing on the Nanaimo Docks in British Colombia, were horrified to see the just completed ferry 'Queen of Barnaby' break her moorings and sail out into the bay without her Captain or crew.
Repairmen, who had been working on the engines all night, had failed to see that the propeller was in the starting position when they fired the engines. Fortunately, one of the men had the presence of mind to lower the anchor just in time to save the 3.5 million dollar ship from disaster (Ibid: 7).
It would appear that many see our civilization just like the 'Queen of Barnaby' - mechanised, fitted out with all the latest equipment, moving at an ever-increasing speed towards an unknown destination that would seemingly spell disaster. Unless the anchor is lowered it will surely be destroyed (Maxwell, 1967: 7).
We are told that '…Wars demonstrate the decay of the human condition...They point to civilization running down.' They're all symptoms that indicate that we are approaching the end of the age as described in the Word of God (Scragg, 1989: 8).
The Scriptures make it very clear that: 'On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn; … men will faint with terror at the thought of all that is coming upon the world.' Luke 21: 25,26 (NEB)
However, these wars during the twentieth, and now twenty-first century, are no more than a blip on the radar screen of time as the real battle of the universe between a powerful fallen angel and the Commander of Heaven comes to a climax at the end of this earth's history.
In the conflict between God and Satan, God always has a remnant faithful to Him and His law. Rev 12:17 states that the Remnant Church of the end time is a special group that Satan particularly opposes because its members 'keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ'. God's law, the constitution of the Universe, which Satan took issue with at the very beginning is the key area that will intensify his wrath during the last stages of earth's history. Those who continue to proclaim its relevance will feel the full wrath of his fury. The Scriptures tell us that this conflict will involve the formation of a religio/political system that will attempt to force all people to cease worshipping God and obeying His commands.
God responds to this attack in two ways:
He first of all issues, through His followers, three great angel messages that invite all people to accept His salvation and to warn them against Satan's last efforts (Rev 14). YOU NEED TO READ IT.
God's second response is through the final judgement. This judgement, in all its phases, is designed to vindicate, not only His character against Satan's charges, but the faith of His devoted followers as well (Matt 25:31-46). V40 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'
With the Great Controversy over, God's people will have the privilege of living with Him for eternity. Sin and sinners will be no more. The entire universe will be clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness will beat through that vast creation. From Him who created all things, will flow life and light and gladness, and this will continue throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, will declare that God is love' (White, 1950: 678).
My prayer this morning is that we will make those decisions today that will lead us to enjoy for eternity the wonders and marvels of that newly created earth recognising that it will be prepared for us by a loving God whose sovereignty will once more be acknowledged throughout the universe.
BRUCE, J. B. (1997) Anzac Day - Australia's Forces in War and Peace. Roseville: Kangaroo Press.
MAXWELL, A.S. (1967) 'This is the End'. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
SCRAGG, W. (1989) 'Study war No More'. Signs, September 1989, Warburton: Signs Publishing Co.
TAN, P. L. (1979) Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Hong Kong: Nordica International Ltd.
WHITE, E. G. (1958) Patriarchs and Prophets, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association
WHITE, E. G. (1940) Desire of Ages, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association
WHITE, E. G. (1950) The Great Controversy, Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association
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