For thousands of years and for nearly as many conflicts, man has sought divine help in time of war. There is Ares, the Greek god of war. His Roman counterpart, Mars, was regarded as the second-most powerful god in existence next to Jupiter (the Roman version of the main Greek god Zeus).
So important was this warrior god to ancient pagans, Rome was thought to have been produced by him.
“Mars was considered the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythical twin founders of Rome,” World History Encyclopedia recorded. “According to the story, their mother, the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, was raped by Mars while she slept, and in her dreams she had a vision where she dropped a hairpin to the ground, and from which there sprang two twin trees. Over time one of the trees grew so large that it covered the entire world with its shade, a reference to the ultimate success of Romulus and the growth of the huge Roman Empire.”
It is fitting that a system known for war cunning and bloodshed—and which Bible prophecy shows will do so again—would trace its origins to a false god of war.
What about the true God? He is often thought of as largely disinterested in the affairs of mankind, always peaceful and even passive. Yet the Bible states otherwise.
“The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is His name” (Ex. 15:3). This statement from Moses to the ancient Israelites makes clear that God actively wages war. He is repeatedly referred to throughout the Old Testament as the Lord of hosts. This could easily read the Lord of armies.
Think about this image. The same Being we call the Father, who we pray to and trust to supply our daily needs, is a battle-ready warrior. The God who is of peace, righteousness and equity has a glittering sword (Deut. 32:41) and spear (Hab. 3:11), as well as a bow and arrows (Psa. 7:12).
The same goes for the Father’s Son. Notice when a preincarnate Christ appeared to Joshua before Israel marched around Jericho: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with His sword drawn in His hand: and Joshua went unto Him, and said unto Him, Are You for us, or for our adversaries?” (Josh. 5:13).
Christ’s response: “No; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (vs. 14). Verse 15 reiterates He is “captain of the Lord’s host.” Elsewhere, Jesus is prophesied to “judge and make war” as He rides into battle with “a vesture dipped in blood” (Rev. 19:11-14).
How do these things go together? Christ is referenced throughout the Bible as the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace—yet He is also seen riding a horse into battle with blood-drenched clothes.
As begotten children of these “men of war,” Christians are prophesied to follow suit. Those who are to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) are also compared to soldiers (II Tim. 2:3-4). They will literally war with God when He “comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 1:14-15).
How do these opposite qualities match up? Why does war seem so intrinsic to God’s character?
Defender of Ancient Israel
The Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s ability to make war.
Consider His intervention when millions of Israelites fled Egypt: “He made the waters to stand as a heap” (Psa. 78:13) and then used them to crush Pharaoh’s army.
Picture witnessing this scene. First, the Almighty used a wind so powerful it made the salty waters of the Red Sea stand like walls on both sides. Then, without warning to the Egyptians, the invisible force holding up the walls let go. Pharaoh’s powerful force of chariots and armed men was instantly crushed and churned under the monstrous force of water. There was no chance of survival.
Later on, God promised to go before the Israelites as they advanced into the Promised Land: “Understand therefore this day, that the Lord your God is He which goes over before you; as a consuming fire He shall destroy them, and He shall bring them down before your face: so shall you drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said unto you” (Deut. 9:3)
One weapon God used at the time to do this was hailstones. The book of Job reveals God considers this icy precipitation as an implement of war: “Have you seen the treasures [armories] of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22-23).
To help Israel take over the land of Canaan, “the Lord cast down great stones from heaven” on the enemy (Josh. 10:11). So powerful was this hailstorm that “they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”
To cap off this show of power, God stopped the rotation of the Earth so that “the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies” (vs. 13).
Never had anyone on the planet witnessed this before, as the account in the book of Joshua describes: “There was no day like that before it or after it…for the Lord fought for Israel” (vs. 14).
Understand. God is not some bloodthirsty monster shooting arrows at unsuspecting people and swinging a sword around for pure enjoyment. He declares: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says the Lord God” (Ezek. 18:32).
In addition, God made clear to the Israelites that they were not inherently better than their foes: “Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God does drive them out from before you, and that He may perform the word which the Lord swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut. 9:5).
God had to forcefully remove the Canaanites to fulfill a promise to these righteous patriarchs, and to rid the land of wickedness. He also wanted the Israelites to see and never forget the true power fighting for them! Before God drowned Pharaoh’s armies, Moses said to the people: “Fear you not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever” (Ex. 14:13).
Notice how this event was later summarized in Psalm 136. It proves there is more to God making war than first meets the eye: “To Him which divided the Red sea into parts: for His mercy endures forever: and made Israel to pass through the midst of it…but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for His mercy endures forever” (vs. 13-15).
Verse 10 shows that smiting the firstborn in Egypt was also merciful.
So these were both acts of war and acts of mercy. We serve a God who is a warrior and a peacemaker! His acts are intended to help human beings.
These two characteristics of God are demonstrated during the annual Holy Days. For example, the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24) pictures a time of war—with trumpets being blown while entering into battle. Days later, Atonement (vs. 27-32)—during which we fast to draw closer to God—depicts a time when man will be “at one” with his Creator.
While it is clear the Father and Christ are warriors and peacemakers, there is much more to understand regarding these seemingly competing qualities…
The Eternal’s Purpose for War
The Bible states God wants “all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4). He wants all people to obey His Law—and He is eager and quick to forgive those who repent.
In Ezekiel 33:11 God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” In chapter 18, He offers a message of hope: “When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (vs. 27-28).
God wants everyone to be saved. He wants all to turn from their wickedness. Adding to this, Scripture declares that He is “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Neh. 9:17). These same words are repeated almost verbatim in Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2 and Nahum 1:3.
It is comforting to know—even though God does make war—that He is abundantly merciful and forgiving.
Yet human nature is human nature. Some will not choose God’s Way unless motivated by fear or force. Also, modern civilization does not know God. Vast numbers question His very existence—never mind His ability to directly control human affairs.
For these reasons, warfare will be used as God establishes His Kingdom on Earth. At that time, mankind will first see His goodness—but, if it does not repent, it will see His severity. God will use the threat of war as a tool of last resort to wake up society!
Here is a small sampling of these future graphic scenes:
- Isaiah 34: “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and His fury upon all their armies: He has utterly destroyed them, He has delivered them to the slaughter…” (vs. 2). His involvement is personal: “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven…The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness…for the Lord has a sacrifice…and a great slaughter…” (vs. 5-6).
- Isaiah 63: “I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart…My fury, it upheld Me. And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth” (vs. 3-6).
- Deuteronomy 32: “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…If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to My enemies…I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh” (vs. 39-42).
- Habakkuk 3: “Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow…The mountains saw You, and they trembled…The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of Your arrows they went, and at the shining of Your glittering spear. You did march through the land in indignation, You did thresh the heathen in anger” (vs. 5-6, 10-12).
Many more passages could be cited showcasing God’s awesome capacity that will soon be visible to the entire world. Again, recall the real purpose for this show of overwhelming force is to move the world to repentance! There is mercy involved!
Realize that only with warfare can God bring about the peace mentioned in Isaiah 9: “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (vs. 7).
The Lord of Armies will bring unending and ever-increasing peace. In His “zeal,” He will put an end to war forever. How different from man’s wars!
In Pursuit of Peace
Recall the mythological gods of war described in the beginning of this article. In Homer’s famous poem The Iliad, Zeus says this to Ares: “To me you are the most hateful of all the gods…Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.”
This could not better reflect mankind’s obsession with fighting. James 4 states: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not…” (vs. 1-2).
No matter how many times man’s armies fight against one another, this planet will see no end of bloodshed.
God’s purpose for fighting is far different. When He fights, it accomplishes justice and peace once and for all.
When the saints make war with Christ—who as Captain of the Father’s host “in righteousness He does judge and make war” (Rev. 19:11)—we will assist in executing “judgment [justice and divine law] upon all” (Jude 1:15).
The point of this warfare is presented in verse 15 of Jude, which shows it involves removing those who do not want to live God’s perfect way. Removing those who are bent on hatred and fighting is what ultimately will usher in world peace. This is a merciful act by a loving God.
Bible prophecy records a few more wars are coming—you have already seen many of those moments in verses mentioned earlier. Know that each time God enacts divine war, the entire universe is at peace. Ultimately, this is the result: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Finally, war will have served its purpose and become obsolete. There will no longer be a need to punish nations for sin, because sin will not exist. All people will have chosen their destiny—permanent death, or glorious membership in the Family of God.
Yet what does this mean for us today? The Ultimate Warrior, our Father God, is on our side. Just as He fought for ancient Israel, He fights for us and with us now: “For the Lord your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deut. 20:4).
Determine to do your part to ensure you are ready to fight with God in the battles to come. Set your will so that you are there to help expand the only government that will bring peace with “no end.”
How do we do this? By making spiritual war now. We must put on “the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-17) and make war.
Remember our ultimate goal when the battles of life become tough. If we remain close to God, our victory is ensured. Soon, Romans 16:20 will apply to us: “And the God of peace shall bruise [crush] Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
To get there, we must “war a good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18). We must overcome and make it. Then we can fight alongside the ultimate warriors—the Father and Christ—to rid the world of sin and usher in everlasting peace!