Having, in my series on the biblical way of war, previously talked about the origins of war , I thought it worthwhile to examine the Bible’s first mention of strife or warfare and its implications for us today. Once we know why warfare exists we can examine its vital importance within scripture, as well as examine the sorts of warfare that exist as a result of the cause of strife.
A Very Short Introduction to the Biblical Way of War
Why should a Christian study war? Is warfare inappropriate for a true believer of the Bible to study, a believer who is always aware of our obligation to love? Why would such a believer then study warfare, which would seem on the surface to be the antithesis of love? It is the purpose of this short essay to introduce the believer to the painful truth that regardless of our own sentiments and wishes for peace that so long as Satan remains free on this earth that we are involved in warfare against him (or on his side, whether wittingly or unwittingly) whether we like it or not. This permanent state of warfare, moreover, was prophesied from the beginnings of human history. Let us now examine these matters in greater detail.
The first mention of war and strife in scriptures occurs in the first prophecy of the scripture, what theologians call the protoevangelium, or the “first gospel,” which can be found in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
This verse introduces the problem of the two seeds–Jesus Christ (and His followers) and the followers of Satan. There is a permanent state of war between these two houses. As Satan attempted to usurp the kingdom of God and steal the inheritance of Christ from Him, He is a traitor and rebel to the kingdom of God. Since Jesus Christ (and His fellow brethren) are to inherit the kingdom of heaven and rule over all Creation, they will overthrow Satan, making them mortal enemies of his illegitimate rule. There can be no peace where there is no common ground. Either one side or the other must win.
The implications of this prophecy of warfare are very sobering. As we have already implied in the foregoing, the verse would seem to indicate there are either two sides one can belong to–the army of God or the forces of Satan. There is no neutrality. To oppose God or fail to support Him as the sovereign over the universe is to be an ally of Satan, whether knowingly or not, and to be a rebel against the legitimate authority over all the universe.
Likewise, the verse would seem to indicate that the decisive battle of that war would be, ironically enough, the crucifixion. Since it was “original sin” that led to the permanent state of war between God and Satan and their human proxies, then the ultimate victory would have to be spiritual, in the payment of the price for that sin and in the justification and cleansing of humanity from the eternal penalty of sin–the death (and later resurrection) of Jesus Christ.
With His death, Christ paid the price for sin, and with His resurrection, Christ became the ‘firstborn’ from the grave, showing the path from death to eternal life for human believers, thus marking the decisive victory over the grave, and making the battles that have come afterward mopping up or rearguard actions on a part of Satan’s army already in retreat.
Why is this important? For one, Satan has already lost, and he knows it. His loss was prophesied from the beginning. Yet, knowing he would lose, he still sought and seeks to destroy as many human beings as possible because his goal is to ruin as much as possible before his time of judgment comes. There is clearly far more about spiritual battle that could be said, nonetheless, it is vital to realize that the source of war is sin, and that as long as Satan remains at loose there can be no end of warfare between the armies of righteousness and the armies of evil. Physical wars and conflicts are merely the outward and visible manifestations of the invisible war.
This does not in any way negate the importance of winning those physical wars. The forces of evil, when they are personified in such armies as the Confederate Army seeking to corrupt the eternal promise of freedom and liberty into a permanent and satanic racial caste system headed by wicked plantation owners, or by genocidal Nazis seeking to “purify” their race by killing Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and political opponents and make the others of their realm in their counterfeit Millennium slaves to a brutal regime, such armies of the evil one must be stopped.
Nonetheless, this warfare is only one front in the long war between God and Satan. Warfare exists in the front of histories, between true accounts and propaganda, and in any field where the potential exists to either pass along truth or error. We cannot forget that the fronts of this error are many, and not always obvious, because the enemy is subtle and crafty himself. In any human endeavor the choice exists between God’s way and Satan’s way, and a conflict exists between the two camps, even among those who may not realize they are in God’s camp (many people who support positive psychology and Theory Y type management systems are in this group of people who are unknowingly on God’s side).
Let us therefore remember that the warfare between God and Satan is a total war. It is not merely physical war, but it is not merely nonphysical either (its origins are spiritual but its fronts are legion). The warfare between good and evil exists in thought, in word, in deed, in physical armies and groups of historians and poets, in teachers, in structures of authority, and in any other area where the possibility to instruct, teach (or deceive) people exists. We cannot neglect the totality of this war and only focus on certain aspects, but rather we must remain aware of the whole picture and take up our armor and weapons, wear them with honor, and go out to do battle against evil, as in the olden days, in a war that will end with the victory of God over Satan and his forces.