Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore: The Military Historian And The Millennium

For the record, I do not consider myself a particularly militaristic person by nature (although I freely concede that those who have been involved in arguments, debates, or disagreements with me are likely not to be so charitable in their judgment of my character). That said, I have spent a great deal of time and money over the course of my life to date in the study of military history. This study began with the informal reading of military history books (starting with the Civil War) as well as the visit of military sites such as battlefields and fortresses, as well as museums and monuments. Later on this study became more formal, culminating in the achievement of a Master of Arts in Military History, a degree that has been of use so far largely in reading and reviewing books related to military affairs for various scholarly journals.

My study of military history, however academic and intellectual it is, began for deeply personal and symbolic reasons, and from the beginning it took on a resonance outside of the mere concern with visions of personal glory or strictly military concerns. From the beginning, my interest in military history was related to personal concerns of life in an environment that was particularly full of conflict and has remained so for the vast majority of my life. As passionate a student as I am about military matters, though, there is a realization that warfare is a temporal matter that is temporary and evanescent, and not of eternal value. I do not expect the militaristic urge of mankind to dwindle away on its own–there are certainly many reasons for men and women to fight and those reasons do not appear to be going away no matter how much we might wish them away.

Nevertheless, my beliefs in the temporary nature of warfare and its study (even though I am a serious student of such matters) are quite strong and passionate as well, and also related to longstanding personal beliefs. Although I do not like to engage in prophetic speculation, my own biblical and prophetic worldview is significant in coloring my own appreciation of military matters and their larger significance. As a premillennialist, I believe in an end-time crisis including substantial and painful divine judgment for unrepentant and consistent sins, followed by the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish His laws and His ways for mankind as a demonstration of their worth in providing for the well-being of all of the peoples of this earth (to say nothing about the rest of creation). Of the time that the Bible speaks of as the Millennium, there is not a great deal of detail given.

However, some of that detail directly reflects on the study of the military arts. Twice in the Bible, in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3, in substantially equal language, the Bible makes it clear that the study of warfare is only for here and not and not for all time. Isaiah 2:2-4, for example says: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Eternal’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Eternal, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Eternal from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; 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.”

This particular passage, if one takes it seriously (and I do), has some serious implications for the study and practice of the military arts in the future Millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, whenever it is established. For one, it says that peace in the world will be established by the authority of God’s kingdom over all of the nations of this world. The lack of mankind to develop godly obedience will mean that sovereignty will be removed from mankind and from its national and supranational institutions and be placed in the hands of Our Creator. Likewise, those resources that go into military implements will be shifted to peaceful pursuits (both of the ones listed here are agricultural pursuits), no longer diverting limited resources that could go into bettering the state of one’s people into its waste on military expenditures. In a world without armies, without militaries, and without resources being spent on developing military technologies or studying and practicing the ways of war, life will be different in ways that are difficult for many of us to imagine. These passages in both Isaiah and Micah (and related passages elsewhere, including Ezekiel 38) present a vision of nations dwelling at peace without walls and reaping the benefits of obedience to God’s ways, something that no nation or institution on the face of this earth has ever consistently shown for any substantial length of time throughout the melancholy course of human history.

Therefore, while I do appreciate the military arts and the insights I have gained from my study of the field, even if those insights have occasionally made my life more dangerous because some truths are too unpopular to speak of in some places, I am aware that this study has a relevance to a world that is in rebellion against God’s ways and that has been given a limited period of self-government in order to test our hearts and to demonstrate the incapacity of mankind to govern itself, much less effectively serve as stewards of God’s creation. This realization greatly colors my study of military history, as might be imagined. An earnest expectation and fervent hope for a better way of life than this world has ever known to be revealed to mankind puts the study of warfare and conflicts in their proper perspective as a relic of a fallen world that has rejected God’s ways and reaps the inevitable consequences of loss and failure in all aspects of our existence. As much of a pleasure as it is to study and reflect upon military history, and as satisfying as it is in helping to understand this world of conflict and strife, the belief that this strife and conflict is merely temporary means that my study of military history is meant to be temporary as well. Someday, God willing, we will learn and practice His ways, and neither shall we learn war anymore, not even me.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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