Russia has invaded Ukraine. Who all gets involved and how all of this will play out in the end remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: the world is watching. That hasn’t stopped many from speculating if this will bring about another World War, if China and Russia will collude, and if, God forbid, nuclear weaponry will be employed if others intervene, or even if the parties involved currently will use nuclear weapons. It’s understandable, in one sense, that these questions are raised. We live in a time where nations have the technological capability of amassing a body count like no other war before us.
We all know of the propensity of mankind to commit great deeds of atrocity and the destructive powers they are capable of in their wickedness. History has shown us time and again that war is not only a constant threat, but it is an inevitable product of living in a broken, sin-filled world. We are the odd ones out in the history of mankind, where we have known relative peace for generations. However, peace has never been guaranteed to us. What has been promised is that we will suffer under the curse of sin while the day is still called “today.”
In light of this, I believe many of us have been sold a bill of goods that fails to deliver. The broader world, at least in parts of the world that are not rife with turmoil on their own soil, have thought of war and bloodshed as a distant problem. Sure, we see the effects of sin, Satan, and death all around us each and every day—but even here we tend to think of death and pain as something we can and should elude. We see others die and enter into eternity, but we fail to consider that death is always right around the corner for us.
Many within the church have even bought into the lie that safety and comfort are paramount, that suffering is something we can avoid if we just live well enough and mind our own business. This illusion of safety has in some measure, been shattered over the past couple of years with the recent pandemic. Wherever you land on the issues of vaccines, masks, etc., the veil has been lifted and we have come face to face with the reality that we too can and will die. Sadly, many have entrenched themselves even further in the twin idols of comfort and safety, believing that our every precaution will somehow stay the hand of death.
However, God has decreed the very millisecond you and I will “give up the ghost.” Nothing we do can turn death away. We are just as likely to crack our head and die of a brain hemorrhage as any one of the myriad diseases under the sun, or yes, even through something like war. How we all will die is a matter of adiaphora; the undeniable reality is that the death rate of mankind is 100%. It is inevitable. For many, even for many within the church, this is an utterly terrifying notion.
I wish to say clearly at this point: this should not be. We should not fear death, nor even the mode of death we will face. We likewise should not fear the potential “what-ifs” that naturally arise from situations like the war now taking place between Russia and Ukraine. The simple reason for this is that we have been promised greater things, but we also should walk with an awareness of what the Scriptures say is the true reality at play currently. We need not worry of economic meltdowns, diseases that spread far and wide, political powers at play, wars coming to our own backyard, and so on and so forth.
The indicative, that is, the true reality of things, is that God is currently our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). Mountains may topple into the seas, nations may be in an uproar and kingdoms may rise and fall, but with the raising of God’s voice, the earth melts (Ps. 46:2-3, 6). God is in the midst of His people and will see them through to the end. He will cause all wars to one day cease. He will shatter the weapons of war and they will be beaten into agricultural tools, and Christ will be exalted among the nations and all the earth and usher in lasting, eternal peace (Ps. 46:9-10; Is. 2:4, 9:5-7, 11:1-11).
Thus, the reality at hand is both present and to come. We currently have stability and protection in Christ, yet we await that final day of redemption where all things will be subdued and brought under His rule and authority. We are told that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but the powers and principalities of darkness (Eph. 6:12). We are likewise instructed that the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19), who much like in the days of Job, roams to and fro upon the earth. He is ever-accusing and afflicting (Job 1:7-2:10), energizing people to evil (1 Chr. 21:1), tempting (Matt. 4:3; Acts 5:3), instigating false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1-6), blinding the eyes of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4), thwarting believers (1 Thess. 2:18), and more. In other words, behind everything, even wars and rumors of war, lay a spiritual reality we must come to grapple with.
Yet none of that precludes God’s sovereign authority is currently being exercised to accomplish the fullness of His will. Indeed, even Satan and the demonic entities must submit themselves under God’s complete authority. As it has been famously said of Satan, he is a vicious “bulldog” of sorts, but one on a leash. It was God Himself which drew Satan’s attention to Job (Job 1:8, 2:3) and gave him authority to afflict His servant (Job 1:12; 2:6). It was God who delivered the earth over to Satan (Lk. 4:6). Yet this “dog” we call Satan has been defeated through Christ’s victory at Calvary, and awaits the day when final judgment is rendered, where he will be cast into the lake of fire to never rise again (Rev. 20:10).
Even in the civil realm, there is no authority in place, past, present, or future, that has not been established of God (Pro. 8:15; Dan. 2:21; Jn. 19:11; Rom. 13:1). They too, like dogs on a leash, are unable to act outside of His secret will. Likewise, God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), and nothing falls outside of the orbit of God’s sovereignty. Not only this, but God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
The nations may rage and plot in vain to take their stand against the Lord and His Anointed One, but He sits enthroned in the heavens, doing whatever pleases Him. All the while He scoffs and laughs at their futile attempts at power plays and coups (Ps. 2:1-2; 115:3, 135:6). At the end of all days, all knees will bow, and all tongues confess that Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). He will break the nations with a rod of iron and shatter them like pottery as He takes what is rightfully His (Ps. 2:8-9). Every unrighteous king shall likewise be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.
It is in light of these indicatives (facts) that we then obey the imperatives (commands) of Scripture. All men are commanded to repent and place all of their trust in Christ, lest we also perish (Lk. 13:3-5; Acts 17:30). All rulers and authorities are likewise to heed the warnings of what future fate awaits those who rebel against God’s ultimate authority. They are to serve the Lord with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling; they are to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and consume them in His wrath (Ps. 2:10-12).
For the Christian, there are many explicit commands given of us that we do not bow to fear of man, but live with ultimate reference to our Creator, who governs all things and saves His elect from the destruction to come. Thus, when wars and rumors of wars are present, we heed the call of Christ, where we are to be anxious for nothing, but entrust all things through prayer to the will of the Sovereign One (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6-7). We are to recognize these things are all part and parcel to what Scripture calls the “birth pangs” of redemption, where God makes all things new in bringing about His eternal Kingdom. Specifically, we should call to mind the words of our Lord in Matt. 24:6-13:
“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”
The point of all of this is not to engage in some spurious newspaper exegesis, but that all such things must take place, as they are bringing about the end of the age. However long this time takes place is not for us to know (Matt. 24:36). The call placed on us is simply to endure all such trials to the end, for the one who endures will inherit the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him (Ja. 1:12). Rather than fear or anxiety, or speculation concerning the time and setting in which Christ will return, we should be driven to holy living and an incredible hope.
Yet that hope should not be contained to ourselves. Such a light as this should not be squandered under a basket, but burn brightly from the mountaintops so that all who see us, see how great the Light of the world truly is. In other words, they should evidently see us proclaim the excellencies of the God who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us before His presence without fault and with great joy (Jd. 1:24). So, how do we do this? We preach Christ and Him crucified and order our lives under the authority of God’s Word.
Each and every day the Lord brings fresh mercies to us is a new day to strive to finish the race well. It is a new day to proclaim the excellencies of Christ’s gospel to a world stricken with panic and fear. It is a time to wave the banner of Christ, who is drawing a people from every tongue, tribe, and nation to Himself. We alone can say to the watching world that men may destroy the body, but the Lord has power to destroy both body and soul. The question is simply if we truly believe this in our heart of hearts—if it is both a balm and comfort to us—so much so, that we can say to those who fear wars and rumors of war that the time for repentance and faith in Christ is at hand.
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