What Does the Bible Say About War?

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In the Old Covenant, God allowed war and killing under certain circumstances, such as capital punishment for certain crimes or war to take the land of Canaan. But in the New Covenant, the conditions are completely different in that a person who comes to faith in Jesus goes from belonging to the Kingdom of the World to being born again into the Kingdom of God. The primary identity is no longer Swedish, English or American but Christian, and the supreme authority is God, not the state. Just as a Swedish citizen can live and work in Russia while refraining from participating in the Russian army, so a Christian should live in Swedish society while refraining from participating in the military. If you are already in military service when you become a Christian, you should end your service or refrain from all acts of violence. Since there will be no more sin and death in the kingdom of Heaven, we who have now become citizens of this kingdom are expected to pray and work for it to be on earth as it is in heaven, and thus to refrain from sinning and killing. Instead of warring against other countries and nations, the Christian is expected to participate in the spiritual battle as a soldier of Christ, preaching the message of peace and working for reconciliation among peoples. When the Christian himself is affected by war and violence, he is encouraged, for example, to pray, flee, turn the other cheek and surrender judgment to Jesus Christ. In the last days, Jesus warns that his return will be preceded by much war and that many Christians will suffer greatly. But in the end, Jesus will return to fight and defeat his enemies and fully establish the kingdom of God, bringing an end to sin, violence and death.

Bible Verses

39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.(Mt 5:39)

14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”(Lk 3:14)

51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.(Mt 26:51–52)

3Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.(2 Ti 2:3–4)

11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,(Eph 6:11–17)

19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,(Ac 4:19)

10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.(Mt 6:10)

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.(1 Pe 2:19–24)

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.(Ro 12:14–21)

6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.(Mt 24:6–10)

19And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.(Re 19:19–21)

4He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and 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.(Is 2:4)

4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”(Re 21:4)

Study Questions

  1. Is it always wrong to kill?
  2. Should a Christian do military service?
  3. Is there a difference between war in the Old and New Testaments?
  4. Are there just wars?
  5. Should the state have the right to use force?

Additional Bible Verses

Ex 20:13, 1 Sam 15:3, Jos 4:13, Rev 19:11-21, Acts 10:7, Matt 8:5-13, Gal 5:19-21, Matt 24:15-22

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