Ukraine: “Wars and rumors of wars”: a sign of the times, or a sign of all times? A Christian response by Rob Dalrymple

Ukraine: “Wars and rumors of wars”: a sign of the times, or a sign of all times? A Christian response by Rob Dalrymple

War and rumors of wars: a sign of the times or a sign of all times?

So here we go again. Prophetic pundits have seized the opportunity to grab the limelight. Instead of encouraging Christians to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15) and to serve as peacemakers in the midst of conflict (Matt 5:9), these self-proclaimed prophesy “experts” want us to believe that the war in Ukraine serves as evidence that the end times are among us.

As a result, they see war as a time to rejoice because in the midst of war God is allegedly demonstrating His faithfulness to His promises.

I am always amazed how people who claim to be teachers of the Bible are able to soil the witness of the Scriptures and undermine the very mission to which God’s people are called.

To offset these voices perhaps we should flood our Bible studies and our social media pages and whatever networks we have with calls to prayer for those who suffer during times like this. Perhaps we should urge our governments to seek diplomatic means of resolving the conflict instead of militaristic ones.

For, regardless of our political convictions, regardless of what you or I believe is happening in Ukraine, regardless of who we believe is right in this war, the people of God should always advocate for peaceful solutions. More than anything we must advocate for people who are the real victims of war.

“The kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace and joy” (Rom 14:17)

Do we really believe that Putin will learn his lesson from the sanctions that are imposed by the western powers? Do we really believe that Putin and his gang will suffer from those sanctions? Do we not realize that those who will suffer from these sanctions are ultimately the people of Russia?

As with all such conflicts, it is the poor and the marginalized that suffer the most. It is not those in Moscow or DC or Brussels that suffer.

War is what the nations do.

Thus, when we see nations waging war we should weep and grieve and cry out on behalf of the oppressed and the victims of war.

We cannot stress enough that the nature of power in God’s kingdom is radically opposed to the nature of power in the kingdoms of the world!

The kingdom of God suffers violence. It does not inflict it!

Jesus became king by suffering on the cross. That is the means by which the kingdom of God has come, and it remains the essence of God’s kingdom.[1] That is why it is so important that the people of God bear their crosses.

Of course, there will always be those who quote Scripture to the contrary. Some may cite Matt 10:34 where Jesus says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

In response, I would note Jesus was not talking about bringing a sword in such a way that His followers could advance His kingdom through violent acts.

NB: Christians must recognize that far too many kings have wielded the sword in the name of Christ. The Church has been complicit in violence far too often. Consequently, we should grieve even more when we see violence. And we must proclaim that this is not the way of Christ.

What does Matt 10:34 mean?

Jesus is simply stating that as a result of the coming of His kingdom many will act violently against the people of God. That is why, four verses later, He says, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 10:38-39).

Jesus, in other words, is preparing His followers for the fact that following Him will come at a cost and they must be prepared for this: not by responding in violence, but by recognizing that they may well suffer violence.

Why will Christians suffer violence? Because those in power are threatened by the presence of an alternative kingdom. Those in power profit from war and violence. And those in power resist anyone who speaks against them.

In other words, when we ask Russia, Brussels, and the US to seek diplomatic solutions, when we weep on behalf of those who suffer from war, and when we promote peace, those who gain from war and violence may respond with violence towards us. (Look at what the Germans did to the confessing church in Nazi Germany).

Now, I am not suggesting that all such conflicts are black and white, or that a peaceful solution is right around the corner if only those in power would seek it. No such human enterprise is ever that simple.

I am simply speaking to the Church and impressing on them what the starting point for us should be.

But what about the prophesy “experts” and their use of scripture?

Does the Bible teach that war is a sign of the return of Jesus?

Actually, it does. But only in accord with what I have just noted. The war that precedes the return of Christ is that which the nations wage against the people of God!

NB: I wrote about this in some detail in my book Understanding the New Testament and the End Times  

What about the famed: “there will be wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7) passage?

There are two common arguments being set forth by the popular prophetic pundits today who see the war in Ukraine as a precursor to the return of Jesus.

First, they argue that Jesus told us that “wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7) would precede His return.

In response, I would note that Jesus was a much better prophet than that. Think about, what if Jesus or anyone says, “Hey, guys there will be ‘wars and rumors or wars’ before I return,” will they not be automatically correct? After all, every era in human history that we know of has had “wars and rumors of wars.” It is always the case!

This is what Jesus was saying. He was simply indicating that things will continue on as normal for a time (mind you that Jesus was not even talking about the time of His return in Mark 13:7. He was explaining to His disciples when the temple was going to be destroyed: see Mark 13:2-4).

Gog and Magog

Secondly, the popular prophetic pundits are having a field day with the present war in Ukraine because they claim that the Bible teaches that Gog and Magog (which they identify with Russia) will come from the north and invade the middle east (Armageddon). Consequently, the invasion of Ukraine is the beginning of this long-awaited battle.

Again, this is addressed in my book Understanding the New Testament and the End Times    

I will simply make one note in response to this absurd claim.

The war of “Armageddon”[2] is waged by the nations against the people of God and not by the nations against other nations. This is true of all wars in the NT.

That this is what the war of Armageddon is about is evident for a number of reasons, though I will mention just one for now (perhaps I can address Gog and Magog and Armageddon more in my next post).

The “Armageddon” passage is found in Rev 16:14, 16. In the very middle of these two verses John inserts a parenthetical note to the people of God:

“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame” (Rev 16:15).

The reason for this note is that the people of God must be prepared to suffer righteously for the sake of Christ. Armageddon is waged against us and our response is to love our enemies and die for them just as Christ has done!

This is why John inserts Rev 16:15 in the midst of his discussion of “Armageddon.”

So, as we approach Lent, perhaps we can use the 40 days of Lent to repent of our corporate sins in which the Church has been complicit in war. And then to pray for peace.

[1] This does not mean that there will not be a final judgment. The focus, however, of the kingdom of God has always been and will always be love.

[2] There is a significant textual issue in Rev 16:16 that renders the translation of “Armageddon” as suspect.

Originally posted here.

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