SHOULD CHRISTIANS FIGHT BACK?
By James Duffee
This is a question that many Christians are beginning to ask themselves, especially as the threat of the Apocalypse, tyranny, communism, and other disasters [in the beginning it was Y2K] draw near. The thought of riots, looting and other civil unrest causes Christians to wonder if they should simply "turn the other cheek" or resist violence with violence. The common teaching in the vast majority of churches is that Christians are to be meek and gentle, but is that really what God expects of us?
Matthew 5:38) Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39) But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
This passage is the basis for the "passivist" teachings in today's churches, and of course, this is Christ's instruction for His followers. There are also the familiar "love thy neighbor" and "pray for your enemies" verses, all of which appear to teach passivism as a way of life. As with any other doctrine, though, it is necessary to learn what all of Scripture has to say, not just a few isolated verses.
In order to understand how we, as Christians, should react to "End Times" events, we must study what Scripture has to say about this time period. We must also be aware of just who we are as God's people.
Romans 11:13) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 14) If by any means I may provoke to emulation [them which are] my flesh, and might save some of them. 15) For if the casting away of them [be] the reconciling of the world, what [shall] the receiving [of them be], but life from the dead? 16) For if the firstfruit [be] holy, the lump [is] also [holy]: and if the root [be] holy, so [are] the branches. 17) And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18) Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19) Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20) Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21) For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he also spare not thee. 22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23) And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24) For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural [branches], be graffed into their own olive tree? 25) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
In this passage, Paul refers to the nation of Israel as the "natural" olive tree, and gentiles (everyone other than Israelites) as the "wild" olive tree. He makes the point that any Israelite who does not accept Christ is "cut off" from the natural tree, while any gentile who does accept Christ is grafted into the natural tree. In the same manner, an Israelite who accepts Christ is grafted back into the natural tree. So what does this mean for Christians? Quite simply, it means that Christians - no matter what their physical ancestry may be - are now part of the "natural olive tree". Christians are the new "spiritual Israel".
This is confirmed in the fact that Christ is said to be our new Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). Under the Old Covenant, anyone could become an "Israelite" (regardless of race or nationality) by partaking of the Passover and be "as one born in the land" (Exodus 12:48). Having become as one born in the land through faith in Christ, we can look at God's instructions for the nation of Israel and apply them to ourselves. As new Israelites, we should also realize that End Time prophecies concerning Israel quite often refer to spiritual Israel, not just the nation of Israel. Looking at a few of these prophecies, we can see that God has something other than passivism in mind for His people. For example:
Ezekiel 25:13) "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. 14) And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord GOD."
Edom was a traditional enemy of the nation of Israel. They were the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother and usually treated Israel very harshly. Ezekiel 25 is a chapter dealing with End Times, and here God says that His vengeance upon Edom will be exacted by the hand of His people, and the people of Dedan (a major city in Edom) would fall by the sword. In prophetic symbolism, Edom can be seen to represent the enemies of God's people - the enemies of Christians.
Looking back to the history of Israel, we see something quite the opposite of passivism. From the Exodus of the Israelites to Samson, to David and beyond, we see obvious examples of individuals and the nation waging war against the enemies of God. The name "Israel" itself means "soldier of God" in Hebrew. As "spiritual Israel", Christians are now the soldiers of God, waging war against His enemies.
Turning to the New Testament, we can see further examples of the fact that God does not expect us to turn the other cheek in every situation.
John 18:10) Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11) Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
Oddly enough, this is another passage used by many church leaders to teach a passivist version of Christianity. Please notice, though, that Peter had a sword. The disciples didn't know this would be a dangerous night, so it is clear that Peter routinely carried a weapon. Not once in the New Testament do we see Christ admonish Peter or anyone else for this. In the passage above, it is also obvious that Christ did not rebuke Peter for striking the man. He simply explained to Peter that those things which were happening had to happen.
John 18:35) Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Here Christ says quite plainly that if His kingdom were of this world, His people would fight for Him. Then He says "but now" (at that time) His kingdom was not of this world. But would there ever be a time when His kingdom could be considered to be of this world?
Mark 9:1) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
Luke 11:20) But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
Luke 17:20) And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
The kingdom of God is not something that will be coming in the future, it is already here. Faith in Christ as our Passover makes Christians part of the kingdom of God on this earth. Christ told Pilate when the time came that His kingdom was here in this world, His people would fight for Him. So why are we told to "resist not evil" and turn the other cheek?
Quite simply, there is a tremendous difference between fighting for ourselves and fighting for the kingdom of God. We are told to love OUR enemies, but not once are we told to love GOD'S enemies. So the question becomes "who and what are we fighting for?" Are we fighting for our own purposes, or are we fighting in defense of God's kingdom - His people? Virtually every "End Times" prophecy indicates that we will, in fact, be fighting for the kingdom of God. We will be fighting God's enemies, and we are told to wage war against them in a rather merciless fashion.
The book of Revelation tells us that "Babylon" is another symbolic name for the enemies of God's people in the final days. There are two prophecies in Scripture that tell us how we are expected deal with Babylon:
Jeremiah 50:13) Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues. 14) Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD. 15) Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it [is] the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.
Revelation 18:4) And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5) For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. 6) Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. 7) How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
Jeremiah tells us to surround Babylon and spare no arrows (vs. 14). In terms of modern warfare, we can read that as "all those who carry guns, shoot at her, spare no bullets". In Revelation John tells us to inflict Babylon with torment and sorrow; to give "her" a double, double portion of what she has given Christians. So are Christians expected to be passivists during the End Times? Obviously not.
Next in this series: "Self Defense - Instructions From the Bible"