The Hebrew term ʼoh·yevʹ and the Greek ekh·throsʹ refer to one who is hostile or one who hates. (Ex 23:22; Mt 5:43) The first record of enmity in the universe is the action of the “serpent,” later identified in the Bible as Satan the Devil (Re 12:9), when he approached Eve with a challenge as to God’s truthfulness. (Ge 3:4, 5) Jesus Christ described this spirit creature as a manslayer, also as “a liar and the father of the lie.”
Enemies of God. Since that time Satan has been the chief enemy of God. (Mt 13:25, 39) He has exercised influence over mankind, and they have yielded to that influence, so that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1Jo 5:19) This world is therefore the enemy of God. (Jas 4:4) Yet God has been long-suffering with his enemies and merciful to those from among them who desired to serve him. He has provided a means of reconciliation for such ones through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Ro 5:10; Col 1:21, 22) He has constituted those who are in union with Christ “ambassadors” to a hostile world, with the ministry of reconciliation.
On the other hand, there are many who become God’s hard-set enemies, including Satan and the wicked demons, who gather the nations in opposition to God (Re 16:13-16); the apostate “man of lawlessness,” who sets himself in opposition to God (2Th 2:3, 4); “Babylon the Great,” whose “sins have massed together clear up to heaven” (Re 17:5; 18:5); “the wild beast” out of the sea, which gets its power and authority from Satan the dragon (Re 13:1, 2, 6); the two-horned “wild beast,” which promotes worship of that sea “beast” (Re 13:11, 12); the “scarlet-colored wild beast” that is “full of blasphemous names” (Re 17:3); and those who persist in supporting them (Re 19:17-21). These God will destroy.
Enemies of Christ. The enemies of God are also the enemies of Christ. (Joh 8:42-47; Mt 10:40) When on earth Jesus Christ suffered much at the hands of the enemies of God. Nevertheless, he did not repay them in kind; he did not seek to work injury to them. (1Pe 2:21-23) He even healed one man in the crowd that came out with clubs and swords to seize him.
However, after his resurrection he “sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Heb 10:12, 13; Lu 20:41-43) This prophecy was recorded at Psalm 110, stating Jehovah’s command to his Son: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.” (Ps 110:2) These enemies of Jehovah and of his “anointed one” are shown to be composed of “nations,” “national groups,” “kings of the earth,” and “high officials.” (Ps 2:1-9) At Revelation 19:11-21 the one called “Faithful and True,” “The Word of God,” and “King of kings and Lord of lords” is described as leading the armies of heaven against his enemies. His enemies are here described as “the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies,” and the “false prophet,” all of whom Christ annihilates.
Enemies of Mankind. Those who are enemies of God are at the same time enemies of mankind because they fight against man’s reconciliation with God and God’s purposes toward the human family. They oppose the proclamation of the truth and are therefore against the interests of all men, just as were those who persecuted the early Christians.
Additionally, because of the entry of sin into the world through Adam, death spread to all men, and it has been, as the Bible calls it, mankind’s “enemy.” (1Co 15:26; Ro 5:12) Death cannot be overcome by man’s efforts. (Ps 89:48) Only Jehovah God through Jesus Christ will do away with this enemy of man.
The Christian’s Fight. The apostle Paul described the warfare of the Christian, saying: “We have a wrestling not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12; compare 2Co 10:4.) Therefore the Christian’s fight is not against men. It is against wicked spirits who try to turn them away from God. Conversely, Jesus Christ explained to his followers that the world would hate and even kill them (Mt 10:22; 24:9; Joh 16:2) and that in some cases a man’s enemies would be those of his own household.
What is to be the Christian’s attitude toward fellow humans who make themselves his enemies? Jesus counseled: “Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you.” (Lu 6:27, 28) He explained: “You heard that it was said [not in the Bible, but in tradition], ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.” (Mt 5:43, 44) And, doubtless referring to Proverbs 25:21, the apostle Paul admonishes: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him.” (Ro 12:20) This principle was enunciated by the Law, which read: “Should you come upon your enemy’s bull or his ass going astray, you are to return it without fail to him. Should you see the ass of someone who hates you lying down under its load, then you must refrain from leaving him. With him you are without fail to get it loose.”
Because Jehovah’s servants follow these fine principles, the result has been that many former enemies have become softened in heart toward them and also toward God himself. This is in harmony with Proverbs 16:7: “When Jehovah takes pleasure in the ways of a man he causes even his enemies themselves to be at peace with him.” (Compare Ro 12:17, 18, 21; 1Pe 2:19, 20; 3:9.) An outstanding example of mercy toward an enemy is the treatment accorded by Jesus Christ to Saul of Tarsus (who became the apostle Paul).
Jehovah God says: “Vengeance is mine, and retribution.” (De 32:35; Ro 12:19; Heb 10:30) Therefore the servant of God does not take vengeance into his own hands; neither does he wish for calamity on his enemies for personal satisfaction, remembering the wise counsel: “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; and when he is caused to stumble, may your heart not be joyful.” (Pr 24:17) Under the Law, in instances where there might be a question as to whether a manslaying was deliberate or accidental, any previous enmity, hatred, or striking of a man with enmity was a factor that weighed heavily against the accused.
There are many “enemies” to be overcome by the Christian during his life course, aside from literal personal opposition. There is grave danger in capitulating to these “enemies,” for, if submitted to, they will bring one into the position of an enemy of God. Says the apostle: “The minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be.” (Ro 8:7; Ga 5:17) The Scriptures describe a conflict that goes on within the Christian because of two inimical forces: (1) “the law of God,” which Paul spoke of as the law now governing his mind, and also as “the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus,” and (2) “sin’s law that is in [one’s] members,” or “the law of sin and of death.” (Ro 7:22-25; 8:2) The apostle Peter, in similar vein, admonishes Christians to “keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul.” (1Pe 2:11) James the half brother of Jesus concurs, speaking of “cravings for sensual pleasure that carry on a conflict in your members.” (Jas 4:1) One must recognize these things as enemies in order to stand firm against them.