Can Any War Be Wholly Just?
NOW as never before in man’s history a question has come to the fore with the strong voice of demand for an answer: “Is any war just?” As we review the wars of mundane history we find that nearly all of them were useless, certainly cruel and inhuman in the extreme degree, and a great many turned out as a loss for both sides. It was General Sherman, a victorious commander, who said of war: “It is all hell.” In our time we have heard many outspoken protests. We have seen organized demonstrations by persons who feel that there is no war that truly can be called right or just.
But then the logical reasoning arises: With selfishness and wickedness in the earth, how can persons who love what is just and who would like to have peace live without war? ‘Why,’ say they, ‘if we don’t fight, all liberty and rights would be taken away from men.’ In this they are right; there are many enemies of righteousness and justice. Does it require war to maintain justice in the earth? What kind of war? At whose direction? Can there be a just war to end all wars?
WHY THERE HAS TO BE A JUST WAR
The Bible expresses in a few words the principle involved: “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous one; and the one dealing treacherously takes the place of the upright ones.” (Prov. 21:18) In other words, the only way that upright ones can have true enjoyment of life as the Creator purposed is for the wicked to pay with their lives—all the wicked. Clear them out of the way so that they will not hinder righteousness in the earth! But who is to determine who are the wicked ones? and who is able to clear them out for earth’s benefit? None of men’s wars have yet done that, for even if fought for a right cause they are not selective but kill indiscriminately both those who are good and those who are bad and sometimes spare the most wicked ones. Nonetheless, the Bible principle still remains firm. Such a war must be fought. It is very easy to see that the direction and execution of the war would have to be by someone with far more wisdom and power than man has.
Such a war would necessarily be gory and would be cruel to those who deserved to be cleared off the earth. (Isa. 13:9) Once done, it would be a fine and just thing, and if the one who accomplishes such a work can afterward rule over those who desire justice, righteousness and peace, we surely could expect lasting peace. The Bible describes this very war, which can truly be called a war to end all wars. In the previous issue of this magazine we have discussed the qualifications required for the leader and commander of the victorious army. If the reader will consider Revelation, chapter 19, verses 11 to 16, discussed in that issue, he will be better prepared for what is to be said here.
FALL OF FALSE RELIGION NOT ARMAGEDDON
The war that will accomplish such a wonderful thing is described in the Bible and is titled “Har–Magedon” (Armageddon). The Bible indicates that this final war comes after the false religious empire of the earth, or Babylon the Great, is destroyed. So it will not be one false religion against another. Babylon was on the Euphrates River, and Babylon the Great is likewise pictured that way in Revelation. (Re 16:12) The fight in which false religion is destroyed comes first, in what might be called the Battle of Babylon, or the Battle of the Euphrates. At Armageddon the rulers of earth are not shown as gathering at the Euphrates but, from the name Har–Magedon, seem to be at Megiddo, which is located more than 500 miles west of Babylon. (Rev. 16:14, 16) Another factor to consider is that the priests or the religious clergy are not involved—only the kings of the earth—because the religious organization is already gone. (Rev. 19:19) Therefore, the destruction of Babylon the Great is no part of Armageddon but the battle of Har–Magedon immediately follows it.
In God’s execution of judgment against the false religious empire of this earth he permitted the kings of the earth to be his instruments, venting their rage upon her, but not destroying His witnesses on earth. Once started on their destructive course in the frenzy of their anger, they do not stop but next turn directly against God’s witnesses because they are proclaiming that sovereignty belongs to God and that his kingdom will rule. This brings the rulers into a direct clash with the ‘Lamb of God,’ his Son-King Jesus Christ, who is his Chief Executive Officer and Warrior. (Rev. 17:14) In fighting against God’s witnesses whom they can see, they are really fighting against that which they cannot see, the heavenly army, and therefore do not stand a chance of victory. The Scriptures describe how decisively and thoroughly they are defeated.
A CLOSER VIEW OF THE FIGHT
Speaking of the victorious army under Jesus Christ, Revelation says: “He treads too the press of the wine of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:15) This global winepress will crush the political vine of the earth with all its political branches, huge clusters of grapes, wicked deeds and oppression, which are the fruitage produced by their kingdoms. Grapes are usually crushed at wine-making by human feet, but not so with the vine of the earth. God threshes with horses’ hoofs the product of this vine. The Word of God and his heavenly armies leap into the winepress and stamp it out until they completely express the “anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.” It is a time of victory, and just as in Palestine wine-making was a festive time, the treaders will doubtless shout and sing as they trample out the grapes. (Jer. 25:30; 48:33) It will result in a terrible destruction, but it will be selective, Jehovah God destroying only those who really are against him and his kingdom and the interests of all men.—Rev. 14:18-20; Joel 3:12-17.
Impressing upon us the reality and literalness of this war to end wars, the vision given to the apostle John continues: “I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: ‘Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that you may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men and the fleshy parts of horses and of those seated upon them, and the fleshy parts of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great.’”—Rev. 19:17, 18; compare Ezekiel 39:17-21.
In Bible times persons who were considered as deserving of a resurrection were given a respectful burial. The ones slaughtered at Armageddon are shown as being left as food for the carrion-eating birds of the heavens. They will not be buried with military honors nor have graves with markers to memorialize them for mourners and idolizers. Those destroyed in this war will not be mourned, for the reason that they have shown themselves undeserving of mercy. By their removal the earth is cleansed.—Jer. 25:31-33; Num. 35:33.
A practical literal benefit will come because of allowing the birds to clean the bones of these enemies of God—a health benefit. Many have been the epidemics that have been caused by the wholesale destruction and devastation of past wars. The air will not be polluted by the smell nor the water contaminated by these dead corpses. Those who survive, being unable to bury such great numbers, will not be in danger of decimation by disease epidemic. Jesus, when on earth, told his disciples: “Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Matt. 24:28) This victory will be a feast, not only for the literal birds, but also, in a sense, for those who survive, for they will feast because of the end of wickedness. They will appreciate God’s protection and provision for them. In this way it can be called the “great evening meal of God.”
ORGANIZATION BROKEN UP
In John’s vision he was able to see the battle array against the heavenly warrior Jesus Christ. It is formidable. John says: “And I saw the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage the war with the one seated on the horse and with his army.” (Rev. 19:19) The lineup on one side will be the political organizations on earth under Satan’s control, including the kings of the earth and all those military forces that owe allegiance to them. On the other side no earthly ones are seen with military equipment. Why? It will be the armies in heaven that will fight against the political organization. This is more than sufficient. The results are described:
“And the wild beast was caught, and along with it the false prophet that performed in front of it the signs with which he misled those who received the mark of the wild beast and those who render worship to its image. While still alive, they both were hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulphur.”—Rev. 19:20.
The “wild beast” got its power and its throne and great authority from the dragon. The “false prophet,” being the symbolic seventh head of the political wild beast, automatically gets authority in connection with the “wild beast.” This head represents the Anglo-American World Power, as the final actual world power of this system of things. True, there is an eighth, but it is merely a combine of the powers of earth and an image of the original wild beast expressed in the League of Nations, now the U.N. (Rev. 17:11) The Anglo-American World Power is called the “false prophet” because it holds a dominant position in the world’s political system and presumes to speak for it, speaking “as a dragon,” that is, like the Devil.—Rev. 13:1, 2, 11-15.
At Armageddon the “false prophet” will be proven false. He has claimed always to fight only a just war, and falsely called World War I the war to end all wars. He has taken the lead in pointing the people to the image of the beast, the U.N., and proclaimed it to be the world’s last hope of peace, which amounts really to an official declaration against the kingdom of God.
The “wild beast” and the “false prophet” will be caught alive, “red-handed,” as it were, while engaging in their bloody fight against Jehovah’s witnesses on earth. All the blood they have shed in human history will now be required of them. (Gen. 9:5) Raging at their captivity, the “wild beast” and the “false prophet” will savagely, in desperation, try to break loose, but they will be unable to tear apart the bands that hold them or the cords tying them. Jehovah God will laugh at their wild efforts.—Ps. 2:1-4.
How will these, having been caught, be disposed of? Will they be preserved alive? Will they be killed and buried in Hades or Sheol, which is the common grave of dead mankind, from which resurrection is possible? No, these political organizations are slated to be “hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulphur.” This the Bible describes as the “second death.” (Rev. 20:14) It means the death from which there is no resurrection. They will be burned up root and branch, as completely gone forever as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Jehovah God burned up by a rain of fire and sulphur from heaven, never to be rebuilt. It is destruction in Gehenna in which God destroys both body and soul (any right or possibility of living).—Matt. 10:28; Gen. 19:23-29; 2 Pet. 2:6-9; Jude 7.
The Bible shows that, after these political organizations are burned up, there will still be kings of the earth and their armies remaining. Without organization, all world unity and political authority and all political alliances will be broken down. Imagine this brief time when there is no control, restraint or direction! It follows that there will be wild confusion and disorder. They will madly fight one another, as took place in days of old. (2 Chron. 20:23; Zech. 14:13) Jesus Christ while on earth foretold it, saying: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones [the remnant of the 144,000 yet on earth] those days will be cut short.”—Matt. 24:21, 22, 38, 39.
What is the fate of those who live through this? They are to be killed off in execution of their death sentence pronounced by the “long sword” out of the mouth of the victorious King of kings. This will not include the “flesh” that is to be saved, for, to be sure, the heavenly army under Christ will not kill true Christians. They will be “concealed” by Jehovah’s hand.—Zeph. 2:3; Isa. 26:20, 21.
Such a war, you may say, is terrible to contemplate. True, it is, but that is all the more reason to take steps to avoid being on the wrong side, for the war is inevitable. It is mandatory for justice’ sake. God’s decree is that it must come to clean wickedness from the earth once for all time. God is the Judge of matchless perfection and he knows those who serve him and those whose hearts are turned toward righteousness. He also knows those who are wickedly bent and hardened toward him, just as he knew Pharaoh of old.
From the foregoing it is clear that there will indeed be a just war. It will not be a war prosecuted according to man’s standard of justice, but by the perfect standard of God’s justice. While it will destroy many, such ones will be those who deserve destruction. But think what it will mean for survivors and the earth’s future inhabitants, among whom will be many who have been slaughtered in the unjust and unrighteous warfares of past history, brought back by a resurrection. The Bible says: “When there are judgments from you [Jehovah] for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” “He will judge the productive land with righteousness and the peoples with his faithfulness.” (Isa. 26:9; Ps. 96:13) Yes, the war of Armageddon will clear the earth of the enemies of God and man. Of the reign of his Warrior-Son, who will also be the everlasting King, Jehovah himself has prophesied: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”—Isa. 9:6, 7.