Will We Always Need Armies?
ARMIES have consumed a large part of human resources and destroyed much of man’s happiness. Some people have thus wondered, ‘Can mankind ever achieve the kind of world security that allows for the disbanding of armies?’ Now that weapons of mass destruction have made the extinction of all life possible, the question becomes urgent. How realistic is it to hope for a world without armies?
Numerous precedents prove that when good international relations produce confidence, it may lead to some disarmament. General friendliness between Canada and the United States, for example, has meant that their 3,000 mile [5,000 km] border has been unprotected by armies for over one and a half centuries. Norway and Sweden have achieved a similar accord, as have many other nations. Could an agreement between all nations achieve a world without armies? With the horrors of World War I, the idea gained unprecedented popularity.
When peace was made in 1918, one of the purposes of the Versailles peace treaty was “to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations.” During the following years, pacifism became popular. Some pacifists theorized that war is the worst thing that can befall a nation and is therefore worse than suffering defeat. Opponents of pacifism disagreed, pointing out that over the centuries, Jews in large areas put up little armed resistance to attackers, yet cruel attempts to exterminate them continued. Africans had little opportunity to resist those who brought them as slaves to the Americas, and yet they were cruelly mistreated for centuries.
With the outbreak of World War II, however, many pacifists concluded that countries need protection. So when the United Nations was established after World War II, the emphasis was less on disarmament and more on international cooperation to prevent aggression. The members hoped that the security thus provided would give nations confidence to disarm.
Another problem became increasingly clear. Often the efforts of a nation to make itself secure made its neighbor feel insecure. This vicious circle led to an arms race. But more recently, improved relations between the major nations have strengthened the hope of disarmament. Since then, however, the Gulf War and the troubles in former Yugoslavia have dashed hopes of disarmament for many. About five years ago, Time magazine commented: “Though the cold war is over, the world has become a more, rather than less, dangerous place.”
Desire for a Global “Policeman”
Many observers conclude that mankind needs a single world authority with an army powerful enough to protect everyone. Since neither the United Nations organization nor the world’s leading military powers are able to do this, some feel that there is little hope for the future. But if you accept the Bible as God’s Word, you may have wondered whether Almighty God will satisfy this urgent need.
Would the One whom the Bible calls “the God of love and of peace” use military might to enforce justice? If so, which army? Many of today’s armies claim to have God’s backing, but are they really carrying out the will of God? Or does God have some other way of intervening and providing peace and security?—2 Corinthians 13:11.
Almighty God dealt with the first rebellion by expelling Adam and Eve from Eden and posting cherubs to prevent their return. He also announced his purpose to crush all rebellion against his sovereignty. (Genesis 3:15) Might that involve God’s using an army?
The Bible tells of occasions when God did use armies to carry out his judgments. For example, the kingdoms in the land of Canaan practiced sex relations with beasts, child sacrifice, and sadistic warfare. God decreed their complete destruction and used Joshua’s army to carry out the sentence. (Deuteronomy 7:1, 2) Similarly, King David’s army carried out God’s judgment against the Philistines as an example of how God will destroy all wickedness in his final day of judgment.
Those events were instructive. Jehovah demonstrated that he can use an army to give people security. Indeed, Jehovah has a unique sort of army that will deal with the rebellion of universal proportions against his rule.
“Jehovah of Armies”
The Bible uses the expression “Jehovah of armies” over 250 times. The expression basically refers to God’s position as commander of vast forces of angels. On one occasion the prophet Micaiah told Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat: “I certainly see Jehovah sitting upon his throne and all the army of the heavens standing by him, to his right and to his left.” (1 Kings 22:19) Armies of angels are referred to here. Jehovah used these armies to protect his people. When the city of Dothan was besieged, Elisha’s servant abandoned hope. However, to reassure him, God gave him a miraculous vision of his army of spirit creatures. “Jehovah opened the attendant’s eyes, so that he saw; and, look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire.”—2 Kings 6:15-17.
Do such events mean that God supports armies today? Some armies of Christendom may claim to be God’s armies. Many have asked clergymen to bless them. But the armies of Christendom often fight against one another, against fellow believers. The two world wars of this century began between armies that claimed to be Christian. This cannot be the work of God. (1 John 4:20) While such military forces may claim that they fight for peace, did Jesus instruct his followers to organize such armies in an attempt to prevent disturbance of peace in the world?
A serious breach of peace occurred when an armed mob laid hands on Jesus in a garden where he had been praying with his disciples. One of the disciples struck a man in the mob with a sword. Jesus used the occasion to explain an important principle. He said: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus had a vast army at his command, but Peter had not been enlisted as a soldier in it, nor has any other human. Rather, Peter and the rest of Jesus’ followers had been called to be “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19; 26:47-53) A few hours later, Jesus clarified the situation to Pilate. He said: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Unlike the kingdom of David that was established on the earth, the Kingdom that God has given Jesus is in heaven and will bring peace on earth.
God’s Armies Go Into Battle
The armies of God will soon take action. In describing the clash that lies ahead, Revelation calls Jesus “The Word of God.” We read: “The armies that were in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen. And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it.” The Bible says that this engagement will result in the end of “the kings of the earth and their armies.” As for others who fail to demonstrate their loyalty to God, the prophecy adds: “The rest were killed off with the long sword of the one seated on the horse.” Even Satan the Devil will be put out of action. This truly will allow for a world of peace without armies.—Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-3.
Imagine a World Without War
Can you visualize a world so secure that armies are not needed? A Bible psalm says: “Come, you people, behold the activities of Jehovah, how he has set astonishing events on the earth. He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.”—Psalm 46:8, 9.
What a relief this will be! Imagine the possibilities for human society released at last from the crippling burden of paying for armies and their equipment! People will be able to direct their energies toward improving living conditions for everyone, toward cleaning up the earth and replanting it. There will be new opportunities to invent things that will be genuinely useful to mankind.
This promise will have a worldwide fulfillment: “No more will violence be heard in your land, despoiling or breakdown within your boundaries.” (Isaiah 60:18) Never again will millions of desperate refugees stream from war zones, forced to leave their homes and property to live in camps of misery. Never again will people wail over loved ones killed or maimed in conflicts between nations. Jehovah’s heavenly King will establish permanent world peace. “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul.”—Psalm 72:7, 14.
More pleasant still will be life among people who have learned not to hate but to imitate God’s ways of love. God’s Word foretells: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” What will it be like to live among people who know and love Jehovah? The same book prophesies: “The work of the true righteousness must become peace; and the service of the true righteousness, quietness and security to time indefinite. And my people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting-places.”—Isaiah 11:9; 32:17, 18.
People whose faith is built on Bible knowledge discern that God’s armies are poised to cleanse the earth of all enemies of peace. This knowledge gives them confidence to act on what the Bible says “must occur in the final part of the days.” That is: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:2-4.
People from many nations who have become Jehovah’s Witnesses already refrain from ‘learning war.’ They have placed their confidence in the protection of God’s heavenly armies. By studying the Bible with them, you too can develop similar confidence.
[Picture Credit Line on page 28]
U.S. National Archives photo