“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.”
Revelation 19:11 NLT
The curtains preventing a glimpse into Heaven were parted. And standing there for all to see was a white horse and rider. And the rider had a special name. He was called “Faithful and True”. He had a responsibility to judge fairly, but that wasn’t a problem, as we can see from his name. But what is a “righteous war”?
This is a difficult concept for many because they believe all wars are wrong. And it is true to say that a sinless world would not experience war. But that isn’t reality. We live in a world under the jurisdiction of the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4a, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe ….. ). Wars between peoples and nations happen in a world blighted by sin. In schools, ethics lessons consider “Just Wars”, and here is a definition found on the BBC schools web site:
“A just war is a war which is declared for right and noble reasons and fought in a certain way. A just war is not a war that is ‘good’ as such – it is a war that Christians feel to be necessary or ‘just’ in the circumstances, when all other solutions have been tried and have failed. It is a necessary evil and a last resort.”
But we don’t need to turn to secular material to define the type of war our Revelation 19 rider was waging. Deuteronomy 20 is a chapter full of instructions about waging war. Verse 1 reads, “When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (Deuteronomy 20:1 NLT). The Israelites of old regularly fought battles with God on their side. In fact, in one battle God held the sun in place for a whole day to facilitate an Israelite victory (Joshua 10:12-13, “On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies …).
In the New Testament, there are no specific references to support pacifism. And it is true to say that the wars that have taken place in recent times have been necessary to prevent a greater evil. Jesus wasn’t a pacifist and His second coming, which we are about to explore in the next few verses in Revelation 19, was going to be accompanied by an extremely violent and death-filled war. Those who opposed Jesus were not going to have a peaceful death in their beds!
What do we pilgrims do in a time of war? We face into that dilemma right now as war in Europe continues unabated in Eastern Ukraine. We do what the Bible encourages us to do – we pray for our leaders, we pray for our soldiers, we pray for safety for civilians, and we pray that God will bring about a quick and righteous end to the turmoil of sin and strife.
Dear Father God, we don’t like wars. It brings so much pain, misery and death to so many people. We pray for our politicians and the leaders in the armed forces, that You will help them and lead them, in the conflicts that they encounter. And, topically, we pray about the situation in Ukraine, that You will quickly bring this conflict to an end. We pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe, and especially those caught up in this tragedy, that You will strengthen them, protect them and help them in these difficult times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.