Killing During War

A reader asked:  My step-father is now in his early 80s. He has served in both WWII and the Korean War.  During the Korean War, he was in a rice patty where a young Korean boy suddenly popped up in front of him.  In a split-second, he had to decide… kill a young boy or be killed.  He shot. 

To this day, he can not forgive himself for this in particular, above all of the other horrors of war that he has seen and experienced.  And, he does not feel that he is worthy of forgiveness by God and Christ for this act.  Are there any Scriptures that you can point to help him gain any sense of peace and comfort? 

Many people have misunderstood the Bible on the subject of killing, often because of an incorrect translation in the old King James version of the Bible.  The sixth commandment, in Exodus 20:13, does not actually say, “Thou shalt not kill” as translated in the old King James.  A more accurate translation is provided in many of the modern versions, such as the NIV, which says, “You shall not murder.”  The Bible forbids the act of murder, which means the unjustified taking of a person’s life (including suicide, abortion, and euthanasia), but it doesn’t forbid all killing.  In fact, it is sometimes very adamant that killing is the right thing to do, but it must be justified in God’s eyes.

The Bible tells us quite clearly that killing is not only justified in warfare, but it’s also necessary.  It offers many examples where God commands His people to kill their enemy aggressors in warfare.  In Genesis 10 through 12 (specifically 10:5 and 11:9), God created the institution of nations, and determined that people would be divided according to national entities.  God condemned aggression from one nation against another, and he sanctioned warfare as a means of protection from aggressors.  The Old Testament is filled with commands from God to Moses, Joshua, David, and many others, to kill their enemy aggressors.  Deuteronomy 20:1 says, “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.”

Sometimes God even commanded the unmerciful annihilation of evil nations. Deuteronomy 2:33-34 says, “The LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them–men, women and children. We left no survivors.”

In your step-father’s experience in Korea, the nations of North Korea and China were the aggressors.  They invaded South Korea which was our ally, so we helped them in their defense against those aggressors.  Your step-father explicitly obeyed the Scripture above that says, “… do not be afraid of them, …”  He had been trained to obey orders, and that he did.  He bravely fulfilled his duty in killing the aggressors, even when he had some moral questions about it.

Remember also that our armed forces work as a team in defeating our enemies.  Consider a particular service man whose sole responsibility was to load the proper coordinates for a 90MM anti-aircraft cannon, perhaps under a cloudy nighttime sky.  After the coordinates were loaded, another man positioned and aimed the gun.  Another man loaded a mortar shell, and yet another man fired the weapon.  If the artillery (hopefully) hit its target aircraft, it likely killed all of the enemy onboard.  In many cases, none of these men even saw the far away explosion, but each was (proudly) a part of the killing of the enemy.

The unfortunate thing in your step-father’s incident is that it took place in such close physical proximity to the aggressor.  Even if this is a recurring nightmare for him, he should be proud of the part he played in defense of freedom.  In fact, the enemy soldier that he killed may have been destined to kill him, or another American soldier, if he had not done the right thing as he did.

Your story reminded me of the movie, Saving Private Ryan.  I love the scene with the American sniper, whose job it was to hide, take careful aim with his rifle, and kill German soldiers.  Each time, just before pulling the trigger, he would quote a Scripture from the Bible.  In other words, He was demonstrating his obedience to God and to his commanding officers by killing the enemy.  Such a man, so learned in the Scriptures, probably also said a prayer for his enemies (Matthew 5:44), while he also thanked God for the opportunity for obedience to Him.

Now, regarding forgiveness, Acts 13:38 says,  “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”  Forgiveness of sin is a matter of believing in Christ.  If your step-father is a believer (John 3:16), then, like the rest of us believers, he can simply claim his eternal forgiveness (Romans 4:7), and use the technique of confession (1 John 1:9) to receive temporal forgiveness.  However, regarding his specific actions during war, I believe that there is no need for forgiveness in this situation.  His was not an act of sin, but of obedience.

For more information on this, please see my article Is Killing Ever Right?

Please be sure to thank your step-father for the freedom that he provided to me for his faithful service in fulfilling the (sometimes awful) call of duty from God and from our country, in not just one, but two wars.  I was never in the military, and, much less, never in his shoes.  Because of this, I truly believe that I’ll never be half the man he is.  My simple and easy duty is to simply admire and thank him, and it’s my privilege to do so.

Thanks for your thoughtful response Owen.  I think the primary struggle is looking the young boy in the face and needing to decide will it be him or me?  Shoot a young boy or be killed.  Should he have let the young boy live?

I certainly have an appreciation for the fact your step-father is haunted by that moment when he had to look the young boy in the face and decide what to do.  I may not have addressed this issue directly enough.  I have never had such a difficult decision, but I’ll try to better explain my view from a biblical and moral perspective.

During those wars, and in all of our wars since then, our enemies have often been terrorists who have been willing to sacrifice the lives of their own women and children by using them as decoys, traps, human shields, and suicide bombers.  They quickly learned that American soldiers have compassion for innocent women and children.  Unfortunately, our soldiers also quickly learned that they had to be cautious and untrusting in all engagements with enemy civilians.  Too often an American soldier came to the aid of such a child only to discover that it was a trap to set off an explosion and kill as many Americans as possible.

Your step-father suddenly faced a situation where he had to make a split-second decision, and his instincts and military training kicked in.  Yes, if he had more time, he might have made a different decision.  However, he didn’t have more time.  Our enemies intentionally try to cause our soldiers to hesitate by exploiting their compassion and sensitivity as weaknesses.  There have been many similar situations where American soldiers tried to help an innocent child, then the slightest move by the child set off an explosion, or a trigger from a nearby enemy sniper.  For all your step-father knew, he was saving American lives by sacrificing the life of a child.

I know it had to be terrible for your step-father to look the young boy in the face and decide whether to shoot him or be killed.  I still adamantly believe that your step-father did the right thing.  I believe that this is obvious by the mere fact that this was the decision at hand–to shoot or be killed.  In such (horrendous) moments of battle, our soldiers are taught to do the right thing.  They must shoot.  They would not further our cause to allow themselves to be killed in such a situation.  They are still needed for future battles, and to return home safely.

Note that this does not excuse the war-time murder of civilians such as what some American soldiers did during the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.  Killing the enemy in warfare is justified, but intentional murder is an unjustified sin.  Unfortunately, sometimes this is a fine line, requiring an instant decision by our soldiers.  War is an ugly, but necessary, thing, and part of the ugliness is having to make quick life-threatening decisions.

So, should your step-father have let the young boy live?  I don’t believe so.  He demonstrated strength during wartime, making some quick decisions and acting on those decisions.  If his training, battle conditions, and momentary decision-making were similar to what I described, then he can take solace in the Scriptures that I have offered.  If, for some reason, a sin was committed, then he simply needs to take solace in confession to God (1 John 1:9), as the rest of us do, in order to receive temporal forgiveness.

I hope this helps.  Please feel free to reply again if I can be of any further assistance.  Meanwhile, I am praying for your step-father’s peace and comfort in God (Philippians 4:7).

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What Judgment Will Christians Face?

Judgment

A reader asked:  I know the Bible says we will all be judged. And I know the Bible says Jesus has wiped away all our sins. (For Christians).  My question then is if Jesus has wiped away all our sins, what will Christians stand in judgment for on judgment day?

I’ve included an excerpt from my True Christianity link below, and I think this should answer your question.

A discussion of the doctrine of the judgment of God requires an understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of all men (John 3:16, Hebrews 12:2).  All of our sins are forgiven via this single sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27), and we’ll never be judged for the individual sins that we commit.  In eternity, our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God.  Jesus supplied our eternal sacrifice, and through confession (1 John 1:9), we can have God’s temporal forgiveness in this life.  If so, then what judgment does 1 Peter 1:17 address?  “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”  Furthermore, Romans 2:6 says that God will judge every man according to his deeds.  Indeed, all men will be judged, but there are two specific categories of judgment based upon the determining factor of believing in Jesus Christ as personal savior.

Remember that upon accepting Christ as savior, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to each believer.  Without this divine power, man can do no good (Romans 3:10, 12, Psalms 53:3).  He may do some humanly good deeds, which have as their source the flesh, but unless the Holy Spirit indwells a person and God sees that person through the righteousness of His son, he can’t perform any divinely good works.  In the first category of judgment then, believers will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), and in the second category, unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne of God (Revelation 20:11-15).

The Judgment Seat of Christ

The judgment of all believers will occur at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10), but the Bible doesn’t clearly specify when this judgment will occur.  I tend to side with those who believe that our day of judgment will occur after the rapture and during the tribulation period, but it’s probably a moot point since time can’t be set in an eternal state.  Nevertheless, we’re assured of both the rapture and this judgment which introduce what the Bible calls “. . . the day of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8), and we’re charged to be prepared for it and remain blameless in this life until that day.

In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, we see that in that day, “. . . his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.”  Christ will test the quality of our works with fire, which will burn up the wood, hay, and straw, but leave the pure gold, silver, and precious stones.  God will repay us for our deeds in the body, according to what we’ve done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Christ will reveal whether our good works were only humanly good works produced by the flesh like the wood, hay, and straw similar to that of “good” unbelievers, or whether our good works came from the divine power of the Holy Spirit in the form of gold, silver, and precious stones.

For the divine good works that survive the test of fire, Jesus will credit our account (Philippians 4:17).  For our human good works, we’ll suffer loss of rewards, but we’ll keep our eternal life (1 Corinthians 3:15).  We’re promised that God will repay us for our service to Him (Ephesians 6:8), and we’ll receive “. . . an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:24).

Rewards

We’re not told the details of these rewards, but any reward from God must be wonderful and worthy of our service.  Our rewards may be personal commendations from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).  They may be in the form of crowns (1 Corinthians 9:25, Revelation 3:11).  In 1 Peter 5:4, a special “crown of glory” is specified for leaders who serve well.  In 2 Timothy 4:8, we see a crown of righteousness for those who live Godly lives and long for Christ’s return.  James 1:12 references a crown of life for those who persevered by God’s grace, while under trial for their faith. Philippians 4:1 speaks of a crown of joy for those who stand firm in their service to God.

Our rewards may be positions of authority or leadership as we reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6, 22:5).  By 1 Corinthians 6:3, we’ll even be given authority to judge the angels.  No matter what our rewards are, Christians in this life must have faith that God will make all our service to Him worthwhile.  We should understand that the name of the game after salvation while we remain on the earth is service to God and rewards from Jesus Christ.

Works

This system of judgment and rewards for Christians in return for divinely good works doesn’t at first sound like a grace system, does it?  However, God established this system of works within His all-encompassing system of Grace, similar to the way he had a system of works to govern the daily lives of the Jews in the Old Testament, although the two are completely mutually exclusive.  When not properly oriented toward God’s grace and sovereignty, a Christian can feel guilty for trying to earn eternal rewards.  Of course our works should be motivated from our love for Christ, but Matthew 6:19-20 says not to seek earthly treasures (coveting), but to seek heavenly treasures (rewards) with fervor.

The Great White Throne

The judgment of unbelievers will occur after the Millennium as all unbelievers stand before the Great White Throne of God (Revelation 20:11).  God will judge all their deeds (Romans 2:6) and find that they’re all lacking the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22), and God will cast them all into the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:15).  The Bible doesn’t specify how the judgment of their individual human good works will affect their eternal doom in the lake of fire.  Perhaps there will be degrees of punishment in hell, although we can’t perceive a punishment worse than hell itself. Romans 1:18-27 tells us that they deserve their punishment, and they have no excuse for their unbelief, since God has revealed Himself to all men.

Conclusions

We’ll all face God’s judgment, whether we’re believers or unbelievers. Believers will be rewarded for their divinely good works, and they’ll spend eternity in paradise, either as wealthy recipients of many rewards, or as paupers in comparison to what they could have had.  At the Great White Throne of God, unbelievers will be found to lack the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and they’ll be sentenced to the lake of fire forever.  Our concern in this life is that of pleasing God as Christians through our faith, our obedience, and our earning of heavenly rewards.

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Will we Know Each Other in Heaven?

A reader asked:  Will we know one another in heaven? 

The Bible is not definitive about what our relationships with others will be like in heaven.  The best passage that we have on this is probably Matthew 22:23-33 where Christ is answering a question from the Pharisees concerning the afterlife for a woman who had multiple husbands on earth.  In verse 30, Jesus says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”  This implies that people in heaven will know each other, but they won’t have the same relationships, such as marriage.

I believe that our existence in heaven will be overpowered by God’s glory (Revelation 4:9-11).  We will be so awe-struck by being in the very presence of God, that we will somehow not even be too concerned with others.

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Do Animals go to Heaven?

A reader asked:  Do animals go to heaven? 

Thank you for your question.  No, animals do not go to heaven.  Humans
are intelligent creatures with a soul and a spirit, while animals are
not.

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Children in Heaven

Will there be children in heaven?  Are there any babies or old people in Heaven, and if not where are the  scriptures to back it up?  I asked this in my Church, but no scriptures were given to back up  what they told me.

Thank you for your question.  Yes, this theological issue has been  debated for centuries.  Some point to scriptures like Romans 5:12 which tells us that every person is born with imputed sin in his flesh; and, John 3:16, Galatians 2:16, and Ephesians 2:8-9 which tell us that we must each accept Jesus Christ through faith in order to receive eternal life.  Although these scriptures teach us necessary truths, the  Scriptures also seem to teach us about a special grace that God extends  to infants and others that have not yet reached an age or stage of  accountability.  Fortunately, I believe that there is one specific and
very definitive passage about this.

In 2 Samuel 12:22-23, King David had been mourning the death of his  newborn son.  He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and  wept.  I thought, ‘Who knows?  The LORD may be gracious to me and let  the child live.’  But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting?   Can I bring him back again?  I will go to him, but he will not return to
me.”

When David says, “… I will go to him …,” he is referring to the  event of his own death (as a believer) at some point in the future.    When he dies, he will immediately be in God’s presence in Heaven, so  this must be where his son already is.

We can also infer from this that when a believer dies, he will be able  to see all other believers (who have died) in heaven, including those  who died as infants, and those who died in old age.  However, it’s  difficult for us to imagine the concept of age in heaven, since it’s an  eternal state that is not bound to space or time.

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Marriage in Heaven

A reader asked:  In heaven will my wife and I still be married?

Thank you for your question.  The Bible is not definitive about what our relationships with others will be like in heaven.  The best passage that we have on this is probably Matthew 22:23-33 where Christ is answering a question from the Pharisees concerning the afterlife for a woman who had multiple husbands on earth.  In verse 30, Jesus says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”  This implies that people in heaven will know each other, but they won’t have the same relationships, such as marriage.

I believe that our existence in heaven will be overpowered by God’s glory (Revelation 4:9-11).  We will be so awe-struck by being in the very presence of God, that we will somehow not even be too concerned with others.

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Our Loved Ones in Heaven

A reader asked:  I have been asked recently and have also wondered myself if we will know our loved ones in heaven.  Also are there any scriptures to support the answer.  It is hard to imagine that the loving relationships we have had with families here on earth will be gone when we get to heaven.  I know that we will be so blessed to see the Lord and all that heaven has to offer, but do not want to think this earth will be the end of our knowledge of our loved ones.  Thank you for your answer to this important question.

Thank you for your question.  The Bible is not definitive about what our relationships with others will be like in heaven.  The best passage that we have on this is probably Matthew 22:23-33 where Christ is answering a question from the Pharisees concerning the afterlife for a woman who had multiple husbands on earth.  In verse 30, Jesus says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”  This implies that people in heaven will know each other, but they won’t have the same relationships, such as marriage.

I believe that our existence in heaven will be overpowered by God’s glory (Revelation 4:9-11).  We will be so awe-struck by being in the very presence of God, that we will somehow not even be too concerned with others.

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Death and the Soul

A reader asked:  I would like to know where in the Bible that talks about the state of soul after the soul leaves the body?  Like the Catholics believing in purgatory, what do Christians believe in? 

Thank you for your question about the state of the soul after death.  I believe that our definitive passage on this is the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  When the rich man died, he went to a place called “Hades” (verse 23), which was a place of torments.  When Lazarus died, he went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom,” which Bible scholars have associated with the word “paradise.”

When people died in Old Testament times (including the times referenced in the Gospels), their bodies went into a grave, but apparently there was a temporary holding place for their souls. The Bible uses a term called hell, such as in Matthew 5:22, but the terminology is slightly different than what we normally use. Hell is the lake of fire where all unbelievers will spend eternity (Revelation 20:14-15). Apparently, however, the temporary holding place (sometimes called Sheol, or Purgatory) had a compartment for separate compartments for believers and unbelievers. (This is where the Catholics (mistakenly) built their doctrine of purgatory.) Unbelievers spent this period in the part called torments (Luke 16:23), while believers spent this time in a place called paradise (Luke 23:43).

However, with the resurrection of Jesus (the first resurrection), these Old Testament believers were transferred from paradise to Heaven. This is apparently what was going on in Matthew 7:53, which is a very difficult passage.

Now, for us, it’s completely different. Since the resurrection of Christ has already occurred, and He has ascended to Heaven, when believers die today, our bodies go to a grave, and our spirits go straight to Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) to be with Christ.

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The Biblical Timeline of Bible Events

The Biblical timeline presented here provides an accurate chronology of the events of the Bible.  These charts were derived almost exclusively from the chronological information available in the Bible.  Little attempt was made here to correlate these events with archaeological evidences or non-Biblical sources.  Therefore, it isn’t expected that these charts will agree with traditional chronologies.  The purpose here is to provide a true Biblical (and only Biblical) chronology of mankind.  The following paragraphs substantiate the defense of and the confidence level in these charts.

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What Does Salvation Mean in Christianity?

The term “salvation” is used by Christians for the blessings received when a person believes in Jesus Christ.  It implies “salvation” from eternity in hell, but there’s much more to it than that.  Here’s what it’s all about:

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