The last few years have witnessed increased tensions among the world’s powers. China has attempted to control the South China Sea. Russia launched a series of unjust strikes against Ukraine and is embroiled in a full-fledged conventional war. And now, Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, slaughtering many civilians, and now seeks the support of Iran and Hezbollah in its jihad to obliterate Israel from the map.
We should be unsurprised. In this time “between the times” of Christ’s first and second comings, there will be wars and rumors of war. Our world is irreparably broken and can only be fixed by him. Thus, we await his return, knowing that he is righting all wrongs, crushing his enemies underfoot, and liberating his people to dwell in eternal peace.
How does this relate to the outbreak of war in the Middle East? It should cause us to remember that Jesus Christ is the sovereign king even over terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. He will return one day to rectify the world’s great injustices, and in the meantime, he calls us to live as ambassadors of his kingdom.
Jesus Christ is the Sovereign King over the whole world.
During Jesus’ first coming, he assumed the role of Suffering Servant. As God, he took on human flesh so that, on our behalf, he could live a morally perfect life and die a substitutionary death. The irony is strong: the torture and slaughter of the God-man was the most unjust action ever taken in human history, and yet at the same time it brought about the greatest good the world has ever seen. As religious, military, and political powers colluded to crucify Jesus, God the Trinity conspired to save the world.
During Jesus’ second coming, however, he will assume the role of Sovereign King. After all, he is the Creator and therefore the Lord of all things. Through Jesus, God created everything that exists (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2). Through him, the world is upheld and continues to exist (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). In other words, the world would not have come into existence without him and cannot continue in existence without him. Even—and especially—when we cannot make sense of his sovereign plan, we must rest assured that he indeed keeps the world in his hands.
In our fallen world of systematic injustice, brutality, and oppression, we can take comfort in the Man of Sorrows who is well-acquainted with grief and empathizes from on high. He, and he alone, is uniquely positioned to judge the nations.
Jesus Christ will return one day to rectify the world’s injustices.
Yet, it seems unjust that the Just One didn’t intervene while Israeli families and children were killed in their beds. How can he sit idly by while the terrorists rage?
This is the question King David posed repeatedly in the Psalms. It was difficult for him, as it is for us, to understand why God doesn’t act decisively now to defeat those who perpetrate great evils. And yet, David’s repeated questions came from a place of faith; the great King of Israel believed that even when it seems that Evil has the upper hand, God remains on his throne and will one day judge the evil actors of this world.
Consider Psalm 2, David’s prayer-prophecy in which he poses the rhetorical question, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (2:1). To his own question, he answers, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (2:4). What’s more, he declares that the Son will “break [the nations] with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (2:7-9). In other words, while it might seem that the “big men” of this world strut their injustices with impunity, God is not mocked. One day, the score will be settled.
The enemies of God will tremble when Jesus returns to settle the score. This was Paul’s point at the Areopagus when he told his pagan audience that God will judge the world by the very man who rose from the dead (Acts 17:31), and his point to the Philippians when he declared that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11). It was likewise John’s point when he prophesies Jesus riding in on a white horse to cast judgment and make war (Rev 19:11).
So, although powerful men with evil intent may seem to be escaping justice, they are not. The same suffering Savior they have rejected will return one day as conquering King. They will be held accountable for their sins.
Jesus Christ calls us to live as ambassadors of his kingdom in the here-and-now.
In the meantime, during this time “between the times,” Jesus calls us to live as ambassadors of his kingdom. But what does this mean, practically, in the midst of a war-torn world?
Concerning God’s justice, it means that we should trust that God has things in control. Like David, we must trust that God is sovereign even when it seems he is not. In God’s own timing, he will send his Son to set the world to rights.
In relation to God’s timing, it means that we shouldn’t distract ourselves—as some Christians do—by trying to figure out if this particular war involving Israel is a sign of the end times. When the disciples begged Jesus to let them in on the “secret” of when he would return, he rebuked them by saying, in effect, “It’s not really any of your business to know when I will return; rather, devote your energies to being my representatives on earth” (Acts 1: 6-8). So, instead of studying prophecy charts, listening to end-times podcasts, and trying to figure out if the end of the world is nigh, we should get on with the business of representing Christ until he returns.
With regard to God’s cultural mandate—his call for Christians to represent his interests in every sphere of culture—it means we should support the nation of Israel as it defends itself against egregiously unjust attacks. In this time between the times, we can only ever achieve a provisional peace if evil actors are thwarted by physical force. Thus, in order for Israel to uphold her calling as a government, she must secure her borders and defend her people (Rom 13:4). And we, her allies, must not desert her.
Finally, concerning God’s promise, it means that we should pray for Christ’s soon return. During World War II, as fascists sought to exterminate the Jews, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it well: “It means looking out beyond the borders of our own nation, across the whole world, and praying that the gospel of the kingdom, which puts an end to all war, now may come over all nations and that then the end may come, that Christ may draw near.” Indeed. Come, Lord Jesus.
Throughout history, the big men of the world have strutted across the stage, defying God and waging unjust wars. But God will have the last laugh. He has appointed his Son with full authority to set the world to rights. And, in the meantime, we should get on with the business of representing him in an egregiously unjust world.