In the 1930’s and 40’s there was a governmental plot afoot to exterminate the Jews, and it succeeded in killing nearly six million descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the fifth century B.C. there was a governmental plot afoot to exterminate the Jews, but it had a highly different outcome. Here’s how it’s recorded in Scripture: The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them (Esther 9:5 NIV). Hitler was successful in his genocidal plot because he had already disarmed his citizens. Haman was unsuccessful in his genocidal plot because King Xerxes had not disarmed his.
More than any other document available to humanity, the Bible paints a clear portrayal of our utter depravity. Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, the human race has been infected with the sinful nature (see Romans 7:7 – 8:17), and this sinful nature was horribly indicted by God in Genesis 6:5, where the LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (NIV). And lest we make the mistake of thinking or assuming that human nature has somehow been perfected – or even made better – because Christ has visited us, we must think again, for an equally scathing indictment against humanity was penned in Romans 1:18-32 (which occurred after the ascension of Jesus). Furthermore, there is that dark and dismal picture of humanity portrayed throughout the Book of Revelation, which is a time yet to come. Human behavior will always have the natural tendency to sink to the lowest and most Hellish common denominator.
It is my belief that the most successful day ever experienced by Hell was the day God destroyed the Earth via the Flood (Genesis 7:11), and ever since then Hell has been trying to influence human behavior back to that point. But Hell has been thwarted in this goal by four things (or what I refer to as the Big Four): the institution of human government, the shortened human lifespan, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the advent of the Church. Sadly, though, all of these things have now become largely impotent at thwarting the natural downward spiral of human existence: nearly all of human government has left the boundaries of the appropriate theocracy necessary to be valid (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 20:2); technology now allows men to accomplish as much evil as when they were living 900-year lifespans; the Law of Israel is essentially disregarded by all nations; and the Church is busy quivering like whipped dogs hiding under the blanket of false, liberal theology, providing no upward lift in the affairs of planet Earth.
With the Big Four now sidelined and largely irrelevant, we should expect to see planet Earth gallop toward the conditions of Genesis 6:5, for that is humanity’s natural state. Such a state of affairs will obviously cause an increase in the amount and degree of wicked violence upon Earth, which means that evildoers and evil deeds are coming our way in ever-increasing proportion. The only issues for the Christian then become these: how and to what degree may we prepare and defend ourselves from evildoers and evil deeds? To come to a reasonable conclusion regarding these issues requires that we briefly look at the issue of violence itself, that we define the threats we’re likely to face, and that we then decide if Scripture gives us license to protect ourselves against such threats.
Regarding violence, it’s really quite simple. God has committed violence (Exodus 11; John 2:15; Revelation 12:7) and will commit violence again (Revelation 19:11-16). Since God is good, this necessarily means that violence is not an inherently evil thing. But since God despises those who love violence (Malachi 2:16), neither is violence an inherently good thing. We’re therefore left to conclude that violence is simply something that is either appropriate or inappropriate, depending upon the context in which it is used. When used to further evil, it is inappropriate. When used to stop or thwart evil, it is appropriate.
Regarding the directions from which evildoers may assault us, there are three basic options: our fellow man may assault us (Genesis 4:8), our government may assault us (Esther 3:8-11), and foreign nations may assault us (Judges 6:3-6). Are we required to die passively like sheep in each or any of these instances, or may we resist with force and force of arms? To understand the answers involved requires that we look at a few passages of Scripture which help frame the discussion, and these are Genesis 1:26, Psalm 127:1b and Luke 22:35-38.
Genesis 1:26 tells us that the affairs of planet Earth are the affairs of humanity. But thanks to the Fall, the affairs of humanity are fallen and typically violent, and God will not relieve us of this reality until Revelation 21, which means that we must deal with it until then. Next, Psalm 127:1b tells us that it is our responsibility to stand watch and protect ourselves from evildoers and evil deeds, whether near or from afar. We certainly should seek the Lord’s partnership in this, but His Word is clear: God favors the prepared. Finally, there is Luke 22:35-38, where Jesus warns His followers to be certain to arm themselves for life in the real world, for up until then He had granted them supernatural protection, but would no longer.
If I may take this opportunity to cautiously paraphrase Jesus, He was essentially telling His followers this: I’m sending you out into this real, fallen, dog-eat-dog world, and you will be subject to every violent thing the rest of the world experiences, for if I did not, everyone would become My follower in order to escape these things. Therefore understand your world, be watchful, be armed and well-trained, for you have an inalienable right to your life and safety. The followers of Jesus were not promised protection from murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, genocide or any other form of evil. Instead, they were told to be armed and prepared in order to guard against these things.
If the events of the Book of Esther teach us anything, it is that if evildoers do not fear the consequences of their actions, they will most certainly respect (or be stopped by) superior strength, superior firepower, superior training and superior fortitude. It is therefore imperative that all good citizens keep and bear arms at all times possible – and be well-trained in their use – in order to keep evildoers at bay. We must never forget that our Enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), and he accomplishes this most often by influencing the creation of disarmed zones (soft targets), after which he is free to influence someone toward unhindered mayhem and carnage inside of it. Remember that the numerically inferior Philistines ruled ruthlessly over the numerically superior Israelites because they had completely disarmed them (1 Samuel 13:19-22). Israel had allowed herself to be made a soft target, and she paid a hefty price for it.
And it is here that I must speak blatantly of the potential danger of government. I have made many visits to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem), and to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Killing Fields of Cambodia. Both of the genocidal atrocities (and many others) represented by these memorials were visited upon people by their own governments, and so we must never trust any government not to grow tyrannical when given the chance, for it will (Exodus 1:8-14; 1 Kings 12:13,14; 21:1-14; Matthew 2:16-18; Daniel 3,6; Revelation 13:16,17). The only government that will not grow tyrannical is the government that is afraid of its citizens’ ability to be done with it, and that occurs when the government does not have the ability to overpower its populace. To remain free of tyrannical government, then, people are obligated not just to be armed, but to be well armed and proficient in the use of their weapons.
Disarming a people will always result in their enslavement. The ancient Philistines knew it, Mao knew it, Hitler knew it, Stalin knew and Pol Pot knew it. How truly sad that people who profess allegiance to God’s perfect Word don’t know it. And how dangerous.