The Bible & Violence
Q: Doesn’t the Bible promote violence against unbelievers?
A: No, it doesn’t.
At specific times, under specific circumstances, and with very specific parameters, God led the Hebrew peoples into battle and conquest with non-Hebrews. There was never in any instance a universal or ubiquitous command to carry out violent judgment upon unbelievers. To use specific judgments that God enacted in Old Testament (OT) times to try to justify any post-Bible holy war is unbiblical; in fact, it flies in the face of current commandments to believers.
There are basically four categories of violence described in the Bible:
1. There is violence done directly by God as punishment to people. That is the prerogative of God when people are doing atrocious things themselves. For example, there was a city that was so violent that when a couple of men came to visit, all of the males (men and boys) of the city came outside the door of the house where they were at and demanded that the host throw the visitors out so that they (the males of the city) could gang rape them. God killed all of the perpetrators with fire and brimstone, as an appropriate judgment and protection to the innocent.
2. God used the nation of Israel to also enact judgment in a violent manner upon some nations. Before Israel did this, God visited them as a fire on a mountain and a pillar of smoke that spoke aloud to them and parted the Red Sea before them, as well as a number of other miracles, so it was clear that this was a commandment from God. This was a specific situation in the past that doesn’t exist anymore & has been replaced with the current era in which God does not enact violent judgment through His people.
3. There is violence described in the Bible that God did not do and doesn’t condone. In fact, many of God’s punishments were because people were doing violence to others.
4. There is violence that God will do in the future as a judgment. Again, that is the prerogative of our Creator.
The Bible is a dispensational book. That means that God’s divinely appointed system has different periods in which it functions differently. It is always governed by righteousness, but the specifics of how that righteousness is achieved vary within different dispensations.
The OT prophesied a future dispensation brought about and ruled over by the Messiah, also called the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). In this dispensation, the Mosaic Law (ML) as outlined in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy would be active no longer, and instead God’s Law of liberty (Jas 1:25, 2:12) and of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) would be written upon the hearts of believers (Eze 11:19-20, Eze 36:26-27). This is our current dispensation.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the necessary prophecies concerning the Messiah and confirmed Himself utterly by His crowing act of willing death for humanity and victorious resurrection. He has ushered in the New Testament and Covenant in His blood (Luk 22:20) which has overridden the dispensation of the ML (Act 15:1-29, Rom 8:1-4, 2 Co 3, book of Galatians, book of Hebrews, especially chapter 9) and instigated a peaceful period of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through preaching and good works. Followers of Jehovah are now commanded to live peaceably with all men as much as possible (Rom 12:10-21), to communicate the truth in love (Eph 4:15), to love not only our neighbours but our enemies (Mat 5:44), and to let our boldness in speaking the good news be replete with grace, mercy, meekness, and gentleness (Eph 4:29; Col 4:6, 1Ti 6:11, 2Ti 2:24, Tit 3:2, Jas 3:13, 1Pe 3:15).
There is no New Testament scripture nor example that supports any present-day killing in the name of Jesus. Quite the opposite. Under the New Covenant, God himself suffered on the cross to provide a payment for personal sin. As partakers of this covenant by faith, Christians are bound to demonstrate this same sacrificial love as we share the gospel. Jesus instructed his followers to offer the other cheek when faced with persecution. His apostles taught likewise. They suffered profusely for the gospel message, and eleven out of the twelve initiating apostles were martyred. The twelfth, the apostle John, was boiled alive in oil but would not die, so he was instead exiled to the Isle of Patmos.
The fact that the ML dispensation is over is evidenced by the lack of a temple and animal sacrifices, which God Himself abolished. These things are prophesied to be reinstituted at the end of this particular age, during a period of judgment that will usher us into a dispensation called the Millennial Reign of Christ.
The Bible does teach that Jesus will come again to judge the ungodly and unbelieving. Infidels will be punished, but by Him personally and by His resurrected saints, descending bodily and supernaturally from heaven. The promise of a future judgment does not in any way license Christians to avenge on the unbelieving now.