The main difference between these two plans of warfare is that judgment is more immediate when the Israelites do battle whereas it is delayed in the case of the Christian proclamation. We can depict the parallels as follows:
- Israelites announce peace, demanding the surrender of the city to Israel.
- Israelites warn of the destruction that will ensue if there is no surrender.
- Those who surrender become servants of Israel and end up sharing in God’s blessings on the nation.
- Those who do not surrender are destroyed, and their spoils go to Israel.
- Christians announce that Jesus is Lord, demanding that people surrender in faith to Jesus, the true Israel of God.
- Christians warn of the eternal judgment to come in hell if there is no surrender to Christ.
- Those who believe in Christ become servants of Christ, the true Israel, and end up sharing in God’s blessings on Him.
- Those who do not believe are destroyed eternally in hell, and their spoils go to Christ, the true Israel, and by extension to all who are in Him.
Weapons of Spiritual Warfare
There are other ways that Scripture tells us the gospel is a message of conquest as well. Romans 10:14–15 contains Paul’s admonition that people cannot be saved apart from the preaching of the gospel, and he quotes Isaiah 52:7 to prove his point. In its original context, Isaiah 52 is part of a series of oracles announcing the defeat of Israel’s enemies and the return of the nation from exile, God’s rescue of His people from those who have terrorized them (see 45:1–7; 47:1–15; 52:5–6). This redemption required military action; specifically, God used Cyrus the Great of Persia to conquer Babylon and bring the Jews back to the promised land. This was ultimately a foreshadowing of God’s defeat of sin, death, and Satan in the person of Jesus Christ. Our warrior God accomplished a military victory at Calvary against the forces of darkness, so Paul applies the good news announcement of the Jews’ rescue from Babylon through the Lord’s conquering might to our rescue from evil through the conquering might of the Son of God. The gospel is an announcement that God has conquered His and our enemies.
We also find conquest and warfare imagery used in passages such as Ephesians 6:10–20. Paul tells us to put on the armor of God, including spiritual tools such as faith, prayer, and the Word of God as we fight against the devil. Like the ancient Israelites, we are called to do battle against the enemies of God. Like the ancient Israelites, we are to conquer our foes. Unlike the ancient Israelites, we do not do this with physical weapons and warfare. In this era of redemptive history, we wage war with spiritual weapons to bring the enemies of God into submission. As we preach the gospel, God conquers the hearts of those whom He has chosen, bringing them to faith in Christ.
The End of the War
From the beginning of history, God has done battle against His enemies, enlisting His people as His army to conquer His foes and spread His righteousness. During the old covenant, many of these battles were physical, and they included the mandate to destroy the Canaanites who would not repent. As the divine Judge and Creator, God was well within His rights to order that.
Though the war has been decisively won by Christ Jesus, God has not yet wiped out all His enemies, and we as His people continue to battle. We conquer in the Lord’s name with the weapons He has given us, just as the ancient Israelites did. But during this period when the church is not a geographical or national entity, our battles do not involve the raising of physical armies to fight physical foes. We fight with spiritual weapons, but our goal is the same as that of ancient Israel—the defeat of God’s enemies and the spread of righteousness. Only now, unlike the case of the Israelites under Joshua, judgment is delayed. Those who reject the Lord are not put to death immediately, but they will enter into eternal death and suffering on the last day if they remain impenitent. Those who surrender and bow to the God of Israel, however, will become part of the people of Israel, that is, the church. That was true in the days of Joshua, and it is true today.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on the conquest of Canaan. Previous Post.