We teach that Christians should not try to establish the kingdom of God through armed conflict. To avoid ethical conflicts, Sabbath-keeping Christians should choose alternative, civilian service (in lieu of military enlistment) to serve God and country with a clear conscience.
The Bible reveals that Satan is in control of the whole world and will remain in control until God sets up His kingdom on earth. Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world,” and Paul called him “the god of this world” (John 12:31, 2Cor 4:4).
Jesus didn’t come to establish His kingdom on the earth at this time. When the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans for trial, Pilate asked Jesus if He claimed to be a king. In John 18:36, Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (NASB).
Only God can put an end to Satan’s kingdom, so Christians should not get ahead of God’s will and try to set up the kingdom through political revolution or armed military conflict. As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).
Christians are like ambassadors of Jesus Christ living in a foreign country, but our first allegiance is to God and His kingdom. In Philippians 3:20, Paul said, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (NLT). We must live in the world, but we are not to be of the world.
The leaders of this world are constantly working to increase their own power and tear down the power of their rivals through deception, manipulation, intimidation and violence. Therefore, Christians should not enlist in the military of any government. Doing so would certainly place a Christian in a position of disobeying God and violating one’s conscience.
Paul warned Christians to maintain their liberty and not come under the authority of unbelievers. In 1 Corinthians 7:23, he said, “You were bought for a price; do not become slaves of people” (NASB). In 2 Corinthians 6:14, he also wrote, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
Military service may not be literal slavery, but those who enlist are required by law to obey the orders of their superiors whether they agree with them or not. People can’t simply quit the military if they feel like it. They have lost the right to make moral choices for themselves, and in that sense, they have become the slaves of other people.
Many countries allow their citizens to register as conscientious objectors to military service and fulfill their duty by working in a civilian occupation in lieu of military enlistment. This would allow Sabbath-keeping Christians to avoid potential ethical conflicts and serve both God and country with a clear conscience.
Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.