There are stories of Japanese soldiers dropped onto islands in the Pacific theater during World War II, ordered to fight the enemy with everything they had until their superiors returned for them. Hiroo Onoda was one such soldier, a second lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army ordered into the jungles of the Philippines. When the Emperor of Japan surrendered in 1945, ending the war is the Pacific, many of these soldiers were forgotten. They remained in the jungles, launching guerilla attacks on local “enemies” for years. The reality for these soldiers was that the war would continue until their commanding officers came back. That was the promise they’d been given.
There are many instances throughout history where the “end” of a war recorded in your history book was not necessarily the moment the last shot was fired, so to speak. The storming of the beaches at Normandy, the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In hindsight, these victories are shown to be merely the beginning of the end. The decisive moment in which the ending is determined, but there is always prolonged fighting while peace treaties or formal surrenders are drawn up.
How wonderful an illustration this is of the last days in which we reside in the war between good and evil, the Cosmic Great War, if you will. “The coming of God has already happened…Jesus coming in the manger is actually the end. Not the first part of a two volume set, or something that happened, and the end is still to come. The end has already happened, and his coming again is not a different thing. It’s the conclusion of the story that was already begun with his dying and rising,” Rev. Joel Hess expounds on this week’s Ringside. Much as we see in examples of war throughout history, the war is over. We are living in those last days of fighting before the paperwork has been filed and Jesus comes again to declare victory. Rev. Paul Koch reminds you, “In Calvary the end is here, and that’s the battle that changed everything. Your daily life is still slogging through the rest of that march as you wait for the final victory when death goes into the pit with Satan.”
As the Ringside preachers pointed out, to misunderstand this is to miss out on the fullness of the gospel. In many of the instances of the Japanese soldiers abandoned on their islands, local residents attempted to convince these soldiers that the war was over, and they could stop fighting, but for many complex cultural reasons, the soldiers refused to believe them. In some cases, even members of the soldiers’ own families could not convince them to lay down their arms. How like these soldiers are we when we lose sight of the victory already won on our behalf? We hole up in our own little corners of the world, launching guerilla warfare against the Devil and his works, convinced that we’re fighting the good fight, doing good works, fulfilling our roles as good soldiers in the war, all in service to God the Almighty, who we will help win…and God laughs. The war is over. It has already been won.
God entered into this world, lived among us, and died for the redemption of all. In Christ’s death and resurrection, he conquered sin, death, and the Devil. He conquered…the war is over! Through faith we are co-conquerors of death, and receivers of eternal life. It’s true that while we live in these last days between the end of the war against death and God’s promised creation of a new heaven and new earth, we continue to suffer the effects of this sin-infected world, and must continue to resist the evil we encounter, yet we simultaneously take comfort in the fact that our Lord has already won!
Hiroo Onoda continued to hold out in the Philippines until 1974, surrendering only when his former commanding officer travelled to the island to formally relieve Onoda of his duty, commending him for his service to his nation and his emperor. Christ also formally removed the burden of sin and death from our shoulders in his resurrection, and will soon return to welcome us home as good and faithful servants. Rejoice! The war is over!
This article is a brief examination of one of several topics discussed during this week’s episode of Ringside with the Preacher Men. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over whether an in-person, residential collegiate experience is necessary, the “new” multi-parish model that megachurches are adopting, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and more on the full Ringside with the Preacher Men episode, “Theology is Best Done Together”.
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