Rumours of War: reading the signs of the times.

Feb 7, 2024 by

By Dave Doveton.

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:3b, also Luke 12:56.

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3

“Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” Let the nations stir themselves up and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” Joel 3:9, 10, 12,16.


Hardly a week goes by without some defence official or high-ranking military officer commenting on the readiness of Europe or the UK for a major war. Comments by General Sanders, head of the British army, that conscription may be necessary for the UK if it is to be prepared for war on land, set alarm bells ringing for many. This was by no means a prediction, but a call to readiness to meet any possible future scenario, given the heightened tensions in Europe around Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East. British secretary of Defence, Grant Shapps, has been more forthright, saying that Britain was moving from a peaceful ‘postwar’ world to a ‘prewar’ world and needed to re-arm for protection against a Russian threat[i].

These prognoses followed a warning to Swedes from two top defence officials that they needed to prepare for war[ii]. Other parliamentary speakers from the Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have more recently delivered strong warnings about the preparedness of the west in the event of an expanding conflict in Europe. The United States is making serious preparations as it moves nuclear warheads back onto British soil after an absence of fifteen years[iii].

Let me begin by saying that I am not making predictions, nor in any way trying to be alarmist or spread fear and anxiety. Yet, at the same time, remembering the words of our Lord that we should always be ready and that we should be able to read the ‘signs of the times’, we need to ask what his admonishment would mean in practice for a Christian disciple. Also, how can we help others, as well as ourselves prepare for major changes around us that conflict, whether small or great, inevitably does bring. It is abundantly clear from scripture that Jesus wanted his followers to be prepared for future events that would alter their lives immeasurably. This is borne out by his warning to them regarding the cataclysm that would unfold in AD 70 when the Romans invaded and destroyed the temple[iv], Jesus not only prepared them mentally, but he also gave specific directions on how to respond to events[v].

The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, and more lately the strikes against American bases in neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Syria; the wider involvement of Yemeni Houthi with their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea; the counter strikes by America and its allies on Iranian backed militia – this could spin out of control if Iran were to become directly involved.  The China/Taiwan issue also has the potential of erupting into a war involving the great powers, not to mention North Korea’s constant threats to ignite a nuclear conflagration.

Many countries would be affected by a world war, not only by direct destruction of vital infrastructure, such as roads, communication facilities, hospitals etc. but also by indirect effects. These may be physical, such as the disruption of normal trade and supply chains such as we have seen in the Red Sea region, which affect the availability of goods and services and result in soaring prices. The global financial system would be shaken to its core by a major war[vi]. Modern warfare is also transforming radically with the weaponisation of technology. Global financial systems have already been weaponised by the USA by its prevention of Russia from using the SWIFT system. “Hot” warfare often follows on from “economic” warfare.

Cyber-attacks can disable control systems such as electricity grids and water supply reticulation, not to mention nuclear and other power plants and render them inoperable.  A major world war would certainly degrade the communication systems of the world – the internet included. Even banking activities may be stopped by internet disruption and opportunistic criminal hackers.

Not least, as is often said, the first casualty of war is truth. The object of propaganda is the control of the narrative. How does one navigate the propaganda war? Christians should be those who are concerned to know the truth and therefore try the utmost to discern lies and half-truths when reading or listening to media reports and try to get information from a wide range of outlets.

Joel’s timely message (Joel Chapter 3:9-16)

Joels ancient vision of a coming conflict which he sees as affecting his people brings him to sound an alarm, but also to prepare the people of God for what will transpire. I will highlight several points in his message.

  1. God is sovereign (v12 – 16) He permits war for his sovereign purposes in the world and for his people. We therefore do not have to fear in times of conflict and even world war. Christians should never be ruled by their circumstances, because of the Biblical vision of God’s ultimate purpose for our lives and the world – which is ultimately good.
  2. God is our refuge (v16) Often we find there are competing claims to have God “on our side” in conflicts, and Christians should be wary of this. There are, however, ‘just wars’[vii] for we live in a fallen world.


Joel also helps the people to prepare:

  1. Consecrate for war. In my opinion, this means we need to seek the will of the Lord for direction as we navigate the circumstances and prepare for the time to come. Consecration entails a deepening of commitment to the Lord and his purposes – above even that of family and national allegiances.
  2. Let the men of war draw near. There are those whom the Lord has gifted to be leaders at times like these. They may not be the most likely candidates or the most popular (Winston Churchill certainly was not popular or favoured by the political class but turned out to be an amazing wartime leader). This can apply with regards to both political and church leadership.
  3. Beat your ploughshares into swords: The resources we used in civilian life are to be diverted and put into use appropriate to the situation of conflict. Just as in the last world war, industrial production was geared to the war effort, in a spiritual sense we invest in spiritual and practical defence. We must be prepared for change.
  4. Let the weak say I am a warrior: Everyone has a part to play, even the weakest believer. The time at hand calls for courage and boldness. Every Christian needs to stand firm and boldly proclaim what they believe in the storm of an evil hour when people are being swept along by totalitarian ideologies and hatred towards the Jewish people. War has the capacity to spread dehumanising ideas. When people are afraid and threatened, they become easy prey to people who dehumanise our foes and perceived enemies. This should never be tolerated. We pray not only for a just outcome to conflict, and just retributions but we also pray for enemies.
  5. Most importantly, the battle for the Christian is a spiritual one. We are prayer warriors first and foremost. Those who have a ministry of intercession have a vital role to play. During World War II, Rees Howells[viii] and his team of intercessors spent many hours each day interceding as God led them.

Sometimes we are daunted by the prospects we face, but the sentiment expressed by Mordecai to Queen Esther remains ever valid, “…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this[ix]. The Lord has placed us in this world at this time and place for his purpose, and according to St Paul – he is able to do far more abundantly that all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.[x]





[iv] Luke 19:41-44, Luke 21:5-24.

[v] Luke 21:20,21.


[vii] See for example the Roman Catholic just war tradition,


[ix] Esther 4:14b.

[x] Ephesians 3:20.



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