Wisdom from the Masters for the Care and Maintenance of the Soul
The literary work featured in “The Last Battle” comes from the pen of English author, T. H. White (1906-1964). White wrote the concluding book of the five-book volume entitled “The Once and Future King” during World War II. And, as might be supposed, “The Book of Merlyn” focuses on an attempt to find an antidote to war.
“King Arthur,” White wrote, “was placed on the throne by destiny, compelled by his sense of justice and harmony to create the ‘civilized world’… in an effort to keep man from killing man.”
But a darker fate awaits him, and like King David’s son Absalom, Mordred, Arthurs’s illegitimate son, becomes obsessed with gaining the King’s throne.
When all looks lost, Arthur’s old friend and mentor, Merlyn, visits him to assure him the Round Table was not a failure. “It was an experiment. Experiments lead to new ones.” Merlyn then takes Arthur to a place where he finds his earliest friends, a committee comprised of various animals.
Their discussion leads to an examination of man as a warlike creature compared to the animals among whom war hardly exists. According to Merlyn, “Proud man stands there in the twentieth century, complacently believing that the race has ‘advanced’… and busy blowing his brothers to bits.” The question arises, “Why?” The committee, however, fails to resolve the problem; although most agreed that nationalism could well be the culprit.
James, the Apostle, addresses the question of the why of war but doesn’t look for the answer in politics or economics. His Epistle, inspired by the one who knows all things, reveals that the cause of war lives nowhere in the external world, but resides in the hearts and souls of the human race.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.—James 4:1-3 NKJV
Those who through the centuries grapple with the question, “Why war?” historically look in all the wrong places. A change in humanity’s propensity for war cannot occur without a universal shift in humanity’s heart. But this will not happen because the heart of natural man is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), far from God (Matthew 15:8), and foolish and darkened (Romans 1:21).
Politicians, social engineers, and well-meaning institutions can never change the world until they change themselves. The Chinese philosopher Confucius had it right.
To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.—Confucius
All of King Arthurs noble efforts to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land ended when Mordred’s army arrayed itself against Arthur’s soldiers. The king thought he’d managed a truce between the forces. Arthur and Mordred met in the space between the two armies to complete the agreement. Then it happened. “At that knife-edge of a moment, the old Adam reared itself in a different form.”
A grass snake moved near the feet of an officer on Mordred’s staff. The officer drew his sword to destroy the so-called viper. When the waiting armies saw the flash of the sword, they took it for treachery. They raised a shout of rage, and with lances and bows in hand, they charged. Arthur ran towards his array and held out his hands to stem the endless tide but to no avail. “The tumult rose, the war-yell sounded, and the meeting waters closed above his head.”
The snake represented more than his reptilian species. It was the snake among the committee of animals that disparaged Arthur’s intention to call a truce with Mordred. “You will fail because it is the nature of man to slay, in ignorance if not in wrath.” The same snake slithers in the grass today searching for opportunities to spew its deadly venom. It began when the serpent deceived Adam in the Garden of Eden.
The snake in the spirit world, that old serpent Satan, seizes upon humankind’s prideful and avaricious heart to pull him into war. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The end of conflict can never come about by exerting superior military might over the nations. It can only be realized when we recognize the real enemy and take up the armor of God to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). And that must culminate in the one who has all power and authority over the forces of darkness.
Just when, by all appearances, the serpent prevails in forever destroying any hope for peace on Earth, an incredible phenomenon takes place. God’s Son Jesus Christ comes out “conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). That will be the last battle and then, and only then, a new peaceful world emerges; a world foresaw by the prophets like Isaiah who wrote of Christ bursting onto the stage of human affairs.
He shall judge between the nations,—Isaiah 2:4
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
Then the peaceful world of which King Arthur dreamed materializes.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy—Isaiah 11:6-9
in all my holy mountain;
for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
The last battle ushers in a timeless age when nations shall never again lift swords against nations. In the New Heaven and Earth, man shall at last live in peace.