Till Valhalla? Are you sure?
As we consider the passing of our friends in combat, we like to envision them as proud warriors respected for their accomplishments and their selfless sacrifice. I see quite regularly in social media and memorials that we expect to see our warrior friends again in Valhalla. Our warriors who spend countless hours training, running, lifting, shooting and patrolling to be prepared to dominate the battlespace. Our friends who we spend intimate times of misery together, cold, hot, tired and hungry in training and then again in combat. When these warrior friends pay the ultimate sacrifice, we want the best for them. One of the common sayings we have been drawn to is “Till Valhalla.” We hope that as proud warriors we will be united again in battle with our friends in another opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder on the battlefield. Are we sure we want our friends to go to Valhalla? Is there a better place for our warriors to go after they have sacrificed their lives? Can we hope for more?
First, let’s take a look at what Norse Mythology would have in store for us if this is where we should go as dead warriors. In order to get perspective on Valhalla we must start with Odin, the god that rules over it, “In modern popular culture, Odin is often portrayed as being an eminently honorable ruler and battlefield commander, but to the ancient Norse, he was nothing of the sort. In contrast to more straightforwardly noble war gods such as Tyr or Thor, Odin incites otherwise peaceful people to strife with what, to modern tastes, is a downright sinister glee.” (1) Odin was not the all-powerful god, he was also a poet that was obsessed with necromancy and the constant search for wisdom through human sacrifice. Valhalla is the hall of warriors who have died here on Earth. Odin sends his Valkyrie, a female servant of Odin, as choosers of the best warriors from the slain in Earthly battles. The chosen warriors go to Valhalla, “a splendid palace, roofed with shields, where the warriors feast on the flesh of a boar slaughtered daily and made whole again each evening. They drink liquor that flows from the udders of a goat, and their sport is to fight one another every day.” (2) To fight another day with Odin means to join him in the battle of Ragnarök where Odin, who is considered by the Norse to be the father of all the gods, dies in battle.
So, let me make things clear. Odin, who is supposed to be all powerful, does not have all wisdom, nor is he powerful enough to fight his own battle at the end of times. He needs the best of the warriors from mankind to fight for him in a battle where he is going to lose and die anyway. So, what happens to all of these warriors? Well is chapter 52 of the poem Vafþrúðnismál, all of these warriors die in battle.
Let’s consider the God of the Bible. The scripture tells us that God’s name is YHWH, the name. He is, “I Am Who Am,” from Exodus 3. He is omnipotent, or all powerful and does not need men to fight His battles for Him (Jeremiah 32: 17,18,26,27). God is omniscient, all knowing, there is no need for Him to search for wisdom in the human race (Psalm 139: 7-12). The God of the Bible is a God that loves us. He loves his children and wants good for us. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1) He does not need to use His creation for his own selfish purposes. When it comes to winning the ultimate battle, the Bible tells us, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15) God is powerful enough to defeat the enemy with His words alone.
So, what does Heaven look like? Well, for believers, God has built it just for you (John 14:2). God gives us a picture of Heaven as a majestic place of worship where there is no sorrow (Revelation 5:9-13; 21:4; 22:1-5). This is a place where even a man who was a warrior on Earth will no longer mourn. He will no longer feel the pain of loss of his fellow warriors or separation of his family. He will have peace in the presence of a comforting God who loves him and gives him rest.
And here is the part that brings it all to the forefront for my warrior brothers. God understands sacrifice. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” He set the standard for sacrifice and becomes the ultimate sacrifice. He knows what it is like for a warrior to lay his life down, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And finally John 14:6 records the words of Jesus that say, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” There is only one way to paradise, and that is through Jesus Christ.
As for me, I do not chose Valhalla, I chose God. I chose to spend eternity in Heaven with a God that rules and reigns. A God that is in control and loves His creation. A God that knows what sacrifice is and is willing to sacrifice His son on my behalf. I do not want to end up in a battle on behalf of a weak god that is selfish and only needs me to fight his losing battle. And mostly, I will not have any faith in a god that does not exist and is simply created from the tales of men to satisfy a carnal desire to continue to do battle. My God is victorious.
This is my prayer for my brothers. That you would find peace and comfort in the knowledge that God loves you. That He would send His Angels to protect you in combat. That He would quicken your feet and hands and give you the wisdom to make calculated, educated decisions on the battlefield. And for my brothers that have passed on the battlefield, that a merciful God would accept them into paradise, where they will find eternal peace and be satisfied in the presence of their Loving Father…