My father served in World War II. He brought home a lot of baggage, some emotional and some literal—old uniforms, medals, maps and lots of pictures.
I remember once picking up his service Bible and opening it to find a poppy pressed between sheets of wax paper.
“Where did you get this?” I asked.
“In Flanders field,” he replied, and he began to recite the sobering poem written during the First World War.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
I was taken aback as I heard the words pour out of his heart. This was the only poem I ever heard him speak. It must have been deeply meaningful to my dad for him to commit this poem to memory.
“In Flanders Fields” is a haunting war poem about the dead speaking to the living, pleading not to be forgotten. To study the poem closely you hear the dead saying to the living:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Listen closely. The dead are urging the living on toward more fighting and, tragically, more death.
As a child I remember veterans wearing artificial poppies on the streets of my hometown each Nov. 11. I have one of these in my office, purchased in Canada a few years ago. I look at the poppy not as a pro-war symbol, but as a poignant reminder of the folly and tragedy of war, especially World War I.
“The Long European War”
The ultimate sacrifice made by all the war dead from all time should cause us to consider both the causes and the legacy of war.
As we begin, let’s consider a new definition of terms. It has been customary to refer to the war that began in 1914 as World War I, having supposedly concluded in 1918, and the next world war of 1939-1945 as World War II. Yet to properly understand what began in 1914 we should consider using a term coined by some historians, “the Long European War.”
This decades-long conflict in effect began in 1914 and lasted until 1989 with the end of what has been called the Cold War. We are still living with the effects of the events of this 75-year span today. I will use the terms interchangeably in this article, but keep in mind that the world wars of the 20th century are better viewed as one continuous war with temporary truces at intervals.
The Great War was a voracious killing machine. Millions of soldiers and civilians died! Yet horribly, the armistice of 1918 did not end the killing.
Let’s first consider the human cost of this long conflict’s first phase known as World War I or the Great War—which many then called “the war to end all wars.” When the guns fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918, some 9 million soldiers were dead. An additional 21 million were wounded, many maimed for life. It was impossible to tally the additional millions of civilians who died of starvation or disease.
For 52 horrendous months this war was a voracious killing machine. Germany alone lost a man virtually every second of the war.
But the armistice didn’t end the killing. Russia tore itself apart with a civil war leading to a Communist dictatorship that resulted in tens of millions killed over the next 20 years. The war was also a major factor in the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 that killed between 20 and 50 million people worldwide, far more than the war itself killed.
Immediate fighting ended, but conflict remained
The armistice brought an end to the killing, but it did not bring peace. One of the most revealing books on this subject is David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace (1989). Fromkin focuses on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the war’s impact on the Middle East, particularly the creation of its modern political divisions at the Paris Peace Conference, held in 1919-1922 by the victor nations.
Understanding the story of how the nations of Syria, Jordan and Iraq were formed is to understand much of the current conflicts impacting this region today. As the book title says, the aftermath of this fighting did not bring peace to the Middle East. Instead it perpetuated conflict.
For hundreds of years the Ottoman Empire kept a fragile peace in the Middle East. I use the term “peace” in the sense that a centralized autocratic government can by brute force impose order over a region with deep ethnic and tribal loyalties. In spite of the peoples’ common religion (Islam) and common language (Arabic), there were, and are, deeply divisive issues perpetuating conflict.
But with victory in the war, Great Britain and the other Allies forever ended Turkish rule of the Middle East. In its place they created countries similar to those of Europe but without local agreement. The geographic lines of the new states were drawn without adequate understanding of the ethnic and religious tensions.
As an example, look at the lines of the state of Jordan. You see straight lines, some almost at right angles to each other, with no connection to the reality on the ground. The warring factions in Syria today bear brutal testimony to the diplomats’ failure nearly a century ago.
Failure in redrawing the Mideast map
Fromkin points out that European politicians assumed the secular state model of Europe could be imposed on a region whose roots went deep into history on the belief of sacred law. The Quran, the sacred book of Islam, gives birth to Sharia law. Radical Islamists believe modern democratic states have no legitimacy. This is of course particularly true with the state of Israel, the Jewish inhabitants of which they wish to drive into the sea. But the Islamists are also opposed to secular Muslim states headed by secular rulers, which is why they have often tried to overthrow moderate Muslim governments.
At stake, writes Fromkin, is “the question of whether the transplanted modern system of politics invented in Europe—characterized, among other things, by the division of the earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship—will survive in the foreign soil of the Middle East” (pp. 563-564).
Modern secular government has not put down roots in most nations of the Middle East. Western-style democracy is merely a surface structure masking deep ethnic divisions. Modern democratic forms of government are alien to large portions of the Muslim population. Democracy cannot be imposed by armed force. It must start in the hearts and minds of the people and prevail after long periods of testing, debate and discussion.
In more recent times, the modern Middle East created by the events of the Long European War has been convulsing since the Arab Spring of 2011. Not only have governments been toppled amid civil uprising and war, but millions of refugees have spread north and west into Europe. The massive human migrations have disrupted Europe in a surprising if not ironic reversal. European diplomats created a hodgepodge of unsustainable nations in the Middle East almost a century ago; now many people from these nations are within Europe’s borders creating massive disruption there.
The truth is, European leaders of the World War I era failed to understand the power of Islam over the hearts and minds of people. A case can be made that today’s leaders still don’t understand the power of religion in general, not just Islam, as a force in history and among people. Secular policies and humanistic thinking have never replaced the power of religion to offer meaning and hope to people.
Just as the dream of Alexander the Great of a Hellenized world (that is, one permeated with Greek culture) was eventually absorbed into the earlier traditions and ideologies of local regions such as those of Babylon and Egypt, so too will any plans to plant a radically different culture throughout the Middle East. Bible prophecy shows us that politics in the Middle East and the world are shaped by powerful spiritual forces little understood or recognized by the human mind (Revelation 16:13-14 Revelation 16:13-14 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×).
World War I created seismic shifts in the Middle East that still reverberate today. Fromkin concludes his insightful book in stating that the questions opened up in redrawing the map of the region after the war “are even now being contested by force of arms, year after year, in the ruined streets of Beirut, along the banks of the slow-moving Tigris-Euphrates, and by the waters of the Biblical Jordan” (p. 565).
Increasing godless culture
The devastating human carnage of World War I that killed off millions of young men in the prime of life deepened an already existing crisis in religious faith. Centuries of Enlightenment thinking had already eroded the hold religion held over people.
The expansion of scientific and technical knowledge had placed man at the center of moral thought, removing the need for and reliance on God. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution cast doubt on the Bible’s account of man being a unique creation from the hand of a Creator. Karl Marx’s ideas of socialism, coupled with Sigmund Freud’s studies on psychoanalysis, altered the way people related to each other and further pushed God and biblical values out of the picture.
The Great War or World War I accelerated existing trends toward atheism, nihilism and the denial of God. This was not a new human phenomenon. In his first-century letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul described the world of his day as one that had cast God out on the street. Even then people could see the clear proof of God’s existence through the natural world, but they refused to recognize it or bow in humble thanksgiving and submission to Him.
World War I created seismic shifts in the Middle East that still reverberate today. Leaders of the era, like today, failed to understand the power of religion over the hearts and minds of people.
God allowed man to wallow in his own moral filth, believing lies as truth and reaping the fruit of their rejection of Him as Creator. Paul’s conclusion: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28 Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout unless otherwise noted).
The war changed the way people looked at the world and at themselves. Before it began in August 1914, the world was full of hope and possibilities, a truly golden period of globalization in which goods and services, ideas and culture were shared and traded far and wide. But afterward hope was drained, and the effect of lost times and a lost generation reoriented everything.
In A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, G.J. Meyer illustrates this through the change in poetry after the war. In the prewar world poetry still mattered to people. Both the good and bad, it popularly expressed people’s inner thoughts and perceptions. Newspapers then received hundreds of poems each day.
As the nations took up arms and men went off to war, the poetry of the time expressed lofty thoughts of patriotism and glory. But soon the death, the mud of the trenches, the poisonous gassing and the simple horror of a new kind of warfare became widely known, and the mood changed. As Meyer says, the “literature came to a stop, appeared to be dead for a while, and then started up again on an entirely new plane” (2006, p. 544).
This is illustrated by two poems. One by Rupert Brooke written in 1914 speaks grandly of death for one’s country as noble:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
A few months after writing this, Brooke died on a hospital ship from a mosquito bite that had become infected. He was 27 years old.
Contrast this with a poem written later in the war by Wilfred Owen. Describing the look of a dying soldier flung onto a wagon he writes:
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs …
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
[“Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country”].
Owen’s poems were a major voice then and now for critics of war. Meyer concludes: “The war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before” (p. 544, emphasis in original).
Understanding the deeper, unseen war
“In Flanders Fields,” which I quoted from earlier, should not be read as a glorification of war but as a sober wakeup call to the insanity of war. We have yet to fully grasp the far-reaching impact this world conflagration ignited. The demons of war were unleashed, bottled up for a time only to be let loose again in what is known as World War II, lasting from 1939 to 1945. The seeds of every major conflict since can be found in what began in 1914.
Yet we need to understand what was going on here on a deeper level—in fact, on a spiritual level.
Psalms 2:1-3 Psalms 2:1-3 1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
American King James Version×asks: “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’”
Here is a summation of history. Kingdoms, nations and peoples have made plans apart from God and His purpose. The wars and subsequent suffering are the fruit of a spirit of hostility and anger against God, against the idea of a Supreme Being who claims a moral certainty in all He does and all He has revealed to the world.
The nations rage and set themselves in battle against each other. Humanity has been enslaved by long annals of wars. Jesus Christ warned that increasing “wars and rumors of wars” would be a sign of the times leading to His second coming. And yes, there is coming another period of world war that will dwarf anything we’ve seen previously. It will be so deadly, so devastating, that if not for God’s direct intervention, human extinction would be the result (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
Years ago I heard a story, whether apocryphal or not I don’t know, about a Himalayan monk who lamented the loss of his gods. “They all went to Europe in 1914 and have not returned,” he told a traveler.
While reviewing accounts of the beginning of this terrible war, I am struck again at how avoidable it all appears to have been. Leaders and nations watched while an aggressive Germany armed itself and grew ever more belligerent. In the fateful summer before hostilities broke out, there were frantic efforts to stay the dogs of war, but these proved futile. One reads the accounts and has to wonder why no one could summon the moral and spiritual qualities to halt the frenzy. Was something else at work—something unseen to the human eye?
Revelation 16, which concerns a yet-future conflict, provides the answer. At a coming time of world turmoil, the prophesied crisis at the close of this age (see Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×), a gathering of armies is summoned by spirits from the realm of evil. Notice: “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon [Satan], out of the mouth of the beast [a powerful dictator], and out of the mouth of the false prophet [a great religious leader falsely claiming to represent God]” (Revelation 16:12-13 Revelation 16:12-13 12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
American King James Version×).
Throughout history certain leaders have not spoken their own words or acted out their own plans, but have been agents of demons, carrying out the designs of the god of this age, Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). History books fail to discern this. No theory of geopolitics considers this revealed truth. But without this dimension of understanding it is impossible to really discern the past, present and especially the future.
When we look at the Long European War are we really seeing a larger spiritual war behind the scenes? Are we not looking at the impact of an unseen spirit world acting on human nature and turning the hearts of man against his fellow man? We are. Without this understanding, mankind remains ignorant of the underlying foundation of this world and how it really works. Understanding of not only the past legacy of war, but also of what lies ahead, is found in this truth of the Bible.
Notice more from this end-time prophecy of the book of Revelation: “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty … And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon [that is, Megiddo in northern Israel]” (Revelation 16:14-16 Revelation 16:14-16 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
American King James Version×).
Setting the stage for the final battle
The saddest legacy of man’s history of war is that more war lies in the future. Nations have not understood the fundamental change of the human spirit required to quench the flames of anger, suspicion and hatred that erupt into conflict and bloodshed.
What we have just read is a prophecy of the final battle when the kings and rulers of the earth set themselves against God. The ending of this battle will indeed be “the war to end all wars.” God “shall break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalms 2:9 Psalms 2:9You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
American King James Version×).
Understanding of the causes of our past legacy of war, and also of what lies ahead for humanity, is found in the truth of the Bible.
As I write this, U.S. President Donald Trump has spent two days in Brussels during this year’s NATO summit. He made headlines by his insistence that NATO member states live up to their agreement to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on military preparedness. His point was that it is not fair for the United States to be spending the largest proportion of money both by percentage and dollars to the defense of Europe while prosperous countries like Germany spend far less than their agreed-on share as they run up huge trade surpluses with America.
While his point is certainly valid, watching this I had to wonder whether the president or any of his advisors understand European history. Calling for Europe to increase its arms spending is a recipe for another conflict. History teaches that nations that build vast armaments eventually will use those weapons in a war. Again, the principle of “unintended consequences” is at work. And yes, Europe will rearm and play a dominant role in a final worldwide conflagration that will threaten to annihilate all life on earth.
A global superpower led by Satan through evil leaders
Revelation 13 gives us more background on the “Beast” and “False Prophet” that are led by demonic spirits to a climactic battle at Jesus Christ’s return.
The term “Beast” in this chapter initially refers to an end-time geopolitical superpower which, among other things, has the devil as the unseen force behind it (Revelation 13:4 Revelation 13:4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him?
American King James Version×), leads people to worship Satan the devil (verse 4), is diametrically opposed to God (verses 5-6), persecutes and overcomes God’s faithful people (Revelation 13:7 Revelation 13:7And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
American King James Version×) and wields power over much of the earth (Revelation 13:7 Revelation 13:7And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
American King James Version×).
The “Beast” also refers to a specific individual, the political dictator over the Beast empire.
This chapter also refers to “another beast” with the appearance of a lamb though speaking like Satan the dragon (Revelation 13:11 Revelation 13:11And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon.
American King James Version×), which performs miraculous signs that deceive much of the world and lead them into allegiance to the Beast (verses 12-14), using the power of this state to persecute and kill those who refuse to go along (Revelation 13:15-17 Revelation 13:15-17 15 And he had power to give life to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
American King James Version×). This refers to a false religion and its leader.
This individual is also presented as the miracle-working False Prophet (Revelation 19:20 Revelation 19:20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
American King James Version×), allied with the political dictator, who uses the authority of a great worldwide religion to advance their mutual interests (symbolized by an immoral, fallen woman riding a beast in Revelation 17:1-6 Revelation 17:1-6 1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying to me, Come here; I will show to you the judgment of the great whore that sits on many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit on a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5 And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
American King James Version×). Together they lead an alliance of 10 “kings” or rulers of nations or groups of nations that together form this coming end-time superpower (Revelation 13:12-13 Revelation 13:12-13 12 And he excercises all the power of the first beast before him, and causes the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
American King James Version×).
Putting these prophetic pieces together, what we are seeing is the next phase of a millennia-old European dream of uniting the nations of Europe under a common government with the common goal of ruling the world—just as we saw in World Wars I and II.
And these efforts will indeed lead to another world war—one unlike anything witnessed in all of human history!
God’s intervention to save us from ourselves
Understand that it is not just military devastation that will plague the world at this time ahead of us. Chapters 6, 8 and 9 of the book of Revelation describe events that will take the lives of literally billions of people through warfare (Revelation 6:4 Revelation 6:4And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given to him a great sword.
American King James Version×; Revelation 9:1-18 Revelation 9:1-18 1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he strikes a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 7 And the shapes of the locusts were like to horses prepared to battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10 And they had tails like to scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue has his name Apollyon. 12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. 13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. 16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. 17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
American King James Version×), famine (Revelation 6:5-6 Revelation 6:5-6 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and see a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the middle of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see you hurt not the oil and the wine.
American King James Version×), disease (Revelation 6:8 Revelation 6:8And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×) and horrifying natural disasters (Revelation 8:7-13 Revelation 8:7-13 7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast on the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. 8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. 10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and on the fountains of waters; 11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. 12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. 13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the middle of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
American King James Version×).
As the military powers of the world gather in the Middle East and the fate of the human race hangs in the balance, rescue for the world will come from an unexpected source! Yet that source will not at first be welcome.
Revelation 19:11-21 Revelation 19:11-21 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the middle of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God;
18 That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
American King James Version×describes what will happen then: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”
This is none other than the returning Jesus Christ! But now he comes to earth not to offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, but as conquering King who will put an end to all human rebellion against God!
As the militaries of the world gather in the Middle East and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, rescue will come from an unexpected source!
“And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’
“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
A world of peace at last
With the last great human armies wiped out here and in a subsequent battle that will follow not long after, as described in Ezekiel 38-39, peace will at last begin to settle over the entire earth. A magnificent prophecy from Isaiah 2:3-4 Isaiah 2:3-4 3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: 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 any more.
American King James Version×describes how peoples from all over the world will begin to learn and practice God’s way of peace. Jerusalem, long the center of conflict, will be the center of God’s truth and way of life:
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; 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.”
Sadly, World War I was not the war to end all wars. Neither was the Second World War a generation later. The world will see more Flanders Fields before it sees the end of war.
If we were to rewrite the lines of the poem “In Flanders Fields,” we might have the dead say to the living: “Stop the quarrel with the foe. Lay down your arms. Beat your spears into pruning hooks and your swords into plowshares. Instead of learning war, learn the way to peace!” The words of the prophet Isaiah would be a better epitaph for the dead from any war of the past.
I often wonder if my father looked at the poem he quoted from the perspective of peace rather than fighting. An uncle of mine once told me, several years after my father died, that when the Korean War broke out in 1950 the U.S. Army was looking to draft veterans from World War II. My uncle and my dad were talking about the prospect of their being called up to serve.
“They’d better bring three men to get me,” my dad said, “because I’m not going back.” He had seen enough of war, watched enough men die and saw enough bodies buried. He wanted no more.
Now, 100 years after the end of the so-called war to end all wars, we wait for the day when peace is learned—not war. Can you imagine it? How comforting is the truth that this will really happen—and that God tells us how it will come about!