What if you discovered your neighbor—one with a violent past and prone to other disturbing behavior—was quietly shopping for an assault rifle? You knew he already had a pistol and a few hunting rifles, but now he is stockpiling large amounts of ammunition and pursuing heavier arms.
Next you learn he is secretly modifying other weapons in his basement to make them more lethal. As the months pass, you are shocked to see he now has weapons pointed out his side window at your house. Then you start seeing surveillance drones hovering over your backyard. You and your family are confused, scared.
Then imagine that there was no police force to call, no sheriff or federal agency.
You can either confront him about his intentions, do nothing and allow him to potentially harm your family, or arm yourself to prepare for an engagement.
What would you do?
Change “neighbor” to “country” in this scenario, and this is the conundrum world leaders face—arm or face destruction. In a world with a history of broken trust, most leading nations have chosen to build up their militaries—some for mere defense and others for conquest.
“Mistrust and arm”
One of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s diplomatic philosophies was “trust but verify.” He first used this phrase during talks with Soviet Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The result was a December 1987 treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces and shorter-range missiles (the INF treaty).
If Reagan’s approach embodied a hopeful but skeptical belief in the goodness of man, the apparent view of leaders today is “mistrust and arm.” It’s no coincidence that the INF treaty is now falling apart, with the United States announcing its withdrawal amid claims of Russian cheating, and Russia reciprocating with its own withdrawal.
One of Reagan’s predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt, popularized the catchy saying, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” The implication was that the big stick be bigger than anyone else’s. The goal of the arms race is not just to defend the homeland but to develop bigger, better, deadlier, and more effective and sophisticated weaponry.
Rapidly advancing technology has brought countries once separated by vast miles of ocean and land together as neighbors. By air, land and sea, countries like Russia, China, the United States and North Korea are able to attack one another with the push of a button. Thousands of miles can be bridged in a short time with hypersonic missiles carrying nuclear payloads. With these—including Russia’s Khinzal, Avangard and Kalibr-M, China’s Starry-Sky 2 and America’s Arrow and Hacksaw—lies the power to wipe out mankind many times over.
Can humanity survive a rapidly accelerating military competition? Many people, including Christians, would be surprised to learn that Jesus Christ addressed today’s military ramp-up. He also foretold how it would end—with horrific total war culminating in near human annihilation before the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. But first, a look at today’s war climate.
New technology, new threats
Hypersonic missiles can now travel at Mach 5 ( five times the speed of sound ) or faster, making them incredibly hard to shoot down. They are also difficult to defend against because of their altitude and ability to shift course in midair.
Russian technology has advanced dramatically in recent years. As Popular Mechanics recently reported: “Russia tested a new hypersonic weapons program on Wednesday, December 26th, designed to sneak under U.S. ballistic missile defenses. Avangard is a winged glider weapon boosted high into the atmosphere by a ballistic missile, which then descends on its target at speeds in excess of 15,000 miles an hour. Avangard will reportedly enter Russian service in 2019. Avangard is one of several new nuclear weapons programs announced in 2018 in a grim speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin” (Kyle Mizokami, “Russia Tests Yet Another Hypersonic Weapon,” Dec. 27, 2018).
In early January, Russian news agency TASS reported that Moscow is developing a new cruise missile named Kalibr-M, which will be able to hit targets 2,800 miles away with conventional and nuclear payloads. A quoted source explained that “the new missile will differ from the existing Kalibr missiles in service both in terms of its longer range and dimensions. ‘It will be much larger, the weight of its warhead will approach 1 tonne’ … According to the source, large surface ships will be equipped with it, starting with frigates, as well as nuclear submarines. ‘Kalibr-M is designed to destroy land facilities and will be able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads’” (“New Kalibr-M Cruise Missile With Range of Over 4,500 Km in Development in Russia,” Jan. 8, 2019).
Not to be outdone, China is also well underway in its testing of such deadly hypersonic missiles.
Nuclear torpedoes, anthrax bombs and EMPs
At sea, Russia now possesses a nuclear tsunami-causing torpedo called Poseidon: “Vladimir Putin has unveiled a massive underwater drone that could cause 300 ft tsunamis with its two megatons of nuclear power. The Poseidon nuclear drone will travel underwater in a specialised submarine—it has been designed to wipe out enemy naval bases … If deployed the weapon could produce tsunamis capable of causing mass destruction equal to that of the natural disaster in Fukushima, Japan in 2011” (Peggy Jones, “Putin Unveils Underwater Poseidon Nuclear Drone That Can Trigger 300ft Tsunamis to Wipe Out Russia’s Enemy Naval Bases,” The Sun, May 18, 2018).
North Korea is reportedly creating a sophisticated biological weapons program that experts say is more of a threat than their nuclear plans. A recent article in The New York Times opened with: “Pound for pound, the deadliest arms of all time are not nuclear but biological. A single gallon of anthrax, if suitably distributed, could end human life on Earth” (Emily Baumgaertner and William Broad, “North Korea’s Less-Known Military Threat: Biological Weapons,” Jan. 15, 2019).
The report continued: “According to an analysis issued by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey last month, North Korea is collaborating with foreign researchers to learn biotechnology skills and build machinery. As a result, the country’s capabilities are increasing rapidly. ‘North Korea is far more likely to use biological weapons than nuclear ones,’ said Andrew C. Weber, a Pentagon official in charge of nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs under President Obama. ‘The program is advanced, underestimated and highly lethal.’”
Beyond these threats, The Washington Free Beacon reported that a number of nations are working on nuclear weapons that could wipe out the electrical grid for hundreds of miles:
“Several nations, including China and Russia, are building powerful nuclear bombs designed to produce super-electromagnetic pulse (EMP) waves capable of devastating all electronics—from computers to electric grids—for hundreds of miles, according to a newly-released congressional study. A report by the now-defunct Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack, for the first time reveals details on how nuclear EMP weapons are integrated into the military doctrines of China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran” (Bill Gertz, “China, Russia Building Super-EMP Bombs for ‘Blackout Warfare,’” Jan. 24, 2019).
America has also been creating hypersonic missiles, dubbed Arrow and Hacksaw. U.S. President Donald Trump spoke at the Pentagon at the Jan. 17 release of the 2019 Missile Defense Review (MDR), a Defense Dept. summary then noting:
“When it comes to defending America against the threat of a missile attack from any nation, President Donald J. Trump said today that ‘the goal is simple. It is to ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States, anytime, anywhere and any place’ …
“Missile defense is so important in a time of rapidly evolving threats from around the world, he said. Adversaries are acquiring bigger and stronger arsenals. They’re increasing their lethal strike capabilities and they’re focused on building long-range missiles that can reach targets within the United States.
“‘As president, my first duty is the defense of our country,’ he said” (David Vergun, “Trump Pledges to Protect America From Any Enemy Missile,” dod.defense.gov).
A key aspect of the released review was about developing “an effective missile defense against emerging advanced cruise and hypersonic weapons” (ibid.).
The MDR itself points out: “In the past several years, for example, North Korea rapidly advanced and expanded its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. Iran extended the range of its ballistic missile systems and may seek to field an operational ICBM. While Russia and China pose separate challenges and are distinct in many ways, both are enhancing their existing offensive missile systems and developing advanced sea- and air-launched cruise missiles as well as hypersonic capabilities” ( Missile Defense Review, 2019, p. 2).
The Dept. of Defense’s press release explained why these new missiles are so dangerous: “According to the MDR, one impetus for the new missile defense strategy is that hypersonic glide vehicles are being developed by Russia and China that can fly at Mach 5 plus … In particular, hypersonic weapons have been a concern because they can fly low, fast and can quickly change course. Therefore that makes them hard to target.”
Tit for tat
In response to America’s new missile defense plan, Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement that “condemned the strategy as irresponsible and an act of confrontation” (Audrey Kuzmin and Christian Lowe, “Russia Says New U.S. Missile Strategy Will Unleash Arms Race in Space,” Reuters, Jan. 18, 2019).
It also warned: “‘The implementation of these ideas … will have the most negative consequences for international security and stability … We would like to call on the U.S. administration to think again and walk away from this irresponsible attempt to re-launch, on a new and more high-tech basis, the still-remembered Reagan-era “Star Wars” program’” (ibid.).
This back-and-forth process, fueled by hardline political stances, is how arms races can lead to all-out war.
And make no mistake. While some might speculate that these weapons will not be used, this is naïve. History tells us that weapons, once developed, ultimately are used. Dramatic accelerations in military build-up eventually lead to war.
In a paper titled “The War Profiteers: WWI,” historian Douglas Newton passed on a critical observation: “When the war ended, Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary in 1914, looked back in his memoirs at the whole sorry record of vast armaments that failed to achieve security or deter war. He concluded: ‘The moral is obvious: it is that great armaments lead inevitably to war.’”
“Beginning of sorrows”
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ’s disciples looked at the world around them and wondered what would take place before His second coming. Jesus answered, His words shedding light on today’s arms race: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8 Matthew 24:6-8 6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
First note the gradual ramp-up, called “the beginning of sorrows.” A number of other Bible translations have “beginning of birth pains” —which come with increasing frequency and intensity. Besides a rise in actual wars, there would be an increase in “rumors of wars.” We are living in dangerous times, but large-scale war has not broken out in our day— yet. Rumors abound. Saber rattling is everywhere. Military spending is on the rise. Wild new military technologies stretch the imagination.
But we are not to be troubled.
Bad news before the good
What comes after the early phase of end-time world trials? The Bible foretells a cataclysmic World War III culminating at Jerusalem!
In Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4 1 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×, God reveals: “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming … I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity … Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.” Many other prophecies, including some in the book of Revelation, also outline this global catastrophe.
Jesus also spoke of this time in 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×: “For that will be a time of greater horror than anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened [cut short from what it would lead to], the entire human race will be destroyed. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones” (verses 21-22, New Living Translation).
The Bible reveals God will intervene to save humankind from self-extinction. Without this divine intervention, mankind would face annihilation. Only in recent decades has it been easy to see how this could happen through modern military technology!
Finally, Zechariah 14 shows this global war culminating with Jesus returning to earth to establish His Kingdom: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah 14:4 Zechariah 14:4And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×).
While political and military analysts debate where world events are heading, Christians can have the “sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19 2 Peter 1:19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
American King James Version×, King James Version) and be “not troubled.” Take heart as you read today’s shocking headlines. Those who are close to God can understand the overall framework of what lies ahead!