Seventy years ago the greatest bloodbath in human history came to a sudden and shocking end. With the dropping of the first atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese emperor Hirohito capitulated. After six long years of war, the epic conflict that was the Second World War was over.
Some 15 million soldiers, sailors and airmen had died in battle, many cut down in the prime of life. Another 25 million were wounded. Estimates of civilian casualties, much more difficult to calculate, range from 30 to 50 million dead from bombs, bullets, starvation and disease. Russia and China alone each suffered 15 to 25 million total deaths.
For the first time in history, Jesus Christ’s chilling prophecy that before His return, humankind would be able to bring about self-extermination became a grim reality.
Across Europe and Asia, entire cities were heaps of smoldering rubble. Economies and infrastructure were devastated. Millions of women had lost their husbands; tens of millions of children would grow up fatherless.
The war was over. The only real winner was death.
A sobering milestone
This year marks a sobering milestone, the 70th anniversary of the end of that war. Those who were alive to witness and remember that great conflict are rapidly passing from the scene. In the United States, some 400 veterans of the war go to their final rest every day.
Among them were my father, who died more than 20 years ago, and several of my uncles, one of whom passed away this May at age 93. Like many who were called to serve their countries at that time, this uncle was silent about his wartime experiences. Nearly every young man of that generation participated in the war in some way, and for some the emotional and mental wounds, not to mention physical, never completely healed.
“Only the dead have seen the end of war” is a statement usually attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato (ca. 427-347 B.C.). It’s a sad commentary on the human condition that these words ring as true today as they did then, 24 centuries ago.
Human history is a chronicle of wars. In their 1968 book The Lessons of History, historians Will and Ariel Durant concluded that “in the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war” (p. 81).
Think about that statement. This means that for every year of relative peace, the world has suffered from nearly 13 years of war!
World War I, which was hailed at the time as “the war to end war” and sometimes “the war to end all wars,” proved to be anything but. Barely 20 years after those hostilities ceased, Europe was again turned into a continent-wide graveyard. Nations and their leaders seemed to have learned nothing other than how to slaughter each other in ever-increasing numbers with greater and greater efficiency.
Humanity facing extinction for the first time
The end of World War II also marked the doorway to another milestone in human history— the capacity for human self-extinction. The massive research projects and technological advances introduced or paved the way for such advanced weaponry as jet-powered fighters and bombers, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, biological warfare and ICBMs.
The desperate arms races on both sides culminated in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which for several generations now have threatened the human race with annihilation. For the first time in history, Jesus Christ’s chilling prophecy that before His return, humankind would be able to bring about self-extermination became a grim reality.
Witnessing the successful test detonation of the first atomic bomb at White Sands, New Mexico, project director Robert Oppenheimer later remarked that it brought to mind the words of an ancient Hindu religious text: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The immolation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki several weeks later, killing hundreds of thousands, showed how this previously unthinkable weapon could bring about the destruction of worlds.
Those bombs, which had a destructive power of only 15 and 21 kilotons (15,000 and 21,000 tons of TNT) are dwarfed by today’s weapons, which are typically hundreds of times more powerful. A single submarine today carries more than 300 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. One giant Russian H-bomb detonated in 1960 was more than 3,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Its mushroom fireball stretched 40 miles high, almost eight times the height of Mt. Everest!
Life-threatening conditions in the end time
In one of Jesus Christ’s last days with His disciples before His impending crucifixion, they asked Him about when He would return as He had promised: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what willbe the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×).
He proceeded to give a lengthy prophecy recorded for us in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. He foretold several major trends, starting with religious deception that would permeate the world.
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars,” He continued. “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×).
He went on to describe persecution of His true followers even as the message of the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God would be spread to the world—“and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9-14 Matthew 24:9-14 9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×).
Summing up the time of global turmoil that would precede His return, He warned: “It will be a time of great distress such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God’s chosen it will be cut short” (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×, Revised English Bible, emphasis added throughout).
Consider this carefully: Only with the dawn of the nuclear age that ended World War II could this prophecy of human self-extinction be fulfilled. Never before in history did human beings have the capacity to kill every living thing. Now, with a worldwide arsenal of more than 20,000 nuclear warheads, we have that ability to kill every human being on the planet many times over.
And that doesn’t even consider the capability to wipe out the human race through other means such as chemical and biological weapons (nerve gases, ricin, anthrax, etc.)—or weapons we don’t even know about.
How will peace come?
Even as He warned about where humanity’s rebellion against God would lead the world in the time leading up to His return, Jesus offered hope. And although the world will go through a horrifyingly destructive coming world war far more devastating than the carnage of World War II, it will finally experience peace—a peace made possible only by the intervention of the Savior of mankind to physically save us from ourselves.
This hope was at the heart and core of the gospel, the good news, that Jesus taught. His gospel was a continuation of the messages of the Hebrew prophets who preceded Him—with the added dimension of how we may share in that coming Kingdom through coming to know and receive salvation through Him.
Notice several prophecies of the peace that will prevail in this world-ruling Kingdom He will establish on earth at His return:
“In the last days, the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem will become the most important place on earth. People from all over the world will go there to worship. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Israel. There he will teach us his ways, so that we may obey him.’
“For in those days the Lord’s teaching and his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will settle international disputes. All the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. All wars will stop, and military training will come to an end” (Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 2:2-4 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
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×, New Living Translation 1996).
God’s Word foretells that even the nature of wild animals will be changed so they will dwell peaceably with human beings and other animals (this also symbolizing peace among nations through people coming to know God and His ways):
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all. The cattle will graze among bears. Cubs and calves will lie down together. And lions will eat grass as the livestock do.
“Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes and pull it out unharmed. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain. And as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord” (Isaiah 11:6-8 Isaiah 11:6-8 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
American King James Version×, NLT 1996).
The reign of the Prince of Peace
All of this will be possible through the true Messiah and Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Notice this well-known prophecy of His reign, which is immortalized in Handel’s Messiah:
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×).
But you don’t have to wait until His return to experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 Philippians 4:7And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×). You can now live free of worry, fear and confusion over where our world is headed.
How? Respond to His invitation in Isaiah 55:6-7 Isaiah 55:6-7 6 Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
American King James Version×: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
He’s waiting to hear from you!