Today in Prophecy

The Threat of Nuclear War

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“The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works … burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

North Korea recently vowed to obliterate the United States with a nuclear strike, bringing North Korean President Kim Jong-un ‘final victory’ for the Korean War fought between the two countries between 1950 and 1953. Since the end of World War II, there have been over 2,000 nuclear weapons tests from a limited number of countries. North Korea’s most recent underground blast at the mountainous Punggye-ri site in September unleashed a powerful 6.3-magnitude tremor that was felt in China. The bomb was thought to have had a power range from 50 to 120 kilotons. A 50-kiloton device would be about three times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in Japan during World War II.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was signed in 1968 as a means to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. As of October 2013, 189 recognized states are party to it. Three countries – India, Israel, & Pakistan – have never signed. North Korea withdrew its signature in January 2003.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Some seventy-two years ago an example of the devastation from a nuclear blast occurred in Japan, when US President Harry Truman
ordered a strike on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Huge portions of both cities vanished. While there were 200,000 survivors, those within close range experienced heat so intense that practically everything and everyone was vaporized. In Hiroshima, what remained of those sitting on stone benches near the center of the explosion was the outline of their sitting figure.

A recent book by Ari Beser, Fulbright-National Geographic fellow, described the experience of ten survivors who were near the blast in Hiroshima. Between chapters devoted to their testimonies is a detailed account of how Beser’s Jewish grandfather, a military engineer, became part of the top-secret mission to test the atomic bombs used against the Japanese. While Ari’s grandfather never regretted what he did, he expressed a sincere belief that this type of war should never happen again.

Studies done on children exposed to the radiation from the bombings in Japan, found that death rates skyrocketed in the nine months after. Forty-three percent of pregnancies with fetus exposure to the radiation ended in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or infant death. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project which had developed the bombs, suggested in sworn testimony before a Congressional hearing following the bombings that death from high dose radiation exposure occurred “without undue suffering” but said nothing about the aftermath on survivors.

Today’s Arsenal

Nine countries in the world possess, in aggregate, 15,375 nuclear warheads. The United States and Russia account for 93 percent (See accompanying chart). Since the peak in the mid-1980s, arsenals have shrunk by over two-thirds. However, bombs that remain are much more powerful than those dropped in 1945, and the risk of development is great among countries not committed to disarmament.

Albert Einstein summarized the issue in 1948 this way: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking. Thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” Separately he said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

God’s Perspective

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This scripture promises that earth will never cease to exist. Does this preclude, however, the possibility of a nuclear event that might destroy thousands, or even millions?

The Apostle Peter describes the dissolution of earth’s current order of things. “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pe- ter 3:5-7). In the days of Noah, almost all flesh was destroyed while the physical earth remained. Noah’s ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat, preserved for a new order of things on the physical earth (Genesis 8:4). Peter’s comparison of this “world” to the “world” of Noah, suggests that the “heavens and earth, which are now” refer to the order of things rather than the physical surroundings.

Armageddon has become a word used when there are conflicts between nations and ideologies, especially when there is worldwide turmoil. Our news media often use it to describe something that is of significant destruction. In reality, Armageddon is a biblical term used in the closing book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. It is associated with what is called “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). Because Revelation is a book of symbols where names are used to point out something associated with an historical event, there should not be an attempt to look at a literal fulfillment of its pictures.

The word is of Hebrew origin — not the Greek that the book of Revelation is written in — and is associated geographically and historically with the hill of Megiddo. Megiddo occupied a strategic position in ancient Israel, commanding an important passage into the hill country. It was the great battleground of Israel where Gideon and his 300 men defeated the Midianites, and where King Saul was defeated by the Philistines. In order to understand the meaning in Revelation, one must reflect on the battles in which ancient Israel participated.

There was one outstanding characteristic of all Israel’s battles — God Himself took a hand in them and overruled their victories or defeats in carrying out His own plans. This suggests that the final battle described as Armageddon is a battle in which God is interested, and one in which He will direct the issue, assuring a final and glorious victory for the forces of righteousness.

In this last great battle of the ages, evil will be permanently defeated, making way for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. This is why it is described as “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). During this battle, “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (Zephaniah 3:8). As in Noah’s day, Jehovah will remove the old, selfish arrangement of man, to prepare a new order. “Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9).

It is the way of doing things, not the people nor the literal earth, that will cease. Zephaniah assures us that then there will be one voice throughout the world. There will be no need for peace treaties nor threats in order to protect one’s nation. Under the new order of things, all men will learn to live in harmony, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

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