We have heard the overkill statistics repeated until we can almost quote them from memory. We know the great powers are armed to the nuclear teeth and in possession of ultra sophisticated weapons-delivery systems. We have seen more and more nations clamoring to become members of the nuclear club. How long can the human race continue to live under the nuclear gun before someone's trigger finger gets too itchy? Will the world someday erupt in the ultimate doomsday war that could erase all life from off this planet? What does Bible prophecy have to say about the future of peace on this earth?
Where is it all going to end? That was the question the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ posed in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. Christ's answer, known as the Olivet Prophecy, is quite revealing. "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars," Christ said, referring to one of the prophetic signals that would herald the end of an age (verse 6). Certainly there have always been wars. And certainly Christ's words had particular meaning for that day and age. Within a few short decades Roman legions under the command of Titus sacked, burned and pillaged the city of Jerusalem. But Jesus' warning about war was also applicable to another. period in history. In the book of Revelation, Christ, speaking through the apostle John, amplified some of His previous prophetic statements. In the sixth chapter, John writes: "And 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 unto him a great sword" (Rev. 6:4). John was not speaking about the fall of Jerusalem. That war was already some twenty years behind him. John was referring to future events that would bring 6000 years of human history crashing to a cataclysmic close. The context of the book of Revelation alone demonstrates this. In chapter 9, verse 16, John writes of art army of 200 million men. There were barely that many men, women and children on earth in the days of Christ or the apostle John. Until the nineteenth century it would have been impossible to field an army this big, even if all the nations of the world had pooled their manpower resources. During the height of World War II the combined armies of both Allied and Axis forces were only a fraction of this total.
A Demonic War Maker
So John is referring to a time yet ahead of us when "peaceful coexistence" will be a thing of the past. But specifically what is it that leads to this intensified period of global wars and conflicts? In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, John gets right to the heart of the problem. He describes the fall of a great archangel, Satan the Devil: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:7-9). This is the same great being who took peace from the earth back in the Garden of Eden. This is the same Satan who had a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus Christ over the eventual rulership of the world. In that particular encounter, the devil offered Christ rulership of "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" (Matt. 4:8). Satan had them to offer and Christ didn't dispute that fact. It is this super archangel known as "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) who stands as the power behind every national throne (see Dan. 10:12-13). He has been responsible for the war-making machinations that have gone on in virtually every world capital since the beginning of recorded history. But this time he pulls out all stops. Satan with his great perverted intellect can read the signs of the times. He knows that his six-thousand-year-old world dynasty is almost over, and he's not about to give it up without a titanic struggle. That means things are going to get extremely hot for the inhabitants of this world. As John writes: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12).
Unsheathing the Sword
But that's only the beginning of the devil's desperate eleventh-hour campaign. The following chapter continues the narrative of John: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.... And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" (Rev. 13:1, 4.) Satan's last-ditch stand centers around his favorite instrument of destruction — a revitalized Roman Empire. It is the same system described in the seventh chapter of Daniel, now raising its ugly head for one final fling at world power. Like the ancient empires of old, this one will also be centered around the familiar church-state partnership with the nation, the ruler, and the governing system held in idolatrous esteem (Rev. 13:11-15). Once it decides to wage war, virtually nothing will stand in the way of this gigantic military juggernaut. Like its predecessors, it will quickly roll up an impressive string of military victories with lightning-like thrusts, this time in the Middle East. Speaking of this yet-future campaign, the prophet Daniel wrote: "And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind [referring to an attack from the air?], with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land [Palestine], and many countries shall be overthrown.... But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many" (Dan. 11:40, 41, 44).
A Decidedly Unconventional War
Even more terrifying is the way these wars will be fought. Again the apostle John paints a grisly picture in the ninth chapter of Revelation: "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.... And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 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. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months" (Rev. 9:3, 7-10). Could John have been poetically referring to modern-day weapons such as jets, rockets, or missiles? Why would men be tormented and not die? (See verses 5, 6.) Could they be suffering from radiation sickness or the effects of germ warfare? What John was referring to is almost impossible to ascertain — but it certainly wasn't normal, conventional warfare. Whatever it was, it was only the beginning of man's future wartime woes. Using stark apocalyptic language, J0hn goes on to describe a massive army of 200 million men in verse 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." Notice the awesome toll these weapons take: "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" (verse 18). Could the lethal smoke John describes be radioactive fallout from future nuclear weapons? And could the fire be the thermal radiation effect? Again, all we can do at this point is speculate on what could happen. But the end results speak for themselves — one third of all humanity dead.
Battling on the Brink
Joel likewise graphically portrays an unprecedented period of chaos and war. "... There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness " (Joel 2:2-6). It's no wonder that Jeremiah, in referring to these tumultuous times, stated: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble..." (Jer. 30:7). "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." And were this military madness allowed to continue on to its final bitter conclusion, Christ went on to say that "there should no flesh be saved [Moffatt adds 'saved alive']: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:21,22).
The Last Great Battle
Unless God put a sudden stop to man's misguided activities, Christ plainly states there would be no hope for the survival of the human race. God's dramatic, eleventh-hour intervention in world affairs does not come without warning. It is announced by the blowing of the seventh trump in Revelation 11:15: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." After 6000 years of human misrule, world power is finally restored to its rightful owner — Jesus Christ of Nazareth. At one stroke this event removes one of the basic factors that has led men to war throughout all of recorded history. It means the final end of divisive, petty, narrow-minded national sovereignty. It means the beginning of the end for human misrule, intolerance and misunderstanding. Here at long last is the real way to peace mankind has rejected. You would think with this monumental announcement the nations of the world would throw down their arms, shout hallelujah, and receive Christ with open arms. At long last here is the peaceful solution they have desperately needed, but haven't been able to find. But nothing of the kind — they do just the opposite. "And the nations were angry" (Rev. 11:18). Satan the Devil is angry. He knows he's about to lose his cherished seat of power. He figures his only recourse is to fight God. So he gathers his forces for one final all-out battle with the returning Jesus Christ. Again John writes: "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. For they are the spirits of devils [demons], working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (Rev. 16:13-16).
The Battle of Armageddon
The location for this last climactic battle will apparently be well-chosen for its strategic value. Armageddon, or the "mount of Megiddo," sits astride three important mountain passes that allow for quick access across the length and breadth of Palestine. It was at Megiddo that Josiah was slain attempting to block passage of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt northward to fight the Babylonians. Gideon and Barak won impressive battles here during the period of the Judges. And General Allenby's forces surprised the Turkish armies at Megiddo in 1918 But this time there is no real contest. John records in Revelation 19:19 and 17:14: "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 [Christ], and against his army.... and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings...." Other prophets described the battle in more graphic detail. Zechariah, for instance, states: "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.... And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth" (Zech. 14:2, 12). At the same time, Jesus Christ will put a final end to the power-hungry church-state system that has wracked the world with war for 6000 years. John records this earthshaking event in the fourteenth and eighteenth chapters of Revelation. It's interesting that in speaking of this resurrected system John writes: "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth " (Rev. 18:24).
Peace at Last
Jesus Christ will then go about the business of establishing real world peace. With Satan the Devil bound (Rev. 20:2), his destructive church-state combine out of the way, and with the nations no longer governed by fallible men, remarkable things will begin to happen. Isaiah writes: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain [government] 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 unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, 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. 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" (Isa. 2:2-4; see also Micah 4:1-4). For the first time the vast majority of people will learn what it means to live according to God's laws. No longer will they be motivated to fight and quarrel, but will learn to love their fellowman. There it is — the final solution to war. For the sake of all humanity, the sooner it arrives the better.
Is Doomsday at the Door?
Adlai Stevenson: "No physical peril greater than atomic war has confronted mortal man since the Flood."
Sir Bertrand Russell: "Never since human beings first existed have they been faced with so great a danger as that which they have brought upon themselves by a combination of unrivaled skill and unrivaled folly."
John F. Kenned: "Together we shall save our planet — or together we shall perish in its flames!"
Gen. Dougla MacArthur: "We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at the door."
Kenneth E.Bouldlng: "I believe the present international system to be one which has a significant probability built into it of irretrievable disaster for the human race."
Dr. W. H. Pickering: "In half an hour the East and West could destroy civilization."
Dr. Albert Einstein: "There is no defense in science against the weapons which can destroy civilization."
Dr. Herbert F. York: "...The arms race is a steady open spiral down toward oblivion."
Charles de Gaulle: "...The great powers are facing their 'last moment'..."
Barbara Ward: "The greatest institutional gap in our world is created by an inescapable, planetary interdependence which breeds common grievances and creates common needs and opportunities, yet is matched by virtual no instruments of worldwide order and welfare. And it is through this gap that mankind can tumble into annihilation."