As I remember it, people had two main fears after the end of World War II: One, the threat of a nuclear holocaust and, two, the dangerous moral influence of the Rolling Stones. We still have reason to be concerned about the Rolling Stones. I mean, even rock stars should stop wearing skinny jeans eventually. But the good news is that the danger of nuclear war is over. Right?
Well, maybe not. Earlier this year, North Korea—the geopolitical equivalent of a sulking teenager who refuses to come out of the bathroom—announced it had tested a hydrogen bomb. Sure enough, a seismic event of magnitude 5.1 was registered in the northeast corner of the country. How a society that can barely provide its citizens with running water can go and build a fission bomb is a mystery to me. But there it is. Now the nation with the absolute worst case of wild-eyed paranoia has the absolute most dangerous weapon. What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, in the slightly friend-lier state of Iran, they have introduced a new intercontinental missile. This apparently has nothing to do with their desperate ambition to develop a nuclear weapon—which, by the way, they have double-pinky promised to put on pause.
And as you run out to the backyard to plan the installation of an underground bunker, let me mention that there may be one more reason to expect nuclear war: some people see a clear prediction of a nuke fest in the Bible.
On his website, Texas preacher Irvin Baxter says that a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Zechariah “unmistakably” teaches that nuclear weapons will be used during Armageddon: “This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths” (Zechariah 14:12).
Baxter makes the point that if a great army came against Jerusalem as predicted, Israel would certainly defend itself with its not-so-secret nuclear arsenal. And he goes on to say that the effects described in the verse “are the exact symptoms of those that suffer nuclear radiation.”
Once you start looking for Bible prophecies that sound like a thermonuclear war, you can find plenty. Here’s a list from another website:
- “And every living thing in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3). The consequence of thousands of megatons of nuclear explosives could be an “extinction” event for many types of animals, including fish.
- “And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night” (Revelation 8:12). In the same way that large volcanic eruptions have darkened the skies in ancient times, nuclear war could fill the atmosphere with particles that block the sun.
- “And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” (Revelation 8:7). Between fires started by the insane heat of nuclear explosions, and the nuclear winter that follows, plant life would be devastated.
- “Ugly, festering sores broke out on the people” (Revelation 16:2). Radiation would cause burns and dramatically increase the rates of cancer.
- “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat” (Revelation 16:8). Jonathan Schell, author of the book The Fate of the Earth, says that nuclear war could cause “the possible poisoning of all vertebrates by sharply increased levels of vitamin D in their skin as a result of increased ultraviolet light.”
- “A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur” (Revelation 9:18). Obviously, a nuclear conflict would cause a staggering loss of life from fireballs, nuclear fallout and the mass starvation that would follow a nuclear winter.
David Reagan, the speaker for the website that provided the list, observes that when John the Revelator describes things like “hail and fire,” “a great mountain burning with fire” and “a great star . . . burning like a torch” this is exactly how we would expect a man from the first century to describe a nuclear fireball or an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile.
(By the way, I just went on the internet to check the price of radiation suits and I have to tell you, at these prices, we may have to restrict them to immediate family members. The in-laws are on their own. Of course, there’s a chance that these interpretations of prophecy are off base and we’ve got nothing to worry about.)
Let’s look again at Revelation 8 and 9. This is where we get a lot of the imagery that might remind you of the post-final scene of the Cold War satirical film, Dr. Strangelove. However, some Bible students believe that the events sounded by the seven trumpets have already happened: They likely portray the destruction of the western Roman Empire. The great mountain that turns the sea to blood can be seen as the attacks of the Vandals that often came against the Empire from the sea.* If this is true, then predictions about the end of the world by nuclear war may not be completely accurate.
So will we get lucky and escape the atomic age without more atomic bombs? The Bible does not give us a definitive answer. It does indicate that terrible, destructive events will happen at the end of the world. The amount of radiation involved hardly matters. What does matter is that there will be two groups of people.
One group will be out of their minds with fear: “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ ” (Revelation 6:16). It doesn’t sound like owning a radiation suit will be any comfort to these poor souls.
Then there is another group who will view these events with hopeful excitement. They see them as signs that Jesus is coming soon and with Him will come justice and peace. They know Jesus well enough to realise that He is bringing them salvation.
A promise in Revelation 7 says, “ ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ ” (verses 16, 17).
That is when they know that they will be safe from every kind of evil. That is the moment when all worries about nuclear conflagration will definitely be over.
* For trustworthy information on Bible prophecy, go to www.hop.ec/secrets.