A Future Nuclear War?
Commentary for January 21, 2004 — Not the End of the World
Some have believed that a nuclear war would devastate the earth, perhaps create a situation where life would cease from radiation, or crack the crust of the earth, or send so much dust into the atmosphere that all life on earth would be threatened.
Two very very similar statements are made in Matthew chapter 24 and Mark chapter 13 that refer to the same event and describe a time when life would not survive. This is, however, describing a local event merely in and around Jerusalem. This does not mean that all life on earth would be extinguished.
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”The context of all events take place in Jerusalem and the area around the city. Even the “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6 & Mark 13:7) and nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, all are “heard” from the reference of Jerusalem. Jesus’ warning that “no flesh ... be saved” also has reference to the immediate Jerusalem area. Read the contexts.
• Matthew 24:22“And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he has chosen, he has shortened the days.”
• Mark 13:20
(By the way, this phrase about “no flesh ... be saved” does not occur in the Luke 21 description of end-time events. You would think that a world-destroying event would have greater notice in Scripture and be mentioned in Luke which has the same context as Matthew 24 and Mark 13.)
Nuclear War in Your Future?
Many commentators on prophecy, and more than a few motion pictures with end time catastrophe scenarios, assume that there will be a nuclear war in the future before Christ’s Second Coming. No such thing is prophesied that I can find in Scripture. (I consider a nuclear war to be something larger than a nuclear exchange of one or two bombs between combatants, in say a conflict between India and Pakistan.)
That is not a nuclear war, that is a catastrophe horrible beyond description, but it would not destroy the world. In fact most of the world would not even notice and the areas affected by the bombs would recover, rebuild and live again in the devastated areas. How can I say that? Well, it has happened before.
Nuclear Destruction, a Perspective
Near the end of World War II the United States dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a loss of 135,000 and 64,000 people dead and wounded in seconds. See “The Avalon Project” at Yale Law School for the figures. At the present time both Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving cities with populations exceeding pre-war levels. The devastation of these nuclear attacks was not unprecedented in that war.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt, as was Tokyo, which was devastated by one particularly destructive American bombing raid in March of 1945 that caused a firestorm killing an estimated 100,000 people. (To keep a perspective, approximately 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001 attacks.) All three cities are thriving today. Tokyo is the largest city in the world with 28 million people in its surrounding area.
In spite of fictional accounts in books, movies, and articles about nuclear war, destruction of the human race by nuclear destruction could not have happened before the late 1980s. There simply was not enough hardware to deliver the nuclear weapons. Nuclear war during the early 1960s, particularly during the very tense Cuban Missile Crisis of November 1962, would have been horrible, but survivable for the United States. Russia would have been largely devastated and Europe slightly less so. Except for several major cities, the United States heartland would have survived. The United States (despite CIA and Pentagon overly high threat assessment numbers presented to Congress throughout the Cold War) has always had a great advantage of nuclear weapons compared with the old Soviet Union in numbers, deliverability and precision on target.
It was only during the 1980s (when missiles received multiple warheads) that major cities were endangered with total mass destruction. Even then, most nuclear weapon targeting was directed at an opponents military capability to reprisals. The result was that the United States produced at least 40,000 nuclear weapons of various types and sizes since 1945 and still has some 25,000 in its present arsenal. Russia (the diminished old Soviet Union) also had tens of thousands of warheads.
Like all sophisticated equipment, these nuclear weapons and the missiles need to be maintained in order for them to function properly. What happened to the nuclear weapons of the old Soviet Union is a great concern to many government officials today. Russia apparently is having difficulty accounting for all of them. Such “lost” nuclear bombs are a potential terrorist tool. Occasionally news reports arise of “lost” U.S. nuclear material.
A Nuclear War Equivalent Has Already Happened
How can I say that? Because there has been the equivalent of a large-scale nuclear war on earth extending over several decades and little impact has occurred to anyone’s daily life, except for the unnecessary (and stupid) long-term rise in cancer deaths due to radiation from the above-ground tests. However, government officials, mostly in the United States were willing to “accept” that statistical losses of life under the guise of “acceptable” risk and loss.
There has been very a large number of nuclear weapons exploded since the first test and the bombing of Japan in 1945. Most of those tests have been underground, but over one third have been above-ground blasts. (See the last page of the webpage by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation at “www.clw.org/control/briefing-book-new-nukes.pdf” for a listing by year of the known and disclosed nuclear tests.) There have been slightly over 2,000 nuclear tests of various sizes over 55 years.
According to figures put out by the organization Greenpeace “http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/nukes/ctbt/read9.html” for that 55-year period between the years of 1945 and 2000 some 700 nuclear weapons have been exploded on the surface of the earth and some 1,300 have been exploded underground. Those figures are approximate but probably close to the truth. The last above ground test was conducted in 1985.
In the first 6 years only 7 bombs were tested and only a few were tested at the end of the 55 years. More than half of the total and half of the above-ground tests were conducted by the United States. Nuclear weapons tests were also conducted in space. During 1962 a surprising 178 nuclear tests were conducted, all but 3 tests were conducted by the United States and the Soviet Union.
According to the the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (mentioned above), an estimated 128,000 nuclear weapons have been built by the various world powers since 1945. Most of those weapons have now been deactivated. The United States and Russia have at least an estimated 10,000 nuclear weapons each. Stockpiles are scheduled to diminish further. Most all testing by the United States and Russia has stopped.
Currently the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, India, and Pakistan are known to possess stockpiles of nuclear weapons. It is largely presumed that Israel, in cooperation South Africa, possesses a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Countries formerly within the Soviet Union also retain some nuclear weapons from that old regime. They are the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia.
What Does This Mean?
It means that at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union each side had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The effects of such weapons, though horrible, are not as bad as most people believe. (However, the old sick joke, “One nuclear blast can ruin your whole day!” still applies.) If such weapons were as effective as the public feared, nations would need only a few hundred, not tens of thousands of all kinds.
The world will not end in a nuclear holocaust. Life will not end in a nuclear war. The threatened destruction of the world in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 will not be at the hand of man, it will come from the hand of God. The Creator Himself will punish humankind with near extinction. Until then civilization and culture as we know it will continue as today until Christ’s return.
Again, as I recommended in a recent Commentary, you should read Dr. Martin’s articles on the subject, “The Destruction of the World in Prophecy” and “The Asteroid Destruction — Its Timing and Purpose.” They clearly explain the biblical information about how civilization as we know it will cease because of punishments of God at the time of the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
The destruction and threat to all life will not come from man, the 10 kings, Satan, the cherub of Ezekiel 28, the “High Ones” of Isaiah 10:33 & 24:21, or the antichrist of Isaiah 14. God alone will destroy the earth (and rebuild it during the millennium) by fire rather than by water. Only a small remnant of humans will survive. Within that “new world order” Israel will take her rightful place as the leading nation on the earth.
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