When you read the news, it seems that mankind is always at war somewhere. This has been true throughout history. With a past history of near-constant warfare, what is humanity's hope for the future? Will there ever be peace? Your Bible offers an answer that can give you hope!
Since the beginning of recorded history, mankind has been at war. Will we ever find the way to peace?
Throughout world history, nations, alliances and empires have battled one another. Mankind has practiced warfare as a way of life. Have we ever enjoyed an extended period of global peace? What is our historic record? Historians Will and Ariel Durant researched that question. In their book, The Lessons of History, they concluded: "In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war" (p. 81).
Incredible! That amounts to nearly 13 years of war for every year without war! How long must we continue to endure before the world experiences total peace? Will nations ever cooperate and find the way to world peace? Or will nations continue to fight one another with weapons of mass destruction until no one is left alive? Will your nation go to war soon, if it is not already at war? What does Bible prophecy reveal?
In the 20th century, we experienced World War I and World War II. Millions suffered through wars in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East and other regions around the world. Now in the 21st century, according to The Economist magazine, one out of every eight countries around the world is fighting a civil war (May 22, 2003). Indeed, your Bible predicted ongoing wars during the end-time. Yet Bible prophecy also reveals the ultimate good news of world peace. Jesus of Nazareth gave a sequence of world events that would precede His Second Coming. He said: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. 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).
There was a time when the United States won its wars as a matter of course. World War I and World War II led Americans to expect victory in their nation's military efforts. That confidence was interrupted by a seeming stalemate in the Korean War, and by the loss of the Vietnam War. When in early 1991 the U.S. successfully led a massive multinational coalition against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, military analysts proclaimed that the U.S. had overcome the "Vietnam Syndrome" of expecting defeat in war. Yet with the onset of the Second Gulf War, Americans are once again wondering: can they win a war? And even if they can win a war, can they win the peace? In 2003, the U.S., Great Britain and other coalition forces defeated Iraq militarily in little more than three weeks, overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. Afterward, however, occupying forces faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in winning the peace, and casualties on all sides continued to mount. Soldiers continued to die as insurgents ambushed, killed and injured long after the "war" was ended.
To anyone who views individual lives as precious, the casualty figures from mankind's wars boggle the mind. World War I resulted in 10 million deaths, and World War II resulted in 55 million deaths. Yet we often forget other major wars that have caused terrible loss. The Iran-Iraq war in the early 1980s cost one million lives. More than a million (some estimates suggest nearly two million) died in the "killing fields" of Kampuchea under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Little more than ten years ago, in 1994, nearly one million Rwandans died in the Hutu-Tutsi genocidal conflict.
And these are just "the tip of the iceberg." The United Nations recently reported that there are more than 35 major conflicts going on in the world today, and that there have been more than 250 major wars since World War II. Three times more people have been killed in wars in the last 90 years than in all the previous 500. History teaches us that wars will not cease. Thankfully, the Bible teaches us that war will eventually cease—thanks to the intervention of Jesus Christ!
Many of us have lost loved ones in war. In the U.S., the tradition of honoring war dead began in 1868. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, gave orders to place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1971, the U.S. Congress set aside the last Monday in May as Memorial Day to honor all war veterans, living and dead. Military cemeteries are scattered all over the world: from the Philippines to Europe, and from Australia to the Middle East.
We all remember fondly our loved ones who have died, and hope to see them again. Christians look forward to the prophesied resurrection of the dead, when all who have died will live again. Those whom God called, and who accepted His call, will rise as "firstfruits" in the first resurrection. Those who lived and died without hearing God's truth will be raised at the "White Throne Judgment" (Revelation 20), when they will have their first opportunity to hear and accept the message of Jesus Christ. Your minister, or your church, may not have taught you this vital and hope-filled truth, but it is right there in your Bible! There is hope for many of your loved ones, whom you may have feared would be "lost!"
Over the centuries, countless millions of soldiers have given their lives for the cause of freedom. Today, however, peaceful citizens die alongside soldiers in barbaric acts of terrorism. We still recall with sadness and outrage the events of September 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and into a Pennsylvania field. American leaders called that day a "day of infamy," echoing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's condemnation of Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
September 11, 2001 was a wake-up call to the U.S. and to the whole western world. Business Week's cover, the week after the attack, called it an "act of war." The Economist magazine's post-September 11 cover proclaimed it "The Day the World Changed." As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 12, 2001: "A shaken Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) said, 'This is 21st century war.'"
Terrorists have also mounted attacks in India, Indonesia, Israel, Russia and many other nations around the world. Our world remains a dangerous place, very vulnerable to terrorism. Yet while the world fears terrorism, many brutal wars go almost unreported. How many people outside Africa are even aware of the five-year-long war in the Congo at the turn of this century? As one news magazine reported about this war, largely unknown yet typical of so many modern wars:
"The death toll since Congo's war began in 1998 is higher, at between 3.1m and 4.7m, than in any other ongoing war. But otherwise the conflict is typical of today's wars. The combatants are mostly irregular militias, their victims mostly unarmed, and the fighting has gone on for nearly five years. A century ago most conflicts were between nations, and 90 percent of casualties were soldiers; today almost all wars are civil, and 90 percent of the victims are civilians…. Why are poor, stagnant countries so vulnerable? Partly because it is easy to give a poor man a cause. But also, almost certainly, because poverty and low or negative growth are often symptoms of corrupt, incompetent government, which can provoke rebellion. They are also common in immature societies, whose people have not yet figured out how to live together" (The Economist, May 22, 2003).
Has mankind not advanced since Cain slew Abel? How tragic, that "people have not yet figured out how to live together." Is there a solution? Thankfully, the answer is: Yes! The Bible teaches us how to live together. First, warring parties must acknowledge the Creator God as sovereign over their nations. Ancient King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had to learn that lesson the hard way (Daniel 4). Next, nations must learn to obey God and His commandments. God's commandments show us how to live together! Instead of trying to remove God's commandments from the public arena—as many in the U.S. are striving to do, and as many around the world have already done—we need to have those commandments written in our hearts! What is the most important of these commandments, and how should they affect our lives? Jesus gave an answer to a lawyer who asked him which commandment was the greatest: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37–40).
As long as nations and individuals disobey God's commandments, we will have war! Your Bible makes that plain. James asked: "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:1–3). Or as the KJV states it: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"
This was true in the first century ad, and it remains true today! Unless we live by the principles and commandments of the Bible, God will condemn our nations. And unless the U.S. and Great Britain repent, these nations are headed for judgment! Did we learn any lasting lessons from World War II? Have we learned the way to peace? Or do we resemble those about whom the Apostle Paul wrote, who reject God's way of life: "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:16–18).
General Douglas MacArthur had much understanding of the problem with human nature. In his statement aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, accepting the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, he proclaimed: "Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be the way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door."
Yet we have not devised "some greater and more equitable system." So, surely, as MacArthur stated, "our Armageddon will be at our door."
As long as we do not replace human nature with God's divine, loving nature, we will have war! And with man's desire and drive to invent even more powerful weapons of mass destruction, we can expect massive loss of life on planet earth. As General MacArthur also stated: "The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."
Yes, human nature must be changed! And it can only be changed by repentance and conversion, and by surrendering to the Savior of the world. God will give us His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, if we repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38). But the vast majority of human beings will have to learn the hard way. Bible prophecy reveals that more wars are coming. General MacArthur referred to Armageddon, which the Bible mentions in Revelation 16. This will be the gathering place for the greatest battle in all history, where "the kings of the earth and of the whole world" (v. 14) are gathered together for "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (ibid.).
The actual battle is not called the battle of Armageddon, although people commonly refer to it as such. It is "the battle of that great day of God Almighty," which begins at "Armageddon" (v. 16). Just what is "Armageddon"? The word "Armageddon" is a transliteration of the original Hebrew har megiddo, which means the "hill of Megiddo" or "the mountain of Megiddo."
Megiddo is located about 55 miles north of Jerusalem in Israel. In ancient times it guarded the main trade route between Egypt and Damascus. It also overlooks the largest plain in Israel, called the Valley of Jezreel or the Plain of Esdraelon. The Old Testament records several major battles that took place there. In World War I, British General Allenby defeated Turkish military forces there, in what became known as "the Battle of Megiddo."
At Megiddo, earth's armies will gather to fight against Christ at His coming, as the Apostle John described: "And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:14–16).
The nations will lose this war, and learn that God is in charge. But even though nations now, and in the future, may reject God's way of life, you individually can find peace and blessings, if you seek God with all your heart. Even though the nations may be headed for future catastrophe and judgment, you can find the way to peace!
Most of us yearn for world peace and prosperity for all peoples. The good news is that world peace will prevail when the returning King of kings sets up the Kingdom of God on earth, after defeating the armies that fight against Him at His Second Coming. He will set up a "disarmament program," as the prophet Isaiah famously described: "He [the King, Jesus Christ] shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; 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 anymore" (Isaiah 2:4). Nations will no longer spend billions of dollars on military equipment; they will use their resources for peaceful purposes. Instead of tanks, nations will produce tractors. Instead of rifles, nations will produce pruning hooks and farm implements. The whole world can look forward to a Millennium of peace and prosperity, as nations learn the way to peace!
We must learn the way of the Bible. We must overcome the influence of hate and evil. We must read the Bible and practice the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9), and also taught a vital lesson in Christian conduct: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (vv. 43–45).
How many in the world today are practicing that way of life, as was taught by the Apostle Paul, who wrote: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21)? True Christians today are learning the way of life that Christ taught and exemplified. They are called to live the way of peace. Christians pray for their leaders and constituted authority (1 Timothy 2:1–2). They submit to governmental authority that does not force them to disobey God (Romans 13). Of course, when there is a conflict, Christians obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29).
We are living in dangerous times. Bible prophecy tells us that there are wars that will yet be fought. But Christ will totally conquer all warring nations at His coming. We can take comfort in this good news: "Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:8–10).
Yes, the Messiah will make wars cease to the end of the earth. The Prince of Peace will establish world peace. The prophet Isaiah wrote about the ultimate destiny of the world under the rulership of Christ: "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).
Will wars ever cease? Yes, they will. But only after the Messiah, Jesus Christ, establishes the Kingdom of God here on earth. Only then will all humanity learn the way to peace. During the Millennium, mankind will have the opportunity to gain a new heart—a heart and mind filled with the Spirit of God. As General MacArthur stated: "It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh." Pray for the Kingdom to come. And pray that you individually can learn the way to lasting peace.