Swords into Plowshares | Tomorrow's World

Swords into Plowshares

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Human beings may say they want peace, but their actions again and again lead to war. Mankind's best efforts to bring about a world free of conflict and suffering have inevitably failed—but your Bible reveals that a time of world peace is coming!

Is there a missing dimension in the search for world peace? The Bible reveals important keys!

Why is the quest for world peace so difficult and frustrating? Why have the efforts of diplomats, popes, politicians, armies and generations of demonstrators failed to achieve lasting peace? Why has the United Nations been unable to promote real unity among the nations and peoples of the world? What is missing from human attempts to end strife, violence and wars that continue to erupt around the globe? Is there a way that will lead to real peace on earth?

Surprising as it may seem to modern skeptics and secular intellectuals, the Bible reveals a missing dimension in the quest for peace. The evidence of history illustrates the sobering consequences of failing to understand this essential information. While many today assume that it is impossible to accurately predict the future, Bible prophecy clearly reveals how peace will come to this earth. When you understand what the Bible reveals about the true path to peace, you can have real hope for the future!

The Bloodiest Century

Violence and warfare have plagued mankind for thousands of years, but recent years have been among the most violent of all. Prominent British historian Niall Ferguson notes: "The twentieth century was the bloodiest era in history… between 167 million and 188 million died because of organized violence" (Foreign Affairs, Sept–Oct 2006, p. 61). Ferguson asserts that "the Second World War [which claimed some 55 million lives] was the greatest man-made catastrophe of all time" (War of the World, p. xxxiv). He asks: "What made the twentieth century… so bloody? After all, the hundred years after 1900 were a time of unparalleled progress" which saw knowledge explode, technology advance, life spans increase and the quality of life for many reach unprecedented levels (ibid., p. xxxv). In his search for the causes of modern violence, professor Ferguson observes: "It might have been expected that such prosperity would eliminate the causes of war. But much of the worst violence of the twentieth century involved relatively wealthy countries" (Foreign Affairs, Sept–Oct 2006, p. 62). After evaluating the factors most commonly suggested as causes of wars and violence—the availability of more destructive weaponry, economic crises, the appearance of megalomaniac dictators, and extreme ideologies—"None is able to explain convincingly why lethal conflict happened when and where it did" (ibid., p. 64).

In Ferguson's analysis, the three key root causes of 20th-century violence are the rise of ethnic conflict, economic volatility (sluggish or rapidly expanding economies that destabilize societies) and the decline of empires (Ferguson, p. xli). He is not alone in recognizing that these factors are once again erupting on the world stage, and he warns that "if the history of the twentieth century is any guide, then the fragile edifice of civilization can very quickly collapse" (ibid., p. 645). Ferguson concludes his scholarly study of war with these words: "We shall avoid another century of conflict only if we understand the forces that caused the last one—the dark forces that conjure up ethnic conflict and imperial rivalry out of economic crisis, and in so doing negate our common humanity. They are forces that stir within us all" (ibid., p. 646). The sobering lesson of the 20th century is that we have yet to understand the real causes of war, or the real way to achieve peace on earth!

Dreams That Failed

The world's bloodiest century also saw repeated and unprecedented global efforts to eliminate war and promote peace, yet none of those humanly devised schemes managed to achieve the ultimate goal of world peace. In the years just after World War I—the so-called "war to end all wars" which was also called a war to "make the world safe for democracy"—political leaders in America and Europe formed the League of Nations "to guarantee international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security" (Civilization Past & Present, Brummett et al., pp. 762–3). The League of Nations "was the first systematic and thorough attempt to create an organization designed to prevent war and promote peace" (ibid., p. 764). World leaders' efforts to create and sustain the League "grew out of the desire of people throughout the world to prevent war forever" (The World Book Encyclopedia, 50th ed, vol. 12, p. 140). However, the United States eventually refused to join the organization, other nations refused to cooperate in this global experiment and the League proved itself unable to keep peace in the world and unable to prevent new wars.

After World War II, the nations of the world made another attempt to prevent war and promote peace on earth. In 1945, the world's most powerful countries formed the United Nations with an agenda very similar to that of the failed League of Nations. As a former U.S. Army general, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, once observed: "With all its defects, with all the failures… the UN still represents man's best-organized hope to substitute the conference table for the battlefield\ (ibid.). However, in the 60 years since its founding, the UN has failed to find the way to peace or to eliminate the causes of war. Endless rounds of negotiations, and dozens of efforts dispatching \UN peacekeepers" to areas of conflict, have also failed to solve the problem of war.

In the 20th century, the two world wars began in Europe and first involved European powers. With that history in mind, visionary leaders in Europe have worked to bind the nations of Europe together by treaties and trade agreements, and by creating transnational governmental structures that make up the European Union—including the European Commission, a European Parliament, a European Court, a European Bank and a fledgling European Army. The goal is to bind the nations of Europe tightly together in a European Union in order to prevent another war in Europe. However, the EU was powerless to prevent the recent genocidal conflict in the Balkans. The EU has also been unable to prevent international terrorism from striking the nations of Europe. In spite of a century of human efforts to find ways to promote world peace, we are currently witnessing an emerging "clash of civilizations," as violent Muslim extremists square off against the so-called "Christian nations" of the Western world. While many of the world's people want peace, Ferguson notes, "another global conflict is brewing today" and the powder keg that could make that conflict explode appears to lie in the Middle East (Foreign Affairs, Sept–Oct 2006, p. 74).

A Vital Missing Dimension

Why have the efforts of some of the best minds in the world—working diligently to prevent violent conflicts and promote peace—failed to achieve these noble goals? Is there a crucial dimension that political and religious leaders of this world have failed to grasp or understand? Incredible as it may seem to secular-oriented minds today, the Bible reveals why human beings have struggled in vain to find the way to peace. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah issued this sobering warning to those who reject the counsel of the Eternal God: "The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace" (Isaiah 59:8). More than 2,500 years ago, the real God of this universe explained how efforts to achieve peace and prevent conflicts by human means alone—diplomacy, treaties, demonstrations, armed intervention, nuclear deterrents and international organizations that attempt to promote cooperation—would not work in the long run if they ignored a fundamental dimension that God has revealed in the Scriptures.

We find this vital key to real peace described in the writings of Israel's King David, whom God called "a man after My own heart" (Acts 13:22). David stated plainly in Scripture: "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble" (Psalm 119:165). Centuries later, the prophet Isaiah emphasized this same vital key: "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness [will be] quietness and assurance forever" (Isaiah 32:17). The Bible explains how righteousness involves obeying the laws and commandments of God (Psalm 119:172). However, this essential dimension—the need to obey God's instructions about the way to achieve peace—is not part of the mentality of political and religious leaders of this world today.

God repeatedly warned the nation of Israel that it would reap serious consequences because "you have forsaken the Lord your God, and the fear of Me is not in you" (Jeremiah 2:19). The prophets castigated misguided religious leaders for not explaining the true way to peace, observing that "from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the hurt of My people slightly [superficially], saying 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace!" (Jeremiah 6:13–14; 8:11). Today, popes and preachers light candles and lead prayers for peace and for victory in combat, without explaining what the Bible reveals about the way to peace—that the true way to prevent war and promote peace involves learning to obey the laws of God. Isaiah also prophesied of a time when the "ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly" over the failure of their efforts to prevent war and promote peace (Isaiah 33:7). Isaiah's words could not more aptly describe the tragedies of the 20th century—when such unprecedented efforts as the humanly devised League of Nations and the United Nations failed to prevent the bloodiest decades in all of human history!

A Century of Blood

Some estimates suggest as many as 200 million people died in state-sponsored violence during the 20th century. The list of 20th century wars and genocides with fewer than a million victims is too lengthy to present here; the following a list of just those with civilian and military casualties greater than 1 million.

Deaths (est.) Event Year(s)
55 million World War II 1939–45
38 million China; Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward" 1958–62
15 million World War I 1914–18
13 million Soviet Union; purges under Joseph Stalin 1936–37
11 million China; Mao Zedong's "Cultural Revolution" 1966–69
9 million Russia; Soviet Revolution 1917–21
7 million Soviet Union at war with Ukraine 1932–33
4 million Korean War 1950–53
3.8 million Democratic Republic of the Congo; Second Congo War 1998–2003
3 million Vietnam War 1964–73
2.5 million Ethiopia; civil wars and genocide 1974–91
2.4 million China; Xinhai Revolution 1911
2 million China; Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927–37
2 million Sudan; Second Sudanese Civil War 1983–2002
1.7 million Cambodia under Khmer Rouge 1975–79
1.6 million North Korea; purges under Kim Il Sung 1948–94
.3 million Soviet Union at war in Afghanistan 1979–88
1.2 million Ottoman Empire slaughters Armenians 1915
1.2 million China; Nationalists defeated by Communists 1946–49
1.1 million China; Manchurian War 1931
1 million Spain; Francoist-Republican Civil War 1936–39
1 million Partition of India and Pakistan 1947
1 million Iran-Iraq War 1980–88
1 million Rwanda; genocide against Tutsis 1994


How Peace Will Come

But are we doomed to suffer from endless conflict and bloodshed between the nations and peoples of this world? Is there any real hope for true peace on earth? Here again, the Bible reveals exciting answers, which many religious leaders fail to explain—and may not understand or even believe. The Bible clearly states that Jesus Christ will return to this earth (Matthew 24:30–31; John 14:3; Acts 1:6–11; Revelation 3:11). His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:1–4) overlooking Jerusalem. He will return at a time when the nations of this world are involved in a global struggle that would see the end of the human race if it were not stopped in time (Matthew 24:6–8, 21–22). At His return, Jesus Christ will take control of the kingdoms of this earth and establish a world government, which will begin in Jerusalem and eventually spread around the earth (Revelation 11:15–19; Isaiah 2:2–4). This is a fundamental part of the gospel that Jesus proclaimed at His first coming. To learn more about this important topic, please contact the regional office nearest you (listed on page 30 of this magazine) and write or call to request our free booklet, Do You Believe the True Gospel?

The Bible has long foretold that in this coming "kingdom of God," the saints will rule with Jesus Christ on this earth (Daniel 7:27; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 5:10). The saints—individuals who have been called and trained to apply the laws of God in this physical life—will begin to explain the laws of God to all human beings and show the world the way to real peace. This is what the prophet Isaiah was describing when he recorded, "For out of Zion [Jerusalem] shall go forth the law… He shall judge between the nations… 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 2:2–4). The Bible clearly reveals that a time is coming when there will be no more military academies, armed forces, defense industries or weapons dealers—these will be consigned to the pages of history at the return of the Savior!

Jesus Christ, ruling as the "Prince of Peace," will establish the government of God on this earth, and He will usher in an era of peace that will last forever. Isaiah records this inspiring prophecy: "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" (Isaiah 9:7). The Bible reveals that the way to real peace will involve teaching human beings how to live by the immutable laws of God. People will learn that it is wrong to kill, steal, lie, lust or rape—even in the name of religion (Exodus 20:12–17). They will learn that it is wrong even to harbor hatreds or bigotries, and they will learn how to come to agreements in times of conflict, instead of going to war (Matthew 5:21–26; 18:15:20). They will learn that seeking revenge is not an effective way to find peace (Matthew 5:38–48). In God's coming kingdom and government, the laws of God will not be dismissed as simple-minded platitudes; they will be backed up lovingly, yet firmly, by the power of God (Psalm 2:7–9; Revelation 2:27). The Bible reveals that this is how swords will ultimately be beaten into plowshares, and real peace will finally come to this earth.


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