From the July/August 2015 issue of Discern Magazine

Learning From Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The horrors of the first atomic bombs were unleashed in August of 1945. What have we learned and what do we have yet to learn to avoid a nuclear nightmare?

In August 1945, after 3½ years of brutal fighting island to island across the Pacific, the United States and its allies were preparing to invade the Japanese homeland to finally end World War II. But a new top secret weapon changed the plans.

The first atomic bomb

So on Aug. 6, a U.S. bomber nicknamed Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. In seconds, 5 square miles of the city were incinerated, and an ominous mushroom cloud spread deadly radiation much farther. The bomb itself killed perhaps 100,000 people, and many thousands more died from the horrifying effects of radiation.

From the devastating descriptions in John Hersey’s 1946 book Hiroshima to the lingering aftermath of suffering and death, it became clear humanity had crossed a new threshold of horror.

<p>A couple walks by decimated buildings in Hiroshima.</p>

A couple walks by decimated buildings in Hiroshima.

Three days later, the U.S. unleashed this terrible new weapon again on the city of Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands more.

The nuclear arms race

The war was soon over, but the world would never be the same. Within four years the Soviet Union joined the atomic arms race, and in 1952 and ’53 first the United States then the Soviet Union tested exponentially more powerful thermonuclear (fusion) bombs.

Over the next 40 years these nations stockpiled enough weapons to kill every last man, woman and child on earth.

And now many more nations have developed nuclear bombs, including the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan; and many more, like Iran, could have them soon.

Nuclear weapons have not been used since. But with humanity’s track record, it is only a matter of time before a terrorist or unstable leader uses them again. And what nation with nuclear weapons does not have a plan to use them when all else fails? 

Add in neutron bombs, electromagnetic pulses, tactical nukes and dirty bombs, and our world is nightmarishly more dangerous than it was even in the midst of history’s most terrible war.

The brink of self-destruction

The fact that humanity can destroy itself is, in itself, a sign of the end times. Jesus Christ promised to return at the time when humanity would be on the brink of suicide. He will save us out of the worst time of trouble the world has ever known—worse than the Black Death, worse than World War I, worse than World War II. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved,” He said (Matthew 24:21-22).

Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have made this possible within the last generation.

<p>The leveled landscape of Hiroshima.</p>

The leveled landscape of Hiroshima.

Rejecting God and choosing curses?

How have we come to this? Since the Garden of Eden, humanity has persistently rejected God and His way of life that produces peace and joy. We have chosen instead Satan’s alluring ways of selfishness and self-gratification, which lead only to fighting, pain and self-destruction.

The end result of this way has always been inevitable. Humanity has chosen the way of death, the way of curses, the way of complete annihilation. It would have happened earlier, but God stepped in at the time of Noah’s Flood and at the Tower of Babel to slow humanity’s downward spiral.

The end-time Elijah and the elect

The last verse of the last book of the Old Testament contains a powerful warning and a strong call to action for God’s people. In Malachi 4:5 God tells us He will send another “Elijah” before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

As John the Baptist prepared for Jesus Christ’s first coming, the end-time Elijah is to prepare for Christ’s second coming, “lest,” God says, “I come and strike the earth with a curse” (verse 6).

“Curse” is translated from the Hebrew word cherem, one of the harshest terms in the Bible. It “suggests complete annihilation” and is the same word used in Joshua 6:17 for Jericho being “doomed” to total destruction (NKJV Study Bible note on Malachi 4:6).

So what does God say is necessary to prevent this utter destruction? He says the work of His end-time Elijah “will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

As John the Baptist turned people to God and prepared a people for the Lord, so the end-time Elijah will also do (Luke 1:16-17). The prophesied restoration of all things (Mark 9:12) includes the vital family relationship on both the human and divine level.

<p>A mother and son receive emergency relief 1 mile from ground zero, Nagasaki.</p>

A mother and son receive emergency relief 1 mile from ground zero, Nagasaki.

The people prepared for the Lord in the end time are the ones Jesus Christ was calling “the elect” when He said: “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Jesus said converted Christians—those preparing for Jesus Christ’s return—are the reason He will save the world from the curse of utter destruction!

God has used specific people in fulfilling this Elijah role, but now He is also using His Church as a whole to bring people to Him and restore and strengthen relationships.

This is an awesome responsibility and calling!

Ultimate war, then real peace

A terrible time is ahead, and it seems that soon weapons of mass destruction far more powerful than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be unleashed. Thankfully, Jesus Christ will not allow the specter of nuclear war to totally wipe out humanity. He promises to return and stop the wars and help us clean up the mess we have made of this world.

Micah 4:3-4 gives us a glimpse into that future world: “He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; 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. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”

Finally humanity will learn the way of peace! Finally we will safely disarm and shut down the armament factories and the war colleges. The stockpiles of nuclear bombs will be neutralized by scientific or supernatural means. Then we will finally have learned to avoid repeating the horror and suffering of devastating warfare like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Pray that Jesus Christ will come soon to establish the wonderful Kingdom of God and bring that time of peace and joy! Read more about that Kingdom in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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