The year 2023 saw a dramatic increase in unrest and wars worldwide. Does this global unrest have a cause? What does prophecy show is ahead?
Commentators have noted that 2023 was a year of war, though there was no world war.
In early 2023, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed warned of a threat to peace, saying: “Peace is under grave threat because people are facing a sense of insecurity and alienation almost in every country.”
A year of conflict
Conflicts simmering under the surface escalated to nations fighting internally and with their neighbors.
Consider the following hot spots:
- The Russia-Ukraine war. Though it started in February 2022, this war continued in 2023. Some have labeled it a stalemate, but in reality Ukraine is running out of manpower and weapons, while Russia is playing the long game, hoping to exhaust the West’s resolve to continue supporting Ukraine. It seems to be succeeding. If the West does tire of supporting Ukraine, it’s likely Russia and its autocratic allies will be emboldened to show aggression against other nations.
- Armenia and Azerbaijan. Conflict erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- Sudan. No stranger to civil wars, Sudan saw civil war break out once again over a power struggle to control the nation.
- Venezuela and Guyana. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is escalating tensions with Guyana, as he threatens to annex a disputed region of approximately 62,000 square miles (160,000 square kilometers).
- Israel-Hamas war. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas fighters launched a barbaric attack on Israel. They terrorized and killed over 1,200 Israelis in the worst massacre of Jewish civilians since World War II. Israel retaliated with its ongoing war to eliminate Hamas and its infrastructure in Gaza. This war seems to be escalating, due to attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen and by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
- Ethiopia. This landlocked nation seeks to secure Red Sea access, and tensions with Somalia remain high. Its actions risk sparking a regional conflict.
- Taiwan. China sees reunification with Taiwan as inevitable and is determined to enforce its will over the tiny island. Last year saw no letup in China’s intimidation, as it continually sent military jets and ships to encroach on Taiwanese territory. Tensions increased recently with Taiwan’s election of a new president who defies China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and who intends to continue strengthening Taiwan’s military defenses.
- North Korea. Kim Jong Un continues to test weapons, threatening to “thoroughly annihilate” the United States and South Korea if provoked. On Jan. 15, Kim Jong Un declared that North Korea would rewrite its constitution to designate South Korea as its primary enemy. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kim declared in a speech that “North Korean law would reclassify its southern neighbor as a foreign country, a hostile state and one that constitutionally should be occupied, subjugated and reclaimed in the event of war” (Jan. 17, 2024).
We could also mention China’s tensions with India and its neighbors in the South China Sea; the unrest in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Congo and Niger; the crisis regarding migration from North Africa; and the political instability in the United States.
Nations prepare for war
The world is seeing a spirit of unrest, with nations preparing for war. Consider the following headlines:
- “‘We Are Ready for a War’: Somalia Threatens Conflict With Ethiopia Over Breakaway Region” (Jan. 13, 2024).
- “Supreme Commander: ‘Swedes Must Prepare for War’” (Jan. 9, 2024).
- “Fears Are Rising of ‘Regional Escalation’ in the Middle East. But That Wider War Is Already Here” (Jan. 8, 2024).
- “Italian Foreign Minister Calls for Formation of EU Army” (Jan. 7, 2024).
- “‘We Need to Be Prepared for War With Russia’: Dutch Army Chief” (Dec. 28, 2023).
- “North Korea’s Kim Calls on Military to ‘Accelerate’ War Preparations” (Dec. 28, 2023).
- “Wind of Change: Germany Gets Serious About Plans to Make Military ‘Fit for War’” (Nov. 15, 2023).
- “America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want” (Sept. 16, 2023).
- “China Preparing for War With US, Air Force Secretary Says” (Sept. 12, 2023).
The above headlines are just a few from the last four months.
Of all the wars and potential wars, the most concerning are the ones in the Middle East. This isn’t only because of the strategic importance of oil and gas from the region but also because of the religious tensions that could result in other global conflicts.
The Israel-Hamas war is already escalating to become a wider regional war. Recently, Israel hit Damascus, Syria, with an airstrike, killing an Iranian general. Israel is also believed to be responsible for a drone strike that killed a Hamas commander in Beirut, Lebanon. Meanwhile, Israel is responding to Hezbollah missile attacks by bombing Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Even before the Oct. 7 massacre, Israel warned that it would send Lebanon back to the Stone Age if Hezbollah went to war with Israel. This sentiment was echoed back to Israel by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
A Chinese attack against Taiwan or an all-out war between Israel and Iran could be the spark that draws the entire world into conflict. The Red Sea, a strategic shipping corridor accounting for nearly 15 percent of global shipping, is currently threatened by Yemeni Houthi rebels attacking commercial ships. The United States responded by sending battleships to the region. Recently, the U.S. and the U.K. have responded to further aggression from the Iranian-backed Houthis by hitting targets in Yemen. Iran responded by sending a warship to the Red Sea.
Drought affecting the Panama Canal has severely limited the number of ships that can pass through that narrow waterway. This means that ships heading to the U.S. East Coast must find alternative routes and makes keeping the Red Sea corridor open even more critical.
With nations already suffering a cost-of-living crisis from high inflation and the world economy in a fragile state, it’s not difficult to see how a regional war could escalate into a global war. A Chinese attack against Taiwan or an all-out war between Israel and Iran could be the spark that draws the entire world into conflict.
Is this just a natural cycle, or does Bible prophecy address this situation?
The Bible warns of more wars
Bible prophecy shows that more wars are on the horizon—and not just minor wars!
Jesus prophesied that the end time would be characterized by “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). He also revealed that the world will enter a crisis period called the “great tribulation,” described as the worst time of all human history (verse 21). It will escalate to a point where God will have to intervene to keep us from destroying ourselves (verse 22).
This coming time of war corresponds with one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse that the apostle John saw—the rider of the “fiery red” horse who has a “great sword” to take “peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4). (To learn more, read “What Are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?”)
The human way of war
The history of man is the story of war. The period of relative peace the world has experienced since World War II has been a historical anomaly.
Isaiah wrote, “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:8). The Bible clearly shows that humanity is simply incapable of accomplishing peace on its own.
Often, we have it totally upside down.
The Roman author Vegetius said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Generals and politicians have repeated this motto into modern times, and it is the foreign policy principle of many nations. According to this idea, developing an overwhelming military force will deter enemies from attacking, thus preventing war.
History has shown the fallacy of this approach.
Nations have not been deterred from attacking powerful, well-prepared nations. Alexander the Great defeated the mighty Persian army, many times greater than his own, by using superior strategy. Russia, Britain and a coalition of European nations defeated Napoleon’s powerful French army. In recent times, the far inferior Taliban retook much of Afghanistan despite America’s superpower status and vast spending.
The coming way of peace
A radical change is coming—a new era when war will be no more!
What will cause this change?
Jesus Christ will return to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God. He will be known as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When He governs the world, many nations and peoples will flow to Jerusalem to learn about God’s law, which defines His way of life (Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2). That law will teach humanity the way of peace that has been so elusive.
But you don’t have to wait until then to find peace in your life today. Your life can be characterized by peace now. According to the Bible, those who love God’s law will have great peace (Psalm 119:165).
By obeying God’s laws, you can find peace and joy despite the problems that surround us.