As concerns over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) escalate, what does the Bible say about end-time events in which these devices may be used?
One of the downsides of science and technology has been mankind’s propensity to use this information for destructive purposes. As knowledge has increased, so has our ability to destroy larger numbers of people and cause more harm to the earth.
Sadly, nearly every newly devised, more powerful weapon that has been invented has been used. Consider the impact of a few historical innovations.
The English longbow
In the12th century the English longbow was invented. According to archers.org, “The English Longbow, more than any other weapon of its time, was responsible for vast changes in the nature of medieval warfare. In doing so, it made2 England the foremost power in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. England’s armies became the most feared units in Europe, and with good cause. Almost every battle fought was won by an intelligent utilization of massed archers and men-at-arms. Upon many occasions, English troops were sorely outnumbered, only to win the day.
“Such was the power of the Longbow, that contemporary accounts claim that at short range, an arrow fired from it could penetrate 4 inches of seasoned oak. The armored knight, considered at one time to be the leviathan of the battlefield, could now be felled at ranges up to 200 yards by a single arrow. One account recalls a knight being pinned to his horse by an arrow that passed through both armored thighs, with the horse and saddle between!
“Modern tests have verified that this was indeed possible. A 700-800 grain arrow can pierce 9 cm of oak at close range, and 2.5 cm at 200 yards. No armor up to plate was proof against an arrow at less than 200 yards, and even plate could be penetrated at less than 100 yards. …
“The average English Military Archer could fire 12 to 15 arrows per minute and hit a man-sized target at a minimum of 200 yards. The maximum range was about 400 yards with flight arrows. An archer could not even consider himself skilled at his art if he could not shoot 10 arrows a minute!” (“A Short History of the English Longbow”).
The use of gunpowder in combat was another game changer. According to About.com, “During the Tang Dynasty, around 850 A.D., an enterprising alchemist (whose name has been lost to history) mixed 75 parts saltpeter with 15 parts charcoal and 10 parts sulfur.
“This mixture had no discernable life-lengthening properties, but it did explode with a flash and a bang when exposed to an open flame. According to a text from that era, ‘smoke and flames result, so that [the alchemists’] hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house where they were working burned down.’
“Many western history books over the years have stated that the Chinese used this discovery only for fireworks, but that is not true. Song Dynasty military forces as early as 904 A.D. used gunpowder devices against their primary enemy, the Mongols. These weapons included ‘flying fire’ (fei huo), an arrow with a burning tube of gunpowder attached to the shaft” (“Invention of Gunpowder” by Kallie Szczepanski).
Although gunpowder was invented prior to the British longbow, it took centuries to perfect it so it could effectively be used in rifles.
Technology eventually produced the modern rifle with cartridges, the machine gun, tanks and airplanes dropping bombs—all of which made it possible to take more lives in a shorter period of time than ever before. As these innovations became standard weaponry, the longbow and the earliest uses of gunpowder began to look primitive in comparison!
The modern age of WMD began with the use of atomic bombs by the United States on two Japanese cities in 1945. The dropping of a single bomb on each of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 people. While the bombs ended World War II, the ethics of these types of bombs is still debated.
After the conclusion of the war, the Soviet Union gained nuclear technology and the two superpowers soon engaged in an arms race called the Cold War to develop missiles and exponentially more powerful bombs than those dropped on Japan. The most powerful nuclear bomb ever built and tested was the Tsar Bomba—a 57-megaton hydrogen bomb that was tested by the Soviet Union on Oct. 30, 1961.
Although no nuclear weapons have been used in warfare since the ones used in 1945, a number of additional nations—including Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—either have or are believed to have this ability.
Today WMD come in various forms. These include explosive, chemical-biological, radiological and nuclear. All are designed to cause major destruction of human life and property.The Federation of American Scientists reported: “More than two decades after the Cold War ended, the world’s combined inventory of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: approximately 15,700. Of these, around 4,200 warheads are considered operational, of which about 1,800 US and Russian warheads are on high alert, ready for use on short notice” (“Status of World Nuclear Forces”).
Today WMD come in various forms. These include explosive, chemical-biological, radiological and nuclear. All are designed to cause major destruction of human life and property.
Due to the increasing danger to the American public, in 2006 the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) established a Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate to monitor threats and protect citizens. According to the FBI, “WMD terrorism and proliferation are evolving threats to U.S. national security. The director of national intelligence has stated that dozens of identified domestic and international terrorists and terrorist groups have expressed their intent to obtain and use WMD, including nuclear materials, in future acts of terrorism.
“The frequency of high-profile acts of terrorism has increased over the past decade or so. Indicators of this increasing threat include the 9/11 attacks, the Amerithrax [anthrax] letters, and multiple attempts by terrorists at home and abroad to use explosives improvised from basic chemical precursors. The challenge presented by these threats is compounded by the large volume of hoax threats that distract and divert law enforcement agencies from addressing real threats.”
Terrorism and the threat of WMD affect other nations as well. In recent years terrorist attacks have occurred in European nations, and religious leaders in Iran have promised to use nuclear force (once the nation acquires it) to destroy Israel.
What the Bible says
In explaining to His disciples signs of the end of this age prior to His return, Jesus said that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). These are destined to increase in intensity as the time of His second coming draws closer.
The Middle East and the city of Jerusalem in particular will be a center of contention. As Zechariah 12:3 notes: “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”
Daniel the prophet adds: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him [the king of the North]; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind. … He shall also enter the Glorious Land [Israel], and many countries shall be overthrown” (Daniel 11:40-41).
In conjunction with this military activity, Jesus noted, “Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22). Deadly weapons of mass destruction make it possible for all human life to be destroyed in the end times. Thus it appears that the nations involved in this fighting will either be using WMD or on the brink of using them. Thankfully, Jesus also added, “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (verse 22).
Before mankind reaches the point of self-extinction, Jesus will return to put down all opposition to Him and establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. WMD along with other forms of weaponry will either be destroyed or repurposed for peaceful endeavors (Micah 4:3).
Christ to use overwhelming military force
Jesus will use overwhelming force against the armies that attack Him when He returns. These deceived armies from all nations will come to Jerusalem to fight against Christ in “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 12:9; 16:14; Zechariah 14:2-3).
The Bible says, “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him [Jesus] on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” (Revelation 19:14-15).
The civil leader of Babylon the Great, who is called the beast, and the false prophet will together deceive the armies into fighting against Christ. But in the end they will be destroyed by being thrown into “the lake of fire” (verses 19-20). And those who fight against Christ will be killed by the “sword” that comes out of His mouth (verse 21). Much blood will be shed via God’s judgment upon people prior to Christ’s return and in this great battle at His return (Revelation 14:18-20).
The book of Zechariah further describes Christ using His power to subdue those who will come to Jerusalem to fight against Him. “And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the LORD will be among them” (Zechariah 14:12-13).
After that, Jesus Christ will establish a peaceful and prosperous Kingdom whose benefits will spread around the world. Read more in our article “Best News Ever.”
What you can do
Although treacherous times lie ahead and Scripture reveals that some will even suffer martyrdom, most who repent of their sins and commit their lives to God can escape these terrible end-time events. As Jesus advised: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
If you would like to know more about Christ’s expectations of those who will be saved, see the articles in the “Change” section of this website. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11) and desires that all people repent so they may be saved (Luke 13:3, 5; 1 Timothy 2:4). Take the steps now that will improve your life both now and in the future (1 Timothy 4:8).
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