In the 75 years since World War II, have we learned how to avoid another world war? Or are we headed toward a worse one? Will there be a World War 3?
On Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, Japan signed an unconditional surrender, formally ending World War II.
This concluded the greatest cataclysm the world has ever seen, with estimates as high as 100 million dead.
As bad as World War II was, are we now forgetting the horrors and the lessons of history? Will there be another world war?
History is the story of war, and though each war has unique roots and causes, they all are evidence of man’s inability to govern himself. And history gives no assurance that another war—an even more destructive one—will not come.
Remembering World War II
In Europe World War II began on Sept. 1, 1939, when the German army invaded Poland. The war in Asia began two years earlier, on July 7, 1937, when Japan invaded China.
In both Europe and Asia, the aggressor nations were driven by a desire to expand their territory and control or eliminate peoples they considered to be weak or inferior.
Roots of war in Europe
In Europe Adolf Hitler’s brand of grievance politics and charisma was the driving force for his push for more lebensraum or living space. Hitler applied the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest to the different races. He believed that the Germanic or Aryan race was superior to all others. Therefore, he believed they should dominate and needed more space.
In particular, Hitler coveted Russia, with its vast territory and natural resources.
Hitler had an ally in Italy’s Benito Mussolini. Mussolini desired to resurrect the old Roman Empire and conquer territories that had once been controlled by ancient Rome.
Both Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s Fascism put the state at the center of the life of the nation, glorified authoritarianism, tried to harness industries to serve the needs of the state, and withdrew personal freedoms.
Roots of war in Asia
In Japan the racial nationalism was more subtle. Japan had been growing as a world power since the United States forced it to open its doors to trade in 1853. This propelled Japan to modernize its military and economy. In 1904-5 Japan defeated Russia, one of the great European powers, in a war that shocked the world.
By the 1930s, Japan had come to believe that it was the only Asian nation powerful enough to drive out Western imperialist nations like the U.S. and Britain.
The result was an Asia dominated by Japanese militarism.
Early successes of the Axis powers
Germany, Italy and Japan were well prepared for a limited war against weaker nations. Thus, in the opening stages of the war they made staggering gains.
In Europe Hitler won a stunning victory against France in a matter of weeks and then tried to tame Great Britain by bombing it incessantly.
Once he had taken out or weakened the Western powers, he turned to Russia. At first it appeared his blitzkrieg tactics would doom Russia to an ignominious defeat. However, the Russian winter and Stalin’s willingness to throw wave after wave of soldiers at the German army slowed and eventually stopped their advance.
In Asia, Japan was able to take over coastal China and French Indochina (modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) before the United States decided that it had seen enough.
Turning point in World War II
When U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt cut off strategic supplies, Japan, under new Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, decided to launch a surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. He believed that doing so would give Japan free rein in Asia for a time, and that once the U.S. recovered, Japan would be too entrenched to be driven out.
In fact, the United States’ entry into the war doomed both Germany and Japan. President Roosevelt was able to unleash the power of the U.S. economy to outproduce Germany, Italy and Japan combined. By the end of World War II, more than half of all industrial production in the world occurred in the U.S.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill recognized how critical the U.S. entry into the war was. He wrote:
“Now at this very moment I knew that the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! … How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. … We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end” (The Second World War, p. 492).
Germany, Italy and Japan could not withstand the astonishing war of attrition that was thrust on them by the ability of the U.S. to produce war materiel and the willingness of Russia to sacrifice its soldiers and citizens to stop Germany.
The end of World War II
Taking a Europe-first approach, the U.S. and Allies were able to drive the Italians and Nazis out of North Africa, Italy and France. Less than a year after the Allies invaded France on the beaches of Normandy, Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered.
In the Pacific, the U.S. methodically drove the Japanese back to their home islands. Because the Japanese inflicted such high casualties on the U.S. with their suicide attacks, the U.S. decided to unleash the frighteningly deadly new atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to avoid the casualties of an invasion.
Such weapons of mass destruction forever changed the nature of war and introduced the specter of human annihilation.Such weapons of mass destruction forever changed the nature of war and introduced the specter of human annihilation.
Finally, on Sept. 2, 1945, Japan signed the unconditional surrender to end World War II.
But the world was decimated. Tens of millions were dead. Infrastructure in much of the world lay in shambles. Economies were barely functioning in many parts of Asia and Europe. More than 6 million Jews, Gypsies and others had been systematically murdered.
World War II was a cataclysm unlike anything that had happened before in world history.
United Nations: man’s efforts to avoid another world war
The desire to make sure this would never happen again led to the formation of the United Nations.
But this was not a new idea. After World War I, the League of Nations had formed, primarily because it had become an obsession of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Ironically, due to controversial provisions in the League, and in spite of Wilson’s best efforts, the U.S. had not joined.
The League was unable to prevent World War II. It failed because nations simply would not give up much of their sovereignty to an overarching world government. It was just another example of humanity’s inability to rule itself.
Nevertheless, another attempt was made, and in April 1945 the United Nations was organized in San Francisco, California.
Failures of the United Nations
Even though there was a stronger attempt to give the UN power, the same basic limitations of the League plagued the new organization. To this day, nation-states are simply not willing to give up their sovereignty, and without true power, the UN remains weak and ineffective.
One press correspondent who was present at the UN’s organizational meeting, Herbert W. Armstrong, pointed out that the UN was the last hope for civilization, “so far as man’s efforts to survive are concerned.”
This is a spiritual statement that aligns with the Bible. One of the main teachings of the Bible is that men cannot govern themselves. Individual nations and tribes may govern themselves for a time, but eventually they fall apart in a morass of division and immorality.
When the larger nations begin to falter and decay, it usually leads to wars—often big wars. This is the history of man—periods of stability followed by periods of chaos and war. As the population of the world has grown and as technology and organizational sophistication have improved, these wars have gotten bigger and deadlier.
This spiral is referred to in Matthew 24:6, where Jesus talked about “wars and rumors of wars.” However, He also pointed out that “the end is not yet.”
Prophecies of another world war
Bible prophecy predicts that before the end of this age of human misrule, there will be one last attempt to forge a world-controlling government.
This government will not come out of a conference in San Francisco or Paris, but from a military power unlike anything the world has ever seen. It will be centered in Europe and will be analogous to the Roman Empire in how it dominates. However, whereas the Roman Empire dominated only the Mediterranean areas and Europe, this “revival” of the Roman Empire will dominate much of the Western world and enforce its will upon people through economic and military control. Revelation 13 and 17 describe this government and its leader as “the beast” (see our online article “Who Is the Beast?”).
Bible prophecy shows that this final revival of the Roman Empire will attempt to conquer all who stand in its way.
It will conquer and take captive the modern descendants of the birthright tribes of Israel during what the Bible calls the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7; see our online article “What Is Jacob’s Trouble in End-Time Prophecy?”).
It will come into conflict with a coalition of nations in the Middle East and Africa (called in Daniel 11 the king of the South), which it will easily defeat.
It seems all this will lead a 200-million-man army from Asia to unite in an attempt to stop the end-time Roman Empire.
In the end, armies from around the earth will assemble in the Middle East, preparing to fight what has come to be known as the battle of Armageddon. If this war were allowed to continue, it would result in the destruction of all mankind—as Jesus said, “No one would survive” (Matthew 24:22, New International Version).
Who will win World War 3?
Bible prophecy has some very good news! As this battle is about to commence, Jesus Christ will intervene to stop us from destroying ourselves. At the critical moment, He will return to set up a kingdom that “shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). This kingdom will not be ruled by flawed men, but by Jesus Himself, along with the resurrected saints.
Man, having proven through thousands of years of misrule that he cannot rule himself, will come under the sovereign control of God on earth.Man, having proven through thousands of years of misrule that he cannot rule himself, will come under the sovereign control of God on earth. The age of war and destruction will end, and a period of peace on earth will be ushered in.
As we reflect back on the 75 years since the end of World War II and the formation of the United Nations, we see a world that is sliding into increasing chaos. The United States, which has been a key stabilizing power since the end of World War II, is weakening, and international agreements and relationships are fraying.
At this critical juncture, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to dramatically change how the world operates.
How to prepare for World War 3
As the world approaches the coming crisis, what is the most important action you can take to be ready? Is it to hoard food and supplies? Should you convert all your assets into gold and silver? Perhaps build a bunker deep in a remote forest area?
The Bible, which has prophesied the coming events, gives a different path. It teaches that drawing close to God, following His ways and strengthening your personal relationship with Him can help you escape the worst of the problems.
This is not a guarantee that you can literally escape the coming Tribulation (though some will). But it is a guarantee that, if you will pattern your life after Jesus, follow His laws, grow in grace and knowledge and learn to love God and His ways, you will be prepared for whatever events are thrust upon you.
Learn more about what is ahead in our booklet The Book of Revelation: The Storm Before the Calm.