“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
THE WORLD HAS never been completely free from the scourge of war, but no period in all of history has witnessed the escalation of wars as has the 20th century. The International Red Cross estimates that over 100 million people have been killed in wars since this century began.
Prior to 1914, war had never been universal, but in both World War I and II, global war was waged. In the latter, only 12 small nations of the earth were not militarily or technically involved, and 93 million people served in the armed forces of both sides. Of these, 25 million died. Civilian casualties were unprecedented: In the Soviet Union alone, over 20 million civilians died as a result of the war. The Washington Post has noted:
Our 20th-century wars have been “total wars” against combatants and civilians alike. … The barbarian wars of centuries past were alley fights in comparison.
Since World War II, which was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” there have been over 150 major wars (conflicts resulting in over 1,000 deaths a year), as well as hundreds of smaller conflicts, armed rebellions and revolutions. The death toll in armed conflicts since the end of World War II is more than 23,142,000 people.
Since the Fall of the Wall
The world hoped the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 would not only signify the end of the Cold War between the superpowers, but usher in a new era of global peace. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The UN High Commission for Refugees reported in November 1995 that war, atrocities and persecution had currently forced a record 50 million people from their homes around the world. The report grimly added,
The end of the Cold War generated a strong sense of optimism about the international refugee situation. With the rivalry of the superpowers over, it was thought, many conflicts would be resolved. … Almost precisely the opposite has happened.
In its annual report, the National Defense Council Foundation, a research and lobbying organization, counted 71 wars in 1995, which was double the number in the organization’s first tally in 1989. Its director, retired Special Forces officer Andrew Messing, said the major dangers emerging in the post-Cold War era are nuclear and biological weapons proliferation, the rising militarization of China and spreading violence related to drug trafficking.
“Ethnic Cleansing” and Tribal Terror
The Greek word for “nation” originally used in this prophecy, “nation shall rise against nation,” is ethnos, which is more accurately translated “a race” or “a tribe.” In other words, Jesus was saying that ethnic groups would rise against each other. This has been tragically fulfilled in recent times. Pulitzer prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger warns, “If the 20th century has been the century of the warfare of ideologies, the 21st century begins as the century of the warfare of ethnicities.”
The Associated Press (AP) reports that during this century the murders perpetrated by nations against their own people exceed the deaths caused by wars with rivals outside their borders! Citing Stalin’s purges, China’s Cultural Revolution, Cambodia’s “killing fields,” the so-called ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the horrors of Rwanda, etc., the grim verdict is reached:
War aside, the 20th century is awash in blood. On every continent but North America and Australia, governments have murdered those they governed by the thousands and millions, often by turning neighbor against neighbor. In this most civilized century, by one estimate the killing rage has extinguished 170 million lives. … Ours is the century that coined the term “genocide.”
Although the outlook may appear bleak, the day is soon coming when God Himself will intervene in this violent world and war shall be forever abolished. The Bible tells us that when Christ returns to earth, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; 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 2:4).
More about this future reign of world peace later, but now, back to the pressing realities of the present.