We live, admittedly, in the most dangerous time in the history of mankind. We are, all of us, just one push of the button away from the ultimate holocaust.
The world has tasted only one small morsel of nuclear war: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But do we really comprehend what would happen to us and our earth in the event of all-out total nuclear war?
On October 31, 1983, more than 500 participants met in Washington, D.C. for a monumental conference to discuss the fate of our world (if there was anything left) after nuclear war. Participants included eminent scientists and officials from more than 20 nations. The conference was appropriately called: “The Long-term Worldwide biological Consequences of Nuclear War.” Out of this meeting came the book “The Cold and the Dark” and a new phrase for our survival dictionary: Nuclear Winter.
The conference was a milestone in the number of participants, the depth of the studies undertaken and the unique involvement of Soviet scientists.
This article will give us a glimpse at the dire forecast that the scientists have prognosticated as the result of a single, massive nuclear unleashing. Before we do, however, let us consider another view of future war and its aftermath. This one comes to us from the distant past.
In the Christian world most people are at least dimly aware of references to the Apocalypse or book of Revelation. The so-called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have often been used as symbols of terrible plagues.
For more than 1,900 years after the apostle John wrote down the details of his visions on the Greek island of Patmos, the books’ contents continue to read like a series of bizarre hallucinations. But all that has changed with the advent of “Star Wars” weaponry and nuclear power.
Today, in the year 2013, some of the horrors of the book of Revelation bear striking and eerie resemblance to both the direct and the long-term effect of modern warfare and a nuclear holocaust. The book of Revelation describes a frightening series of events. Some are ascribed directly to the supernatural power of God preceded and superseded by man-made wars and infernos. Few have ever pointed out the striking convergence of the effects of modern conventional and nuclear war with the scenario portrayed in Revelation.
The scientists of the aforementioned Consequences of Nuclear War conference were pessimistic regarding the potential effects of a nuclear war.
Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University stated: “We did not feel that we could exclude the possibility that humanity would gradually decline to extinction following such an event” (The Cold and the Dark, p. 137).
Soviet scientist Nikofai Bochkow agreed: “We should not be afraid to reach the conclusion that the conditions that would prevail would not allow the survival of human beings as a species.” Here in the briefest form is what we may expect, according to these scientists:
The nuclear nations had the capacity (in 1983) to unleash the equivalent of one million Hiroshima-sized bombs. A single Hiroshima bomb killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people.
Two estimates gave the death toll from the initial blast, heat and radiation as a minimum of 750 million people, using 1983 population estimates. The number would be increasingly higher in today’s population. A like number would be injured. Almost half of the population could become casualties in the first few hours after the buttons had been pushed.
Electricity, gas, fuel would be essentially unavailable. Transportation would be nonexistent, no planes, no trains, trucks or cars in service. Food deliveries would virtually cease. Communication networks cut and silenced. Municipal’s water supplies destroyed or contaminated.
Medical care would be effectively unavailable at a time when it would be most intensely needed. For example, there would be no material for bone marrow transplants and no doctors to do the transplanting. Those poisoned by radiation, but still alive, would slowly die.
Virtually all cities, the keystone of industrial society and its most vulnerable component, could be vaporized. Humans would cry out for help, but there would be no savior to come to their rescue. All that we have come to rely on would simply cease to exist. The survival of humanity’s scattered and injured remnants, in the temperate zones from Japan and China, across Russia, into Europe and across the Atlantic to North America, would be exceedingly precarious or impossible.
Huge and widespread wildfires would have devastating effects on trees, wildlife and green plants. Cities would be destroyed completely by blast and raging firestorms. A late summer or early fall war would lead to widespread burn-off, then to catastrophic erosion and flooding the following rainy season.
Radioactive rain would destroy fish and fauna, pollute water. Crops and livestock would be poisoned. In places, soil could be heated by firestones and wildfire to the point of killing dormant seeds in the earth, making regeneration of plant life impossible.
Burning cities would produce vast clouds of toxic chemicals: sulfur oxides, cyanides, dioxins, furans and carbon monoxide. The ozone layer would be reduced by vast quantities of nitrogen oxide, dramatically increasing ultraviolet radiation. Human and animal blindness could be one consequence. Compromised immune systems, another effect, would help pave the way for disease epidemics.
Immense clouds of chemical, dust, soot and ashes would temporarily block out the sun’s visible rays. Photosynthesis would be dramatically reduced. Without this activity, animals and humans could not live. We are all ultimately dependent on green plants for survival, as are animals.
If war occurred before or during the growing season, virtually all land plants and most annual crops would be destroyed. Domestic and wild animal populations could be wiped out by blast, wildfires, radiation, lack of food and the growing icy chill. A nuclear war could alter the climate of the entire Northern Hemisphere. The climate could shift dramatically from its present seasonal configuration to a “long, sunless, frozen night.” Then, ironically, some months later, a “malignant” sun with its ultraviolet radiation would begin to strike the earth and its survivors.
Changes in climatic patterns could cause mountain snow and glaciers to melt, causing possibly continent-sized floods. Temperatures in major areas could drop to below freezing, even in summer.
Agricultural productivity would cease for at least a year, simply on the basis of the havoc caused by the initial blast and radiation and the cold and dark that would soon set in. The soil would also be contaminated. Could the survivors really grow crops the next year, and the next? There would be no fuel, no transportation, no social organization, no exchange market, and few humans left.
The scant stockpiles of food stored in population centers would have been destroyed or contaminated. Even countries not directly touched by the immediate blast would suffer some of the long-term effects. For example, they would not be able to import foods or other technology. Also, their markets for exports would vanish. Their populations, too, would suffer starvation.
After a nuclear strike, ventured astrogeophysicist Walter Orr Roberts, “It is possible that a third of the world’s population will die from malnutrition-related diseases” (The Cold and the Dark, page 158).
Famine, radiation poisoning, ultraviolet radiation, the ravages of the environment, lack of sanitation, food contamination, a dysfunctioning immune system, and a lack of medical services would open up the survivors to horrifying epidemics and pandemics. Rabies and the plague, for example, would be rife.
Virulent forms of microorganisms carried by proliferating, predatory insects would strike a vulnerable humanity. Hundreds of millions of rotting corpses would also add to the diseases’ potential.
Are these horrifying potentialities overstated? Some people might like to think so. Probably, the reverse is true. “There has been a systematic tendency for the effects of nuclear weapons and nuclear war to be underestimated,” observed the late space scientist Carl Sagan.
Why so? One reason is the “synergism” that will likely take effect. That is, humans will be subjected to several simultaneous stresses such as injury, lack of food, curtailment of essential services, panic and natural disasters. The impact from all these occurring simultaneously will be much greater than the individual effects if they occurred separately. Our potential future, using the word loosely, is not very secure. Now look at the visions of the book of Revelation. The pages of this book point out similar kinds of assaults on the environment and man. But the order of their magnitude and repeated occurrence is even greater.
We are introduced to man’s biblical nightmare with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in the sixth chapter of Revelation.
John writes: “I looked, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2). Bible students know this refers to false prophets and demonical leaders, the kind who engulf the world in spiritual and political wars.
John continues: “And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”
“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, and death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:4-8).
This terrifying vision of John consigns – before any nuclear war is unleashed-- one quarter of the human race to death of mortal injury by conventional wars, starvation, disease and related plagues. These plagues are man caused. The next series of visions describes plagues supernatural in origin.
These destructions are literally the effects of what we might call angelic ‘bombings,” which devastate the natural world and create firestorms of incalculable magnitude. So intense is the devastation that monstrous clouds of dust block out sun and moon. Will this divine intervention force nations to rethink that use of nuclear and biochemical warfare? Probably not!
John then describes this angelic first strike, which will warn mankind one last time not to use nuclear weapons. “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.”
“Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire (volcanic eruptions) was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
“Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.”
“Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened; and a third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night” (Rev. 8:7-12).
The emphasis again changes from supernatural to man-caused havoc on the earth. John records, “I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blast of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound” (Rev. 8:13).
The fifth angel then sounds. John sees a “fallen angel” (symbolized by a star) opening the “bottomless pit.” It is a vision of a chemical-biological-like war. He writes: “And smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them were given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.”
“In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. And the shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle they had breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. And their power was to hurt men five months” (Rev. 9:1-10). The scene of John’s vision then switches.
John again writes of a second woe: “So the four angels were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million. And thus I saw the horses in the vision; those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fires and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths” (Rev. 9:15-18).
It was a vision of an army unleashing tremendous firepower and a dazzling array of weaponry. In the ensuing war and its aftermath, one third of humanity is killed.
Now comes the third woe or the seventh seal – the seven final plagues (See Rev. 16). Here is a synopsis of the devastation that ensues:
The first angel causes a terrible disease, “a foul and loathsome sore,” to come upon that part of humanity who has the “mark of the beast.”
The second angel destroys all living things in the sea.
The third angel pollutes all freshwater sources, rivers and springs of water.
The fourth angel affects the sun so that men were scorched with great heat and fire.
The fifth angel also affects sunlight by cutting it off completely and causing total darkness in the kingdom of the “the beast.”
The sixth angel guides world events to ultimately bring vast armies to the Valley of Megiddo in Palestine for a climactic war incorrectly known as Armageddon.
7) The seventh angel represents the finality of human civilization as we know it. The coup de grace comes in a series of stark events, some of which are described next.
John writes: “And there were noises and thundering and lightnings; and there was a greater earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth and the cities of the nations fell. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men” (Rev.16:17-21).
The heavenly signs and the day of the Lord culminate in a singular battle at which the armies of the world organization bringing all nations together are annihilated. John tells us that this international military force is guided by the spirit world. “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole word, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14).
A demonic zeitgeist, a spirit that will make the madness of past rulers seem tame by comparison, will grip the world. But God will halt this madness quite abruptly.
The Prophet Zechariah’s frightful description shows these armies as being literally vaporized, as though they had been caught at the center of an atomic blast. Zechariah writes, in Revelation-like terms: “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” (Zech. 14:12).
Thus, we have read two scenarios of the future. Both are bleak. But there is bad news and good news. The bad news: There is a terrible time of war, of famine, of pestilence coming in the future. The good news: There is a God in heaven who will abort the coming reign of terror, the scientist’s nuclear winter on earth.
Jesus Christ was asked by his disciples while on earth, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3)? Christ responded, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor every shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved (alive); but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22).
The final message of Revelation is a message of great hope, man’s only hope. It tells that representatives of various nations and peoples will survive the next war and that the God family will take charge and transform man’s societies into a God-centered one.
As John wrote: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever’” (Rev. 11:15).
Micah the prophet majestically writes in poetic form of this new, wonderful New World to come, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 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” (Mic. 4:3-4).
We have just reviewed two scenarios, man’s perspective of the future and the Bible’s. Some skeptics still believe our politicians, scientists and educators will find solutions to our many problems and these grisly predictions will not take place. Open your eyes to the world we now live in. Do you really think Iran, North Korea, Russia, Hamas, and other rogue nations will sit down at a peace table and bring peace to the earth? It just isn’t going to happen. At the conclusion of Christ’s Olivet prophecy he admonished those who truly believe in Him to watch and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things. When nuclear war hits, what will your spiritual condition be?