A World at War

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

War has been a scourge of the worldand mankind since time immemorial, but no period in history has witnessed a greater number of wars or greater destruction brought about by them than has the last hundred years.

Prior to 1914, war had never been universal, but in both World War I and II, global war was waged. In the latter, all but 12 small nations of the world were 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 noted:

[The] 20th-century wars have been “total wars” against combatants and civilians alike. … The barbarian wars of centuries past were alley fights in comparison.1

Other newspapers and commentators have also described the carnage:

Since the end of World War II, there have been at least 130 wars, killing more than 23 million people directly and another 20 million through famine and other war-related disruptions. Whereas the number of major wars—killing at least 1,000 persons—stood at around a dozen in any given year during the fifties, and rose no higher than 20 a year during the sixties and seventies, it surged at the beginning of the eighties to more than 30.2 In the 1990s there were 56 wars in 44 countries. Most were civil upheavals for control of the government or territory.3
As of 2007 there were 34 armed conflicts being waged around the world.4 Three times as many people—110 million—fell victim to war in the 20th century as in all the wars from the first century A.D. to 1899. And 70 percent of all war casualties since World War II have been civilians, rising to more than 90 percent in the 1990s.5
The innocent have paid the greatest price in wars, the data show. Between 1990 and 2000 alone, 2 million children were killed. Since 1945, wars have produced 35 million refugees.6

Since the War on Terror was declared after 9/11, till July 2007 an estimated 832,962 people were killed, and 1,590,895 seriously injured in Afghanistan and Iraq, regarded as the two principal theaters of that war. That is 16 times as many people as have been killed in all terrorist attacks in the world since 1968.7 Further studies put the death toll in Iraq alone at 1.2 million.8

The world hoped that 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.

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 M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917–2007) warned, “The 20th century [was] a century of the warfare of ideologies: democracy vs. fascism, democracy vs. communism. But the end of the Cold War has released long-buried national, racial, ethnic, and linguistic antagonisms around the world. … The 21st century promises to be a century of the warfare of ethnicities.”9

The Associated Press (AP) reports that during the 20th century the murders perpetrated by nations against their own people exceeded the deaths caused by wars with rivals outside their borders. Citing Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’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 [was] 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. … [The 20th century] is the century that coined the term “genocide.”10

Conflicts within states now make up more than 95% of all conflicts.11 Prominent among this type of conflict is the perennial Palestinian/Israeli conflict that has now gone on for sixty years, resulting in thousands of deaths, many more casualties, and millions of refugees, some displaced now for generations.

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 rule the 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.

(Footnotes for this book are in the last chapter.)

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