With the dismantling of the former Soviet Union, the Cold War is now over. The United States and Russia have begun destroying some of their nuclear weaponry. Many believe that they are a lot safer now than they were during the days when the two superpowers faced each other with full nuclear arsenals. People feel more secure with the world released from the specter of nuclear Armageddon.
But are we really safer? Is the world "at peace"? God warns that, as we approach the end of this age, some will proclaim "Peace and safety!" right before they are destroyed. Like former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said in 1938—less than one year before Hitler's troops invaded Poland to begin World War II—some will cry, "I believe it is peace for our time!" Notice, however, Paul's prophecy:
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:1-3)
Immediately before the second coming of Christ, conditions upon the earth will lull some into a spirit of complacency. Many will feel that mankind has finally worked out its problems to the point that the nuclear clock can be turned way back, and now we can enjoy this period of "peace and safety." Meanwhile, the Great Tribulation is just around the corner.
More Dangerous Today
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report (April 17, 1995) underscores how, contrary to popular opinion, this world is even more dangerous today than it was during the Cold War. In this article, the authors divide the nuclear era into three "ages." The first nuclear age occurred when the United States was the only nation possessing nuclear arms. This ended in 1949, when the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear device, and soon other major world powers developed their own nuclear arsenals. This ushered in the second nuclear age.
We now live in the third nuclear age, and it is more dangerous than the preceding periods. The authors write,
Now the world is entering a more dangerous nuclear era as new and unpredictable players prepare to join the game. The rules of conduct have yet to be written and existing military alliances and strategies will be severely tested. (p. 40)
U.S. intelligence analysts are busy trying to predict when the next hostile nuclear device will be exploded. They underscore the fact that it is "when," not "if." "It might be Pakistan against India. Or an Islamic state against Israel. Or Ukraine against Russia" (p. 40).
Those who want to curb the nuclear menace have a serious problem facing them: Nuclear devices are, or soon will be, in the hands of small nations that have recent histories of being either aggressive or unstable. Israel is known to have numerous nuclear weapons, possibly numbering into the hundreds. Pakistan and India are also known to be nuclear powers. North Korea may have already produced one or two bombs, and Iran is presently on a crash program which could yield a nuclear device within ten years. Other nations such as Germany, Libya, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Ukraine are possible entrants into the "nuclear club" in the next century.
In the last week of April, 170 countries sat down at the United Nations to discuss the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This treaty, which went into effect in 1970, is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. In this latest round of talks, the U.S. has been trying to obtain an indefinite extension of the treaty. Numerous obstacles to this goal exist, such as Egypt's complaint that Israel should sign on to the treaty's goals.
Coinciding with President Bill Clinton's trip to Russia to commemorate the Allied victory in Europe during World War II, Ukraine announced it would sign the treaty. Its decision "turned the tide" and several other nations also agreed. The NPT will be extended.
Even with its signing, the NPT will not, by itself, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty is binding only on its signatories, yet even this is shaky. Iraq and North Korea signed the original treaty, but both of these nations have secretly sought to build their own bombs. Furthermore, a number of very important nations refuse to sign the NPT. Israel, India and Pakistan are the most notable holdouts.
Making the situation even worse are advancements in the technology to build underground facilities that are used to hide weapons manufacturing and to store bombs. In addition, this new technology will enable violators of the treaty to store their nuclear arsenals so deeply that even earth-penetrating weapons would have difficulty destroying them.
Those with the responsibility to guard our nation's security also seriously fear that nuclear weapons may find their way into the hands of terrorist groups. The thought of some terrorist group threatening to blow up an entire city unless its demands are met must give security officials many sleepless nights. Of equal concern is the potential use of a "dirty" conventional bomb that could spread radioactive debris over a wide area.
The explosion of a large conventional bomb in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which killed 167 people including many little children, shows how ruthless and cold-blooded some people can be. One major fear that has been voiced often since the bombing is that terrorism has struck in "small town" America. Many consider the bombing of the World Trade Towers in New York City to be less disturbing because of that city's international status. But Oklahoma City is in the heartland! We know that as long as this world is ruled by Satan the Devil, no one can ever feel safe.
Keep Your Guard Up!
As we, the people of God, observe the countdown to the end of this age, we can never let down our guard. Jesus Christ admonishes us,
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him. (Matthew 24:42-44)
We must always remember that human nature has not changed. The same forces and attitudes that caused two World Wars and a host of smaller wars in living memory are still at work today and will continue to work and worsen until Jesus Christ returns. Not until our Savior and King ushers in the Kingdom of God on earth will we be able to say, "Peace and safety is truly here at last."
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