The final aspect of the prophecies that relate to the effects of nuclear war is the widespread pollution of land and water by radioactive fallout, dust from the explosions and fires, and the bodies of dead animals and people left to rot on the ground. The sickening stench of fire and death that would permeate the world after a disaster on the scale of a global nuclear holocaust would be overwhelming and almost beyond comprehension. The collapse of the ecosystem would continue to spiral out of control long after the nuclear explosions have subsided.
Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a former instructor at the School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York, was quoted as saying that “the landscape would be strewn with millions of corpses of human beings and animals” (Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 68). Jonathon Schell also points out,
“…in the months after a holocaust there would be no activity of any sort, as, in a reversal of the normal state of things, the dead would lie on the surface and the living, if there were any, would be buried underground” (Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 60).
The decaying carcasses of man and beast would litter the ground and just continue to rot with no one able to bury them or even gather them together for disposal. To this end, Isaiah prophesied thousands of years ago that…
“…the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies; he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
“Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stench shall come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.”
The prophet Ezekiel also indicated that after the Battle of Armageddon dead bodies will so completely cover the land of Israel that the survivors will have to spend the first seven months of the Kingdom Age just burying them (Ezek. 39:12).
With so many bodies contaminating the ground, it might be expected that disease and pollution of the waterways would be very grave hazards during the remainder of the tribulation period. Dr. Geiger was further quoted as saying that the situation would cause “an immense source of pollution of water and food” and “an associated danger of cholera or typhoid” (Fate of the Earth, p. 68). Jonathon Schell adds,
“The destruction of estuarine life throughout the Northern Hemisphere and the radioactive poisoning of the local waters could cause general harm to life in the oceans.” He also says, “large-scale detonation will create conditions sufficient to modify the oceanic environment on a global basis…” (Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 78, 88).
Paul Ehrlich, et al., have further added that chemical pollution of surface waters by pyrotoxins released from fires would result in a “loss of organisms; continued contamination of surface and ground water systems; [and] loss of water for human consumption” (Science, vol. 222, p. 1293, 1983). In addition, Ehrlich’s group pointed out that widespread atmospheric pollution would cause extensive freshwater acidification through the production of acid rain, which would further extend the collapse of the ecosystem to a global scale.
If we couple these secondary hazards with the accompanying effects from radioactive fallout and large increases in suspended solids in aquatic environments the total effect on life will be devastating. At least 3.5 billion survivors of the coming nuclear holocaust will find themselves without enough clean water to drink. If fresh water supplies were not poisoned with radioactive waste, they would probably end up being contaminated with dangerous microorganisms from decaying bodies and with pyrotoxins from water runoff from the scorched land.
When the book of Revelation described the initial blasts of atomic warfare, one of the major affected areas was prophesied to be the oceans of the world. Particularly, after the second trumpet was announced to herald a mountain of fire that was seen as cast into the sea, the Bible then goes on to say…
“And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”
Although the first nuclear warheads to explode in the seas will be primarily directed at military ships, the aftereffects of these explosions will be disastrous for all marine life. The Bible says that one-third of all life in the oceans will die as a result of only the first nuclear exchange. But that’s not the total extent of destruction. The third trumpet predicts equally devastating effects on the fresh water of the world. John sees a burning “star” fall on “the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters” (Rev. 8:10). He then goes on to prophesy concerning this star’s affect on the fresh water supplies of the world:
“And the name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
Wormwood is an ancient term used to describe poisonous substances, especially with reference to water. The word occurs nine times in the Bible, and it is invariably used with reference to bitterness and poison. The root for the word in Hebrew means to curse. It is always used in conjunction with sin and judgment. Here in Revelation, the Apostle John says that one-third of the fresh water supplies in the world will become as wormwood and undrinkable due to the massive balls of fire he sees landing in the lakes and rivers—exactly the same scenario modern science predicts for collapse of the ecosystem from widespread nuclear detonations!
After the first nuclear battles are fought between the Western Alliance and the Russian bloc countries, the world will be left seriously wounded from its aftereffects. Perhaps if the wars were to stop at this point, civilization would still have a chance to recover, but still with great difficulty. Unfortunately, the Bible foresees the wars continuing unabated for a total of three and a half years—with the superpowers from the far east also predicted to use nuclear weapons in a second offensive (see The Attack of China).
Just as was observed with all the other effects of nuclear warfare discussed above, the deadly collapse of the ecosystem will continue to get more severe until virtually all life on Earth is threatened. In this sense, the Bowls of Wrath are again seen to be orders of magnitude more calamitous than the Trumpets in their effects. Where the trumpets herald a one-third destruction of the ecosphere, the bowls of wrath predict its total collapse. In the end, John says that collapse of the ecosystem will cause “every living soul” to die in the seas (Rev. 16:3) and that the fresh water of the world will become like “blood” (Rev. 16:4-6).
Taken as a whole, the aftereffects of the coming nuclear holocaust will be much greater than the initial blasts and fireballs of the exploding bombs. If we were faced with just the explosive force and fire of nuclear weapons, the nations might be expected to eventually recover and rebuild. However, when we couple the destructive potential of thermonuclear explosions with its horrendous side-effects consisting of secondary fires and conflagrations, clouds of darkness, the possibility of a nuclear winter, radioactive fallout, widespread plant and animal death, dramatically increased UV-light penetration, blindness, disease, lack of both fresh water and food, and pollution of the entire ecosystem, mankind will be faced with a time of trouble unparalleled in history. This is exactly why Jesus called this period the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21-22)!
Today, the nations are preparing for these final battles in much the same way we find them preparing for the rise of the Antichrist and the New World Order. At the same time the nations are constructing an electronic network that will pave the way for the Mark of the Beast and the Antichrist’s rule, the principle players in the wars of the end are now arming themselves to the teeth to get ready for coming days of conflict and destruction. Joel, in prophesying of our time, predicted that this arms-building fever would infect all the nations in the Last Days. He said,
“Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up;
“Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong.”
That last statement is exactly the opposite of what the Bible predicts for the Kingdom Age after the Return of Christ. Isaiah says that when the King of Peace comes, the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa. 2:4). In the insane irony that seems to characterize the world today, Isaiah’s statement of peace can now be found inscribed on a wall across the street from the United Nations’ building in New York. In reality, however, just the opposite is happening among the nations. The world is currently arming itself at the expense of feeding their people. At the same time nations are spending resources to build weapons, they are letting vast numbers of people go hungry or starve. Many countries would rather buy the latest jet fighter or develop ballistic missiles (i.e., North Korea and Iran) than help the unfortunate starving people of the world find their next meal. This situation is precisely what Joel predicted for the Last Days.
Even with an overabundance of weapons in the world, the arms buildup continues. Already, there are so many nuclear weapons that if another world war broke out there would be a very real danger of complete annihilation. In fact, the military policy of the superpowers is built on the probability of total devastation. “Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD (the perfect acronym for this whole generation) is the proposition which states that we must have enough arms to completely destroy a potential aggressor even if their initial attack completely destroys us. As a result of this policy, the nuclear stockpiles of the superpowers remain at insane levels. Current estimates put the worldwide total at about 15,350 nuclear warheads, with a combined potential explosive yield of about 6,400 megatons (The Federation of American Scientists, 2016). Although this level is considerably lower than the peak nuclear stockpiles maintained during the mid-1980s, it is still more than enough to threaten the Earth with nuclear extinction.
The destructive force represented by these numbers is nearly beyond comprehension. As a point of reference, the Hiroshima blast, which was a single fission bomb that killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of people, had a yield of only about 20 kilotons. But even that single city-destroying bomb translates into a destructive force equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT.
When considering of the total megatonnage of current global arsenals, the numbers become staggering. Six thousand four hundred megatons is equal to the explosive power of 6,400,000,000 tons of TNT (that’s 6.4 billion tons; as one megaton = 1,000,000 tons). Thus, the current active arsenal is the equivalent of 320,000 Hiroshima bombs! There are simply not enough targets in the entire world to justify having this high level of nuclear weapons capability.
The incessant drive of the nations in the Last Days to build more arms moves the world toward the dark pit of World War III and Armageddon. Propaganda on all fronts serves to support and sustain the current insane levels of nuclear arms. As the prophet Joel predicted, the nations are preparing for the final battles with blind ambition while ignoring food production.
Prior to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a common argument for continued arms buildup involved pointing out how the other side was constantly constructing new ICBMs and unless the US also continued to build more missiles, the west’s nuclear forces would become vulnerable to a sudden first-strike. Although tensions have decreased since the fall of the Soviet Union and associated arms treaties have reduced nuclear stockpiles over the last few decades, the philosophy of continued arms building has changed very little.
Dr. Joel Selbin, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Louisiana State University sees the situation from a slightly different perspective. He was quoted in Chemical & Engineering News as saying,
“If a Soviet first strike could destroy all of our 1,052 land-based ICBMs, all of our 400 plus land-based strategic bombers, and 20 of our nuclear-armed subs which might be in port (even though everyone agrees this scenario is impossible), we would still have left 21 strategic invulnerable subs with over 3000 nuclear warheads. One of these Poseidon subs with 160 50-kiloton warheads could destroy every large and medium-sized city in the USSR! The remaining 20 subs could totally destroy the USSR as a functioning society”. [Note: The numbers have changed since this was written, but Selbin’s conclusions still remain true]
How many times over must we have the capability to destroy the world before we realize that enough is enough? Both the United States and Russia now have so many nuclear arms that if only one side was to use them in battle the entire planet would be threatened. However, these two countries are not alone in building the nuclear nightmare: the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan have also joined the nuclear club and have their own ability to plunge the world into Armageddon. In addition, Iran is rapidly progressing to having at least a fission bomb, and their radical Islamic leaders have repeatedly stated their desire to destroy the US and Israel.
So what’s the answer for this gloom and doom generation that is poised on the brink of nuclear destruction? Should Christians join peace groups or demonstrate for a total ban on nuclear arms? Should we organize and try to prevent the world from diving headlong into nuclear annihilation?
One important consideration that must remembered before answering these questions is that the Bible predicted that these very things would happen in the Last Days. The Lord knew that nuclear arms would proliferate in the world. He also realized that no peace movements or demonstrations, no matter how bold or noble in their cause, would be able to stop a sinful world from marching toward Armageddon. In other words, what was predicted in the Bible will come to pass no matter how we may want to avoid it or how we try to prevent it.
I am not saying that the people who understand the prophecies should just sit back and watch as the nations move blindly toward a fiery end. Though nothing can be done to stop or alter the future from occurring, this doesn’t mean we should become passive or ignore it. The prophecies and warnings in the Bible are meant for a purpose. That purpose is not merely for our intellectual edification, but for serious reflection and action that will make a difference.
First, a knowledge of the terrible events that are predicted to happen must not cause a self-defeating attitude. God does not want us to become depressed or think that we are hopeless in making a difference. The evil world system of this present age may be headed directly toward its own destruction and judgment, but that does not mean that we have to go down with it.
Secondly, as followers of Jesus, it is now more important than ever to remain separated from the cares of this life. If Christians entangle themselves with the politics and deception of the Antichrist’s developing system, then they also run the risk of being caught in the coming spiral of destruction. In the book of Revelation, when John sees Babylon the Great begin to burn, the Lord says, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). The Lord wants us to divorce ourselves from the world as much as possible—to get out of the system that has only resulted in sin, hatred, and insane arms building.
To live in this world does not mean a person has to get involved with the politics of the moment to make an impact for good. Anti-nuclear groups and peace movements just aren’t the answer. In fact, with the nuclear controversy there really isn’t a right side or a wrong side. The nations have created such an unbelievable monster with the arms race that they will never be able to completely get out of danger. Even with good arms control programs and bold disarmament proposals the basic technology of how to construct a nuclear weapon can never be totally removed from human knowledge.
Some would call this kind of reasoning a poor excuse for not trying to rid the world of nuclear terror. Unfortunately, what they don’t understand is that the Bible definitely predicts a final nuclear holocaust that will destroy civilization. The evil of man will drag the world into Armageddon and there is nothing we can do to stop or avert it.
However, there is much that Christians can do to rescue individuals from suffering the same fate as the world. Since the prophecies in the Bible have revealed these events long before they were scheduled to come to pass, believers are the only true lights the world has in the dark path it treads. If we remain willfully ignorant or silent of the prophecies then every person we pass who doesn’t know about the Lord or doesn’t know the things that are written in the Bible will be destined for nothing more than the fiery furnace of the end and ultimately the fiery judgment of God. Certainly, as prophecy is being fulfilled around us, believers can use these events as powerful tools to prove the truth of God and convince people to repent and believe.
It’s far more important that people know Jesus and follow him than it is to worry about the latest peace movements or nuclear disarmament proposals. When the prophets of old wrote down their predictions, they did so primarily to warn people of the coming of Christ, not to merely let them know of a future nuclear holocaust. For an evil world that is preparing for its own suicide, the only hope for survival is in the return of Christ. It is Jesus alone who can provide an escape to safety; no peace movements, no diplomatic maneuvering, no arms control agreements will ever be able to make a difference.
The prophecies in the Bible are given with one end in mind: to convince people to turn away from evil and follow Jesus Christ. Anyone willing to do that is promised a new life of peace after the Lord returns. If you can now see the truth of the Bible through God’s predictions, then it’s worth a prize of eternal life if you simply decide to turn away from sin and put your faith in Christ. Do it today, for tomorrow may be too late!