When we think of the destructive effects of ordinary conventional bombs it is not necessarily a fireball that immediately comes to mind. Although normal chemical bombs detonate with explosive thermal events and typically involve rapid oxidation reactions which are accompanied by considerable heat and fire, much of the damage we are familiar with is done by blasting the surrounding area through an outwardly-propagating explosive wave front. The destructive power of conventional bombs comes from a rapidly expanding force called the blast wave that emanates from the center of the blast zone in a generally spherical shape.
Nuclear explosions also have a blast wave. Of course with a nuclear detonation, the forces are many orders of magnitude greater than conventional explosives, and even more powerful fusion devices can explode with forces orders of magnitude beyond fission bombs. As a thermonuclear fireball expands, the temperatures at its heart reach millions of degrees. The air trapped at the center of the blast rapidly heats up and expands with unimaginable outward velocity and force. Radiant energy coming out of the core at the speed of light further heats up the air and materials far away from the blast zone. As a result of these expanding gases and outward flow of energy, a spherical blast wave is created which begins to grow in diameter at a velocity slightly faster than the speed of sound.
If there were no other destructive effects of atomic warfare, the blast wave alone would still be enough to flatten any major city in a matter of seconds. The International Committee of Experts in Medical Sciences and Public Health set up by the World Health Organization reported:
“Almost half of the total energy released in nuclear explosions is in the form of a blast wave, the colossal build-up of pressure in the vaporized material of the bomb giving rise to a wave traveling through the air at supersonic speed…
“The human body can be crushed by the blast wave up to distances where the overpressure is one atmosphere, i.e. the total pressure is double the atmospheric pressure. If people at a short distance from where the explosion took place were shielded from the thermal wave and the initial ionizing radiation, they would die mainly from direct blast damage, particularly to the lungs” (from: U.N. Chronicle Perspective; Effects of Nuclear War: The Medical Viewpoint, 1983).
For a one-megaton thermonuclear bomb, the area of total destruction from its blast wave would encompass a circle with a radius of approximately 4.5 miles. Within this range every building and structure would be blown to bits, and for many miles outside of this distance massive damage would still occur. Can you imagine a single bomb completely destroying everything in a 9-mile-wide circle and solely as the result of its blast wave? And that represents the power of only one of today’s “average” bombs. Read what experts say would happen if a 20 megaton bomb were to explode in downtown New York:
“If a 20-megaton bomb were air-burst over the Empire State Building at an altitude of 30,000 feet, the zone gutted or flattened by the blast wave would have a radius of 12 miles and an area of more than 450 sq. miles, reaching from the middle of Staten Island to the northern edge of the Bronx, the eastern edge of Queens, and well into New Jersey, and the zone of heavy damage from the blast wave…would have a radius of 21.5 miles, or an area of 1450 sq. miles” (Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 53).
Thus, one of the largest and most populated cities on the face of the Earth would be totally demolished by only one such bomb, and then just from its blast wave alone! If a full-scale nuclear war were to occur the combined forces set in motion by multiple blasts would have planet-wide consequences. Only one 20 megaton bomb exploded at ground level would leave a crater over 600 feet deep and thousands of feet in diameter. The blast wave could rip a hole in the earth’s crust so big that most of the tallest buildings in the world would be swallowed up completely. In fact, many entire cities could easily fit within its crater.
It is interesting that most of the prophecies that predict fire and brimstone accompanying the final battles also say that there will be hail produced by these events. Why hail? This effect is directly related to the powerful up-drafts caused by the rising nuclear fireballs, which form the characteristic mushroom clouds. The air surrounding the blast zone contains huge quantities of water from the atmosphere and even greater quantities of water produced by the blast. This moisture would rise into the stratosphere within minutes and would result in literal ice hailstorms formed far away from ground zero. Before the above ground nuclear tests were abolished, many of them were accompanied by weather disturbances such as huge condensation clouds and hail. Hail was also discovered to be one of the aftereffects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts. This effect is similar to the strong up-drafts that often accompany tornadoes and huge thunderstorms; however, with nuclear explosions the updrafts occur with tremendously greater energies.
Nevertheless, the hail mentioned in the Bible is also predicted to be of another variety. We now know that the force of a nuclear blast would send large amounts of debris into the air. The earth that was once part of the blast-crater has to go somewhere—it doesn’t just disappear. Part of the debris gets reduced to fine particles and rises into the atmosphere and becomes part of the mushroom cloud and dusty, radioactive fallout from the nuclear explosion. However, most of the larger debris can be thrown many miles away from the blast sight and actually become another potential source of destructive aftereffects and fatal injuries. Even the Pentagon admited to this hazard. The journal Science reported the following fact:
“In congressional testimony late last year, the Air Force mentioned casually that an attack would send enormous boulders into the sky, ‘some of them larger than a Volkswagen'” (Science, vol. 219, p. 370).
It is not just a coincidence that Isaiah prophesied over 2,700 years ago of these earth-shattering effects during the final battles of the End Times. He said,
“The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is thoroughly dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
“The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a booth; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall, and not rise again.”
Jesus prophesied that before the end comes, natural disasters, including earthquakes, will increasingly characterize the world environment. These signs, he said, will be part of the “birth pains” signaling the collapse of this age (Matt. 24:7). Just as birth pains increase in intensity as the moment of birth approaches, so too will earthquakes and other natural disasters become more common as we move through the Last Days. The description in Isaiah, however, indicates that at some point the earth itself will seem like it’s going to be torn apart with tectonic upheaval. Isaiah’s prophecy may certainly involve natural or supernatural phenomena, but the effects of a nuclear war could just as easily be the main cause.
Even in a limited nuclear exchange, the amount of energy released by hundreds of blasts would be so great that the very foundation of the earth would shake. Even a single test blast results in a shock wave traveling through the Earth similar to an earthquake, which can be measured on a seismograph. However, the final wars will be considerably different from a lone nuclear test. At The Time of the End, many missiles will be launched from their silos at nearly the same time and explode on their targets almost simultaneously. Therefore, the combined effects of concurrent explosions on the Earth’s crust would be much greater than the result of just a single nuclear explosion, the effects of which are known, as they were carefully measured at test sites around the world after World War II. In areas of high seismic activity such as along the California coast, the detonation upon all the major cities of perhaps hundreds of warheads over a period of only a few hours would have devastating effects on the earth’s crust. The nuclear destruction of the major west-coast cities would follow a path right along the main part of the San Andreas Fault. If normal crustal movements now cause periodic earthquakes, can you imagine the effect of thermonuclear warfare on geologic fault stability?
The visions in the book of Revelation predict that at the very end of the age conditions in the world will build to a final terrible crescendo of destruction just before the Lord returns. The Apostle John predicted that there would be:
“…thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great…
“And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
“And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague was exceedingly great.”
Rev. 16:18, 20-21
This “hail” predicted to fall upon the earth at the end is a bit more serious than normal icy hailstones seen with thunderstorms. A talent of material is an ancient measure of weight that represents about 100 pounds in modern terms (or 45.35 kilograms). Perhaps the Pentagon’s estimate of Volkswagen-sized boulders falling out of the sky from exploding nuclear weapons is not so absurd after all!
The forces set in motion by the explosion of thousands of warheads across much of the northern hemisphere will result in tremendous earthquakes and volcanoes in every area of known seismic activity—and also probably in regions which haven’t had such phenomena for ages. Floods caused by dams breaking and rivers changing course and perhaps even the very oceans themselves infiltrating on the once-dry land will bury whole cities and towns without a trace. For the people trapped in these areas, it will seem, just like Isaiah described, that the very foundations of the earth are giving way and the end of the world is at hand.
In 2015, Fox News reported that Russia had released on state-controlled TV a report on new nuclear torpedoes they had recently developed, a weapons system which they called the Status-6. The torpedoes could be launched from submarines or ships along the coasts of a targeted nation and result in major blast effects on the coastlands as well as contaminate the surrounding ocean waters with high levels of radioactivity. The report stated,
“Military experts and commentators traced the nuclear torpedo concept to the 1950s, when it was first offered by Andrei Sakharov, the father of Soviet thermonuclear bomb who later came to defy the Soviet system and won a Nobel Peace Prize. He proposed targeting the U.S. with high-yield nuclear torpedoes that would create huge tsunami waves and high levels of radioactivity to render large coastline areas uninhabitable.”
The large tsunamis that would result from these explosions would come from the tremendous blast waves emanating from them as they detonated below the surface of the water. The effects on coastal cities and low-lying land areas would be devastating.
Thus, during the early stages of the coming nuclear war, blast waves from ground-based thermonuclear explosions will decimate cities and create massive craters, while similar blasts off the coastlines of nations will cause cataclysmic flooding as giant ocean tsunamis moved inland. All of these effects would happen quickly in a nuclear exchange. In only a single day, in only a matter of a few hours, everything that we have ever known will change forever.
Jonathon Schell quotes Yoko Ota, an eyewitness to the Hiroshima blast, as saying,
“I just could not understand why our surroundings had changed so greatly in one instant….I thought it might have been something which had nothing to do with the war—the collapse of the earth, which it was said would take place at the end of the world, and which I had read about as a child” (Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 40).