7. Wars, Plagues and Natural Disasters

“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Mt. 24:6-7).

The great tribulation will be a period of devastating wars, pestilences and natural disasters. As a result of it the world and its inhabitants will greatly suffer, and the works of man will be destroyed. A high death-toll, decomposing bodies that remain unburied, and the collapse of medical services will result in pestilence and severe pollution. Unendurable situations will arise, particularly in densely populated areas. Natural resources that have already been rendered useless because of exposure to radioactive pollution, will undergo further damage through earthquakes, droughts and heat-waves. Terrifying earthquakes will occur in which whole cities will be turned into rubble-heaps.

Behind this scene of destruction is the Devil – the great homicidal maniac and destroyer of God’s creation. In the brief hour of the kingdom of darkness, he and his followers will be let loose upon the earth to fully manifest their inherent evil desires. In so doing, the measure of their unrighteousness will be filled to the brim and they will face their final doom. The great tragedy is that the fires of hell that are prepared for the Devil and his angels, will also be the final destination of millions of deceived people.

Satan’s big wars of annihilation will be waged in the second half of the tribulation, during the period called the great tribulation. At the beginning of this 3˝ year period he will be barred from further access to the throne of God where he previously made accusations against Christians, day and night (Rev. 12:10). He will be filled with great wrath after being cast out of the heavenlies. In the remaining short time at his disposal, he will use all his power to cause as much destruction upon the earth as possible:

“...the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.... Woe for the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the Devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:10, 12).

On this occasion the Antichrist will exchange the white horse for the red one, and embark on a course of extermination to turn the whole world into chaos and disorder. When the 42 months of Revelation 13:5-7 come to an end, his gruesome trail of destruction will stretch across the entire earth. Amid this scene of desperation the macabre profile of the death-angel will arise as he gathers his rich harvest of human souls for hell. Like the Devil, the Antichrist will be a murderer who will delight in the death of people.

Wars

In descriptions of the great tribulation, mention is often made of bloody wars that will be waged. Revelation 6:8 states that the battles of the Antichrist, as well as the famines and pestilence that will follow in its wake, will claim a death-toll of a quarter of the world’s population. According to present population figures it amounts to 1,5 billion people. The magnitude of such a slaughter is incomparable in the history of mankind. The biggest death-toll ever claimed by a war is the 52 million people who died in World War II.

A Russian invasion of Israel was predicted by Ezekiel some 2 600 years ago. Details are given of how Russia will be allied with Iran, Lybia, Ethiopia, Turkey, and other countries. The driving force behind this war will be the forces of Communism and Islam. These ideologies are fanatically anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, a description is given of how the power of this king from the far corners of the North will be broken on the mountains of Israel. Considering that America is an ally of Israel, the predicted Russo-Arab invasion of Israel can potentially develop into a full-scale world war. Indications are that this war will occur at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation and cause the intense conflict needed for the sudden appearance of the Antichrist as a self-declared prince of peace. He will pretend to have ‘saved’ the world from a destructive nuclear war.

Revelation 9:13-19 gives a description of how the kings of the East – that is China and its allies – will mobilise their forces for the wars of the great tribulation. An army of 200 million Asians will cross the Euphrates River into the Middle East and the Western world, and become responsible for a great slaughter. According to Revelation 9:15, they will kill one third of the world’s population. That is about two billion people. Their invasion will continue till the end of the great tribulation at the battle of Armageddon. In Revelation 16:12, where the final events before the battle of Armageddon are discussed, mention is made of this ominous march towards the Middle East:

“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.”

Several indications that nuclear weapons will be used in the wars of the great tribulation, appear in Revelation. John did not have the vocabulary to describe the sophisticated 20th century weapons and missiles, but he does convey the idea of nuclear bombs that are dropped, or missiles with nuclear warheads, when he describes various scenes of immense destruction:

“The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown on the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire 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” (Rev. 8:7-9).

Directly after these catastrophes, he refers to the poisoning of a third of the earth’s water sources. He warns that many people who will drink of it, will die. This situation will possibly be caused by radioactive dust that will settle in the water. According to Revelation 8:12 the sun, moon and stars will be partially darkened, thus suggesting serious air pollution.

Scientists have calculated that if a world war should break out in which nuclear weapons are used, it could result in the immediate death of about one billion people. Another billion will be doomed to a slow death. Heat waves will spread over the earth and set flammable material alight. The ignition of stored poisonous gases will fill the atmosphere with deadly carbon monoxide and cyanide gas.

The aftermath of a nuclear war will be equally ghastly. After the initial heat waves, the surface of the earth will cool down dramatically. Temperatures will fall with as much as 55 degrees, and cover the earth under a blanket of ice and snow. This phenomenon is described as a nuclear winter. It will destroy all vegetation, while water reservoirs will be frozen and polluted with radioactive dust. The northern hemisphere will be covered with smoke as most of the explosions will occur there. The sun will be darkened for about a month. Dense clouds will drift to the southern hemisphere, causing the whole earth to experience twilight for about a year.

Revelation 6:12 refers to such a situation when “...the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” These conditions will prevail shortly before the return of Christ, and will increase in intensity. When the Antichrist has completed his global destruction, he will deploy all the remaining armies in Israel to fight his last two battles (Rev. 16:14-16). The one will be against the Jews and the other one against Christ Himself. The Antichrist is aware of Christ’s return with a large heavenly army, and will await His coming at the Mount of Olives. In the ensuing confrontation the Antichrist will bring about his own downfall, as well as that of his followers who accepted his number. John says:

“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19-21).

Zechariah supports this statement with the following prophecy:

“And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth” (Zech. 14:12 KJV).

Diseases

It is obvious that the pollution caused by nuclear warfare and the firing of chemical and biological warheads, will cause unheard of diseases, poisoning and irradiation. In the case of a nuclear war, people who have been exposed to a great flood of neutron rays will die immediately. As the energy of the rays diminish, it can still remain a source of serious consequences for millions of people. The extent of the damage will depend upon the intensity of the radiation and the population density of the area. These rays can change a person’s cell structure and cause various kinds of cancer. It may vary from skin cancer to malicious tumours in the intestines. If the neutron radiation contains a high energy potential, it can cause disruptions deep into the body tissue. It can also change the structure of a woman’s ovicells and lead to genetic divergence and the malformation of children born during this time.

The effect of nuclear warfare on the ecology will be disastrous as natural resources such as water, air, soil and plants will be radioactive after the nuclear explosions. Plants that grow in radioactive soil absorb this pollution, and cattle and sheep that feed on it become polluted. Consequently, their milk and meat will not be fit for human consumption. Even rain-water from clouds that are exposed to radiation becomes radioactive. Besides this, there are various other after-effects of such explosions. Atomic clouds will be driven by the winds and cause radioactive dust to settle over large areas outside the war zone where sickness, misery and death will result among all living creatures.

The animal kingdom is just as vulnerable to this invisible but fatal attack as humans. Maritime animals will also suffer because of the shock waves and irradiation. Should there be nuclear explosions in the sea, as implied by Revelation 8:8, it will prove destructive for marine life, while huge waves and storms will cause many ships to sink. Revelation 16:3-4 refers to a situation where marine life will become extinct and all fresh water sources will be polluted and rendered unfit for consumption. The effect of this disaster on human life and health is inestimable.

Man has acquired the technology to cause a multitude of illnesses and plagues. Various Arab nations are in the process of supplementing their chemical weaponry with bacteriological weapons. They have the means of spreading bacteria over the armies and cities of their enemies, and to cause dysentery (inflammation of the intestines), diarrhoea, anthrax (splenic fever) and abdominal typhus (enteric fever). A biological installation is more compact and less sophisticated than one required for the manufacture of chemical weapons. Several Third World countries are showing an interest in germ warfare.

A disease that is more selective since it will affect only those who have accepted the number of the Antichrist, will be rampant during the great tribulation:

“So the first (angel) went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image” (Rev. 16:2 KJV).

An end-time disease that can also be classified as selective since it is confined mainly to drug addicts, homosexuals, and sexually permissive groups (especially prostitutes and their customers), is AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome). The number of innocent individuals who have contracted this disease through blood transfusions are statistically insignificant.

This virus destroys people’s immunity to diseases. Death results mostly from secondary causes such as TB, pneumonia, skin cancer, diarrhoea or any other disease. A person can carry this virus for several years and be HIV positive before it starts to get active and develop into full-fledged Aids. During this period, however, the individual distributes the virus through body fluids (mainly during sexual intercourse) without showing any of the symptoms related to it. Research has revealed that there are up to 100 HIV positive persons for every Aids victim who already shows the symptoms. Cancerous sores on the skin are very common with terminally ill victims of Aids.

The whole of Africa south of the Sahara faces disaster because of Aids if an effective vaccine is not found in time. According to estimates, the populations of many African countries were almost 40% HIV positive at the beginning of the new millennium. In Africa, there are approximately as many women as men who are carriers of the disease. There are already thousands of HIV orphans.

In the Western world, Aids is mainly confined to homosexuals and drug addicts who use infected needles for intravenous injections. Indications are that in cities like New York there are increasing numbers of prostitutes who are carriers of the disease, and this is a phenomenon that will largely increase the incidence of Aids.

The Lord warns against homosexualism and prostitution. This may be the reason why no remedy has as yet been found for Aids, despite intensive research by the best medical scientists in the world. The Lord directs the following warning to those who persist in these and other sins:

“Don't fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who are idol-worshippers, adulterers or homosexuals – will have no share in His Kingdom. Neither will thieves or greedy people, drunkards, slanderers or robbers” (1 Cor. 6:9-10 LB).

Adultery, sexual immorality and homosexuality all feature in this list. Remember the fate of Sodom, from which the word sodomy is derived, where homosexuality was the order of the day. The Bible condemns these sinful practices and also mentions the retribution that the transgressors will suffer in their bodies:

“For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their woman exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one. And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze with lust for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong doing and going astray, which was (their) fitting retribution” (Rom. 1:26-27 AB).

During the end-time there will again, as in the days of Noah and Lot, be a perverse and immoral generation of people who will submit their bodies to vile affections, be numbered by the Antichrist and even sell their souls to the Devil for financial gain. Despite this pernicious state into which they have degraded themselves, and amid the greatest anxiety, they will remain impenitent. The sinners in the great tribulation will harden themselves time and again, and refuse to repent in spite of the plagues sent by God. The hideous sores that will appear on their bodies, the excruciating heat, the famine and all the natural disasters, will cause them to blaspheme even more. They “...blasphemed the name of God, which had power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory” (Rev. 16:9  KJV).

In Revelation 9, a grim account is given of a situation in which the survivors of the terrible disasters, surrounded by starving people and decaying corpses, continue with their Satanism, immorality and other evils, with no intention of changing their ways. Instead of repenting, they will blaspheme God:

“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see nor hear, nor walk. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21 KJV).

A person who has wilfully and publicly made his choice for Satan and his works, is so blinded that his senses will only respond to lies. He will perpetually reject the truth, while being unaware of the mad race he is following on the road to perdition.

Natural disasters

Several signs around us point towards the approach of terrible natural disasters, such as those that the Bible associates with the great tribulation. According to scientists there is a steady rise in temperature that will significantly change the climate of the earth. This can be attributed to the immense quantity of carbonic acid gas and other contaminated matter set free at random in the atmosphere. Irreparable damage has already been caused to the ozone layer around the earth, and large holes have formed. This protective layer is a shield against ultra-violet rays. The decay caused to it by dangerous gases constitutes a tremendous threat to all living creatures on earth. Together with the increased heat, it will cause the ice in the polar regions to melt. This, in turn, will lead to a rise in the coastal lines and the flooding of low-lying areas.

The prevalence of pollution continues unabatedly. Certain gases from factories lead to acid rain, and the result has been the destruction of plantations and natural forests in many parts of the world. Add to this grim picture the depletion of natural resources and the serious damage caused to rivers, lakes and the oceans by waste from factories, the spilling of crude oil, and the uncontrolled dumping of poisonous and radioactive waste.

Climatic changes also lead to a noticeable polarisation in weather conditions, as is evident from the increasing droughts, floods and unusually high and low temperatures. On the other hand, millions of people are threatened by steadily expanding deserts, while other parts of the world are subject to an extraordinary high rainfall, floods and typhoons. These extreme conditions have an adverse effect upon crops. With a rapidly increasing world population of about 6 billion people, phenomena such as these hold the prospect of large-scale famine and hardship for millions of people. It is because of these serious concerns that the first Earth Summit was held in Brazil in June 1992.

One natural disaster that features prominently in end-time prophecy is the increase in earthquakes. Rising strain and instability in the surface of the earth suggests the possibility of a considerable increase in earthquakes. In densely populated areas with high buildings, the scene is set for violent disasters should earthquakes occur there. In His prophetic discourse on the time of great tribulation, the Lord Jesus said:

“There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear, and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk. 21:25-27).

Apart from earthquakes, there will also be cosmic signs and disasters that will strike the world from outer space. Among these will be meteor showers and asteroids that will cause devastation on earth. These disasters will clearly be recognised as the judgements of God. When things are at their worst, Christ will suddenly appear on planet earth during His second coming. The sinners will be overwhelmed with fear and attempt to flee away from the presence of the Son of God:

“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks: Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:12-17).

Revelation 16 describes a similar scene:

“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and 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 the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 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 (50 kg.); and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great” (Rev. 16:17-21 KJV).

Many Old Testament prophets have also recorded similar prophecies about the day of the Lord. On the one hand people will be harassed by scorching heat and drought, and on the other hand by suffocating darkness and the rumble of earthquakes. Sinners who have hardened their hearts will be cast down and perish with their works. Their bodies will be devoured by the birds of prey and the beasts of the earth... Isaiah says about this time:

“Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger” (Is. 13:9-13).

Other similar warnings about the judgements of the Lord on that day are on record:

“Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants.... The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word..... The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left” (Is. 24:1-6).

 Words by Christ in the New Testament concerning the end-times are closely related to the above:

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened” (Mt. 24:21-22 KJV).

Christians are admonished in no uncertain way to take note of these warnings. Like Noah, they should make the necessary preparations while at the same time warning others around them against the rapidly approaching judgements. Lot was regarded worthy to escape the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah and, in accordance with the will of God, took haste to evacuate the disaster area. If he should have cherished any doubts in his mind about the certainty of these judgements and became reluctant to part with his earthly possessions, he would have perished in the flames with them.

We are not objects of God’s wrath, but then we must be vigilant and spiritually worthy to appear before Him:

“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk. 21:34-36 KJV).

Have you made the necessary preparations to flee from the impending judgements of God? When the people of Israel were redeemed from the Egyptian bondage, they had to take shelter under the blood of the Lamb. Have you done that?