Has This Generation Seen ‘Signs From Heaven’?
SOME oldsters of this generation can recall the early years of aviation following Orville Wright’s successful flight in 1903. Back then the airplane was viewed as a big toy. It provided adventure for pilots and entertainment for crowds of onlookers.
But in 1911 Italy began using airplanes to drop grenades on Turkish troops. Then came 1914. “The circus-and-carnival era of man flight ended abruptly with the outbreak of World War I in 1914,” states the Encyclopædia Britannica. “The millions that belligerent governments were willing to pay aircraft designers suddenly made aviation big business.”
Air Warfare Begins
From the very start of the war, European nations used airplanes to spy on one another. But on August 26, 1914, a Russian aircraft was purposely rammed into an invading Austrian plane. Both pilots were killed. That same day, three British aircraft surrounded a German reconnaissance plane and forced it to land. Clearly, the nations had begun to make war in the air. On October 5, 1914, a French pilot took off with a hand-held machine gun with which he shot down a German plane. Soon airplanes were fitted with machine guns, resulting in frightening air fights. By the end of the war, well over 10,000 men had lost their lives in these encounters.
Still more terrifying was the sight of bombs falling from aircraft. On October 8, 1914, two British planes bombed strategic targets in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Then, in December 1914, Germany commenced air raids on Britain. “Bombing raids became more fearsome as the war progressed,” writes Susanne Everett in the book World War I—An Illustrated History.
In his book Flyers and Flying, Aidan Chambers sums up the significance of the airplane in World War I: “The aeroplane had come of age in an orgy of destruction. Over the battlefields of France lay the tortured wreckage of many an aerial combat; London and other cities, towns and villages had been bombed; ships had been attacked from the sky. War . . . was changed completely by the arrival of the flying men in their incredible machines.”
Many saw in these and other war developments a fulfillment of the Bible prophecy: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; . . . and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:10, 11) A parallel account of this prophecy adds the words: “All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matthew 24:7, 8.
“The Beginning of the Birthpangs”?
Did World War I with its ‘fearful sights and great signs from heaven’ prove to be “only the beginning of the birthpangs,” as The Jerusalem Bible expresses it? History answers yes. Well over a million tons of bombs were dropped from earth’s immediate heavens during World War II. Among these were blockbusters and other six-ton devices that could penetrate about 16 feet (5 m) of solid concrete.
Imagine the terror that struck the hearts of Hamburg’s residents on the night in July 1943 when a swarm of some 700 heavy aircraft bombed their city. This was repeated two nights later, causing a firestorm that claimed over 40,000 victims. “A stream of haggard, terrified refugees flowed into the neighbouring provinces,” wrote Adolf Galland. “The Terror of Hamburg spread rapidly to the remotest villages of the Reich.”
Warsaw, London, Coventry, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, and many other cities, suffered from intense bombing. One Tokyo air raid caused a firestorm that proved even more destructive than the one in Hamburg. It claimed over 80,000 lives. After repeated air raids millions fled the city. “Tokyo’s population went from five million to two and a third million,” records historian Jablonski. A Japanese woman says: “Whenever I hear the siren of a fire truck or see logs crackling in a fireplace, my heart pounds and I relive those days of childhood terror.”
World War II introduced terrifying new weaponry. In the last year of the war, Germany began firing V-2 rockets loaded with one-ton warheads. Traveling 3,500 miles per hour (5,600 km/hr) at impact, these reached British soil only about five minutes after being launched. Then the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over a hundred thousand people outright. “Allied to the atomic bomb,” explains the Encyclopædia Britannica, “the V-2 foreshadowed the intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] of the postwar era.”
After the war, the nations developed even more destructive nuclear weapons. There was a feverish testing of these before the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Nuclear bombs were even exploded in space. Regarding one such experiment, Dr. Mitton writes in his book Daytime Star—The Story of Our Sun: “The Starfish explosion of July 1962 produced a radiation belt that persisted for several years. The folly of this exercise was brought home forcefully when it was realized that several expensive satellites had thereby been effectively wrecked.”
The 1963 treaty limited the testing of nuclear weapons, but it did not prevent the superpowers from making more of these bombs. Neither did it prevent them from improving methods of delivering them. Commenting on this, Dr. Jastrow wrote in Science Digest: “When the Germans were raining V-2s on Britain 40 years ago, they thought they were doing well if a rocket came within 10 miles [16 km] of its target. . . . The warheads on Soviet and American ICBMs in operational use today land within about 300 yards [270 m] of their targets after flights of many thousands of miles.”
Dr. Jastrow went on to describe new warheads having radar eyes and electronic brains. Called “smart warheads,” these are said to “land within 25 yards [23 m] of their targets on the average.” It is believed that “smart warheads” could be fitted onto intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Would you not agree that what started back in 1914 was “only the beginning of the birthpangs”? Man’s use of “heaven” has become increasingly deadly.
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Nuclear bombs were tested in space before the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty