The Last Days—‘Kingdoms Against Kingdoms’
“The conflict of nations from 1914 to 1918 was not some ‘dull rumor of some other war.’ The struggle ushered in a new scope of war, the first total war in the experience of mankind. Its duration, intensity, and scale exceeded anything previously known or generally expected. The day of mass warfare had arrived.”—The World in the Crucible, by Bernadotte E. Schmitt and Harold C. Vedeler.
THE war of 1914-18 was so great in destruction and loss of life that in France to this day, you can find monuments dedicated to the fallen in La Grande Guerre, the Great War. American writer Ernest Hemingway later called it “the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery that has ever taken place on earth.” The Great War was renamed World War I when the world was blighted with World War II (1939-45).
World War I was distinct from previous wars in many ways. Massive million-man armies slaughtered one another in the fields and woods of Western Europe. The machine gun held sway as it reaped great swaths of moving infantry. As Gwynne Dyer states in his book War: “Within two months [of the start of the war], over a million men were dead . . . Machine weapons—quick-firing artillery and machine guns spewing out six hundred bullets a minute—filled the air with lethal steel sleet.” The tank, the submarine, and the airplane changed thinking and tactics. Now death fell from the skies and rose up from the waters.
Trench warfare, with the added use of poisonous gases, pushed men to the limits of endurance, suffering, and degradation. The Great War was distinct in another way: “This was the first war in which prisoners numbered in the millions (8,400,000 altogether) and were detained for long periods of time.” (The World in the Crucible) It was also the first war that involved virtually the whole of the civilian population, either in defense and armaments production or as victims of invasion and battle.
Jehovah’s Witnesses back then in 1914 saw in that terrible war the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ fateful prophecies. But worse was to come.
World War II—Unique Destructive Power
Another evidence that, even from a human standpoint, these could be the last days is man’s potential for self-destruction. Dr. Bernard Lown stated in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture: “The Second World War introduced total war—unprincipled in method, unlimited in violence, and indiscriminate in victims. The ovens of Auschwitz and the atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki inscribed a still-darker chapter in the chronicle of human brutality.”
Did mankind learn compassion and mercy from this dreadful experience? He continues: “The prolonged agony that left 50 million dead [almost equivalent to the total population of Britain, France, or Italy] did not provide an enduring basis for an armistice against barbarism. On the contrary, arsenals soon burgeoned with genocidal weapons capable of the equivalent of many thousands of World War IIs.”—Italics ours.
No doubt about it, we have seen ‘nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom,’ and the rider of the fiery-colored horse of Revelation has spread slaughter across the earth. (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4) But what further significance would the invention and development of nuclear weapons have for our “last days”?—2 Timothy 3:1.
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“The 20th century has been marked by a rising level of violence compared with the two centuries preceding. . . . The 20th century already records 237 wars, i.e. hostilities which resulted in deaths estimated at 1,000 or more per year.”
“Not only are there more wars but their destructiveness has escalated. Wars in the 20th century so far have killed 99 million people, 12 times as many as in the 19th century, 22 as many as in the 18th century. . . . In the last century there were two wars with deaths over 1 million; in this century 13 such wars.”—World Military and Social Expenditures 1986, by Ruth Leger Sivard.
U.S. Army photo