The Bible and Nuclear War

Here is a letter to the great Dr. Roger Barrier.

Dear Roger,
The war between the Ukraine and Russia—as well as Vladimir Putin’s threats about using nuclear technology—concerns me greatly. Are nuclear weapons mentioned in the Bible?
Sincerely, Adam

Dear Adam,

It’s important to keep in mind that the Bible’s prophecies about the end times were written long before the invention of gunpowder or manmade explosions. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John did a marvelous job describing what seem to be nuclear events using the language that he had available in the first century.

Interpreting the book of Revelation from this perspective produces remarkable evidence that there will be a huge war, probably nuclear, at the end of time.

In an attempt to describe the indescribable, John used a multitude of similes. A simile is a comparison between two things using the words “like” or “as.” For example, Revelation is filled with descriptions that say:

Something like a great mountain burning with fire”

“The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle”

“On their heads were crowns of something like gold” and

“The sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.”

John was trying to describe people, things, and events he’d never seen before by comparing them with things he had seen.

I am postulating that some of the events described in the book of Revelation are references to nuclear warfare that will occur during the Battle of Armageddon.

Before we dive in, let’s discuss what we know about nuclear weaponry.

Nuclear weapons that use fission alone to create explosive reactions are often referred to as “atomic bombs” (A-bombs), while those that use fission and fusion together are called “hydrogen bombs” (H-bombs) or “thermonuclear weapons.”

Hydrogen and uranium can be used to create a straightforward nuclear fission reaction, such as the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

However, creating a hydrogen bomb requires the use of plutonium, which is difficult to produce, as well as sophisticated technology. It is far outside the capabilities of most nations, much less terrorist groups. The bomb that destroyed Nagasaki was a plutonium thermonuclear bomb.

The destructive energy of nuclear weapons, called the “explosive yield,” is measured in TNT equivalent, which refers to the amount of energy released by the detonation of a metric ton of TNT (a conventional explosive material). A kiloton, or “kt,” equals the energy released by 1,000 tons of TNT.

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was approximately 13 to 18 kt, killing approximately 100,000 people. The bomb used on Nagasaki was 20 to 22 kt, leading to a death toll of 80,000 in a less populated area. For months afterward, thousands continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and injuries.

Thermonuclear bombs stockpiled today average around 50,000 kt. Take a moment to let that sink in.

Much of the danger of nuclear weapons comes from radioactive fallout. Contaminated dirt, plants, water supplies and genetic malformities could pose a danger for months, years, decades, or even millennia after the attack.

Only seven countries have thermonuclear bombs—China, France, Pakistan, India, Russia, England, and the United States. Israel most likely has them, but they are strategically reluctant to admit it.

The United States, with almost four thousand nuclear warheads, and Russia, with slightly over four thousand warheads, could kill everyone on earth thousands of times over.

The mind boggles. Frankly, I can’t wrap my mind around how much power those nuclear weapon stockpiles hold, or how much damage thy could do. It’s no wonder that the U.S. and Russia refer to the use of nuclear weapons as “mutually assured destruction.”

What Are the Implications of Russia’s Nuclear Threat to Ukraine?

When Russia declared war on the Ukraine months ago, some of the Christ-following servicemen and women I know immediately began to pray for protection from nuclear war. They understand better than anyone how very tenuous are the tensions between the U.S. and Russia.

Recently, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, declared that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to win the war against Ukraine (his words were quite a bit more veiled, but his meaning was clear). His threat is far more violent, terrifying, and far-reaching than most people realize.

After you finish reading this “Ask Roger,” let me encourage you to join in serious, fervent prayer for the nations of Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and our leaders as they hold such lethal power in their hands.

Now, let’s get back to John and the book of Revelation.

First, God Prepares for a Nuclear Holocaust By Lining Up the Nations in Battle Array

For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty … Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16)

The book of Revelation comes to a climax at the battle of Armageddon. Christians have been raptured into heaven, the Antichrist has deceived the world, and the Great Tribulation is coming to an end. Kings and government authorities have declared war on Israel, God’s people, and God, Himself. It’s time for judgment on the field of battle.

Thus says the Lord God: … “Behold, I am against you, And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords.” (Ezekiel 38:4)

God drags each nation into place, and then He laughs at them! They are bringing their best fighting forces, ready to pridefully show their might. But in the face of Almighty God, they are nothing. King David prophesies this scene in Psalm 2:

Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together

against the Lord …

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.

He rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath. 
(2:1-2, 4-5)

Everything is perfectly prepared for Jesus to return—His Second Coming. He will destroy all the nations who fight against him:

Before me there was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. … Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. (Revelation 19:11, 15)

Next, the Nuclear Attacks Will Be Devastating

The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (Revelation 6:14)

When an atomic bomb explodes, a tiny bit of matter is transformed into a tremendous amount of energy. The process is described by Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2. The expanding energy destroys everything in its path. Think back to the mushroom cloud images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I suppose that if you’ve never seen a nuclear explosion it might look to you like the heavens rolling over upon themselves. John saw the horror of it all! This is the best description he was able to give.

The prophet Zechariah also described what will happen to the nations that stand against God:

This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (Zechariah 14:12)

Can you see that his descriptions mirrors the incredible melting of human bodies that results from the intense heat produced by a nuclear bomb?

John Heresy wrote a short book, Hiroshima, which traces the lives of six people as they suffered from radioactive fallout in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One woman who survived the initial holocaust looked on with stark terror as her skin stripped off her body and melted her feet.

Revelation 14 Describes Many Events That Match Nuclear Consequences

In Revelation 14, John sees the sea and all the rivers turn into blood. The sun scorches people with fire—perhaps a nuclear blast damages the atmosphere so thoroughly that we have no protection from the sun’s rays anymore.

He sees the world plunge into darkness, perhaps because the smoke from nuclear fallout is so thick we can’t see the sun. People “gnawed their tongues in agony … because of their pains and their sores” (Revelation 14:10-11). The sores from radiation poisoning are some of the most painful ever recorded by the medical field.

Then, John sees an angel with a sickle, a sharp, curved machete-like tool that was used for harvesting grain. The angel, “swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested” (14:16).

Perhaps John sees here a pandemic killing billions. Or perhaps millions lose their lives due to natural disasters brought on by manmade climate change and pollution. Or maybe a nuclear war among multiple nations wipes out most of the population. Then, the greatest earthquake in human history causes the “cities of the nations” to collapse (Revelation 14:18-19).

Can you imagine the devastation that would be brought on by radioactive fallout? John continued,

They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14:20)

The holocaust continues on and on, as John describes the fall of all nations who stand against God. The “reaping” continues until the battle of Armageddon. And there,

The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse [Jesus], and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Revelation 19:21)

Jesus wins the battle!

So, How Should We Respond to the Threat of a Nuclear Holocaust?

You and I don’t have much control over what will happen with the nuclear weapons currently on earth. And after reading what John has to say about the end times, we know what happens. We know that all those who stand against God—nations, kings, soldiers, followers—everyone will experience His wrath. They will die and spend eternity in “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8).

But as followers of Jesus Christ, we can live holy lives with a clear conscience, honoring the Lord and giving Him glory. We can fulfill Jesus’s calling to share who He is and what He’s done at every opportunity, leading folks to know Him as their Savior and Lord. We can love people as He has loved us.

Peter challenged all believers:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives, as you look forward to the day of God and speed his coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13)

Enjoy Peace When the War Is Finally Over

Don’t miss this; Jesus defeats all of the armies and claims the ultimate victory! At the end of time, He declares,

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. … I am making everything new! (Revelation 21:3-5)

Well Adam, I hope this helps.

Love, Roger

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

1 thought on “The Bible and Nuclear War

  1. rlhamil2

    You have a few facts wrong. The bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were uranium and plutonium respectively, but neither was augmented with hydrogen for additional fusion reaction. And 50,000 kilotons is 50 megatons; that’s the largest ever made (the Soviet Tsar Bomba, only one fully built and tested), and everything presently in existence is around 1.2 megatons or less (some adjustable to lower yields), although the Russian RS-28 missile can supposedly carry ten or more such warheads.

    Those are “strategic” weapons, long range, last resort. “Tactical” weapons are much lower yield (the lowest comparable in power to conventional explosives, but with additional radioactive hazards), but that may increase the temptation to use them, possibly leading to further escalation.

    Still enough to cause incredible destruction…so there’s no need to exaggerate it further.

    Reply

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