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Nuclear Watershed

Millions had hoped it would never happen. But negotiations at Geneva between the Soviet Union and the United States had dragged on for two years without agreement for the reduction of intermediate nuclear weapons. Then last November a US Star Lifter Transport plane touched down at Greenham Common Air Force base in Southern England with a shipment of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. So began the long threatened deployment of nuclear weapons among West European members of the NATO alliance; followed before the end of that same month by the first delivery of Pershing II missiles to West Germany.

The actual arrival of these weapons brought home still further to each country concerned the stark possibility of nuclear attack, with all the horrors involved. The great debate between rival schools of political thought rose to a crescendo. Demonstrations and protests were stepped up as the burning issues stirred deep emotional reactions. The Soviet Union withdrew from further negotiations in Geneva, and threatened counter-deployment of similar weapons in certain East European countries. November 1983 marked a watershed, a further polarization of views, both in Europe and America.

Political aspects apart, the effects of nuclear war in terms of human suffering and destruction of the environment are appalling. Just how appalling is being more deeply registered as the present dilemma commands ever wider attention. Little wonder that a pall of fear overhangs the lives of millions of West Europeans! Did the Lord Jesus have such a situation in view, we wonder, when He spoke of "distress of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the billows; men fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world"? (Luke 21:25, 26). The context of these verses indicates, of course, the time of the end, with its climax at the coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory. Features of that same end-time period are portrayed in the Book of Revelation. These features include death and destruction on an enormous scale:

As when the fourth seal opened, and death and Hades were given "authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth" (6:8): Or as when the first trumpet was sounded, "and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees . . . and all green grass was burnt up" (8:7). These references show that during the fearful period before the Lord's return to earth as Son of Man there will be devastation on a scale which could conceivably be brought about by nuclear weapons. Whether the visions of Revelation do indeed point to nuclear destruction we cannot be certain, for God may fulfil His word by other means; but the fact of destruction on an unprecedented scale is clearly indicated.

"Neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread thereof," wrote Isaiah (8:12), a verse quoted in 1 Peter 3:14 for our encouragement also. "Their fear"! that is the fear of the ungodly who have no hope beyond this life. People whose faith gives a living hope of a future inheritance with His Saviour will not have the same degree of fear. We rightly shrink from all the suffering which would be involved in nuclear war. Yet assurance of eternal life with eternal glory transforms the Christian outlook. For we may through every crisis experience the deep inner peace promised by the Lord Jesus in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful." So the gospel of Christ bears a unique message of hope for our nuclear-threatened generation.

What is more, Christian influence with God through prayer is the mightiest deterrent in the world against nuclear war. Faith learns to view the modern super-powers as God sees them: "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance... all the nations are as nothing before Him" (Is. 40:15, 17). Isaiah witnessed the discomfiture of the great Assyrian superpower in his generation. Humanly speaking the tiny Judaean kingdom was altogether at the mercy of the vast invading Assyrian army. Hezekiah and Isaiah led the people of Judah to God in effective prayer (Is. 36, 37). Faith was honoured by dramatic divine intervention which destroyed both the Assyrian army and its proud king, Sennacherib.

In our own generation, nuclear weapons present a sinister challenge to faith. Until the Lord comes to the air for His Church we may continue to face the threat of the greatest destructive powers ever placed at man's disposal. Living in a time of unprecedented danger, may not God lead us by this very fact to greater strength of faith? "A glorious Throne, set on high from the beginning" is still the place of our sanctuary (Jer. 17:12). Do we really believe that through prayer we may "move the arm that moves the world to bring deliverance down"? Or are we so lacking in faith that we place greater reliance on counter-deterrent or organized protest? "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is" (Jer. 17:7).