War is a tragedy — the loss of life, displacement of people, destruction of the environment, disease, and other aftereffects make it more than a devastating event.
President Woodrow Wilson, in his optimism, referred to World War I as the “war to end all wars,” but unfortunately that was not the case. World War II, a war in which my father served, followed 23 years later—and there have been many subsequent wars since that time.
The “Global War on Terrorism” was launched 20 years ago after the United States came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 citizens and forever changed our world on September 11, 2001.
Nearly 500,000 U.S. troops mobilized to Afghanistan during this period; I honorably served during this war, and as a chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery, where multiple war casualties were funeralized and buried. Later I was Deputy Command Chaplain at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.
As we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 and reflect on the recent withdrawal of the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, ending the nation’s longest war, one might wonder if this could possibly have been the war to end all wars. Christ’s words to his disciples in Matthew 24:6 indicate that the enduring war on terrorism is likely not the final war, but rather one of the many signs spoken of by Christ about his soon return: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
The First War
According to Revelation 12:7-8, the first war took place in heaven. Satan coveted Christ’s position of authority, but not his loving character. His disloyalty and jealousy of God’s Son were at first a covert operation, but later it erupted in open rebellion until he was expelled from heaven.
For the past 7,000 years the entire universe has watched this drama—known to us as The Great Controversy, a war between Christ and Satan and good and evil—unfold. Satan and his evil angels have used every imaginable attack against humanity; mass shootings; natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, tornados, and famines; widespread epidemics (most recently COVID-19); wars; the threat of war; and more as an expression of his senseless rebellion against God’s government.
War No More
The war that will end all wars is definitively the great controversy. This war will require everyone to choose a side of allegiance—either to Christ or to Satan. Those desiring to be on the winning side must yield all allegiance to Christ who, after completing his mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary, will return to earth as the conquering King to defeat Satan, the evil angels, and the unrighteous.
Ellen G. White’s words here offer a visualization of the anticipated, glorious outcome:
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From him who created all flow life and light and gladness throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love” (The Great Controversy, p. 678).
Isaiah’s writings further proclaim the victorious end when war will be no more:
“He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
I anxiously await that great day!
— Washington Johnson II, is assistant director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries for the North American Division and Captain (CHC) in the United States Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps.