The core of many Adventist sermons, spoken and written, is something like this: Because of the imminence of atomic or hydrogen war, which is closely associated in the discourse with the second coming of Christ, it is time to repent of our sins and be ready for the great day.
We need to preach repentance, and doubly so since we believe the coming of the Lord is very near. But what if we should not have an all-out atomic war? Is not repentance just as essential? Our insistence upon World War III may prove to be a stumbling block to many if our prediction fails.
I do not deny that wars have long been associated with the signs of the end, and I would not predict that we will not have another international clash. But I do believe that we have had sufficient wars already to fulfill all the prophecies until we come to the sixth plague. We are now in the period known as "the anger of the nations," which will continue until the seven last plagues begin. (See Early Writings, p. 36.) But we need not have continuous fighting on a large scale to fulfill the requirements of this prophecy.
"The condition of the world previous to the first appearing of Christ is a picture of the condition of the world just previous to His second advent."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 146. What was the condition of the world previous to the first appearing of Christ? The reign of Augustus Caesar was noted for peace and unity, road and bridge building, and advancement in learning. Then, it seems to me, we might expect international stress to ease up a bit just before His second coming.
"When the reasoning of philosophy has banished the fear of God's judgments; when religious teachers are pointing forward to long ages of peace and prosperity, and the world are absorbed in their rounds of business and pleasure, planting and building, feasting and merrymaking, rejecting God's warning and mocking his messenger,—then it is that sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 104.
The close of probation is not described as a time of great stress. Two are working in the field, two are grinding at the mill, two are asleep in a bed, and one is marked for the kingdom and the other is left to die in his sins. The sudden destruction that follows the peace and safety cry is the destruction of the seven last plagues, especially of the seventh. If it preceded the plagues there would be few people left on this planet to endure the plagues. If all the terrible things should happen to this world that are described in some of our atomic bomb sermons, there would be few left to be destroyed by the brightness and majesty of His coming.
The array of material about the possibilities of an atomic war is staggering. But if my ear is keyed to talk of peace, it is surprising that I can find it also available in large volume. As just one example I will refer to an article by Louis Fischer, "No Third World War," in The Reader's Digest, of January, 1954.
I quote: "That we are not going to suffer another world war is the firm conviction with which I return from a close-up study of conditions on each side of the Iron Curtain and from conferences with leading military and political authorities in Europe and Asia.
"Three times in recent months Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, has stated his belief that there will be no third world war. Sir Winston Churchill has said, 'I have a sure hope there will not be a third [world war].' Declared Dr. Ernst Reuter, late Mayor of West Berlin, The Soviets do not want a war and can't afford one.'"
Peace is more dangerous to the church than war. Let us preach repentance because the close of probationary time will come in a day like this. It will come as a thief in the night.
The urgency of the time may be more than we realize. We do not need to wait for another world war. We must not wait for anything. "For in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."