by Andy Hanson, December 4, 2014:  “Like Moses, let’s cry to the Lord to use us in these last days of earth’s history as society crumbles, as moral belief disappears, and the social fabric disintegrates.” (1)

I was born in 1942, and I have been regaled almost from birth with this “proof” that “we are living in the last days of this world’s history.” Ted Wilson is echoing this Adventist mantra at a time when terrible things are happening in the world. But seventy years ago, things were unimaginably worse,* and there was a far better reason to anticipate the apocalypse.

“Until the period in which we live, no such universal conflict among the nations of earth had ever been waged since these and other similar prophesies were penned. But they have been literally fulfilled in World War I and the present world conflict. We should not fail to perceive the message that this mighty conflict bears to us. That message is that the day of the Lord is near. The feet of iron and clay of the image of Daniel 2 are crumbling. The world is sinking to its doom, and the Lord is about to make His second personal appearance—this time to destroy sin and sinners out of the earth and to set up His eternal kingdom and reign forever. This sign is the exact fulfillment of the prophecies, and its potent message can be rejected or disregarded only at the peril of the soul…Yes, Jesus is coming. There is no escaping this great and glorious truth, and His coming is not to be in the distant future but soon, very, very soon.” (2)

If it were up to me, I’d insist that the Lord come in the next five minutes. There is certainly enough evil around to warrant a change in leadership. However, I would argue that things have been far worse, and that, as bad as things are today, our present world is a relatively peaceful place. Consider the following:

DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO WORLD WAR II (3)

Deaths by Country

Country Military Deaths Total Civilian and Military Deaths
Albania 30,000 30,200
Australia 39,800 40,500
Austria 261,000 384,700
Belgium 12,100 86,100
Brazil 1,000 2,000
Bulgaria 22,000 25,000
Canada 45,400 45,400
China 3-4,000,000 20,000,000
Czechoslovakia 25,000 345,000
Denmark 2,100 3,200
Dutch East Indies 3-4,000,000
Estonia 51,000
Ethiopia 5,000 100,000
Finland 95,000 97,000
France 217,600 567,600
French Indochina 1-1,500,000
Germany 5,533,000 6,600,000-8,800,000
Greece 20,000-35,000 300,000-800,000
Hungary 300,000 580,000
India 87,000 1,500,000-2,500,000
Italy 301,400 457,000
Japan 2,120,000 2,600,000-3,100,000
Korea 378,000-473,000
Latvia 227,000
Lithuania 353,000
Luxembourg 2,000
Malaya 100,000
Netherlands 17,000 301,000
New Zealand 11,900 11,900
Norway 3,000 9,500
Papua New Guinea 15,000
Philippines 57,000 500,000-1,000,000
Poland 240,000 5,600,000
Rumania 300,000 833,000
Singapore 50,000
South Africa 11,900 11,900
Soviet Union 8,800,000-10,700,000 24,000,000
United Kingdom 383,600 450,700
United States 416,800 418,500
Yugoslavia 446,000 1,000,000

World-Wide Casualties*

Battle Deaths 15,000,000
Battle Wounded 25,000,000
Civilian Deaths 45,000,000

*World-wide casualty estimates vary widely in several sources. The number of civilian deaths in China alone might well be more than 50,000,000.

Lizzie Collingham’s book, The Taste of War, adds to the war’s documented horror. What follows are excerpts from Laurence M. Vance’s review. (4)

The chilling accounts in The Taste of War about Axis food polices come as no surprise: [Herbert Backe] argued that the Wehrmacht could be fed by diverting Ukrainian grain from Soviet cities. This would solve the problem of feeding a vast army while conveniently eliminating the Soviet urban population, who would starve to death.

During the Second World War, the National Socialists would argue that the need to secure a minimum food ration of 2,300 calories per day for ordinary Germans justified the extermination of 30 million urban Soviets, over 1 million Soviet prisoners of war, and at least as many Polish Jews.

The majority of the 100,000 Jews who died in the Warsaw ghetto succumbed to starvation. A proportion of the 200,000 mentally ill victims of Germany’s euthanasia programme and 2.35 million Soviet prisoners of war were all given so little food that they were slowly but systematically starved to death.

Although the National Socialists were at their most ruthless in exporting hunger to the Soviet Union and Poland, the plunder of foodstuffs from other occupied countries resulted in a famine which killed 500,000 in Greece, increased death and infant mortality rates and spread malnutrition, particularly among children, in Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium and Holland. During the Hunger Winter of 1944-45, 22,000 Dutch succumbed to starvation when the Germans cut off supplies to those parts of Holland that the Allies had failed to liberate. Malnutrition and tuberculosis had reached epidemic proportions among children in Czechoslovakia, Greece and Italy.

The relentless extraction of food from China in order to feed the Japanese homeland caused chronic hunger and malnutrition among the Chinese population. It was the Nationalist government’s decision to prioritize the food needs of the army and the bureaucracy over those of the peasantry that made rural famine inevitable, with 2-3 million deaths in the province of Henan alone.

There are no accurate figures for the number of Soviet civilians who died of starvation but it seems safe to estimate that somewhere between 2 and 3 million died of hunger and malnutrition.

Most westerners have never heard of the famine in the Vietnamese region of Tonkin in 1943-44 that probably killed more peasants than all the years of war that followed.

At least 1.5 million Bengalis died during 1943-44, when food scarcity was at its height. Altogether, about 3 million may have died as a result of the famine as epidemics of smallpox, cholera and a particularly nasty strain of malaria that killed those weakened by malnutrition. This was a death toll greater than that for Indians in combat in both the First and Second World Wars, and it overshadows the death toll of 60,000 British civilians killed by aerial bombing.

Meanwhile, in Greece, which was “dependent on the annual import of 450,000 tones of American grain for one-third of its food,” Greeks were starving because “the British blockade of occupied Europe cut Greece off from all imports.” Churchill eventually caved under pressure and lifted the blockade, but not until after “20,000 people had already died of starvation.”

I’ll admit that these statistics mean very little to civilian populations currently suffering the consequences of war and terrorism, but it seems to me that referencing evil in the world as a predictor of the “imminent” Second Coming (5) eventually desensitizes church members and calls into question other Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist Church. (6)

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1. “God’s Mighty Right Arm,” Ted N. C. Wilson. Adventist World—NAD July 2014

2. “The Second Coming of Christ” W. H. Branson. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald- CENTENNIAL SPECIAL 1844 – 1944

  1. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/ww2-by-the-numbers/world-wide-deaths.html
  1. https://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/12/laurence-m-vance/wwii-starvation-of-useless-eaters/
  1. Fundamental Belief Number 25  The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the church, the grand climax of the gospel. The Savior’s coming will be literal, personal, visible, and worldwide. When He returns, the righteous dead will be resurrected, and together with the righteous living will be glorified and taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die. The almost complete fulfillment of most lines of prophecy, together with the present condition of the world, indicates that Christ’s coming is imminent. The time of that event has not been revealed, and we are therefore exhorted to be ready at all times. (boldface mine)  https://www.adventistarchives.org/fundamental-beliefs-of-seventh-day-adventists.pdf
  1. While I freely admit using the word “imminent” has impact, it is also true that its overuse in the context of religious belief can be counterproductive. In the Adventist Review of November 28, 2013, David Trim, Director of the Office of Archives presented the findings of a Landmark Survey of In-depth Beliefs, in which some interesting statistics emerged. “When the [Adventists polled] were asked if they expect the world to end within the next 20 years, just 22 percent of respondents strongly agreed, and 45 percent strongly disagreed.” Mark A. Keller, in his editorial, “Giving Thanks,” in the November 28, 2013, Adventist Review, begins with these words: “Today won’t happen again for another 77,000 years, should time last that long.” (“Today” was a day when Thanksgiving Day in the United States coincided with the first full day of Hanukkah, a coincidence that had not occurred since 1888.) https://www.atodayarchive.org/article/2261/opinion/hanson-andy/imminent-an-adventist-definition