Note: This post starts with a massive disclaimer. Whenever the word "nuclear" appears on a religious blog online, the rest of the content usually isn't worth reading. With that said, please divide this post in your judgment into two sections: (a) a mere conjecture that hellfire could be caused in part by God cleaning up all the nuclear weapons, and (b) Satan suffering from His own wicked inventions that he intended against God and His people. While I am not even 50% confident that hellfire is part nuclear, I am confident that this blog presents hellfire in a completely new light, one that reinforces the depictions of the justice of God's retributive judgment and the total depravity of Satan's rebellion.
I believe that our modern take on hell has largely been shaped by at least three influences:
- Greek mythology
- Dante’s Inferno
- Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Each of these influences show God as the innovator and grand architect of hell. They intimate that since the foundation of the world, God has designed hell to scare us into heaven.
A few days ago, I read the following in the penultimate chapter of Ellen White’s Great Controversy, where she writes about hell:
The indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and His fury upon all their armies: He hath utterly destroyed them, He hath delivered them to the slaughter.” “Upon the wicked He shall rain quick burning coals, fire and brimstone and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” Isaiah 34:2; Psalm 11:6. Fire comes down from God out of heaven. The earth is broken up. The weapons concealed in its depths are drawn forth. Devouring flames burst from every yawning chasm. The very rocks are on fire. The day has come that shall burn as an oven. The elements melt with the fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein are burned up. Malachi 4:1; 2 Peter 3:10. The earth’s surface seems one molten mass–a vast, seething lake of fire. It is the time of the judgment and perdition of ungodly men–“the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. 1
When I read this, I thought to myself, "hmm…. I wonder what weapons are concealed in the earth."
According to the Federation of American Scientists’ 2017 report, there are about 14,900 nuclear weapons around the world. 6,8000 are owned by the United States, and 7,000 by Russia. Growing up, I remember hearing statistics that we have more than ample nuclear weapons to destroy the world’s population, etc… If all of the world’s nukes went off at the same time, they would create a fireball the size of Indiana, kill everyone with radiation poisoning in an area the size of Arizona, and give third degree burns to everyone in the area the size of the Missippi river basin (everything between the Appalachians and the Rockies). After the former paragraph, Ellen White writes:
The wicked receive their recompense in the earth. Proverbs 11:31. They "shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts." Malachi 4:1. Some are destroyed as in a moment, while others suffer many days.2
This description matches the fate of many of those who were bombed by nuclear weapons in earth’s history: some were destroyed instantly by the fervent heat, while others suffered for days and even weeks from third-degree burns and radiation poisoning induced by the atomic bomb.
What else do we know about hellfire from scripture?
- Hell is unquenchable (Mark 9:43): The bombs instantly set fire to every structure within several miles of ground zero. There was no possible way that human firefighters could extinguish the bombs, and it was infeasible for residents to escape the blaze once it started.
- Described as a burning lake of brimstone (Revelation 19:20, 21:8). In the blazing furnace, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42, 50): After the detonation of the atomic bombs in Japan, the sky was filled with "black rain." One chemical explanation of this black rain was that it was radioactive fission byproducts mixing moisture in the atmosphere. Survivors described the black rain as smelling bad, and it gave a painful burning sensations on the skin. In the immense heat, many tried to get the black rain to fall on their tongues to quench their thirst.
- Sodom and Gomorrah were at type of hell (Jude 1:7): In July 16, 1945, the United States tested a plutonium-based bomb near Alamogordo, New Mexico in what became known as the Trinity nuclear bomb test. Close to the detonation of the bomb, where the temperatures reached an estimated 8430 °K, the sand was transformed into a greenish compound new known as Trinitite. Trinitite has also been found in locations near the dead sea, where Sodom and Gomorrah are believed to have been. The presence of Trinitite suggests that there was a moment in history when the temperature in this region (and not the surrounding desert) reached several thousands of degrees.
- Heaven and Earth Pass Away in a Roar (2 Peter 3:7, 10): Peter describes that the earth is going to pass away in a fire that melts elements, and causes an incredibly loud "roar." When a nuclear bomb explodes, there is an initial shockwave followed by a rushing wind on the nearby surfaces as air is sucked into the column beneath the mushroom cloud.
Again, I wish to reiterate that all of this here is speculation. I don't want to assert that the Bible explicitly says that Hell will be caused by nuclear weapons. However, what we know about nuclear weapons matches what scripture uses to describe hellfire.
Why Might Nuclear Weapons Be God's Choice for Hell?
In the Great Controversy, Ellen White describes that immediately before hellfire begins, the human race and all the forces of Satan have aligned themselves in military array against God:
At last the order to advance is given, and the countless host moves on--an army such as was never summoned by earthly conquerors, such as the combined forces of all ages since war began on earth could never equal. Satan, the mightiest of warriors, leads the van, and his angels unite their forces for this final struggle. Kings and warriors are in his train, and the multitudes follow in vast companies, each under its appointed leader. With military precision the serried ranks advance over the earth's broken and uneven surface to the City of God. By command of Jesus, the gates of the New Jerusalem are closed, and the armies of Satan surround the city and make ready for the onset.3
We know from Revelation 12:7-8 that Satan engaged in warfare in heaven before. If Satan could not prevail in times past, then there must be some convincing evidence that he can present to the fallen angels as to why it may be possible for him to win now.
Two things have changed between Revelation 12:7-8 and Revelation 20:8-9.
- First, Satan now commands an army not only of fallen angels, but also vast throngs of wicked humanity, numbering perhaps in the billions.4
- Second, humanity has developed in the last few centuries highly efficient methods of killing things (missiles, RPGs, machine guns, military aircraft, and nuclear weapons). If things like ethics and the Geneva convention were set aside, and all the military efforts and technology were focused on the New Jerusalem, it's possible that Satan could convince his followers that 15,000 nukes could make a decent dent in the New Jerusalem.
In Scripture, however, there are many examples where the wicked conspired to use their might or plans to overthrow the righteous, only to have their plans used against themselves:
- Haman intended Mordecai to be hung on 75-foot-tall gallows (Esther 5:14, 7:6-10). Once the king ordered Haman to be hung on the device he planed for Mordecai, the king's fury subsided.
- The political rivals of Daniel created legislation that would have him thrown into a den of lions (Daniel 6:5-9). Once Daniel was miraculously preserved, and the evil motives of his rivals were exposed, the king ordered those who had accused Daniel to be thrown into the den they designed Daniel to be killed in (Daniel 6:24).
In Ezekiel 38, Ezekiel prophecies against the powers of Gog and Magog (the same prophetic army that is identified as trying to take the New Jerusalem in Revelation 20:7-8. Using the same language as Isaiah 24:22, Ezekiel 38:8 puts the prophetic context of this chapter at the close of the millennium. The people are described as being a cloud that covers the land with many people (Ezekiel 38:9,15-16), in order to take the cities where the righteous dwell safely (Ezekiel 38:14). God promises to send a mighty shaking such that the army turns all of its implements of war against itself (Ezekiel 38:19-21).
It is possible that at this event, every weapon that was designed to destroy the city of God is used in confusion against Satan's own army. This was the case in the camp of the Midianites (Judges 7:22), the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:20), and the Ammonites and the Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:23).5 In the process of the self-destruction, God describes a complete annihilation that would imagine from all modern weapons going off in a brief, yet terrifying free-for-all "And I will enter into judgment against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone." While this language seems to give God the agency for the destruction, we are told elsewhere in scripture that Satan has had the power (and will have the power) to call down fire from heaven and make it look like God did it (Job 1:16, Revelation 13:13).
One of the strongest themes in the poetic books of the Bible is that the schemes of the wicked will ultimately be turned back on themselves (Job 5:12; Psalm 7:15-16, 9:15-16, 10:2, 21:11, 33:10, 35:8, 57:6, 141:10; Proverbs 5:22, 26:27, 28:10, 29:6-10; Ecclesiastes 10:8; Esther 9:25). In fact, this was core to the punishment of false accusers in ancient Israel. In Deuteronomy 19:16-21, Israel was instructed that if a malicious witness false accused someone of a crime, and the false-witness was found to be lying, they were instructed:
Do to the false witness as the witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand.
I recognize that anybody blog post internet that combines Bible verses with the phrase "nuclear weapons" has close to zero credibility. But if you take the nuclear weapons out of this post, I believe there is a theme presented in scripture:
- Satan was a liar and a murderer since the beginning (John 8:44)
- Satan sought to overthrow God, but could not prevail (Revelation 12:7-8)
- Because Satan could not kill God, he now seeks to destroy God's people (Revelation 12:12). Through the use of modern warfare, Satan has become very skilled at mass destruction.
- The time will come when everything that Satan has designed to do against God and His people will return to Him, and He will suffer at the hand of His own schemes.
With this arc in mind, hellfire isn't so much God's arbitrary decision to subject people to a systematic torture system akin to Dante's Inferno. Instead, hellfire is an invention of Satan that Satan intended for God and His followers, that Satan Himself is caste into (Deuteronomy 19:19-21). One day, spiritual Babylon, and all of it's schemes to destroy the people of God, will suffer at it's own hands:
All those who live by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52)
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Babylon's thick wall will be leveled and her high gates set on fire; the people exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations' labor is only fuel for the flames (Jeremiah 51:58)
Therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. (Ezekiel 28:18)
Ellen White, The Great Controversy. p. 672-673 ↩
Ellen White, The Great Controversy. p. 673 ↩
White, Ellen G. The Great Controversy p 664. ↩
Matthew 7:13 says that broad is the gate that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. If we assume many to be at a minimum 51%, then we can assume as a lower bound that Satan's army contains several billion adult humans. ↩
Compare also to Isaiah 19:2, Haggai 2:22, 2 Kings 9:32-37 ↩