North Korea has nuclear weapons. They’re working to build long-range missiles. And many believe dictator Kim Jong-un is insane. He’s promised to blanket his neighbors in “a sea of fire” and threatens the United States on an almost daily basis. To some, war is imminent, and they’re fearful of what they see coming. But what does it all mean? How does North Korea fit into Bible prophecy? Does the Bible offer any insight?
I believe it does.
While no Bible prophecy specifically calls out North Korea, Jesus pointed to a time when the world will be on edge because of the actions of a country just like it. When asked to describe the signs of His Coming, Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6; Luke 21:9). Can you think of a better description for today’s world? More specifically, can you think of a better description of North Korea itself? Rumors of war between the United States and North Korea fill the daily headlines. Rumors of a regional war escalating into a worldwide conflict also dominate the headlines.
In addition to these rumors of war, North Korea’s pursuit of ever more destructive weapons creates the possibility of death on a scale the world has never before seen. If North Korea sparks a global conflict, it’s easy to imagine “war and slaughter everywhere” (Revelation 6:4) and one-third of the world’s population dead (Revelation 9:18). For centuries, Christians struggled to imagine how such prophecies might be fulfilled. Today, it’s not difficult to imagine.
It’s possible these Bible verses point to nuclear war. We can’t know ahead of time. However, we do know they point to a cataclysmic global war. North Korea has the capability to start such a war. And Kim Jong-un’s saber rattling fits the definition of “rumors of war.” But what’s most important is this – his actions foreshadow a dangerous trend. It’s a trend that will lead to more and more “rumors of war.” And it’s a trend that rekindles a fear many world leaders had in the first decades of the nuclear age.
In 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear bomb. This test kicked off the Cold War and an unprecedented nuclear-arms race. It almost ended in global annihilation. For years, the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.
But eventually, daily fears of an all-out war between the United States and the Soviet Union faded. Leaders of both nations embraced the idea of mutual-assured destruction (MAD), the belief that a nuclear war is unwinnable and thus futile. Fear of total destruction, the idea no one can win a war between two nuclear powers, is all that has kept us from World War III. The concept is less than ideal, but it has worked successfully for over seven decades now.
Because MAD has been so effective in preventing World War III, many people have let their guard down. They’ve forgotten one of the first concerns of the nuclear age – nuclear proliferation. In the early 1950s, world leaders feared the rise of dozens of nuclear powers. They feared each new power would increase the likelihood of a catastrophic war. This was the original fear of the nuclear age. But for the most part, it didn’t happen. When the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty debuted in January 1967, it recognized only five nations as nuclear powers – the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
In the years since, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are the only nations to openly declare they have nuclear weapons. Israel remains purposefully vague about its nuclear status, but is believed to have nuclear weapons. So after seven decades, we only have nine nuclear powers. That’s right. After 70+ years, only nine of the world’s nearly 200 nations have developed nuclear weapons. However, the ninth and most recent nuclear power threatens to change all of that.
This is the true danger posed by North Korea, not its belligerent threats to set the United States on fire. North Korea’s actions promise to plunge the world into all-out war. But it’s not because they’ll launch their nuclear weapons – although they might. The real reason North Korea poses a threat is simply because it has nuclear weapons. That’s right. Just having nuclear weapons is a threat to world peace. Because North Korea’s actions open the door to widespread nuclear-arms development.
North Korea’s Cash Crop
North Korea is an oppressive nation devoid of individual liberty and property rights. Kim Jong-un rules with an iron fist. His country is isolated among the nations of the world. Distrustful of friends and enemies alike, his nation strives to be self-sufficient. The results are abysmal. Outside of the ruling class, everyone lives in poverty. Famine is rampant, and millions go to bed hungry every night.
Aside from imported luxury items for the ruling class, international trade is non-existent. The communist regime stifles free enterprise and innovation, and North Korea doesn’t produce anything a trading partner would find valuable. Well, almost anything.
There is one thing North Korea can offer the world. And it’s a valuable cash crop – nuclear weapons. The leaders of North Korea can barely feed their people, but they’ve done a fairly good job producing weapons of mass destruction.
While we can’t know ahead of time if North Korea will ever use its nuclear weapons, we can know it will play a key role in the outbreak of World War III. How can I be so sure? Because North Korea’s actions put the world on a path to nuclear proliferation. This is the same path world leaders feared most in the 1950s. North Korea proves those early fears weren’t misplaced.
Take Iran for instance. It’s no secret Iran desires nuclear weapons. But earlier this decade, Israel’s Stuxnet cyber attack caused serious damage to Iran’s nuclear program. Is it really a stretch to think Iran will gladly pay North Korea for its nuclear weapons development knowledge? Is it absurd to think North Korea will try to profit by selling its technical know-how to Iran? No. It’s not.
In fact, Iran and North Korea are already working together. Iranian scientists have attended nuclear tests in North Korea. If Iran doesn’t already have nuclear weapons, they’ll have them soon. North Korea is also testing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). If North Korea develops ICBMs, it’s safe to say Iran will have them soon thereafter.
While everyone hopes for the best, it’s naïve to expect these developments won’t have negative consequences. The nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran have made surrounding nations nervous. This means those nations will seek their own nuclear deterrent. Both North Korea and Iran know it’s suicide to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. But what if they attack their neighbors? Are U.S. allies certain America will come to their aid if one of these rogue nations attacks them?
This is exactly what led to the third and fourth nuclear powers in the 1950s. France and the United Kingdom weren’t convinced the United States would defend them from Soviet aggression, so they developed their own nuclear weapons. If allowed to continue, North Korea’s aggressive and belligerent behavior will have the same result. South Korea, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Myanmar, Vietnam, and others are all likely to pursue nuclear weapons if North Korea continues with its threats.
And what happens when Iran announces its own nuclear capability? Just like North Korea, its neighbors will seek their own nuclear weapons to counter Iran’s power in the region. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey are just a few of the nations that will go nuclear.
The end result? In a short period of time, the number of nations with nuclear weapons could easily double – maybe even triple. It’s difficult to imagine this will decrease the chances of war. In fact, it’s a safe bet we’ll see an increased likelihood of war, and not just because more nations will be armed with nuclear weapons. There’s another reason. Nuclear proliferation will create an incentive to develop new weapons – weapons to defend against a nuclear strike. And the most powerful nations on earth – the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union – will pursue these new weapons with every resource they have.
Where We’re Going
In a world where North Korea, Iran, and other rogue nations have nuclear weapons, other nations will heavily invest in new defense measures. These measures will lead to the development of new weapons. These new weapons will be so powerful they’ll render MAD obsolete. These post-MAD weapons include artificial intelligence, quantum computing, molecular manufacturing, and other powerful technologies. Ultimately, they’ll erase the threat of mutual-assured destruction. This is the same threat that has prevented nuclear war for 70+ years. When that happens, World War III will break out. We’ll see the fulfillment of Revelation 6:4 (“war and slaughter everywhere”) as well as several other end-times prophecies. And all of this will happen because of nuclear proliferation.
That’s why North Korea plays a critical role in Bible prophecy. Kim Jung-un is not the Antichrist. He won’t take over the world. But directly or indirectly, his actions will eventually lead to World War III and the rise of the Antichrist.
Will Kim Jong-un and North Korea launch a nuclear weapon and ignite a global war? I don’t know. No one knows. But I do know this – Jesus is coming soon. All the signs are present. And when He comes, the world will enter an age unlike any other. No more tears. No more death. No more sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). What a glorious day that will be! So come, Lord Jesus. Come (Revelation 22:20).
Britt Gillette is author of the free ebook Coming to Jesus: One Man’s Search for Truth and Life Purpose as well as Signs of the Second Coming: 11 Reasons Jesus Will Return in Our Lifetime. Receive his book 7 Signs of the End Times for free when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.