They didn’t tell Leopold Lojka about the change in plans. The original route had been planned very carefully, but that was before a would-be assassin threw a grenade at the Gräf & Stift sports car he drove. The chauffeur quickly swerved, causing the grenade to bounce off the folded top of the car. It exploded underneath the following car in the motorcade, injuring the soldiers in that car, along with some of the bystanders.
After the explosion, Leopold accelerated, and the motorcade proceeded at high speed to the City Hall for an official reception. Although they had no way of knowing it, they had sped so fast past another assassin, a Serbian named Gavrilo Princip, that he had no opportunity to act. After the reception, Archduke Ferdinand insisted on making a detour in order to go by the hospital where those who had been wounded in the earlier attack had been taken. Everyone agreed, but no one informed the chauffeur. So as Leopold drove down the original route, he made a turn down the wrong street.
General Oskar Potiorek, also riding in the car, told Leopold to stop and back up. The chauffeur stopped just in front of a sidewalk café where Gavrilo Princip had positioned himself after his earlier lost opportunity. Seizing the moment, Princip jumped up from his table, brandished his revolver, and ran toward the limousine. Leopold recognized the threat and attempted to back up, but his foot missed the accelerator; thus, for a fatal moment, the limousine remained stationary. Princip fired his revolver twice. His first shot struck Archduke Ferdinand in the throat, and the second one wounded the archduke’s wife Sophie in the abdomen. Within minutes, both the archduke and his wife were dead.
Next the assassin turned his revolver upon himself, but bystanders grabbed his arm and restrained him until the police arrived. Soon it all came out. The conspirators were all Serbs, so the government of Austria-Hungary quickly took countermeasures against its Serbian population.
From this point on, it was all downhill. The majority of Serbs shared the Russian Orthodox faith; because of this religious connection, the Russians felt compelled to support them. So they declared war on Austria-Hungary. Whereupon the Germans, allies of Austria and Hungary, declared war on the Russians. England and France joined the war on the side of Russia. By the time the world’s leaders had time to think rationally about what they were doing, it was too late to stop the momentum.
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand took place on June 28, 1914. By August, virtually every country on mainland Europe had become embroiled in what we know as World War I.*
Shortly after the war began, author H. G. Wells published a series of articles that were compiled into a book with the title The War That Will End War. That phrase soon captured the imagination of the general public in England, and later in America, as “the war to end all wars.”
Those who witnessed that war firsthand might be excused for thinking humanity would never risk such a thing again. Even by modern standards World War I was unimaginably savage and barbaric. Unfortunately, the generals continued to fight the war with military tactics that were common in a previous era: they sent waves of infantry against the enemy. While this strategy might have been effective when both sides used muskets that were minimally accurate up to 150 yards, against machine guns it proved suicidal. Repeatedly, the generals on both sides ordered infantry charges against an entrenched enemy, with grimly predictable results. Soldiers fell in windrows, as interlocking fields of machine gun fire scythed through flesh and blood like so much ripened wheat. The Battle of the Somme alone claimed more than a million casualties. Late in the war, chemical warfare added to the horror.
It seemed impossible that humanity would risk such carnage ever again. Unfortunately, as we all know, despite the appalling waste of that war, many wars have followed. “The war to end all wars” did not achieve its objective.
The war that began all wars
The problem, of course, is that the origins of human conflict lie deeper than any military or diplomatic solution could possibly reach. Indeed, the war that began all wars didn’t even begin on this planet. The book of Revelation tells us that this war began in the most unlikely place: in heaven itself.
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back” (Revelation 12:7). But who is Michael? And who is the dragon?
The name Michael means “who is like God?” And we know from the rest of the Bible that there is only One who is like God: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. John the revelator also makes it very clear that the dragon is the “ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (verse 9).
“But [the dragon] was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven” (verse 8). Christ won that battle, but the war against Him did not end. Instead, it spilled out onto another battlefield—our Earth. Satan “was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (verse 9).
Satan lost the war in heaven and was cast down to our earth. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve believed his lies, and his poisonous rule took root on our planet. Fortunately, Christ volunteered to become a human being and set aside His divine powers for a time in order to live as one of us and defeat Satan. And so the war between Christ and Satan continued.
It’s almost impossible to wrap our minds around the fact that the Supreme Being, Ruler of the entire universe, chose to share our fate, even to the point of being born a helpless infant. This demonstrates the contrast between the ways of God and the ways of His adversary. Demons might attempt to possess a human being, to enslave the human will and body. But God, by taking on humanity Himself, allowed humanity to possess Him! And in doing so, He liberated us! It’s unspeakably amazing, unimaginably gracious, and unfathomably generous.
In ancient times, warring nations practiced single combat. Each army would select a champion, and these two would fight to the death. The ancients believed that whichever champion won that dual foreshadowed the outcome of the larger conflict—that his army would win the battle. We see this, for example, in the story of David and Goliath. Those two fought to the death; and when the Philistine champion lost, the whole Philistine army ran for its life.
When Jesus came to Earth, He met Satan in single combat. There are several hints of this, but we see it most clearly when “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
There, the devil directly confronted Jesus, who had been physically weakened by 40 days without food. Three times Satan tried to defeat Jesus with his temptations, and each time Jesus prevailed. Later, at Calvary, Satan and his angels confronted Jesus on the cross. This time, Jesus died; and according to the tradition of single combat, that was supposed to make Satan ultimately victorious. But in becoming a human Himself, Jesus turned the rules upside down. As C. S. Lewis put it, When Christ as “a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, . . . Death itself would start working backward.”
Defeated, not destroyed
In most wars, one battle stands out as the turning point. In the American Civil War, it was Gettysburg. In World War II, it was the Battle of the Bulge. However, such battles do not end the war. It goes on, but there is never again any doubt about who will win, and defeat is inevitable for the other. Similarly, in this cosmic war—the war that began in heaven—Calvary was the turning point. At the cross, Satan was defeated, but he still is not destroyed.
We still live with “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). For us, these wars seem futile and endless, but Satan knows that he’s a defeated foe, and “he is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
As desperation led to chemical warfare in World War I, so Satan’s desperation will drive him to greater savagery in earth’s final cosmic battle. His pride will never let him surrender, for the Bible tells us that even after Jesus returns in glory—even after 1,000 years to contemplate his crimes—Satan will renew his attacks. But his eventual destruction is assured.
Revelation describes this final battle—the war that truly will end all wars: “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:7–9).
Then, and only then, will war itself end. Ellen White expressed it eloquently: “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.”
* Some authorities date the beginning of World War I to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914; others to July 28, when Austria declared war on Serbia; others to August 1, when Germany declared war on France; and still others to August 4, when Britain declared war on Germany.