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  • Daniel Botkin

Unconditional Surrender (“Thank God for the Atom Bomb”)


Around 1990 I read a book by Paul Fussell, a World War 2 veteran who became a college professor, author, and literary critic. The title of Fussell’s book was Thank God For the Atom Bomb. This was also the title of an essay he wrote, which was published in The New Republic in 1981.

You might be thinking, “Daniel, why would anyone thank God for the Atom Bomb? And what does thanking God for the Atom Bomb have to do with us and our worship today?”

I will get to that, but first let me explain what inspired me to write this article.

One summer day a young man was helping me with some yard work. As we worked, we were discussing the need for people to count the cost of discipleship. I mentioned to this brother that Japan’s full and unconditional surrender to America in World War 2 is a good illustration of how we should surrender unconditionally to the will of the Lord. When we agree to follow Jesus/Yeshua, we set no conditions. We make no demands. We simply say, “I surrender. Now tell me what You want me to do.”

It was probably no more than an hour after this discussion about Japan’s surrender, when I went into my house to see if I had any messages on Facebook. I had no private messages, but I saw something that had been posted by a Facebook Buddy, a Christian I knew back in the early 1970s. Here is what he posted:

“Tomorrow [July 26] marks the anniversary of the final ultimatum given to Japan of unconditional, absolute surrender, or suffer devastating losses. There could be no negotiations, or qualifications, or ‘we will surrender, but’ requests. Only unconditional surrender, or else. Sadly, most Christians today have not been taught that this is exactly what Jesus Christ requires of us to follow Him. Unconditional surrender! No deals. No meeting Him half way. Not promising to be a better person. Only absolute surrender or face unimaginable loss. Just remember, the Japanese did not think they were bad people, either, but they were given one choice and one choice only. Absolute surrender! Let us also follow Christ with that very attitude of complete and unconditional surrender.”

Because of the timing of this Facebook post, right after my conversation with a young brother about Japan’s surrender, and because of the timing of the July 26 anniversary of the ultimatum (which I did not realize at the time), I was inspired to write on this subject.


THE INSANITY OF WAR

Before I elaborate on Japan’s surrender, let me first discuss the subject of war in general. At heart I am a pacifist. I am a peace-loving guy with no desire to hurt anybody. When I think of the idea of warfare, it seems like utter insanity to me. You line up a group of young men and put deadly weapons in their hands. You have them face another group of young men who have deadly weapons in their hands. You tell the men in your group:

“Now try to kill, cripple, maim, and blind as many of the guys in the other group as you can. And try to stay alive, because the other group will be trying to kill you. The longer you manage to stay alive, the more of them you can kill. And this is important, because whichever team kills the most people gets to tell the survivors of the losing team what they have to do, like in the game ‘Simon Says.’”

From the perspective of a peace-loving guy like me, that seems like utter madness.

So at heart I am a pacifist. However, I am also a realist. I realize that pacifism only works if everyone agrees to be a pacifist. In the Messianic kingdom, after swords are beaten into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks, everyone will be peace-loving people and there will be no more war. But in the meantime, there is “a time of war, and a time of peace” (Eccl. 3:8).


A TIME OF WAR

As most Americans know, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This unprovoked attack drew America into the war in the South Pacific. It was a very brutal, bloody, barbaric war. The Japanese were determined to win the war or die trying. For them, surrender was not an option. Suicide was more honorable than surrender, as evidenced by kamikaze pilots who flew suicide missions against American ships.

America was planning a land invasion. American and British soldiers were going to invade Japan with rifles and bayonets and engage in hand-to-hand combat. America expected the land invasion to last a full year, and they expected one million American soldiers to be killed. The planners of the invasion said that those men who went into Japan in the first five waves of assault would probably all be killed.

Paul Fussell was 21 years old at that time. He was one of those men assigned to invade Japan. Fussell writes about himself and the other soldiers who were preparing for that invasion. Fussell and his companions were not only preparing themselves militarily; they were also preparing themselves psychologically. They resigned themselves to the fact that they were almost certainly going to die young. They would never be able to get married and have children. They would never again see their homes and families. They would never grow old. They were going to die young, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Unknown to them at the time, historical events were unfolding. On July 26, 1945, President Harry S Truman gave Japan an ultimatum. He told Japan that if they did not unconditionally surrender, they would suffer “prompt and utter destruction.”

Japan ignored this ultimatum. So nine days later, on August 4, 720,000 leaflets were dropped over Hiroshima, warning the residents to leave. Hiroshima was going to be obliterated, the leaflets warned.


THE BOMBING OF JAPAN

Two days later, on August 6, the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, instantly killing tens of thousands of people. (Estimates range from 70,000 to 80,000 immediately killed, with tens of thousands dying later from injuries and radioactive poisoning.)

President Truman issued a second ultimatum: “The British, Chinese, and United States Governments have given the Japanese people adequate warning of what is in store for them ... Our warning went unheeded; our terms were rejected. Since then the Japanese have seen what our atomic bomb can do. They can foresee what it will do in the future. The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. But that attack is only a warning of things to come. If Japan does not surrender, bombs will have to be dropped on her war industries and, unfortunately, thousands of civilian lives will be lost. I urge Japanese civilians to leave industrial cities immediately, and save themselves ... Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare. We have used it to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans ... It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth....”

Japan refused to surrender after this warning that followed the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima. So on August 9 the Atom Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, instantly killing tens of thousands.


JAPAN’S SURRENDER

On August 15, Japan agreed to unconditionally surrender.

Paul Fussell writes about the effect these bombings had on him and his companions who had resigned themselves to certain death in a land invasion. Fussell says that when he and his companions learned that the bombings had made a land invasion unnecessary, these tough, battle-hardened soldiers “broke down and cried with relief and joy.”

Their joy was not over the death of Japanese people; their joy and relief was due to the fact that the land invasion was now unnecessary. That is the reason Fussell said, “Thank God for the Atom Bomb.”

I am writing about these events neither to justify nor to condemn the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I will let God be the Judge of that. As I said, I am a peace-loving guy, a pacifist at heart but a realist in real life. I am writing about these events because they hold important spiritual lessons for us. By looking at America’s war with Japan, we can see parallels in our spiritual experience that correlate with these events.


SPIRITUAL LESSONS

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and thereby made themselves an enemy of the United States. In a similar way, the very first time you committed a sin, you thereby made yourself an enemy of God.

“An enemy of God? Because of one sin? Isn’t that a little extreme?”

Ask Adam and Eve if one single sin can make a big difference. Or ask the Apostle James. James will tell you that merely wanting to be a friend of the world is enough to make you an enemy of God. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Japan was stubborn and determined to wage war and never surrender. When you committed your second sin, your third sin, your fourth sin, you gradually became stubborn and set in your ways. You were determined to live your life the way you wanted, according to your desires.

“No God is going to tell me how to live, what I shalt and shalt not do! My body, my choice; my life, my choice!”

Maybe your mouth did not utter those exact words, but your sinful actions, even if few in number, revealed that this was the attitude of your heart.

Just as America gave Japan an ultimatum and demanded unconditional surrender, so the Lord gives us an ultimatum of absolute surrender. “Except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Obey and be blessed, or disobey and be cursed. Turn or burn.

Just as America dropped 720,000 leaflets to warn the residents of Hiroshima of the coming destruction, so the Lord sends warnings through Moses, the Prophets, the Apostles, and His Son. God gives ample warning before He destroys.

After Japan rejected America’s ultimatum, America gave a demonstration of its power to obliterate an entire city in an instant. America was not bluffing.

God likewise gave a demonstration of His power to obliterate an entire city when He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrha, fire so intense that merely looking back at the city from a distance could turn a person into a pillar of salt. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha is set forth as an example for us, so we can avoid an even worse fate. Jude writes about “Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Like Paul Fussell said “Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” so we can say “Thank God for Sodom and Gomorrha.” We can say that because we have been warned by the example of Sodom and Gomorrha; we can escape the vengeance of eternal fire. Just as Paul Fussell and his companions broke down and cried tears of joy and relief, so we should break down and cry tears of joy and relief that we are saved from the fate of lost sinners described by Yeshua, where He speaks three times about a place “where their worm dieth not” and “the fire that shall never be quenched.” (See Mark 9:43-48.)

People often disagree about some of the details of the afterlife, because the Bible does not describe every little bit of information about the afterlife in precise detail. But some details are quite clear. Regardless of what you believe about the fate of unrepentant sinners in the afterlife, it is clear that there is some sort of irretrievable loss. Regardless of what form the “worm” and the “fire” take, a never-dying worm needs something for food, and a never-dying fire needs something for fuel, because “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out” (Prov. 26:20).

According to Isaiah, it appears that the carcases of transgressors will provide the food for the never-dying worm and the fuel for the never-dying fire, as it is written, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Isa. 66:24).

This “fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43 & 45) will be worse than the fire and brimstone that fell on Sodom and Gomorrha and worse than the fire that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because those fires were quenched.

“Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” said Paul Fussell and his companions. “Thank God for Sodom and Gomorrha,” I say.

America gave its first fiery demonstration of power at Hiroshima, and warned of a second fiery demonstration if Japan refused to surrender. God gave His first fiery demonstration of His power at Sodom and Gomorrha, and He warns of a second fiery demonstration at the return of His Son, when “the Lord Yeshua shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).

This fiery demonstration of atomic bomb proportion is described by Zechariah: “And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth” (Zech. 14:12).


THE LORD’S DEMAND FOR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

Like America demanded unconditional surrender from Japan, so the Lord demands unconditional surrender from you. Have you unconditionally surrendered to the Lord in preparation for that Great Day?

Unconditional surrender means you lay everything on the altar. You surrender all that you have and all that you are. Your plans, your hopes, your dreams for the future. Your place of residence, your home, your possessions, your money. Your career, your job, your hobbies and habits. Your schedule, your use of time, your calendar, your holidays. Your tongue, your voice, the way you talk. Your dress and your physical appearance. Your pets and your pet doctrines. Your human relationships, your circle of friends, even your family. Your world view, your theology, your personal opinions and preferences.

When Japan unconditionally surrendered to America, they in effect said, “Now tell us what we must do.” When Saul of Tarsus met the Lord on the road to Damascus, he trembled and said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). In like manner, the Lord wants us to unconditionally surrender to Him.

When we lay everything on the altar, we are agreeing to let the Lord take away whatever He wants to take away. (As if He needed our permission!) We are agreeing to keep only those things He lets us keep.

“But we never can prove the delight of His love until all on the altar we lay.” So says the old hymn “Trust and Obey.”


HINDRANCES TO SURRENDER

Why do some people refuse to unconditionally surrender to the Lord? Some people refuse because they are stubborn and selfish and rebellious. They think they are smarter than God; they think they know a better way to live their life than the way God has prescribed. And they think God is bluffing when He warns them about the awful consequences of rejecting His ultimatum.

Other people refuse to unconditionally surrender because of fear. They are afraid of what God might take away from them. This fear comes from a lack of trust in God. It is a denial of God’s wisdom and His love and His good intentions. If He takes away something that is precious to us, He has a reason for it. “Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.”

Some fearful people think, If I unconditionally surrender to the Lord, He will make my life miserable. He will take away things that are necessary for my happiness. He will make me live in some horrible place that I hate. He will make my life sad and lonely and miserable.

Do you realize that was exactly what the Japanese expected when they unconditionally surrendered to America? When Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender to the people of Japan, he said this:

“The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great ... However it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.”

Japan expected America to subject them to great hardships and sufferings. They expected their surrender to bring unendurable suffering to their nation. But they were wrong! America listed the following demands:


1. Japan will forget about world conquest.

2. Japan will occupy Japanese territory where we tell them.

3. The Japanese military will be totally disarmed, and soldiers will be permitted to return to their homes and lead peaceful, productive lives.

4. Cruel war criminals will be brought to justice, but we have no intention to enslave you as a race or to destroy you as a nation.


President Truman added: “Eventually Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.”

Today I drive a Nissan. How many of you drive a Nissan, a Toyota, a Mazda, or a Honda?

Japan’s unconditional surrender to America turned Japan into a friend of America and brought economic prosperity and blessing to Japan.

Paul Fussell says that Japan was “humiliated, tamed, and constitutionalized by the West.” When we unconditionally surrender to the Lord, we become humbled, tamed, and “Torahtized.” We become a friend of God and He blesses us instead of destroying us.


THE BLESSING OF SURRENDER

Consider this. If Japan’s unconditional surrender to America, an imperfect earthly nation, brought them temporal earthly blessings, how much more will your unconditional surrender to God, a perfect heavenly Father, bring you eternal heavenly blessings?

Those who unconditionally surrender to the Lord become a friend of Jesus/Yeshua. “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14f).

You will always be Yeshua’s servant, but you can be more than a servant. You can be His friend. You can be even more than His friend. You can be His brother or sister. After His Resurrection, He told Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren....” (John 20:17).

“For both He that sanctifieth [Yeshua] and they who are sanctified [us] are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).

As we surrender, we progress from being His servant, to being His friend, to being His brother. Yeshua wants to be your Elder Brother. You will still be His servant and friend, but He will be your Elder Brother who also wants to be your companion as you serve Him.

I was the firstborn of my parents, so I never had an elder brother. But I have one now, and I love Him. He is my constant companion. He wants to be your Elder Brother and constant companion too. Unconditionally surrender to Him, and it will change your life. You will not regret it.


| DB

 

Image: The Sacrifice of Abraham, 1635 (oil on canvas) by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-69)

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Frank Payne
Frank Payne
Dec 11, 2023

There is no salvation without obedience, for grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness. It is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. The one who is born of God cannot help but to obey unconditionally.

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