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What Ends the War?

At 11:00am (Paris time), on November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent over the battlefields of Western Europe. In a railway carriage parked in a forest located about 40 miles north of Paris, France, the Armistice was signed by representatives from both the Allied Armies as well as those in the enemy forces of Germany.

Students of history will know that this hour and day has now been remembered as the day the war ended. It was the Great War, or the “War to End All Wars.”

What is not well-known is that a peace treaty was not reached immediately. The Armistice went through three revisions until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. It would be almost six more months until the actual treaty became effective on January 10, 1920.

The Great War took the lives of just shy of 10 million military personnel from both the Allied Powers and the combined enemy forces consisting mainly of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that approximately 7.5 million civilians were also killed.

There are times that the thunderclouds of war obscure the reality of hope and the future. Such was the case even within theological circles. A doctrine, known as postmillennialism, was widely adhered to within mainstream denominationalism. This is simply the teaching that the world will get better and better, and ultimately, it will usher in an age of peace for all of mankind after which Jesus Christ will return.

The events leading up to World War 1, and its eventual aftermath, destroyed the cherished dreams of theologians, politicians, and the general populace. The fragile calm that prevailed during the first decade or so of the 20th century allowed many to think that the rapidly developing world would become a peaceful utopia.

Sadly, the politics of government festered underneath the surface. Previous wars between enemies helped to fuel the fires of discontent, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 simply was the spark that would bring mayhem and destruction to the countries of Europe.

In fact, the unresolved conflicts at the end of World War 1 continued to devolve the relationship between the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles. Hatred, bitter disputes, and the unreasonable restrictions of the peace treaty saw the rise of the Third Reich of Germany and, of course, the bloodbath that became known as World War II.

One little known fact about the end of World War I is that fighting actually continued in the early morning hours of November 11, 1918. Both the Allies and the German forces knew that the Armistice was due to be signed, but the Allies took advantage of the upcoming surrender. They attempted to get the upper hand in the trenches just in case and this resulted in almost 11,000 more casualties. Out of those casualties, almost 3,000 of them died.

One casualty was an American soldier who charged German troops and was shot 60 seconds before the war ended. It is said that this soldier was the last casualty of World War I. Truly, this would have been a tragic way for a soldier’s life to end with only 60 seconds separating him from being able to safely return to his waiting family back in Baltimore, Maryland.

One hundred years later, our small little planet continues to be racked with pain and turmoil. Governments insist on sending troops into battle for the sake of political gain, while troops march bravely thinking it is all about freedom.

Freedom is elusive though and few will recognize that we have less freedom today than were present 100 years ago. Successive wars during this last century have brought us no closer to a peaceful utopia, and peace treaties signed hold no true validity. Hope is vain for those who depend on countries and governments to do what is right.

Remembrance Day 2018 should be a solemn time for us as we dredge the pages of history. We must try to learn from the tragic mistakes of our past and the past of our ancestors. If we do not, then we will fail even more miserably than did the generations of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

Will their sacrifices be in vain this Remembrance Day? Will more have to die in the elusive search for glory that ultimately only offers the destruction of the souls of men?

Peace cannot be produced by governments who are determined to only look after their own self-interests. If we fail to learn this truth, then they will all have died in vain.