History’s Costliest War

World War II claimed between 40 million and 72 million lives.  Courtesy of miltary.wikia.com
World War II claimed between 40 million and 72 million lives.  Courtesy of military.wikia.com

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does – 2 Cor. 10:3 (NIV)

To quote the 20th century prophet, Edwin Starr, “War, huh, yeah. What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!”  War has existed from nearly eternity past and has accounted for the deaths of untold millions of people.  This got me to thinking.  What were the costliest wars in the history of mankind?  With a little help from my friend, Google, I set about to do my research.  I approached the answer to my question from several angles.  What was the costliest war in terms of total loss of human life?  This title belongs to World War II, where an estimated 40 million to 72 million people lost their lives.  World War II was a global conflict engulfing most of the world’s nations.  It introduced new weapons technology such as nuclear weapons, the ramifications of which we are still grappling with today.

Another way to answer the question of the world’s costliest war is to assess the loss of life based on the world’s population at the time the war was fought.  Over the long term the world’s population has been growing.  Today it estimated at just over seven billion people. By contrast, in the year 1,000 the world had an estimated population of 310 million people, the number of people alive just in the United States today.  On this basis, history’s costliest war was a war I had never heard of, the An Lushan Rebellion.  The An Lushan Rebellion took place in China during the eight century.  It lasted eight years and accounted for the lives of 33 million people, an estimated 14% of the world’s population at that time.

However a war has been raging that has accounted for a greater loss of life than War World II and the An Lushan Rebellion.  In fact more people have been harmed by this war than the cumulative effects of all wars ever waged.  This war even predates man and is still going on today.  It is the war led by Satan and his fallen angels against the kingdom of God.

Before the dawn of man, Satan, then known as Lucifer, was a leading angel.  Lucifer was powerful, but not all powerful, and he led an angelic rebellion to usurp God’s authority.  The war that ensued saw Lucifer along with a third of the angels being expelled from heaven. (For scripture references of this account, please see Isaiah 14:12, Luke 10:17-20 and Revelation 12:1-12.)  He is now active upon earth seeking to torment mankind.  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Lucifer, whose name ironically meant, “bringer of dawn or light,” has now transformed into Satan, which means “opposer or accuser.”

Satan accuses mankind before God (see Job 1:9-11) and accuses God before mankind (see Genesis 3:1-5).  His tempting of Adam and Eve ushered sin and death into the world.  Sin is at the root of war, so Satan’s war against God is really the antecedent to every war ever fought.  Although, Satan’s war may manifest itself in the battlefields of the earth, it is first waged in the battlefield of the mind.  One of the chief weapons Satan uses against the children of God is to get us to doubt God’s goodness toward us or  to doubt that God is not powerful enough to ensure his benevolence towards us.

Scripture encourages us to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and God has not left us unprepared to do battle.  We are instructed to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-15).  Those who play full contact sports like football and hockey would not think of playing games without the appropriate protective equipment.  Our battle against the forces of evil is as full contact as it gets, yet many times we take the field of play and leave our equipment in the locker room.

Ultimately we must remember that though we are at war, victory has already been assured.  Christ’s death and resurrection has taken care of that.

In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory.  In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, Satan will have to flee. . . .


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  1. Excellent, thought-provoking. War is always evil. I look forward to the final battle, already won by God, when there will be no more war!

    1. Thanks for the kind comments. I too look forward to a place where the “wicked will cease from troubling and the weary will be at rest.”