When the Doomsday Clock ticked forward to five minutes to midnight just a few days ago, it just made a slight blip on most people's screens. It's been something that hell-and-brimstone preachers have been warning about for what seems a century or two.
However, as a former Middle East bureau chief for a major news-gathering service based in Jerusalem, the words from such political figures as former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich during the Herzliya, Israel security conference had an impact on me. Even more than a dozen sermons.
In blunt words: This planet could be in its death throes or on a life-support system.
When Gingrich spoke via a video hookup, he foresaw Israel as the prime target from Iran and, if that is true, then it could lead to a "second Holocaust."
His chilling words, which appeared in the Jerusalem Post, were these: "We have enemies who are quite explicit in their desire to destroy us. They say it publicly, on television, on Web sites. We are sleepwalking through this as though it is all a problem of communications, and that somehow diplomacy will enable us to come together and have a wonderful fiesta in which we will all learn to love one another."
Of course, he was referring to the savage threats from Iran's strongman, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that nation's nuclear weapons program.
While you may have mulled over Gingrich's words in other reports, they should be repeated and repeated until they sink in, even in Canada, for we are joined at the hip with the U.S., and what happens south of the border will have dire consequences here as well.
Although some may question the validity of Ahmadinejad 's "prophetic vision" of a coming messiah, known to Iran as the Madhi, nevertheless, his pronouncements, even the last few days, are downright sinister and scary, particularly when he and his cohorts are possibly armed and definitely dangerous with nuclear weapons.
In continuing his warning, Gingrich was adamant when he said: "Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. If two or three cities are destroyed because of terrorism, both the U.S. and Israel's democracy will be eroded and both will become greater dictatorial societies.
"What (actions) are you in Israel going to take if tomorrow morning Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv would be destroyed? Similarly, the U.S. needs to consider what policies it would advance if in 24 hours, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco were destroyed. These threats will become even more imminent in two or five years' time."
Even during the Herzliya conference, Canada's Foreign Minister, Peter MacKay, stated he was "deeply concerned about Iran" and insisted that Tehran must not be allowed to obtain N-weapons. However, just wishing will not evaporate Iran's stockpile, according to a growing number of experts.
While Iran now has come to the forefront as the major threat to world security, a giant nation, China, has spread fear, although on a relatively small scale, at the moment.
On Wednesday, Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, voiced his concern about China firing a missile to destroy an "obsolete" satellite orbinting some 500 miles above the earth.
According to news analyst, Bill Wilson, "this single event has the possibility of escalating an arms race in space that could make the Star Wars movie series look like prophecy."
Wilson went on to comment that the U.S., Australia, Britain, South Korea and even Canada have, or are preparing, diplomatic protests.
So the dangers are here on earth as well as in the heavens.
In his analytical report, Wilson had this comment: "The apocalyptic Bible book of Revelation predicts a massive military assembly originating from China in the latter days, "Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and it water dried up so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared."
And, of course, there are preachers such as John Hagee, who are deeply concerned.
In Jerusalem Countdown, the front cover has these words: Iran's president has said, "Israel must be wiped off from the map of the world." And then Hagee on the back cover writes: "We are on a countdown to crisis. A nuclear showdown with Iran is apparent. The battle for Jerusalem has begun. This war will affect every person on Planet Earth."