How will the world end? Will it end? Some are concerned that, in five billion years the sun will have used up all its energy and life will no longer be sustainable on planet earth. Others fear a nuclear accident or war could be the catalyst for the “end” to arrive. Sincere environmentalists worry about global warming, the exhaustion of natural resources, and our profligacy as stewards of the environment. Those blessed with more fertile imaginations envision aliens from outer space descending in space crafts, invading and subduing planet earth. Still others fear destruction through an errant asteroid colliding with us and destroying our planet. Just recently, the eminent professor, Stephen Hawking, advised that we had to vacate planet earth within 100 years if the human race is to survive. He sees planet earth as increasingly “precarious,” and has suggested colonizing the moon or attempting to relocate to Mars.
T. S. Eliot, in his famous line from The Hollow Man stated, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” Many and intriguing are the plots which have been suggested.
How will the world end – or will it end? Is history cyclical, as eastern cultures deem it, destined to continue through endless cycles? Is it non-directional, as humanism sees it? Or is history linear, with a terminus, a destination? Is the reality that of the atheist, as represented in the writings of Richard Dawkins when he penned these words: “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good; nothing but blind, pitiless indifference”? Will it end? And if so, how will it end?
That it will end, we can be sure: “Then cometh the end” (1Cor 15:24, KJV). History does have a direction, a goal toward which all is moving. And there is a hand which is guiding and overseeing all of the events of time. There is the final phase of redemption waiting to be accomplished. The cross of the Lord Jesus assures that there is a future and an “end” in sight. His work of redemption has assured the resurrection of our bodies and the release of creation from bondage or corruption (Rom 8:19-23).
We should not be oblivious to the concerns expressed by others. As believers, we should not be remiss in our stewardship of the environment. We should cooperate, and obey all laws which men, with good intention, have legislated to preserve our environment. We must not be brash prophets who deny the possibility of nuclear war or destruction. We are enjoined to pray for conditions of peace (1Tim 2:1-2). We can be certain it will not mean the end to civilization. As far as the fears of an alien invasion, asteroids colliding with us, or the sun dying out in five billion years, I am not quite sure how we respond to those. I think we can pass on them for now.
One of the exalted titles of our Lord Jesus is that He is :”The Beginning and The End” (Rev 21:6; 22:13, KJV). Thus, everything originated with Him, and everything will consummate with Him. History does have a direction. There is an end in sight. Having said this, the context must always be considered when the expression “the end” is employed in Scripture. Readers of the events in chapters 14 and 24 of Matthew will note the frequent mention of “the end.” An appreciation of the setting will show that the end spoken of is not “the end” of which I am writing. There can be an end to a series of events. Then there can be an end to all the events of all series. The end envisioned in Matthew 24, and some related passages, is the terminus of the great tribulation period.
There is another end which we await. We are looking for the Lord from heaven. We refer to this as the rapture. While it will “end” many things for us, it will not be “the end.” It will end our time on earth; it will end our mortality, our frailty, our limited capacity, and the ignominy to which our bodies have been subjected due to sin. It will end our days of testimony on earth and our sorrows. It will end days of separation from loved ones who have gone home to heaven before us. But it will not be “the end.” The full fruit of His redemptive work has not been completed.
The Word of God teaches that, subsequent to the rapture, a time of tribulation will follow for the earth. It will be seven years of sorrow such as has not been known in prior ages (Matt 24:21). That period of seven years is divided in half, with the intensity of the sorrows and plagues greatly increased in the last three and a half years. That period will end with the advent of the Lord Jesus, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Thes 1:8. KJV). That is not “the end.” The final and eternal effects of His work at Calvary have not yet been realized.
What will ensue will indeed be the golden age of all of history. There will be a 1000-year reign by the Lord Jesus over the entire globe. “The earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num 14:21, KJV) just as God promised and prophesied at the occasion of the failure of the nation. Peace, prosperity, and plenty will mark the earth in that day. The knowledge of God will saturate the globe, and men will come to worship in Jerusalem. The transformation from present conditions will be nothing short of astounding. Holiness will mark the common and mundane. Global peace will be enforced by the King of Kings. War will be no more. Swords will become ploughshares, and spears, instruments for reaping the bounty which will mark the renewed earth. Injustice and inequity will be reversed, and the poor and needy will have His special attention (Psa 72). Environmental crises, global warming, shrinking resources, and over-population will all be solved by the Wonderful-Counselor Who will need no cabinet or advisors. As the King-Priest on His throne, He will rule with both wisdom and power. Earth will have a new beginning which it will enjoy for 1000 years. As wonderful and glorious as this time will be, it is not “the end.” While we are getting closer to “the end” and seeing more and more of the fruits of His sacrifice on the cross, there is more to come.
It is almost unbelievable that at the close of this golden age of human prosperity, Satan, having been interred for the 1000 years, will be released and will find willing and ready accomplices to join him in his final desperate attempt to wrest control of the world from God. With an economy of words, John tells us that, without even a battle, fire will devour Satan’s army and he himself will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:7-10). Finally, the old serpent, the dragon, the deceiver, the accuser of the brethren, Satan, has met his end. But this is not “the end.”
Paul and Peter both give us the details of “the end.” Paul tells us of the glory and majesty of Christ in that moment. Peter tells of the government and might of God at that moment. Listen first, then, to Paul. “Then cometh the end when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule … then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1Cor 15:24-28, KJV). Words can scarcely capture the momentous occasion which these verses describe. Into the hands of the Son has been placed the stewardship for ruling the earth for God. At the close of the millennial age, all power and dominion reside in His hands. Every foe has been conquered, every rival subdued, every voice silenced. Universal adoration and honor are His, and His by right. He has achieved the dream of every dictator and despot. From the Caesars to Napoleon, the quest for world domination has driven men to their own destruction. All will be His. All will have been achieved righteously and in accord with the will of God. What will this Servant-Son do with all the honor, glory, power, and worship that now are His? Will He keep it for Himself? Boast in His accomplishment? Refuse to recognize the One Who has subdued all beneath His feet?
In a moment which will send waves of thrills through an adoring throng of worshipers and will eternally seal the perfection of all that follows, the Son will hand back, as a faithful steward, His stewardship to God, even the Father. In so doing, He will acknowledge His Father and lead a universe in worship to the Father. This should hardly surprise us, as Philippians 2:11 informs us that, when every knee bows and every tongue is made to confess that He is Lord, it will be “to the glory of God the Father” (v11, KJV). As the perfect Servant, He will direct all the glory to the Father.
The end result will be (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, the end will be) that God will be all in all! With every foe subdued, and sin never again able to invade the new creation, the triune God will fill all things and be everything to everyone.
Peter’s depiction of “the end,” tells us more of what will be removed than of what will remain. In graphic language, he tells us of the end of the day of the Lord, that day when divine intervention in earth is open and obvious. The heavens are going to pass away and the earth and its works are to be burned up and destroyed (2Peter 3:10). As though to emphasize the reality of it all, he repeats himself in verse 12, “Wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (KJV). All that is linked with the present will be removed, and a new heavens and a new earth will be ushered in. Speculation abounds on how this will occur: nuclear fusion, or a divine intervention of some unknown nature? Will it be a renovated purified earth or a totally new heavens and earth? Theologians differ, and each has valid arguments in his favor. The word for “new,” is kainos, suggesting something not only new in time, but more importantly, new in quality. A new kind of heaven and earth will be seen. Peter’s message is more exhortative than doctrinal. It would be tragic if we stalled at the issue of whether new is totally new or renovated and purged, and missed the call to holiness.
Bringing together Paul’s teaching on “the end” and Peter’s insight from the Spirit, we find that, when the end comes (and it will), the result will be universal worship for God and a universe marked by holiness. Believers today, living in light of “the end,” should be marked by holiness of life and praise on our lips.
God’s purposes – to glorify His Son and to give Him a Bride to be by His side eternally, to bring humanity into eternal blessing and bliss, to establish a kingdom which will never be moved – all will be accomplished because of what the Lord Jesus accomplished on Calvary’s cross.
It is left to John, the beloved apostle to add what is, in effect, the inaugural speech to the eternal reign and kingdom of the Son of God. While the millennial kingdom will be for 1000 years, His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. In John’s vision of the new heavens and new earth, he hears the voice of One sitting upon the throne. As His eternal Kingdom is about to dawn, His inaugural speech is brief but eloquent: “Behold I make all things new” (Rev 21:5, KJV). Unlike other world leaders who have ascended to power with an agenda but limited ability to fulfil it, He will have both the wisdom and power to carry out all He has promised. “The end” will in truth be just a beginning, a beginning which will know no end!