The Day the World Ends

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” —I John 2:15-17

“I HOPE it doesn’t come in my day,” is sometimes said concerning “the end of the world.” This expression is a familiar one to most people living in so-called civilized countries. But in the minds of many the end of the world has frightening connotations. This is due to a traditional concept of this important development of God’s great plan of the ages. This tradition of the Dark Ages teaches that the end of the world foretold in the Bible means the destruction of the planet Earth, and that at the time of this destruction all faithful Christians then alive will be caught up bodily to heaven, and that all non-Christians will be consigned to a place of torment. This latter, according to the Protestant understanding, means eternal torture, and to the Catholic, a limited period in what is called purgatory; but even this limited period to most Catholics means many hundreds of years of excruciating pain.

Naturally, with this false concept of the end of the world, most professed Christians do not care to think about it too much. There is a general belief—and a scriptural one also—that the end of the world and the second coming of Christ are in some way associated. But for those holding to the traditional concept of the end of the world rather than the scriptural viewpoint, it is impossible to understand either subject clearly as taught in the Bible.

The Earth Remains

According to the Bible the planet Earth will never be destroyed. Solomon wrote, “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever.” (Eccl. 1:4) The Prophet Isaiah explains that the reason the earth will abide forever is that God designed that it should be inhabited by man, and that this design is sure, not “vain.” We quote: “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.”—Isa. 45:18

This promise of the Lord reminds us of the Genesis record of creation where we are informed that God created man in his own image, and commanded him to multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. In other words, the earth was to be man’s eternal home. (Gen. 1:27,28) The record tells us that God planted a garden eastward in Eden in which was provided every tree that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food. In reality, these were all trees of life; trees, that is, which provided all the life-sustaining nutrients man would need in order to continue living forever.—Gen. 2:8,9

But, as verse 17 explains, there was also the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Adam was forbidden to eat of this tree, the penalty for disobedience being death: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” We all know what happened. Our first parents did transgress the divine law, and the penalty of death fell upon them, and they were driven out of their garden home into the unsubdued earth to die.

But this did not destroy God’s design that the earth should be man’s eternal home wherein he might live in perfection throughout the endless ages of eternity. It only means that in the divine arrangement it was not due to reach fruition in the days of Eden. In this divine plan God foresaw the fall of man into sin and death, and provided redemption from what otherwise would have been lasting tragedy. That redemption was through Jesus. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

In this well-known and wonderful text the word “perish” denotes eternal destruction. While our first parents and all their progeny since have fallen asleep in death, and the human race continues thus to die, this is not eternal death, but is described in the Bible as being like a sleep from which there will be an awakening. This awakening will come about because Jesus gave his humanity in death as a substitute for Adam and his race. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 6:23

This opportunity to gain eternal life will come to the people as a whole after they have been awakened from the sleep of death. So, if we can visualize what would have occurred in human experience had not our first parents transgressed God’s law, we can realize what God’s grand design has in store for humanity; for because of the death of Jesus as Man’s Redeemer, what would have been is yet to be.


Both the Old and New Testaments abound with promises and prophecies giving us the assurance that it is God’s plan to restore mankind to health and life on the earth. One of the most comprehensive of these is found in the third chapter of the Book of Acts, including the first two verses of chapter 4. This is a record of a sermon preached by the Apostle Peter shortly after Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from birth. Peter then explained that following Jesus’ return there would be “times of restitution of all things.” Peter adds that these times of restitution had been spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began.

This implies, if the earth is to be destroyed as a result of Jesus’ return, that God’s prophets who foretold that then there would be times of restitution were not holy prophets at all, but lying prophets. But we are glad for the assurance of God’s Word that restoration is indeed the Creator’s grand design for the sin-sick and dying world of mankind.

What Comes to an End?

One of the outstanding teachings of the Bible is that the present world, in God’s due time, comes to an end. As we have seen, however, this does not mean the destruction of the literal earth. It is, rather, the present evil social order that is destroyed in what the Prophet Daniel describes as “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

Sometimes the prophecies pertaining to the end of the world use fire as a symbol of the destructive powers of this prophetic time of trouble, but the prophecies also use other symbols to illustrate, from one standpoint or another, the manner in which the present evil social order is destroyed. In the New Testament the word “world” is frequently used to denote a social order, but in the New Testament the word “earth” is also used, and it is this use that led students of the darker past to conclude that it was the literal earth which was to be destroyed. But the word earth is used many times in the Old Testament in a context from which it is clear that it is not our planet that is referred to.

For example, Jeremiah 22:29 reads, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.” It is clear, we think, that it is not the literal earth that is referred to here, but the people, and the associations of people on this planet.

In one of the prophecies of the end of the world we read, “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy [Hebrew, ‘zeal’].” (Zeph. 3:8) This gathering of the nations in connection with the prophetic time of trouble which ultimately will destroy the present evil social order has been taking place for many years.

But note the end result of this. The Lord informs us that it is his determination to destroy the whole earth with the fire of his zeal. This is a very interesting statement, declaring that the earth would be devoured. In Daniel 7:23 this word devour is also used to describe the aggressive propensities of a great “beast” which is said to be a “kingdom.” Most students of prophecy believe that this refers to the Old Roman Empire, concerning which Daniel wrote, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.” It need not be argued that it is not the literal earth that is referred to here. This is a prophecy which was fulfilled centuries ago, yet the literal earth remains. But a symbolic earth was devoured by the aggressions of Rome, and the nations involved in it were trodden down and broken to pieces.

God’s Name Exalted in the Earth

Psalm 46 contains a very interesting prophecy concerning the end of the world. In the great time of destruction symbolically described, the “earth” is “removed,” and also “melted;” yet, after describing the time of war and chaos that brings about this result the Lord says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen [Hebrew, ‘nations’], I will be exalted in the earth.” (vs. 10) This latter reference is to the literal earth which abideth forever to be man’s eternal home, and it still exists in the prophecy even after the symbolic earth is “removed” and “melted.”

Another wonderful statement in this end-of-the-world prophecy is found in verses 8 and 9. We quote: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.” War is one of the menacing characteristics of this present evil world, and here the Lord’s prophet is assuring us that ultimately, when the Lord says “be still” to the chaotic and raging nations of the earth, war will be a thing of the past, for the destruction of this present evil social structure will lead to the beginning of a new world—God’s new world of tomorrow.

Christ’s Prophecy

As we have noted, the prophecies of the Bible associate the end of the world with the return of Christ, for he will be the great King in God’s new world. Near the close of Jesus’ ministry the disciples questioned Jesus concerning the signs of his return. They asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [Greek, ‘presence’], and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3) In his reply to this question Jesus mentioned many things which would take place in the earth during the period of his presence, the final one being that those who proved worthy of life during the future judgment day would inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.—Matt. 25:31-34

But Jesus mentioned much that would precede this ultimate restoration of the obedient to life and their lost paradise. He refers, for example, to Daniel’s great prophecy of a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, describing it as a great tribulation that would come upon the peoples of the earth. He said that this great tribulation would be so severe and widespread that unless it was cut short no flesh would survive.

It is evident, we think, that we are even now living in the time thus described by Jesus, and what this means is that we are watching a world come to an end. However, Jesus gave us assurance that the period of this tribulation, or destructive trouble, will be cut short before all flesh is destroyed. (Matt. 24:21,22) We can take comfort in this in view of what is taking place throughout the world today. We know that the destruction of the human race is now threatened by the misuse of nuclear fission. Environmental pollution is also endangering the continued existence of the human race, and contributing to this danger is the much dreaded population explosion. So we are thankful for the Master’s assurance that through the Lord’s elect there will be divine intervention in the affairs of men in time to prevent what so many now fear.

Three Worlds

The Bible speaks of three worlds, one following the other; and the planet Earth is the location of all of them. There was the world before the Flood, often spoken of as the antediluvian world. There is the present evil world, as described by the Apostle Paul. (Gal. 1:4) There is also “the world to come.”—Heb. 2:5

The Apostle Peter describes these symbolically in their spiritual and material aspects as “the heavens and the earth.” Concerning the antediluvian world Peter observed, ‘By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”—II Pet. 3:5,6

Peter continues, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now [and they are still ‘now’], by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition [destruction] of ungodly men.”

In verse 13 Peter observes, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” This new heaven and new earth will be the third world. The first thousand years of that world will be under the rulership of Christ and his glorified church. That will also be the thousand-year Day of Judgment. These are the reasons Peter could refer to the new heavens and earth as representing righteous conditions, although sin will not be completely destroyed until the close of that thousand years.—Rev. 20:4,6,11,12

The Day

The topic of this article is, “The Day the World Ends,” pinpointing the time in the outworking of the divine plan when this present evil world will be destroyed, that God’s new world of tomorrow might be established. However, this “day” is not one of twenty-four hours, but a period of time the length of which is of course known by the Lord, but is not yet revealed to his people. The period in which the antediluvian world ended is referred to in the Scriptures as “the days of Noah.” While it was Jehovah who caused the waters of the Flood to destroy that world, Noah was closely associated with what took place, in that he was the builder of the ark in which he and his family were brought over into the new world.

Peter speaks of the period in which the present evil world ends as “the day of the Lord,” and “the day of God.” Other prophecies describe it as the day of Jehovah’s wrath upon an evil world to bring about its destruction. In Peter’s prophecy the elements of destruction are symbolized by fire. We quote, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Again, “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”—II Pet. 3:10,12

In reading this description of the destruction of the present evil world it is important to remember that when the antediluvian world was destroyed, it simply meant the destruction of that social order—not the destruction of the earth—so also now, it is not the destruction of the planet Earth that is involved in the destruction of the present evil world. Fire is one of the most powerful elements of destruction, and is one of the symbols used by the Lord to denote the manner in which the evil world of today is destroyed, both the religious aspects (the “heavens,” and the material, “earth”).

The Bible also uses storms, earthquakes, and other symbols, even floods, to symbolize what we now see taking place as wars, revolutions, anarchy, famines, economic breakdowns, threatened slavery through communism, etc., all adding up to increasing chaos, which will finally result in the complete disintegration of a world. Yes, this is the “day” in which the world ends; in fact, this is the day that is bringing about the end of the world.

In his prophecy Peter marks the full extent in time of “the heavens and the earth which are now” when he says that they are “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment.” The Revised Standard Version makes the thought a little clearer. This translation reads, “By the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water, and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”—II Pet. 3:5-7

The first world existed until destroyed in the waters of the Flood. The second world still exists, even though on fire, and will continue, “kept until the day of judgment … of ungodly men.” While there will be destruction of human life brought about by the symbolic fire of the day of the Lord, none will be singled out for destruction on the basis of their sin, nor will the morally upright, and professed Christians and other religionists be saved from these symbolic fires. The destruction is upon institutions and wicked nations—a world—but not designed for individuals.

But it will be different in the coming Day of Judgment. Then the Lord will be dealing with individuals, the whole world being under the rulership of “that Prophet” foretold by Moses. Then it will be only those who will not hear that Prophet who will be destroyed from among the people. These will be the truly ungodly, the wilful sinners, who will be destroyed in “the second death.”

But how different it will be in the judgment day for the righteous; those who willingly and joyfully rejoice in the true knowledge of the Lord as it will then be revealed to them. The psalmist describes what a happy time it will be for these. We quote:

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord: for he cometh … to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”—Ps. 96:11-13

The New Heavens and Earth

After prophesying the destruction of the present heavens and earth in a great time of trouble which he symbolizes by fire and noise, Peter adds, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) As Peter shows, the first and second symbolic heavens and earth were by, or according to, the “word” of God, and now he is explaining that this is true also of the new heavens and new earth; that these are according to God’s word of promise.

Important among these promises is one set forth in Isaiah 65:17, which reads, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Then the prophet changes the symbol to a city, the “new Jerusalem,” and continues, “But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”—vss. 18,19

Isaiah explains that in this new heavens and new earth “they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (vss. 21,22) Notice that these activities are those which take place on God’s green earth, which is still here after the symbolic heavens and earth are destroyed.

John the Revelator, in a vision given to him by the Lord on the Isle of Patmos, sees the promised new heavens and earth, and describes what he sees: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first [former] heaven and the first [former] earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven [locating what is described in this passage as taking place on the earth], prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”—Rev. 21:1-5

How significant is the promise of God that he will make all things new; and as we have noted, the application of this promise is right here on the earth—the literal earth which abideth forever—the earth which eventually sees God’s will done throughout its entire expanse even as it is now done in heaven. It is to this that the end of the present evil world will lead. Shall we not continue to pray for the kingdom which will bring this about?

Important among the all things which will be changed, is the destruction of pain and death. Think of what this will mean in human experience! There will be no more need for hospitals and doctors and nurses and drug stores, much as these are appreciated now. We thank God for services rendered now by hospitals and doctors and nurses and drug stores, but we are more thankful for the prospect of those blessed conditions in the new heavens and new earth when disease, from whatever causes, and death itself, will be no more!

Isaiah wrote of the coming new world, saying, “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.” (Isa. 33:22) Verse 24 reads, “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” How wonderful to realize that when the Lord is Judge, Lawgiver and King, he will indeed save the people from pain and death, and that because of this the people will no longer need to say, “I am sick,” because they will be forgiven their iniquity.

It is the iniquity of the people, beginning with original sin in the Garden of Eden, that is responsible for sickness and death. But through the death of Jesus, God provided redemption from adamic sin. Paul wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” This means that in addition to the abolition of sickness, all those who already have gone down into death will be awakened from their long sleep in the great prison of death. Truly, then, it is a fact that there shall be no more death. The reign of sin and death will at long last be brought to an end.

The Lord’s Mountain

A mountain is used in the Bible as one of the symbols of the Lord’s kingdom. This is probably because the Lord ruled over ancient Israel from a mountain—Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. One of the wonderful prophecies in which the Lord’s future kingdom is symbolized by a mountain is found in Isaiah 25:6-9, which reads:

“In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations [preventing them from knowing and serving the true and living God]. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God: we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; … we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

The Prospect

Wonderful, indeed, is the prospect of God’s new world of tomorrow as held out to us by the precious promises of God! Those who are able by faith to lay hold upon these promises will rejoice to see evidences that the present evil world is coming to an end. When we know what the biblical end of the world will ultimately mean for the people of all nations we will want it to come as soon as possible.

While there has been much in “the world that now is” that has been good, on the whole it has been an unrighteous world: a world characterized by sin and selfishness; by sickness and death; by war, revolution, and many times by chaos. It has been a world of crime; a world in which the human race is threatened with destruction by the misuse of nuclear fission and environmental pollution. People of the earth today who are forty years old, or younger, have never read a newspaper that did not report war.

What a world it is, with its starving and poverty-stricken millions, and all its other evils, only a few of which we have mentioned. Who wishes a world like this to continue! Let us rejoice that it will not continue, yea, that even now it is disintegrating, and soon will be completely destroyed, preparatory for God’s new world, the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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