IT HAS been said that the office of the president of the United States is the most powerful position held by any man in the world.

Also it has been said that just about any child in America can grow up to be president;

However, the intense public humiliations suffered by recent presidents when mistakes were made (and who cannot help but make them in this unpredictable, chaotic world) will no doubt dampen the aspirations of many in the future to seek this office at the risk of jeopardizing their lives and reputations.

Our form of government, the best the world has to offer today, intrinsically possesses the same prevailing weakness that has plagued governments of every kind since the world began—the imperfections of those who administrate as well as those who are governed.

But, where is the perfect man? Only two are known to have existed in our entire history. One was responsible for plunging the human race into sin, and the other was rejected and put to death on a cross.

Is it too much to hope that a perfect government will sometime exist, with the wisdom to bring peace and unity to this earth—a government possessing the noble qualities of leadership which will command the honor, respect, and loyalty of people worldwide?

Present imperfect governments threaten the world with extinction. Dare we believe in a better world—a world without end?

What does the Bible say?

The End of the World
A World Without End

“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.” —I John 2:15-17

“THE world passeth away,” our text declares. This is one of the fundamental teachings of the Word of God. It is also clearly taught in the Bible that the end of the world is associated with the second coming of Christ. However, after the apostles fell asleep in death, crude notions developed concerning both the second coming of Christ and the prophetic end of the world. These erroneous views failed to take into consideration the great basic truth of the Scriptures that the return of Christ was to usher in what the Apostle Peter described as “times of restitution of all things, which,” he declared, “hath been spoken by the mouth of all his [God’s] holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

The view developed that when Christ returned, this literal planet upon which we live would be burned up; that faithful Christians living at the time would be taken to heaven, and the remainder of mankind consigned to an eternity of torture. Obviously, the horrors, in terms of human suffering thus brought about, would be a million times worse than mankind could possibly inflict upon themselves through the misuse of nuclear power. And yet, professed Christian people tried to believe it, and accept it as an evidence of God’s wisdom and justice.

The teachers of most false theories pertaining to the doctrines of Christianity find something in the Bible by which they attempt to prove their theories. So it was with the misconception of the prophecies pertaining to the end of the world. The Bible does teach that with the return and second presence of Christ there would be a great upheaval of human society. This is variously described as “a time of trouble,” “great tribulation,” and a time when there would be “distress of nations, with perplexity.” (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21,22; Luke 21:25,26) The Bible clearly teaches that this great time of trouble would result in the overthrow of all selfish human institutions, political, financial, and religious, and that in the process this would involve worldwide chaos, suffering, and loss of life.

The prophecies describe the ultimate and complete result of this trouble as the end of the world, for it will be the end of man’s misrule over the earth. In the place of this selfish and imperfect misrule comes the establishment of the long-promised kingdom of the Messiah, which, in its thousand-year rulership over the people, will lead to the doing of God’s will on earth, even as it is now done in heaven.—Matt. 6:10

One important fact lost sight of by those who perpetrated the Dark Age misconception of the end of the world was that God had created this earth to be man’s eternal home, and that his design was that man would live on it forever. Assurance is given us of this by the Lord, through the Prophet Isaiah. 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.”—Isa. 45:18

Symbolic Language

The word ‘earth’ is often used in the Bible in a symbolic or figurative sense to denote the association of people who inhabit the planet. Just a brief glance at some of the instances in which the word ‘earth’ is thus used will suffice to prove this point. Take, for example, a statement found in Daniel 7:23. Here a great beast, which most students of the Bible understand as depicting the old Roman Empire, is said to “devour” the whole earth. Obviously, no beast, symbolic or otherwise, has ever, or ever will, devour the literal earth. The thought simply is that this unholy, beast-like kingdom appropriated to itself all the resources of the people to further its own selfish purposes.

Here again the earth is shown to be devoured, not by a beast, but by the ‘fire’ of Jehovah’s jealousy, or zeal, as it is in the Hebrew text. In Isaiah 9:6,7, this same Hebrew word is translated zeal in the statement, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” In this prophecy we are told of the birth of Jesus, and that of the increase of his government and peace there would be no end. It is the establishment of this righteous government in the hands of the foretold Messiah that is said to be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord of hosts. In order for this to be done, the kingdoms of this world, symbolized in Zephaniah 3:8 by the earth, must be destroyed; and appropriately, they are said to be devoured, or destroyed, by the fire of God’s zeal, for it is in preparation for the establishment of the messianic kingdom.—Rev. 11:15

Zephaniah 3:8 is another prophecy in which we are told that the earth is devoured, but the circumstances are quite different. We quote: “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’].”

In the verse following this prophecy of the devouring of the symbolic earth, we are informed that then the Lord will turn to the people a “pure language,” that they might all call upon him, to serve him with one consent. (vs. 9) This clearly shows that after the symbolic earth is devoured, the people will still be living on the literal earth, and that they will be enlightened by the Lord and have the opportunity of serving him. It is not, then, the literal earth that is devoured; therefore this text shows again that the earth is sometimes used symbolically in the prophecies.

Another interesting instance is found in the forty-sixth Psalm, verses two and three: “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” When Jesus said that at the time of his second presence there would he distress of nations with perplexity, he illustrated the situation by likening it to the roaring of the sea and the waves.—Luke 21:25

In Isaiah 17:12,13 a similar symbolism is used, and an explanation given. We quote: “Woe to the multitude [Margin, noise] of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty [Margin, many] waters. The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing [Margin, thistledown] before the whirlwind.”

From this it is evident that the roaring of the sea and the waves is symbolic of the restless, chaotic state of the nations and people of the earth, which increases in intensity until the symbolic earth is removed in the great time of tribulation. This thought is suggested again by the psalmist: “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.” (Ps. 46:6, RSV) Here, instead of ‘mountains’ being carried into the midst of the symbolic ‘sea’, as in verse two, it is the ‘kingdoms’ that are ‘removed’. And instead of the ‘earth’ being ‘removed’, it is ‘melted’.

But the literal earth is neither removed nor melted, for the conclusion of this wonderful prophecy reads, “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. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (vs. 8, RSV) Here the point to notice particularly is that after the symbolic earth is removed, and melted, the literal earth is still the scene of action, and God’s name is exalted in it. This exalting of God’s name throughout the earth will be the work of the messianic kingdom.

In the New Testament

In the New Testament one of the Greek words which is translated ‘world’ is aion. The word aion simply means ‘age’, or ‘period of time’. It is this word which is used by the apostles, as quoted in Matthew 24:3 when they asked Jesus, “What shall he the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [age]?” The sign which Jesus gave, therefore, in answer to this request, is not a sign that the burning up of the literal earth is near, but that we have reached the end of the present age. Outstanding among these signs is the great tribulation, already referred to, and without doubt we are now witnessing the development of the foretold distress of nations, with perplexity. Already, as Jesus foretold, the human race is threatening its own destruction.

What this means is that it is given to us to be living at a time when an age in the divine plan is coming to an end, to be replaced by the authority and rulership of the kingdom of Christ. This is why, as Christians, we should not fear, at this time when the world is filled with fear, because we know that the Lord’s plans are being carried out, and that soon the desire of all nations will come, and there will be peace, joy, and everlasting life for all who will avail themselves of them.—Hag. 2:7

Man’s Social Order

The Greek word kosmos is also used in the prophecies pertaining to the end of the world. This word simply means ‘order’ or ‘arrangement’. It has nothing to do with the literal earth on which we live. It is this word that is translated ‘world’ in our text, which assures us that the world is to pass away because of its selfish sinful nature. Jesus said concerning this same humanly constituted social order, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33

In II Peter 3:5,6, we are informed that a world passed away at the time of the Flood. The spiritual and material aspects of that pre-Flood world are symbolized as ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’. Much in God’s material creation is used symbolically in the Bible. The sun, for example, is used to symbolize the health and life-giving powers of the Messiah, during the time of his reign for the blessing of the people. We read, “The Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) We read concerning Christ’s true followers, the wheat in the parable of the wheat and the tares, that they shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Matt. 13:43

The literal heavens and earth bear a very vital relationship to each other. Life on the earth is largely subject to the influences of the heavens, that is, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The tides and seasons are thus controlled. It is because of this relationship that the Lord uses them to symbolize a social order.

Throughout all human experience, higher or spiritual powers have exerted more or less influence over the human race. Satan and the fallen angels, although invisible to mankind, nevertheless, through deception, have misdirected the people particularly away from God. This unholy influence has been exercised mostly through false religious systems. These together constituted the heavens which ceased to rule at the time of the Flood. The earth of that time constituted the material arrangements of men whereby they lived and worked together. The Flood brought an end to these arrangements, and, so far as that world was concerned, to most of the people—Noah and his family being the only exception.

The literal earth was not destroyed by the Flood, and soon after the Flood, Satan again began to exercise his influence in the affairs of men. The historical records of the Bible, and secular history as well, reveal the many forms of false worship which have lured the people away from the true worship of God, the great and loving Creator of the Bible. So there has been another symbolic heavens which, in myriads of unholy ways throughout the centuries, has influenced the minds of the people, and has had a bearing on their civil and political arrangements.

Peter, in his symbolic description of the ending of the present social order, describes it as the passing away of the heavens and the earth which are now. We quote: “The heavens and the earth which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (II Pet. 3:7) Verse ten reads, “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.”

The ‘fire’, the ‘great noise’, and the ‘fervent heat’ of this prophecy are all symbolic. Some have suggested that since it was literal water that destroyed the first world, it is literal fire which will destroy the heavens and the earth, which are now. But this does not necessarily follow. The more complete prophetic testimony on the point employs a number of other symbols, such as earthquakes, storms, whirlwinds, floods, etc. Besides, the mighty armies of the nations are shown to have a part in the destruction of the present kosmos, or social order. In non-symbolic language, that which brings about the end of the world is described by Daniel as “a time of trouble,” and by Jesus as “great tribulation.” (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21,22) To consider Peter’s prophecy alone, and insist that it refers to literal fire, would be restricting our understanding of all that is involved.

God’s New World

After describing the passing away of the heavens and the earth, which are now, Peter continues, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) The reason the present world is passing away is because selfishness and evil largely influence its activities. But God has promised to establish a new world, new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness will dwell.

Peter says it is according to God’s promise, or because God has promised it, that we look for the new heavens and new earth. This promise is recorded by the Prophet Isaiah. We quote: “Behold, I [the Lord] create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. 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 no more be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man who hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And 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.”—Isa. 65:17-22

It is important to notice in this prophecy that the creating of new heavens and a new earth is associated with the creating of a new Jerusalem. The Lord said, “Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” (vs. 18) Many centuries later the Apostle John was given a vision of the fulfillment of this prophecy, and he also saw the new heavens and new earth associated with the new Jerusalem. John wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: … and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”—Rev. 21:1,2

One of the angels used by the Lord to show John the wonderful symbolisms of Revelation, said to him, “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (vs. 9) And then we read, “He carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:9,10) From this it is clear that the new Jerusalem is the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The bride of Christ is the church of Christ, made up of his faithful, sacrificing followers. We are informed also that the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple in this city, and that the glory of the Lord and the Lamb are the light thereof.—vss. 22,23

Here, then, we have the new spiritual rulership of the messianic kingdom. It is the Lamb and his bride, functioning by the authority of the true God of heaven and earth. This is the new heaven of promise. We are told that “the nations … shall walk in the light of it,” and that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it; that is, they will yield up whatever supposed glory and authority they possessed, and become subject to this new authority.

The new earth will, to begin with, consist of the resurrected Ancient Worthies, as “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) As the work of the new kingdom continues, eventually all mankind, except those who prove to be incorrigible, will become part of that new social order here on earth, functioning in accord with the divine will as it will emanate from the new heaven, and be interpreted and administered by the princes in all the earth. This new arrangement will mean that God is again favoring his human creatures; that he is, symbolically speaking, dwelling with them. Verse three of Revelation twenty-one mentions this: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God.”

When, through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord promised to create new heavens and a new earth, assurance was given that there would come as a result a greatly increased life span for the people. “There shall be no more thence an infant of days,” the Lord said, and one that dies at a hundred years of age will be but as an infant. The Lord likened the days of his people at that time to the days of a tree, the reference being to the durability of the ancient cedars of Lebanon and other sturdy and long-living trees.

But when John, in vision, saw the fulfillment of this wonderful promise of the new heaven and new earth, human longevity was seen to take on a new dimension. Revelation 21:4 reads, “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.”—vss. 4,5

This wonderful new social order of tomorrow will in reality be the kingdom of Christ. It will have both rulers and subjects. Its great objective will be to establish divine righteousness throughout the earth, and to destroy sin and death. It is for this objective that we pray in those wonderful words of the Master, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Before this prayer can be answered, the present world must come fully to an end. It is even now disintegrating; and because of this we look up, and lift up our heads, knowing our deliverance draws near!—Luke 21:28

Dawn Bible Students Association
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