The End of the World

ABOUT TWO YEARS ago the nation of Israel, in one of their journals, “The Jerusalem Report,” told how Megiddo had become of high interest to Christian groups. The article entitled, “World’s End,” had a subheading which read: “Millions of Christians believe mankind’s final battle will take place at the Israeli archaeological site of Megiddo. As the millennium approaches, Israel is poised to develop a tourist attraction with apocalyptic appeal.”

The article begins by saying, “In ancient days it [Megiddo] was a major city dominating one of the busiest intersections on the Via Maris, the key trade and military route linking Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today Megiddo is a partially excavated archaeological tel (mound) some thirty-five miles southeast of Haifa that overlooks the Jezreel Valley, an area of quiet, rustic beauty.

“The approach of the millennium has sparked in many fundamentalists the belief that this ultimate battle may well be imminent. It has also spurred Israel’s National Parks Authority, which administers Megiddo, and the archaeologists currently working on the site, to realize that they may have a tourist attraction with mass appeal on their hands.”

In another place in the article, the writer called attention very correctly to the single use of Armageddon in the Bible, in Revelation 16:16. This word is believed to be a corruption of the Hebrew word Har (Mount) Megiddo.

Christian interest in this location is due to the verse in Revelation 16:16: “He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon,” as well as the many battles fought in the area recorded in the Old Testament. Two years ago Megiddo attracted 150,000 visitors per year. Since then the Parks Authority has enhanced Megiddo’s interest as a tourist attraction.

The article said: “The Parks Authority has commissioned a plan—‘Megiddo-Armageddon: A Tel of Many Tales’—aimed at turning what archaeologists have long regarded as a historical treasure trove into a site more appealing to a wider tourist public.”

Although Israel does not view this site as a short-term tourist attraction, the questions naturally arise: “Why do fundamentalists believe that the world will come to an end? Is it Biblical? And, why in the new millennium?”

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


Instead, the new philosophers in Christianity thought 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 innumerable times worse than man could possibly inflict upon himself through the misuse of nuclear power. Still, most professed Christian people tried to believe it.

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.

This kind of ‘end of the world’ will be the end of man’s misrule over the earth. In the place of this selfish and sinful 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

The Bible also assures us that God had created this earth to be man’s eternal home, and that he intended that man would live on it forever. As Isaiah prophesied, “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


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. One of the instances in which it is used in this way is Daniel 7:23. Here a great ‘beast,’ which many students of the Bible understand as depicting the Old Roman Empire, is said to ‘devour’ the whole ‘earth.’ Obviously this is a symbolic description since no beast—symbolic or otherwise—has ever, or ever will, devour the literal earth. The thought is that a ‘beastlike,’ ‘unholy’ kingdom appropriated to itself all the resources of the people to further its own selfish purposes.

Zephaniah 3:8 is another prophecy which uses the expression ‘the earth’ is ‘devoured;’ however, the circumstances are different. 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 [‘zeal,’—Hebrew].” Here the earth is shown to be ‘devoured’ not by a beast, but by the ‘fire’ of Jehovah’s ‘jealousy’ or ‘zeal.’ The ‘kingdoms’ of this world symbolized here by the ‘earth,’ must be ‘destroyed’ by the ‘fire’ of God’s zeal, in preparation for the establishment of Christ’s Messianic kingdom.” The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”—Rev. 11:15

In Zephaniah 3:9 we are informed that when the Lord will turn to the people “a pure language,” they will all call upon him, to serve him with one consent. This clearly shows that after the symbolic earth is ‘devoured,’ people will still be living on the literal earth; that they will be enlightened by the Lord; and that they will have the opportunity of serving him. It is not the literal earth that is ‘devoured’ or destroyed. This text again shows that the earth is often used symbolically in the prophecies.


In the 46th Psalm we read: “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.” (vss. 2,3) When Jesus said that at the time of his Second Presence there would be “distress of nations, with perplexity,” he illustrated the situation by likening it to the “roaring” of the “sea” and the “waves.” (Luke 21:25) 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 expressed in Psalm 46:6, Revised Standard Version, which reads: “The nations rage, the kingdom totters; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” Here, instead of ‘mountains’ being carried into the midst of the symbolic sea as in verse 2, it is the ‘kingdoms’ that are ‘moved’ or ‘removed.’ And instead of the ‘earth’ being ‘removed,’ it is ‘melted.’

But the literal earth is neither removed, nor melted. The conclusion of this wonderful prophecy reads: “Come, behold the works of Jehovah, 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 heathen [nations], I will be exalted in the earth.”—Ps. 46:8-10

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, 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 that is used by the apostles, as quoted in Matthew 24:3 when they asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [aion, ‘age’]?” The signs which Jesus gave were not signs that the burning up of the literal earth is near, but that we have reached the end of the present Gospel Age. Outstanding among these signs is the ‘great tribulation’ which we are now witnessing in its early stages. Already, as Jesus foretold, the human race is threatening its own destruction.

It is given to us to be living at a time when an age in the Divine plan is coming to a close. It is a transition period, during which Satan’s rule over the earth will finally be replaced by the authority and rulership of the kingdom of Christ. This is why, as Christians, we should not fear because we know that the Lord’s plans are being carried out. Soon the “desire of all nations shall come” (Hag. 2:7), and there will be peace, joy, and everlasting life for all who will avail themselves of these blessings.


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, translated ‘world’ in I John 2:15-17, 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 influence over the human race. Although invisible to mankind, Satan and the fallen angels have misdirected the people away from God through deception. This unholy influence has been exercised in large measure through false religious systems. These both—Satan and false religions—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 also brought an end to these arrangements—Noah and his family were 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 revealed in the Bible. Another symbolic heavens came into existence which, in myriads of unholy ways, has influenced the minds of the people.

The Apostle Peter, in his symbolic description of the ending of the present social order, describes it in this way: “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 10 continues, “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.’ However, it was symbolic clouds of water (the angelic administration) that filled the earth with violence, and was swept away by God.


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 are the predominating motives which largely influence most of its activities. But God has promised to establish a new world—a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Peter says that it is according to God’s promise that we look for these new heavens and new earth. This promise is recorded by the Prophet Isaiah, where he wrote: “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 for ever 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.”—Isa. 65:17-19

In this prophecy, 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 for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.’ 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 higher, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And then we read: “He carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:9,10) 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. The Lord God and the Lamb are the “temple” in this city, and the glory of the Lord and the Lamb are the “light thereof.”—vss. 22,23


The new spiritual rulership of the messianic kingdom is the Lamb and his bride, functioning by the authority of God. “The nations shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (vs. 24) as mankind is restored in the image of God, morally, mentally, and as King.

The new ‘earth’ will consist of the resurrected Ancient Worthies, who will be “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,’ interpreted and administered by the ‘princes in all the earth.’ This new arrangement will mean that God is again favoring his human creatures. Symbolically speaking, he will ‘dwell’ with them. “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.”—Rev. 21:3

The Apostle John saw, in vision, the fulfillment of this promise of the new heaven and new earth. He wrote, “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. 21:4,5

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 completely answered, the present world must come to a full end. It is even now disintegrating. Because of this we look up, and lift up our heads, knowing that our redemption [deliverance] draws nigh.—Luke 21:28

Dawn Bible Students Association
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