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Eschatology: The end of the world

May 1999 | by Palmer Robertson

Most people do not know it, but this world will come to an end. People think that because the world has continued in the same way for as long as they have known it, this world will go on existing as it is for a long, long time. Some think that when our sun finally burns out, then the world will end. Or if a nuclear war occurs, humanity may cease to exist. But apart from these prospects, people feel the world will just keep ticking along.

Those who hold this viewpoint are ignorant of two things. First, they are ignorant of the fact that the world has suffered one cataclysmic destruction, namely the flood in the days of Noah. God judged the ancient world because of its depravity, and he will judge the world again. Secondly, these people are ignorant of the declarations of Jesus Christ and of the Bible about the end of the world.

What can we know about the end of this world? What is ahead of us? Consider these six things about which you can be certain.

1.   Jesus will return

Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came once into this world as the special person commissioned by God the Father. He was born of a virgin; he healed the blind and raised the dead; he suffered the punishment sinners deserve by being crucified and going to hell; he was raised from the dead on the third day, and now sits enthroned with power at God’s right hand.

He will come again. But this time it will be in glory. He will come with all the angels of God. His return will not be simply a spiritual appearance. He will return in bodily form, so that every human eye shall see him. They will know that it is Jesus Christ and no other (see for example Matthew 24:27-44).

2.   The dead will be raised

God, who first created man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, will cause all those who have ever lived on the face of this earth to come back to life. The sea will give up its dead. The graves will be emptied. God by his mighty, creative power will make the dead to live again (Revelation 20:11-15).

3.   Heaven and earth as we know them will be consumed

God has promised that flood waters will never cover the earth again. So long as the earth remains, day and night, the seasons of the year shall continue. But a time will come in which this whole earth, other planets and distant stars, will all be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:1-12).

4.   A new heavens and a new earth will be created

God will not be frustrated in his plan to make a beautiful world that has no sin, no sorrow, no sickness. After he has destroyed this fallen world with all its weakness and depravity, he will create another. In this new heavens and earth, beauty and harmony will exist everywhere. Righteousness and love will be present in every relationship. Sin and evil will no longer exist in the hearts of men (2 Peter 3:13).

5.   A great judgement will be held

All creatures, both men and angels, will stand before God to give account for all they have done. As the curtain is raised for this last judgement, people will be positioned either on the right hand of God or on his left. Those on his right hand will enjoy eternal blessings. They will be rewarded according to the good works they have done.

But those on his left hand will be condemned to eternal damnation and banished from the presence of God. They will be punished justly according to the wicked deeds they have done (Matthew 25:31-46).

6. The last of the ages will begin, which will continue for eternity

In eternity past, this world did not exist. Then God spoke and a perfect world came into being (Genesis 1:31). But the rebellion of the first humans against the authority of God brought the world into a condition of sinful depravity. In his mercy, God promised to send a Saviour who would defeat the devil and all evil forces (Genesis 3:15). Just at the right time, Jesus Christ came into the world. After completing his work of redemption, he commissioned his followers to spread the good news about the possibility of salvation to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

These are the major periods the world in which we live has experienced up to this point.

But one last era remains. This era will continue forever and ever. In this last age, purity and peace will exist in perfection. Jesus Christ will be honoured by men and angels for the great work of redemption that he accomplished (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:8-14).

This last age is coming soon. By repenting of your sins and by believing in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners you can enjoy this blessing of God throughout eternity. The door of opportunity is open wide to all who will come.