End of the World or End of an Age?
The world is coming to an end! Why? Because the Bible says so! Or does it? Modern Bible prophecy teachers declare that we are living in the last days and that these are the end times! But does scripture predict an end of time?
What exactly does the Bible mean when it mentions “the last days”? It is important to define Biblical terms. Does scripture define the term “the last days” as the end of time or simply the end of an age? What does scripture reveal about this important subject? Let us start at the beginning – in the book of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 6 we read the account of God destroying the world with a flood. Then in Genesis 8:21 the Lord declares that he will never again destroy every living creature “as I have done.”
Genesis 8:21-22 (KJV) – And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Destruction by Fire?
Somehow Christians go from the Lord promising never “again smite any more every thing living” to a belief that in their future the Lord will once again destroy the earth by fire. The go-to term here is “as I have done.” Is this referring to destroying the earth by water or does it refer to “every living” creature? I was taught (and taught) many years ago that it refers to the water. Stop and think! Is the point the Lord trying to make about mercy or destruction? Why did God bring the flood in the first place? Wasn’t it because of sin? However, in Genesis chapter 8 we see the Lord looking thru the ages and acknowledging that “man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Yes, God destroyed the world by the flood because of wickedness. The Lord, being all-knowing, knew that man would not change. Moreover, even though the Lord knew man would not change He still vowed to never again destroy the world – by any means.
However, the clear testimony of scripture does not stop all of the end time theories that insist that God will destroy the world because of man’s evil. The view goes something like this: the world will get worse and worse until God has had enough and will then destroy it. However, the destruction will not be by a flood but by fire. Of course, scripture is cited, that seems to support their view. Alternatively, does it? Let us see what the scripture reveals.
The End of Time or the Time of the End?
First, let us dig into some common terms when studying the “end times.” Search your Bible and see if you can find the term “end of time.” It is not there! What we do see is the term “time of the end.” There is a vast difference between the two terms. Some translations, like the King James Version (KJV) in Revelation 10:6 states that “there should be time no longer.” This expression is clearer in other translations:
NKJV – Rev. 10:6 – “that there should be delay no longer.”
NASB – Rev. 10:6 – “that there will be delay no longer.”
ESV – Rev. 10:6 – “That there would be no more delay.”
NIV2011 – Rev. 10:6 – “There will be no more delay.”
The point here is that if you are going to Revelation 10:6 as your go-to scripture to support the idea that time will end that interpretation just does not stand up to scrutiny. John, the Apostle, was seeing the imminent fulfillment of all things the Old Testament Prophets had foretold. John knew that all those Old Testament prophecies were for the time of the end. For example, the Lord told Daniel that his visions were not for his time but a time in his future:
Daniel 12:4 – “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
Other Old Testament prophets who were told by the Lord that their predictions were for the “last days” included Isaiah and Joel.
Isaiah 2:2 (KJV) – And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
Joel 2:28 (KJV) – And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
So while Daniel, Isaiah, and Joel were told their prophecies were for the “time of the end,” John was told, “there should be delay no longer.” In other words, the time of fulfillment had arrived when John wrote the book of Revelation! John, along with other first century Christians, were living in “the time of the end.” However, this “time of the end” was not the same thing as the “end of time.” Time was not ending; an age was ending. This is the reason that John wrote in 1 John 2:18 (KJV) “we know it is the last hour.” John wrote this close to 2,000 years ago. So nearly 2,000 years ago John is saying it’s “the last hour”.
In other words, the time of fulfillment had arrived when John wrote the book of Revelation! John, along with
Peter knew that the things the prophets predicted were not for their time but for a time in their future. The salvation spoken of by the prophets was not for their time but Peter’s day. This salvation had been revealed to those first century Christians. Peter believed and preached that the day of salvation, spoken of the prophets had arrived. Peter realized that he was living in the “last times” (1 Peter 1:20).
1 Peter 1:10-12 (KJV) – Of which salvation the prophets had enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
1 Peter 1:20 (KJV) – Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
You see, the Old Testament prophets looked ahead to “the last days.” It was going to be the end of an age but not the end of the world or the end of time. It was going to be the end of the Jewish Age; the end of the Temple sacrificial system. These prophets looked forward to the arrival of the Messiah who would come in “the last days.” This was the time of the end that the disciples asked about on the Mount of Olives. Let us look at their questions in two Bible translations the King James Version and the New King James Version:
Matthew 24:3 (KJV) – And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Matthew 24:3 (NKJV) – Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Do you notice the difference between the KJV and NKJV? The KJV uses the expression “end of the world” while the NKJV uses the word “age” instead of “world.” In the Greek, it is aion from which we get the English word “age.” Jesus then goes on to give the signs in Matthew 24:14 and declares that the “end of the age” would occur in that generation:
Matthew 24:34 (KJV) – Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Jesus told his disciples that the end of the age was to occur with the coming judgment in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. He said it would happen before all that generation (those Jesus was speaking to) passed away.
Matthew 16:27-28 (KJV) – For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
There are no scriptures that speak of an “end” that is far removed from the first century. The Apostles always used language such as 1 Peter 4:7 where they declared “the end of all things is at hand.” What does that language tell you? Peter penned those words nearly 2,000 years ago. It does not seem like Peter was referring to our day, does it? This “end of all things” that Peter was referring to could not have been the end of time but the end of an age – the Jewish Age. It was the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of a better Covenant – the Covenant of Jesus Christ.
The Christian Age
So the Old Covenant, Jewish Age did come to an end just like the prophets foretold, and it happened during the time our New Testament scriptures were written. The Old passed away, and the New was ushered in. The new age is the Christian Age. The scriptures reveal that the Christian Age will have no end. This fact was stated by the Old Testament prophets.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV) – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 is a prophecy regarding the coming of Christ and His rule. Christ would sit on the throne of David and “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” Did you catch the power of the language? Christ’s throne is endless! It is not limited to 1000 years nor even until the end of time. We see similar language in the book of Daniel. Christ’s Kingdom will never be destroyed, and it will stand forever!
Daniel 2:44 (KJV) – And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV) – I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Other promises of an everlasting Kingdom are given in the New Testament. An angel told Mary that Jesus would be given the throne of David and that “of his kingdom, there will be no end.”. Now, look at Ephesians 3:21. Paul refers to the “the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages,” and then he concludes “world without end.”
So, what is the point here? Well, the current, traditional view of “the end time” teaches that the church age is only temporary. The traditional views of “the end” say the church will give way to the kingdom or Christ will give up his throne at the end of time. Both views contradict scripture about the unending nature of the Christian Age! Many prophecy teachers put forth the idea that the church is some type of interim measure and that we are presenting living in the church age. What these views fail to define is what exactly is the Kingdom of God. We explored the Biblical meaning of the Kingdom of God in this article: The Kingdom of God .
Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away
All right, so we know that scripture speaks of the end of the age, but it also says the Christian age will have no end. So then which age was to end? The answer is simple. It was the Old Covenant age of Israel! It was pointing toward the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end to the Old Covenant system of animal sacrifices. It is referred to as “heaven and earth” or their Covenant world. This Old Covenant “heaven and earth” was to give way to a “new heavens and earth.”
The metaphoric language of the Old Testament prophets can be confusing to us modern-day English speakers. In Isaiah 51:5-6 we see the Lord predicting the destruction of “heaven and earth.” God promised to destroy the old world and give them a new heaven and earth. These worlds are not physical worlds but covenant worlds. This is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew chapter 24 when He predicted the destruction of the Temple within the generation of his disciples. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said that “heaven and earth shall pass away.”
We posted an article regarding the passing away of heaven and earth which can found in this article Heavens and Earth Shall Pass Away.
Isaiah 51:5-6 (KJV) – My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
God’s new world would stand forever. This new world would make way for the new creation of Christ. Scripture reveals that there is no “end of time,” but there is “time of the end.” This “time of the end” would be the end of the Old Covenant Age of Israel. Its end would usher in the New Covenant “heaven and earth” of Christs’ Church.
However, don’t the scriptures teach that the very elements of this world will “melt with
2 Peter 3:10 (KJV) – “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.”
We need to examine the meaning of this word “elements,” which is the same word used several other times in the New Testament. The Greek word for “elements” is “stoicheion” and means “something orderly in arrangement – element, principle, rudiment.” Some in other words the “elements” referred to in 2 Peter 3:10 is not referring to the physical creation but the elementary principles or rudiments of the established order. The “elements” that were going to melt with a fervent heat were the principals or rudiments of the Old Covenant. This would, in turn, give way to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
The scriptures reveal that the church was established by Jesus Christ to be a preaching, teaching, evangelizing body of born-again believers. Scripture proclaims that the church is to have NO END. Therefore, any view that speaks of the end of the church age goes against the testimony of scripture. The “time of the end” and “last days” that the Bible refers to is speaking of the end of the Old Covenant Age. The Old Covenant, “Heaven and Earth” of Israel, was to give way for the unending “new Heaven and Earth” of the Messiah and His Church.
In the book of Revelation John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, writes about a city “where our Lord was crucified” being destroyed. The dead bodies would lie in the street of the great city. There is only one “great city” in the world where Jesus Christ was crucified, and that was Old Covenant Jerusalem. The city along with the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman Army led by General Titus.
Revelation 11:8 (KJV) – And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Then later in chapter 21 of Revelation John writes about a “new heaven and a new earth.” John then sees a “holy city,” a “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.” This “new Jerusalem” was prepared as a “bride adorned for her husband.” John saw a vision of the New Covenant Church! The “tabernacle of God” would be with men and dwell with them. This is a reference to the infilling of the Holy Ghost that occurred on the day of Pentecost and continues to this day.
Revelation 21:1-3 (KJV) – And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, 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.
You see all of the scriptures referring to the end-time, the end of time, the last days, melting elements and the passing away of heaven and earth do not refer to the end of planet earth but the end of Old Covenant Israel. The destruction of planet earth simply is not represented in scripture. Heaven and earth have already passed! The Kingdom of God presently rules in the hearts of God’s children who are obedient to His word. Scripture reveals that the “kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 14:17). Any other interpretation of scripture simply holds people in an unnecessary fear of the future. When the scripture declares “world without end” we can all say “amen”!