How will the World End?

Q. My question is this, How will the World End?  I am confused by what I’ve read on this subject.  Some say that Jesus returns and establishes his kingdom on earth, and then after a 1,000 years the end comes.  Others say that when he comes again the world ends.  Please help me understand what the bible says about how the world will end. 

The end of the world and the Second coming of Christ are subjects of universal interest to religious people.  The Bible clearly links these two events.  Let me say at the very beginning of this discussion that when Jesus returns again the world will END.  The Bible DOES NOT teach that he will return to earth to establish an earthly kingdom.  There is  comprehensive material at our web site, http://www.scripturessay.com , on this subject.

First of all  – the Bible makes it clear that Jesus promised to return again.

John 14 : 1 – 3

1 ¶ “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

This passage is easy enough to understand.  Jesus promises to return and retrieve the apostles and all others who have been obedient to the gospel.  Notice where the “dwelling places” are located.  When Jesus returns the obedient go to heaven to be with Jesus.

Throughout the centuries many skeptics have mocked His promise.   Peter records:

2  Peter  3 : 3 – 4

3 ¶ Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,

4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

Luke records for us the statement of the apostle Paul on Mars’ Hill in Greece:

Acts 17 : 30 – 31

30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,

31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

The final Judgment presupposes the second coming.  Jesus said He would come a second time.  He also said that when he comes in all his glory (Matthew 25:31) that all the nations would stand in judgment before Him.

The angels promised the early disciples that Jesus would return again:

Acts 1 : 11

11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 4 : 16

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

The apostle John wrote:

1  John  3 : 2

2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

In the book of Revelation John continues:

Revelation 1 : 7

7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

Jesus will return again.  Setting the time of His return is impossible.  

 

An important passage for our consideration is found in Matthew chapter twenty-four.

Matthew 24: 1 – 2

1 ¶ Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.

2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

All the way through our reading I want to point out to you specific statements that need to be taken in their context.  Notice that Jesus “came out of the temple.”  When he says to his disciples in verse two that “not one stone here will be left upon another” he has reference to the temple.  He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that would take place in 70 A.D.

Matthew 24: 3 – 5

3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

4 ¶ And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.

5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

Notice here that the disciples ask him several questions in verse three.  “When will these things happen, “what will be the sign of Your coming” and “of the end of the age.”

Matthew 24: 6- 15

6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.

7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.

8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.

11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

Jesus appeals to the prophecy of Daniel as indicating the time for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Matthew 24: 16 – 34 

16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains;

17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house.

18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.

19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

20 “But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.

21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

22 “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him.

24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

25 “Behold, I have told you in advance.

26 “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

27 “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

28 “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.

31 “And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

32 ¶ “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;

33 So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

34 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Verse thirty-four may be the most important verse to remember in this chapter.   It is a key to unlocking the meaning of the entire context.  Jesus says that “this generation”, in other words,  the generation that was contemporary to HIS day would see all of “these things” take place.  What He is telling us is that verse one through verse thirty-three answer the first two questions that the disciples ask, verse thirty-five through verse fourty-four answer the last question.

Matthew 24: 35 – 37 

35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

What will pass away?  “Heaven and earth.”  When will that happen, Jesus’ words are “no one knows.”

Matthew 24: 37 – 44 

37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

 

In this context the details of Matthew 24:1-34 have to do with the “generation” that was contemporary with Jesus and verses 35-44 have to do with the end of the world.

Jesus gave detailed information by which Christians would know when the Lord’s judgment on Jerusalem was near (see verses 2-15)

  • *The temple would be torn down
  • *False “messiahs” would arise
  • *There would be numerous military encounters
  • *Earthquakes and famines would occur
  • *The disciples would be persecuted
  • *Some would fall away from the faith
  • *False prophets would be prevalent
  • *Decreasing spirituality among Christians would be seen
  • *Those who endured would be delivered
  • *This judgment had been foretold in the book of Daniel

All of these prophetic declarations were fulfilled by the time Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D.

Verses 16-25 is language very similar to apocalyptic language found in Isaiah and Ezekiel.  A number of “signs” were given so that Christians could know that the “Son of Man” was bringing Judgment on Jerusalem.  These “signs” were given so that Christians could KNOW THE SIGN OF THE TIMES.  The “signs” of Matthew 24:1-34 cannot find fulfillment in the final coming of Christ.

The dispensationalists tell us that these “signs” will indicate the end of time.  Lindsey says that these “signs” will be accompanied by a nuclear holocaust.  Notice these important points:

  • *This destruction was upon the temple and Jerusalem

    (Not New York or Paris as dispensationalists tell us)

  • *The disciples were warned to flee to the mountains

    (not very good advise for a nuclear attack)

  • *Christians were warned NOT to go down from the roof  tops

    (again, not very good advise for a nuclear attack)

  • *“Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a  Sabbath”

    (Gates of Jerusalem closed on the Sabbath, it  was difficult to travel in the Winter)

  • *The Lord quotes from Daniel chapter nine.

    (This is very  significant.  Daniel connects the appearance of the  “ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION” with the first coming of christ, NOT the Lord’s second coming.”)

With all these facts under consideration it is clear that Jesus words in verses 1 – 34 are to be understood as prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem.  

Now in Verse 35 we have the beginning of the discussion of the Second Coming of Christ:

Matthew 24:35-44

35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

In the teaching of Jesus there were to be many signs which would indicate the approaching judgment upon Jerusalem.  These signs, when observed, would allow Christians to escape the horrors of the Roman invasion.

However, at the time of the Second Coming no such signs will be given.  “Heaven and earth will pass away,” and “of that day and hour no one knows.”

Even Jesus did not know himself the “day” of his coming, yet he himself gave “signs” by which to determine the judgment to come upon Jerusalem.  If this entire chapter is talking about the Second Coming all (including Jesus) would know when it was about to begin.

Notice also that Jesus makes a reference to the Old Testament.  In the days of Noah no one expected the flood to destroy the earth.  Jesus reasons that at the time of the Second Coming no one will know that it is about to happen.  How could this be so if the “signs” given were able to point to the end?

Further, there is another statement that cannot apply to the destruction of Jerusalem in these last few verses.  “There will be two men in the field, one will be taken and one will be left.”  When Jerusalem was destroyed, according to Josephus, more than a million Jews were slaughtered and thousands were taken into captivity, NONE was left alive in the city.  Scholars have debated for centuries the exact meaning of the words “two men in the field.”  I believe that this passage speaks the the global nature of the Second Coming of Christ.  The illustration that Jesus employs speaks of different times of the day.  Grinding at the mill was early morning work.  Working in the field indicating mid-day, nighttime is of course bed time.  Some will be working while others are sleeping when he comes.

Lastly, the Second Coming will be like the coming of a thief who never warns or gives “signs” as to the time of his coming.

The difficulty of placing a date on the Second Coming:

There are two erroneous views placed on this passage.  One view, known as “Realized Eschatology” states that everything in Matthew 24, including the second coming of Christ, the judgment day and the end of the world were fulfilled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  The other view, equally erroneous, is known as “Dispensational Premillennialism.”  Dispensationalists teach that Matthew twenty-four is an end-time manual which allows one to determine the characteristic events which will signal the end of time.  Hal Lindsey in his book, The Late Grate Planet earth, argues that Matthew twenty-four indicates that the Lord will  return during our life time, originally setting the date as 1988.  Later, as 1988 approached and the “signs” Lindsey felt were necessary to indicate the end of time did not appear, he changed the date.

It should be noted that attempts at setting the date totally ignore Jesus’ words.  Jesus says this:

Matt. 24:25

“Behold, I have told you in advance.”

Matt. 24:36

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

Matt. 24:42

42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

Matt. 24:44

44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Date setting is nothing new.  There were some who lived in the first century that thought they could set the date.  Paul wrote:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5

2:1 ¶ Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,

2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

3 ¶ Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?

This is an important passage to remember.  The earliest date setters were wrong.  They did not know what they were talking about.  There were those in the year 999 A.D. that taught that the return would happen in the year 1,000 A.D. based upon a total misunderstanding of the so-called 1,000 year reign in Revelation chapter twenty.  It did not happen.  The 1800’s and 1900’s witnessed a rash of date setters.  William Miller set a date in the 1840’s and even persuaded some of his followers to invest in “ascension robes” and climb mountains so that they could be the first to see the return.   In the 1900’s dates such as 1914, 1918, 1925, 1937, 1945, 1967, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1999, 2000,  and 2002. Jean Dixon predicted that the world would end before the turn of the century.

In Second Thessalonians Paul talks about the future of the Second Coming to his day.  In the first century, as today, there were some who were saying, “He’s already come.”  Paul says that “it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.”

Some have attempted to tie this concept of the “apostasy” and the “man of lawlessness” with the antichrist.  The context here clearly reveals that the “man of lawlessness” was not a person, per se, but a principle.  It is the principle that no longer regards the authority of the apostles, and their teachings, as the only standard in religion.  This “principle” attempts to place himself in God’s place, deciding what is right and what is wrong.  I would suggest to you that the great apostasy that Paul speaks of has already taken place.  Men have accumulated for themselves teachers according to their own desires and have turned away from the truth.

2 Peter 3 : 3 – 1 8                           

3 ¶ Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,

4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,

6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8 ¶ But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9 ¶ The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

11 ¶ Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,

16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

First let us notice that the “last days” is an expression used by the apostles to speak of the “days” in which we live, not some time future to our day (Cf. Acts 2:14ff).  Peter says that

Second notice that the “mockers” have not changed their tune in all these years.  They continue to say, “nothing has ever changed……where is he?”  What Peter says they overlook is the power of God to accomplish what he will to accomplish when he desires to accomplish it!  By “HIS WORD” God will speak the Judgment and the end of the Word into reality.

Verse eight indicates that the passing of time does not change the will of God.  One day, or a thousand years is nothing to Him.  He will accomplish his purpose.  Verse nine tells us why he has delayed, God does “not wish any to perish.”

However, there will come a day when judgment will come, it is “the day of the Lord,” the day God brings judgment on the whole world.

On that day the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

“The heavens” is a reference to space, the rest of the universe outside of our world.  The “elements” has reference to the primary substance of things.  The entire framework of the universe will be destroyed.  There will be complete destruction of the earth and everything in it.  The phrase “will be burned up” is the translation of one Greek Word used several times in the New Testament to express the idea of burning up chaff (Matt. 3:12), and tares that are to be gathered and burned (Matt. 13:40) and the burning of the bodies of animals outside the camp  of Israel (Heb. 13:11).  Here the idea must be that the earth is to be completely destroyed.

Peter uses the word “earth” when he speaks of the destruction of our world.  Had he chosen to use the Greek Word translated as “world” there might be some merit in the argument that the “world” is going to be cleansed as a place for man to dwell in, but Peter is definite, it is the “earth” all of the “earth” that will be destroyed.  Whatever happens to one part of the earth will happen to the other.

Peter says:

11 ¶ Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God,

In view of what is going to happen to the material universe, we ought to be serious about the kind of people we are.  We ought to be people characterized by holy conduct and godliness.

Because we “look for a new heaven and a new earth.” We are not told what this new heaven and new earth is going to be like.  It’s really not necessary for us to know to live holy and godly lives.   Peter certainly removes all doubt about an earthly kingdom on earth.  When Jesus returns the earth is done.

One more passage:

1 Thessalonians 4: 1 3 – 5: 1 0 

13 ¶ But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1 – 1 0 

5:1 ¶ Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.

2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;

5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

6 ¶ so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.

8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

The good news is that all who put their faith and obedience in Jesus will not be alarmed whenever the world ends!  Special thanks to Wayne Jackson (http://www.christiancourier.com/) upon whom the above notes have been adapted and are heavily dependent.  Brother Jackson has an excellent web site with very rich scholarly material available.  The above presentation was converted to CD-ROM video for computers in 2002 and offered free at this web site to anyone in the world who wanted a copy.  As of January, 1, 2006 over 180,000 copies of this material has been distributed to over 150 countries around the world.

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