Definition: When translated from the Greek word koʹsmos, “world” can mean (1) humankind as a whole, apart from their moral condition or course of life, (2) the framework of human circumstances into which a person is born and in which he lives, or (3) the mass of mankind apart from Jehovah’s approved servants. Some Bible translators have conveyed inaccurate impressions by also using “world” as the equivalent of Greek terms that mean “earth,” “inhabited earth,” and “system of things.” The following discussion focuses its principal attention on the third of the numbered meanings of “world” as given above.
Will the world be destroyed by fire?
2 Pet. 3:7: “By the same word [of God] the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (Notice that it is “the ungodly men,” not humankind as a whole, who are to be destroyed. Similarly, verse 6 refers to destruction of “the world” in Noah’s day. Wicked people were destroyed, but the earth as well as God-fearing Noah and his household remained. Is the “fire” in the coming day of judgment going to be literal, or is it symbolic of complete destruction? What effect would literal fire have on such literal heavenly bodies as the already intensely hot sun and stars? For further consideration of this text, see pages 113-115, under “Earth.”)
Prov. 2:21, 22: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”
Who rules this world—God or Satan?
Dan. 4:35: “[The Most High God, Jehovah,] is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’” (In a similar vein, Jeremiah 10:6, 7 refers to Jehovah as “King of the nations” because he is the Superlative King, the one who can and will call to account human kings and the nations over which they rule. As the earth’s Creator, Jehovah is its rightful Ruler; he has never abdicated that position.)
John 14:30: “[Jesus said:] The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me.” (This ruler obviously is not Jehovah God, whose will Jesus always performs loyally. This “ruler of the world” must be “the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, in whose power “the whole world is lying,” as stated at 1 John 5:19. Although mankind lives on a planet that belongs to God, the world that is made up of those who are not Jehovah’s obedient servants is under Satan’s control because such people obey him. Those who wholeheartedly submit to Jehovah’s rulership are not part of that world. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:4.)
Rev. 13:2: “The dragon [Satan the Devil] gave to the beast its power and its throne and great authority.” (Comparison of the description of this “beast” with Daniel 7 indicates that it represents human government, not just one such but the global system of political rulership. That Satan is its ruler agrees with Luke 4:5-7, also with Revelation 16:14, 16, which depicts demonic utterances as leading the rulers of all the earth to war against God at Armageddon. Satan’s rulership of the world is one that is merely tolerated by God until His appointed time arrives for settling the issue of universal sovereignty.)
Rev. 11:15: “Loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ.’” (When this occurred in 1914, “the last days” for the present wicked system began. A new manifestation of Jehovah’s sovereignty appeared, this time through his own Son as Messianic Ruler. Soon the wicked world will be destroyed, and Satan, its wicked spirit ruler, will be abyssed, unable to influence mankind.)
What is the attitude of true Christians toward the world and toward people who are part of the world?
John 15:19: “You [Jesus’ followers] are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (Thus true Christians are no part of the mass of human society that is alienated from God. They care for normal human activities, but they shun attitudes, speech, and conduct that are characteristic of the world and that conflict with Jehovah’s righteous ways.) (See pages 269-276, also 389-393.)
Jas. 4:4: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Because Christians are imperfect, they may at times get soiled through contacts with the world. But when counseled from God’s Word, they repent and correct their ways. However, if some, by deliberate choice, ally themselves with the world or imitate its spirit, they show that they no longer are true Christians but have become part of the world that is at enmity with God.)
Rom. 13:1: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” (Those who heed this counsel are not rebels, trying to overthrow governments of the world. They subject themselves to the authority of political rulers, obeying them as long as the demands of such rulers do not conflict with God’s requirements. Such governments were foreseen and foretold by God. They exercise authority, not because he empowered them, but by his permission. In his due time he will also remove them.)
Gal. 6:10: “As long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (So, true Christians do not hold back from doing good to their fellowmen. They imitate God, who makes the sun shine upon both wicked people and good.—Matt. 5:43-48.)
Matt. 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (For others to give glory to God because of what Christians do, it is obvious that those who are Christians must be active witnesses to the world concerning God’s name and purpose. It is to this activity that true Christians give primary emphasis.)
What is the meaning of present world conditions?
See the main heading “Last Days.”