The Three Worlds
The Bible speaks of three worlds. No longer need anyone be confused about . . . The world that once was, the world that now is and the world to come
ALMOST everyone knows of Jesus’ words at John 3:16 (NW) when he said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Yet the very same Bible writer, the apostle John, wrote in his epistle these words: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, NW) Would God tell us not to love that which he loves? Contradiction in the Bible? No; if there is contradiction, it is only in the minds of those who know nothing of the three worlds.
Where do we learn about the three worlds? In the Bible, at 2 Peter chapter three. Here the apostle speaks of (1) “the world of that time” or the “heavens in ancient times and an earth” that suffered destruction in Noah’s day; (2) “the heavens and the earth that are now” and (3) the “new heavens and a new earth.”—2 Pet. 3:5-13, NW.
Striking it is that all three worlds are associated with a heavens and an earth. Does this mean that there have been or will be other earthly planets? No. In the Bible the word “earth,” as with the word “heavens,” is not always used in its literal sense. At Psalm 96:1 (AS), for example, the Bible says: “Sing unto Jehovah, all the earth.” Here “earth” is used symbolically to refer to God’s servants on the earth.
When the Bible speaks of an earth’s perishing, then, it does not refer to the literal earth. For God’s Word says of the earthly globe: “The earth which he hath established for ever.” (Ps. 78:69, AS) So when the Bible says that an earth was destroyed or is to be destroyed, it means the symbolic “earth,” that is, the visible human part of a world, the human society under its social arrangement.
Likewise the term “heavens” is often used symbolically to refer to the invisible rulers of a world—spirit creatures, whether wicked or righteous.
THE “ANCIENT WORLD”
When Adam joined Eve in rebellion against their God and Creator, a corrupt world began. Under the unseen influence of a powerful spirit creature who became known as Satan the Devil, wickedness increased on the earth. Telling of the increased evil, the Bible record says: “The earth came to be ruined in the sight of the God and the earth became filled with violence.”—Gen. 6:11, NW.
Why had violence gripped the earth? One reason was that an undisclosed number of holy angels in heaven disobeyed God. How? By leaving their proper heavenly dwelling place to live on the earth. “It came about that when men started to grow in numbers on the surface of the ground and daughters were born to them, then the sons of God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking, and they went to taking wives for themselves.” (Gen. 6:1-3, NW) Soon after the sons of God materialized as men and married the daughters of men conditions grew worse.
This was because the offspring born to the unholy unions were hybrids, human freaks, monsters. They were larger than the average man, and they had incredibly great vitality because of having angelic fathers. These freakishly powerful offspring were called Nephilim. They terrorized the earth, filling it with violence.
Who made up the “heavens” of that ancient world? Since the sons of God or the fathers of the Nephilim really dominated the earth, they with Satan the Devil formed a heavenly control body, a symbolic “heavens” over mankind. There was also a symbolic “earth” of that ancient world. This was the morally corrupt human society. Thus there was a “heavens in ancient times and an earth.”—2 Pet. 3:5, NW.
That ancient heavens and earth were wicked. God determined that they had to go: “I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground.” (Gen. 6:7, NW) God disclosed this fact to Noah, a man who detested the wicked conditions of that world and who loved righteousness. God instructed Noah to build a big three-story ark. Noah did as God commanded. Noah also was active as a preacher of righteousness. But the people of that time, except for Noah’s wife, three sons and their wives, were not interested in righteous conditions. As to God’s purpose to wipe out men by a flood, the wicked world did not believe it would happen. The world scoffed at Noah and ridiculed him for his ark-building.
But one day in November, 2370 B.C., the time came for the end of the “ancient world.” Says the Bible: “The floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights. And the waters became overwhelming and kept increasing greatly upon the earth, but the ark kept going on the surface of the waters. And the waters overwhelmed the earth so greatly that all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered. Thus he wiped out every existing thing that was on the surface of the ground, from man to beast.” The scoffers, who scoffed at the idea that God would destroy a wicked world, scoffed no more.—Gen. 7:11, 12, 18, 19, 23, NW.
The end of that ancient world took in both heavens and earth. The symbolic “earth,” the visible human part of that corrupt ancient world, perished but the planet earth remained. The symbolic “heavens” was likewise destroyed, since the spirit sons of God were forced to dematerialize and go back to the spirit realm.
Concerning the Bringer of that world-destroying flood, the Bible says: “He did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.”—2 Pet. 2:5, NW.
“THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD”
Some time after the flood of Noah’s day the world in which we live began. Noah gave the earth a clean start. But not long after the flood wickedness cropped up again. What happened? Under the influence of the Devil men fell away from the righteous example set by Noah.
The global flood had not destroyed the Devil or the disobedient sons of God. Because of their disobedience the spirit sons of God were not allowed to go back to God’s holy organization. Left in darkness by being debarred from God’s enlightening counsels, the disobedient sons of God were now “spirits in prison.” (1 Pet. 3:19, NW) The Devil made himself ruler of the “spirits in prison” and became the ruler of the demons. The Devil and his demons thus constitute the “heavens” of this wicked world.
Aptly, an apostle of Christ Jesus called this world “this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4) So this present world does not originate with God. It is controlled by the Devil, of whom the Scripture says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19, NW.
Is this “present evil world” destined to continue indefinitely? No, God has set a date for its end. According to the sign of the last days, that end will come during this generation. The means by which God will wipe out this present world is a war in heaven and earth. The Bible calls this invisible and visible war by the symbolic name “Armageddon.”—Rev. 16:16.
God’s Word contains numerous references to this heaven-fought war that will end this evil world. For example, it is referred to as “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” that is, “the great and terrible day of Jehovah,” “the day of Jehovah’s anger,” “the day of vengeance of our God,” “the day of wrath and of the revealing of God’s righteous judgment,” “the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” It means “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire,” “sudden destruction,” and “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Rev. 16:14, NW; Mal. 4:5; Zeph. 2:2; Isa. 61:2, AS; Rom. 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:7; 2 Thess. 1:7, 8; 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:21, NW.
As it was in Noah’s day during that world’s time of the end, so it will be today. The great Prophet Christ Jesus said: “As people were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:38, 39, NW) Engrossed in the pursuits of life, people today do not want to hear the warning of this present world’s end; they, like the people of the “ancient world,” scoff at the idea that a wicked world will be destroyed. So today most people “take no note” of the warning of this world’s end now being sounded by the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. Some people scoff and laugh at the idea that God will step in and end this world.
It is not unusual that people should ridicule the “last days” sign of Christ’s second presence. It was certain to be this way. “In the last days,” said the apostle Peter, “there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”—2 Pet. 3:3, 4, NW.
But why are the scoffers scoffing? Should not the destruction of the “ancient world” serve as a warning that God can do it again? Yes, it should! But men do not wish to be reminded of the end of this world; on purpose they avoid thinking about it; they want to believe that all things will continue “exactly as from creation’s beginning.” For selfish reasons they try to erase all memory of the “ancient world” and its watery end.
But it will do them no good to ignore the truth, as the apostle explains: “According to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens in ancient times and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God, and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. But by the same word 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.” (2 Pet. 3:5-7, NW) Yes, God will do it again! He has promised it in his Word.
“NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH”
The destruction of this world’s symbolic heavens and earth will not leave a void. No, but it will make way for a whole new world: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:13, NW.
The new world will never be corrupted; it will ever remain a righteous world. The Devil and the demons, who make up the heavens of this world, will never become the heavens of the new world. At Armageddon the Devil and his demons will be abyssed for a thousand years; then, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ, they will be hurled into the lake of fire, a symbol of everlasting destruction.
The new heavens, made up of Christ Jesus and 144,000 faithful Christians ransomed from among men, will never turn corrupt. And the new earth will remain forever righteous. You can be an inhabitant of that righteous new earth and enjoy its everlasting blessings. Of the new earth God’s Word says: “Death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:4, NW.
Never, never throughout all eternity will the new world end or its blessings cease flowing to all the perfect men and women living on the earth. This Jehovah guarantees: “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah. And they shall go forth, and look upon the dead bodies of the men that have transgressed against me.”—Isa. 66:22-24, AS.
After Armageddon the survivors will go forth and look upon the dead bodies of those Jehovah has slain. Over two billion dead! The carcasses of those who refused to love the new world that God loved so much that he gave his only begotten Son! The carcasses of those who loved this present evil world, which we are commanded not to love. Their dead bodies will be unburied, food for worms, birds and beasts. They will be objects of abhorrence to all righteous surviving flesh. Then throughout endless time, throughout all seasons of the year, from month to month, from week to week, all human flesh will come to worship Jehovah and to give glory to the God of the righteous new world.