The “End of the World”—Something to Hope For
“ECONOMIC and moral crises, wars, assassination attempts, seizures of hostages, the arms race, the tragedy of famines and refugees—humanity is indeed very sick. . . . But the end of a world is not necessarily the end of the world.” So said the Paris daily Le Monde under the headline (in English) “Apocalypse Now?”
Wittingly or unwittingly, the writer of those lines expressed the Bible viewpoint on things. The Scriptures show that a world (in the sense of a “system of things”) can come to its end without the world (in the sense of the earth and all its inhabitants) being destroyed. Moreover, as we shall see, the very conditions mentioned by that French newspaper as evidence that “humanity is indeed very sick” were foretold in the Bible as part of a sign indicating that we are now living at the “conclusion” of the present wicked “system of things” and that we are at the dawn of another “age” that will be characteristically different—a new “system of things.”
WHY THE OLD “WORLD” MUST GO
The spine-chilling term “end of the world” is really a misnomer that has been used by Christendom’s preachers to scare people into supporting their church systems. The original Greek means “conclusion of the system of things.” Hence, a person might ask: Why must the present system disappear?
The primary reason is that such is God’s purpose. Why? Ever since it came into existence, shortly after the flood of Noah’s day, the present system of things has gone from bad to worse. (Gen. 10:8-12; 11:1-9) It was not created by Jehovah God. On the contrary, God’s true servants have always been harassed and even persecuted by “the rulers of this system of things.” (1 Cor. 2:6) And small wonder, for the apostle Paul calls Satan “the god of this system of things.” (2 Cor. 4:4) If only because it was “the rulers of this system of things” that “impaled the glorious Lord,” Christ Jesus, such a system deserves to disappear.—1 Cor. 2:8.
The present world arrangement has distinguished itself by increasing sin, unrighteousness and rebellion against God and his will. It has fostered injustice, oppression and violence—among individuals and among nations. The Bible calls it “the present wicked system of things.” (Gal. 1:4) It is unreformable. Therefore, it must go!
SCIENTIFIC FEARS UNFOUNDED
But that will not mean the end of the planet Earth. As we have seen in the previous article, men of science have expressed fears of “cosmic catastrophes that threaten the earth.” Such fears, however, are merely hypotheses concerning things that could occur, but that take no account of the most important cosmographic factor: God and his purpose for the earth.
Pierre-Paul Grassé, a member of the French Academy of Science, states:
“Natural order was not invented by the human mind or set up by certain perceptive powers. No, it is a reality that was comprehended perfectly by such physicists and mathematicians as Planck and Einstein. The existence of order presupposes the existence of organizing intelligence. Such intelligence can be none other than God’s.”
Yes, more and more scientists have come to the conclusion that it is more rational to acknowledge the existence of an intelligent Creator than to explain the universe by the word “chance.”
Since God exists, the question now is: What does he purpose for the earth? His Word, the Bible, replies: “This is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: ‘I am Jehovah.’” (Isa. 45:18) Jehovah God did not create the earth with the intention of eventually destroying it. (Ps. 104:5) God’s purpose is for the earth “to be inhabited” by a righteous race of men and women dedicated to the doing of his will. That explains why Jesus taught Christians to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 6:9, 10.
A RIGHTEOUS “NEW EARTH”—HOW?
Having demonstrated that Jehovah God, the “Former of the earth,” “the One who firmly established it,” has a well-defined purpose for the planet we live on, it remains for us to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of “a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:13.
Obviously, the promised “new earth” cannot mean a new planet. What it does mean can be deduced logically from the context in Peter’s second letter. As an example of what is due to occur before the righteous “new earth” is set up, Peter speaks of the flood of Noah’s day. He mentions “an earth [Greek, ge] standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; and by those means the world [Greek, koʹsmos] of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
What “world” was destroyed by the Flood? Earlier in that same letter, Peter writes: “He [God] did not hold back from punishing an ancient world [koʹsmos], but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world [koʹsmos] of ungodly people.” (2 Pet. 2:5) So a “world of ungodly people” came to an end by means of the Deluge. Yet the earth and a minority of humans upon it survived.a It was the wicked, ungodly human society that was destroyed, not the planet Earth.
Similarly, it is with reference to the symbolic “earth,” representing the corrupt human society that has developed since the Flood, that Peter goes on to say: “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. 3:7) Yes, just as the planet Earth survived the end of the pre-Flood “world of ungodly people,” so it will survive the “fire” or “destruction” of “ungodly men” and their governments. These latter, and the wicked human society over which they rule, make up the symbolic “heavens and the earth that are now.”—Compare Revelation 21:8.
Peter adds: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” Logically, by these words he is referring to a righteous new government (God’s kingdom under Christ) and a regenerated human society.—2 Pet. 3:13.
HOW TO SURVIVE
Whereas most human futurologists are mournfully pessimistic about the future of the earth and human society, Christians who really believe and follow the Bible are very optimistic. They see in the crises that have erupted on earth since 1914 the “sign” that Jesus told his followers to watch for. Jesus added: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. . . . when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”—Luke 21:10, 11, 25, 26, 28, 31, 36; Matt. 24:3, 7-13.
Far from being “prophets of doom,” Jehovah’s Witnesses are sounding forth the very best of news, namely, that God’s kingdom is about to take in hand the governing of the earth. They are fulfilling Jesus’ prophetic words: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end [telos] will come.” (Matt. 24:14) That “end” will mean the destruction of the present wicked system of things, the end of injustice, oppression, violence, wars, famine, disease—yes, the end of suffering and of death itself!—Rev. 21:1-5.
Truly, the “end of the world” is not something to fear. Rather, it is something to hope for, since it will usher in a righteous new system of things on this beautiful earth that God has ‘fixed on its foundations, unshakeable for ever and ever.’—Ps. 104:5, The Jerusalem Bible.
a For proof of the global flood, see chapter 3 of the book Is the Bible Really the Word of God?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Picture on page 7]
God’s kingdom is about to take over rulership of the earth