Questions From Readers
◼ Is it fitting to speak of a coming “new world”?
This question may properly be asked, since the Greek word often translated “world,” koʹsmos, basically means mankind, and God is not going to make a new race of mankind. Moreover, in the Bible we do not find the expression kai·nosʹ koʹsmos (literally, “new world”).
But the Biblical use of koʹsmos allows for a Christian to speak of a “new world” when referring to the coming Paradise restored on earth. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology explains: ‘The noun kosmos denoted originally building, but more especially it denotes order.’ This dictionary adds that the word also has specific senses, such as “ornament and adornment,” “the regulation of life in human society,” and “the inhabitants of the earth, humanity.”
In the Christian Greek Scriptures, koʹsmos is often used in the sense of the entire human family. We thus read that “all have sinned [that is, all Adam’s imperfect descendants] and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:19, 23) On the other hand, “God loved the world [koʹsmos] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might . . . have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Yes, Christ’s sacrifice is available to everyone in the human family who exercises faith.
If that were the only Biblical use of koʹsmos, it would be incorrect to speak of an approaching “new world.” Why? Because some of mankind will survive the coming great tribulation. These ones will then have the opportunity to live in the restored Paradise. So God will not create a new race of humans, a new mankind, a new world of people. However, the Bible does not use koʹsmos only to mean all mankind.
For instance, sometimes the Greek word signifies all humans who are alienated from God. Hebrews 11:7 says that “by faith Noah . . . condemned the world [koʹsmos].” He obviously did not condemn every last person, all of mankind; Noah and seven of his family survived the Flood. Similarly, Jesus prayed: “I make request, not concerning the world [koʹsmos], but concerning those you have given me . . . The world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:9, 14; compare 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6.
Let us, though, focus on still another sense in which the Bible uses koʹsmos. This is to signify the framework, order, or sphere of human life.a We encounter such a use in Jesus’ comment: “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world [koʹsmos] but forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Clearly, Christ was not referring to a person’s ‘gaining the whole world of mankind,’ nor to ‘the whole world of people alienated from God.’ It was not humanity that a materialistic person might gain, but it was what people have, do, or arrange. This was true also of the apostle Paul’s observations about a married person’s ‘being anxious for the things of the world.’ Likewise, a Christian should not be ‘using the world to the full.’—1 Corinthians 7:31-33.
In this sense, koʹsmos has a meaning similar to that of the Greek word ai·onʹ, which can be rendered “system of things” or “age.” (See Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 1671-4.) We find in some cases that the two words can almost be interchanged. Consider two examples of similarity between koʹsmos and ai·onʹ: (1) Paul wrote that he was forsaken by Demas, who “loved the present system of things [ai·onʹ].” But the apostle John counseled against ‘loving the world [koʹsmos],’ from which originate “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17) (2) John 12:31 speaks of “the ruler of this world [koʹsmos],” who is identified at 2 Corinthians 4:4 as “the god of this system of things [ai·onʹ].”
Consequently, koʹsmos, or “world,” can be used regarding all mankind as well as the framework of the human sphere. For this reason, we can fittingly and with equal correctness speak of the coming of a “new system of things” or of a “new world.” This will be a new framework, world order, or sphere of human life. Most inhabiting the restored earthly Paradise will have lived in the old system of things. Yet they will have survived it or have been resurrected. So they will be the same humanity. In the absence, however, of the world of mankind alienated from God, and with a new arrangement, or order, based on God’s revealed will prevailing, that restored Paradise will be a new world.
a The above-quoted dictionary points out that even in ancient, non-Biblical Greek “kosmos is the basic term for the world-order, the world-system.”
[Picture on page 31]
Righteous mankind will restore Paradise in the new world