How do you feel about December 21, 2012, the date on the Maya calendar that many have been saying would bring worldwide change? Depending on what you expected, you might be relieved, disappointed, or indifferent. Was it just another incorrect prediction for the end of the world?
What about “the end of the world” described in the Bible? (Matthew 24:3, King James Version) Some fear that the earth will be burned up. Others are fascinated by end-time scenarios. Many have simply grown tired of being told that the end is near. But could those be reactions to fiction rather than to fact?
You might be surprised to learn what the Bible really says about the end of the world. Not only does the Bible give reasons to look forward to the end but it also acknowledges the frustration that can set in if the end seems to be overdue. We invite you to consider the Bible’s answers to some common questions about the end of the world.
Will the earth be burned up?
THE BIBLE’S ANSWER: “[God] has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.”—PSALM 104:5.
The earth will not be destroyed, either by fire or by any other means. Instead, the Bible teaches that this planet is mankind’s eternal home. Psalm 37:29 says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 115:16; Isaiah 45:18.
After God created the earth, he said that it “was very good,” and he still feels that way. (Genesis 1:31) Far from planning to destroy it, he promises to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”—and to protect it from permanent damage.—Revelation 11:18.
You may wonder, though, about 2 Peter 3:7. That Bible verse says: “The heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire.” Does this not show that the earth will be burned up? Actually, the Bible sometimes uses the terms “heavens,” “earth,” and “fire” figuratively, as symbols. For example, when Genesis 11:1 says: “All the earth continued to be of one language,” it uses “earth” to mean human society.
The context of 2 Peter 3:7 shows that the heavens, earth, and fire mentioned there are also symbols. Verses 5 and 6 draw a parallel with the Flood of Noah’s day. On that occasion, an ancient world was destroyed, yet our planet did not disappear. Instead, the Flood wiped out a violent society, or “earth.” It also destroyed a kind of “heavens”—the people who ruled over that earthly society. (Genesis 6:11) In the same way, 2 Peter 3:7 foretells the permanent destruction of wicked society and its corrupt governments as if by fire.
What happens at the end of the world?
THE BIBLE’S ANSWER: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 JOHN 2:17.
“The world” that is to pass away is, not the earth, but the world of mankind whose lives are not in harmony with God’s will. Just as a surgeon might remove a cancerous tumor to save a patient’s life, God will “cut off” the wicked so that good people can truly enjoy life on earth. (Psalm 37:9) In that sense, “the end of the world” is a good thing.
Such a positive view of “the end of the world” is implied by the Bible translations that render this expression “the conclusion of the system of things” or “the end of the age.” (Matthew 24:3; New International Version) Since both humankind and the earth survive the end, does it not seem reasonable that a new age, a new system of things, would follow? The Bible answers yes, for it speaks of “the coming system of things.”—Luke 18:30.
Jesus called that future period “the renewal of all things.” At that time, he will restore humanity to the conditions that God originally intended. (Matthew 19:28, NIV) We will then enjoy
Work that is meaningful and satisfying.—Isaiah 65:21-23.
The curing of all disease.—Isaiah 33:24.
The reversal of aging.—Job 33:25.
The resurrection of the dead.—John 5:28, 29.
If we do “the will of God,” what he asks of us, we need not fear the end of the world. Instead, we can look forward to it.
Is the end of the world really near?
THE BIBLE’S ANSWER: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—LUKE 21:31.
In the book The Last Days Are Here Again, Professor Richard Kyle writes that “sudden change and social chaos create an atmosphere conducive to predictions of the end of the world.” That is especially the case when the change and chaos seem hard to explain.
However, the Bible prophets who spoke about the end were not trying to explain baffling events of their day. Instead, they were inspired by God to describe conditions that would indicate an imminent end of the world. Consider some of those prophecies and decide for yourself whether they are being fulfilled in our time.
Significant increase in crime.—Matthew 24:12.
The ruining of the earth by mankind.—Revelation 11:18.
The breakdown of the family.—2 Timothy 3:2, 3.
General apathy toward the evidence of the approaching end.—Matthew 24:37-39.
The preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom worldwide.—Matthew 24:14.
As Jesus said, seeing “all these things” lets us know that the end of the world is near. (Matthew 24:33) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the evidence is convincing, and they share their faith with others by preaching in 236 lands.
Do mistaken expectations about the end mean that it will never come?
THE BIBLE’S ANSWER: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”—1 THESSALONIANS 5:3.
The Bible likens the world’s destruction to the onset of labor—the mother’s pain is inevitable and comes suddenly. The time leading up to the end is also like a pregnancy, for an expectant mother is aware of ever-increasing signs of the coming birth. Her doctor might estimate the birth date; yet, even if the event should delay, she would still be sure that her baby will soon be born. Similarly, any mistaken expectations about the end do not alter the unmistakable features identifying these as “the last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1.
‘If the sign that we are near the end is so obvious,’ you might ask, ‘why do so many people fail to recognize it?’ The Bible shows that when the end is near, many will belittle the evidence. Rather than acknowledge the fundamental changes during the last days, they would scoff: “From the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” (2 Peter 3:3, 4) In other words, the sign of the last days is clear, but many will ignore it.—Matthew 24:38, 39.
This article has considered just some of the Scriptural evidence that the end is near.* Would you like to learn more? If so, why not contact Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept their offer of a free Bible study? Study sessions can be held in your home, at another place convenient to you, or even over the phone. The only cost is your time, and the potential benefits are priceless.
For more information, see chapter 9, “Are We Living in ‘the Last Days’?,” of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.