First the Kingdom, Part 14, The End of the World?
Have you ever heard people say that the Bible contradicts itself? This was a statement that I often heard growing up by those who disliked what the Bible had to say about them! I am forever grateful to God that my mother, her family and her friends had a different view. When I was young I worked with an uncle who knew and loved God and who also loved the Scriptures. He studied the Bible every day and took special interest in the passages that people thought were contradictory. From him I learned the true meaning of many passages and realized that the same Holy Spirit Who inspired every part could not contradict Himself!
Many wonderful and godly individuals over the centuries have also believed that the Bible has a unified message. They have taken the time and resources they had to see how each passage and teaching would fit together into the whole picture. It was Paul who said he had not shunned to declare unto the people the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27). He had special insights that even his fellow apostle Peter found difficult to understand! (2 Peter 3:16)
Not everyone has the patience or the willingness to learn about the whole counsel of God. It is easy to find a passage that excites us and to ignore others that might bring better balance to our understanding.
For the past 150 years or so, Christians have become more concerned that we are living in the “Last Days” that were spoken of in the Bible. We are more aware of natural disasters, crime, injustice and wars than ever before, due to advances in communication. This can heighten our anxiety and concern for the future and seem to confirm that we are coming to the end of time. But allow me to let you in on a secret. This is nothing new. Many times over the last 2,000 years people have thought the end is near! There have been many great wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues that have wiped out major populations in the distant past.
There is reason to believe that the Coming of Christ is near, but that can mean different things to different people. In keeping with the belief that the Bible does not contradict itself, I would like to present a different view than what you might have heard about the end. In my previous messages I have not taken a verse here and there, but have shown the consistent goal of God from the beginning. In the midst of judgments and corrections He has continued to demonstrate His love for His creation and his plan to rule it in righteousness, peace and joy through His Son Who gave His life as a sacrifice.
The work of our adversary the devil has tested those who believe in and follow God, but the testing only serves to strengthen us in the end. The forward movement of the Kingdom of God in the earth through men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, the prophets of the Old and the apostles of the New Testament have resulted in the Gospel and its influence spreading throughout the world today. The bold confession of every born-again Christian is that Jesus Christ is Lord — right now and always!
Jesus and the prophets and apostles have shown us a glorious future in the Kingdom of God. Every Christian is told to pray the Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done in earth as in heaven. But are these prayers destined to fail? According to some views of Bible prophecy it would seem so. Every view of the end of times is based upon certain passages of scripture. Each version tries to reconcile the passages that seem to disagree. I completely understand and respect the serious scholarship of other views. And yet, I find points of disagreement in most everyone so far that I have studied.
The foundation is that God is sovereign, and that He has a plan that cannot fail. He has painted a clear picture in the scripture of that plan to bless all the families of the earth through Christ, the seed of Abraham. His reign begins in each heart and spreads outward from there, impacting every area of society. In the mean time there is a great battle going on in the spiritual realm. That battle is reflected in the horrible and devastatingly evil actions of those who resist Christ. The enemy knows his time is short and he will intensify his efforts.
This battle is depicted in the figurative, symbolic language in the writings of prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel and John in the Revelation. Jesus Himself made use of dramatic symbolic language to depict the fall of Jerusalem after the people rejected Him. Most of the dire warnings in the New Testament were directed at that generation, but I believe all of us should take seriously every word.
At the same time each word has to fit into the big picture as well. A large area of misunderstanding has come from the older English translations. When Jesus spoke of the end of the world, the Greek word, “Aion,” an age, or period of time was used. The end of the age of the Temple and the sacrificial system was coming to a close. Jesus was the true Lamb that took away the sin of the world! The end of that age fully came after His crucifixion and the sacrificial system ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. In a sense, the older translation was correct for that world did come to an end!
Another passage that seems to contradict our optimistic understanding of the Kingdom of God is found in 2 Peter 3:3-13. He begins by warning that scoffers would deny the promise of Christ’s coming. Then he reminds his readers that the world in Noah’s day perished, being overflowed by water. The planet earth, however, was not destroyed! The word “world” in the Greek according to Strong’s dictionary has a broad application:
orderly arrangement, that is, decoration; by implication, the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally]):”
In fact the planet and the atmosphere were both preserved. Noah’s family was saved by the very water that brought an end to the orderly arrangement of mankind’s evil activities.
Please bear with me here. We are simply attempting to show how the Bible does not contradict itself. Often we encounter highly symbolic language in Biblical prophecy. This appears to be one of those instances. His point is that the Day of the Lord will come! The end of the day of evil is sure! He continues:
2 Peter 3:7:
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
The judgment is not against the planet or the sky, but against ungodly men and their habitation! In fact, the delay of His coming is because of the Lord’s long-suffering and desire to see people repent so His creation can be blessed! His desire has always been to save the world! (John 3:16-17)
2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The elements will be burned up, along with the heavens and the earth. If the language here is figurative, then the fire, which is often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and even God as the consuming fire, could be figurative as well. He could be saying that the elemental principles of this world will be consumed in God’s judgment. Just as in Noah’s day, heaven and earth become made new!
This is a place wherein righteousness fully dwells!
Paul even uses the metaphor of the new creation in relationship to those who are “in Christ.” But are believers physically crucified, killed or destroyed when they become a “New Creation” in Christ? (2 Corinthians 5:17) Of course not!
If the language is not figurative, then much of what we have read before would seem inconsistent.
In Genesis 1:26-28: God was pleased for humanity to bear His image, and blessed them to be fruitful, fill the earth and take dominion over it.
Genesis 3:15: After the fall, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, indicating the restoration and triumph of Christ over sin.
Genesis 8:21-9:1: After the great flood, God promised to never again destroy every living thing, and renewed the original blessing to Noah.
Genesis 12:1-3: God called Abram out and promised to bless him, so that all families of the earth would be blessed through him.
Deuteronomy 18:15-18: Moses told of a prophet to come which would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
1 Chronicles 17:1-14: God promised King David that He would raise up his son to reign forever.
God had much to say through the prophets concerning His plan.
Isaiah 7:14: A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, who would be Emmanuel, God With us.
Isaiah 9:6-7: A Son would be born, who would be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, His kingdom would reign forever.
Isaiah 53: A man would offer his life for our sins, and yet live to prosper and bear children.
Isaiah 2:2-4: The nations will come to learn of God’s ways and He will put an end to war.
Daniel 2:44-45: In the days of the Roman Empire, the Kingdom of God will be set up and begin to fill the earth.
Mark 1:14-15: Jesus declared the Good News of God to repent for the time of the Kingdom had come.
Matthew 28:18-20: After His resurrection, Jesus claims all authority in heaven and earth, commanding his followers to disciple the nations.
Acts 1:8, 2:4, the disciples are given power by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole earth.
Acts 28:23-31: Paul takes the message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to Rome, which later becomes the center of Christianity.
1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:9-11: The Church confesses Jesus is Lord now and that one day every knee would bow and every tongue would also confess He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Paul the apostle states in Romans 8:16-22 that the whole creation is earnestly waiting for God’s sons to be revealed, and is groaning and travailing in pain in anticipation of its deliverance into the glorious liberty of the children of God. If the language in 2 Peter 3 is not symbolic or figurative, then this groaning to be delivered from the bondage of corruption would be only answered by total destruction!
That would also mean that Christ came in the time foretold to establish His Kingdom on earth only so His subjects would be forced to abandon that which was to be obliterated. In answer to what they have always prayed, this kingdom came to earth but not for long. The meek would inherit a doomed earth. The nations would come up to be taught the ways of the Lord, end all the fighting and then see all the good accomplishments destroyed by a literal fire.
Even the book of the Revelation does not describe the total destruction of the universe. It does describe the defeat of Satan, the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to the earth, and the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Messiah!
With all of our individual biases, there are bound to be mistakes in our interpretation of prophesy. The basic direction that Christ has given His people is not so complicated. We are to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. We are to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord, to shine as lights in the world. We are to live as the salt of the earth, and to pray for our leaders and our governments in order to live peaceably and freely share the Good News.
The knowledge that His success actually awaits us, empowers me personally to fulfill my part in His plan. How about you?
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