David B Curtis - Berean Bible Church

Pastor David B. Curtis

The End of the World?

Matthew 13:40

03/14/1999

Is the world going to someday come to an end? The great majority of people, both Christian and non-Christian, think it will. The end of the world is the theme of many books and movies and there are endless predictions as to when and how it will end. We are constantly told that the world will get worse until God destroys it. Is this idea that the world will someday end taught in the Bible? I'm sure that many would say that it is, but does the Bible really teach this? Let's look at some verses that seem to indicate that the world will not end.

Genesis 8:21-22 (NKJV) And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. 22 "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease."

Now, folks will say that the Lord destroyed the earth by water one time and He'll destroy it by fire the next time. Is God's promise here to just change his method of destroying everything? Is there comfort in being destroyed by fire instead of water? Or is He promising not to destroy the earth again?

Psalms 148:4-6 (NKJV) Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. 6 He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away.

What decree did God make concerning the establishment of the heaven and the earth that will never pass away? Could it be Genesis 8:21? God said that he would never again destroy every living thing. God can be trusted, He keeps his word.

Psalms 78:69 (NKJV) And He built His sanctuary like the heights, Like the earth which He has established forever.

If God has established the earth forever, how could it end?

Psalms 119:90 (NKJV) Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.
Ecclesiastes 1:4 (NKJV) One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever.

It sounds like these verses teach that the earth will last forever. But what about those verses that say the world will end? Verses like:

Matthew 13:40 (KJV) As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

I can hear some of you saying, "There, see, the world is going to end." The problem here is the translation of the Greek word aion. Aion does not mean "world" but "age, dispensation, era, or a period of time." We can understand that an age can end and yet the world can still go on. The Bible talks about the end of the age but never the end of the world. Most newer translations of the Bible correct this error in the KJV.

Matthew 13:40 (NKJV) "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

So, Jesus is here talking about something that will happen at the "end of the age" He was living in. Notice what was to happen at the end of the age:

Matthew 13:49-50 (NKJV) "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 "and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Notice who is taken -- the wicked. Is this a reverse rapture? I believe this speaks of the Judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70. The "end" that Jesus is talking about was the end of the Jewish age, when the wicked Jews were burned in the destruction of Jerusalem. We see the end of the age attached to the destruction of the Jewish temple in:

Matthew 24:1-3 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "when will these things be?" All three of the synoptic gospels ask, "when."

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)...."Tell us, when will these things be?"....
Mark 13:4 (NKJV) "Tell us, when will these things be?"....
Luke 21:7 (NKJV) So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be?"...

The "these things" refers to the temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1, the disciples point out the temple buildings to Jesus. In verse 2, Jesus says, "All' 'these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Jesus had just said about Judgment on Jerusalem (Matt. 23), and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so..

The second part of their question is, "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age." To help us understand the question, we need to compare all three synoptic gospels.

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)... " And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:4 (NKJV) ...."And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"
Luke 21:7 (NKJV) .... "And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"

Comparing all three accounts shows us that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.

Mark 13:4 (NKJV) "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?"

Notice in the first part of the verse, he says, "When will these things be?" -- referring to the temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' will be fulfilled?" The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the coming of Messiah and the end of the age. Their question was, "When will the end be?" Jesus gives them the sign of the abomination of desolation which Luke interprets as the armies gathered around Jerusalem. Then Jesus tells them quite clearly that the end would come in "This generation" (v 34). The word "generation" means: "those who are contemporaries or live at the same time."

So, the age that was to end was the Jewish age. It would end with the destruction of the Jewish temple and the city Jerusalem. The end of the age did not happen at the cross or at Pentecost but at the destruction of Jerusalem. The world was not going to end but the age of Judaism was. The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a new age. This brings us to a very important question,

"HOW MANY AGES ARE THERE?"

William Barclay says:
Time was divided by the Jews into two great periods-- this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. If can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age.

Zechariah 14 teaches us that the "Day of the Lord" and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected. So, the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the Day of the Lord, marked the end of one age, the Jewish age, and the beginning of the new age, the Christian age of the New Covenant.

To the Jews, time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. The Messiah was viewed as one who would bring in a new world. The period of the Messiah was, therefore, correctly characterized by the Synagogue as "the world to come." All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come."

Matthew 12:32 (NKJV) "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: " about to be." We could translate this, the "age about to come" (in the first century). Many think that the age to come will be a sinless age; not according to this verse. Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in that age, referring to the age of the New Covenant, our present age. We see here that both of these ages have sin in them.

Ephesians 1:21 (NKJV) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

Here again we see the two ages. So, the New Testament speaks of two ages, "this age" and "the age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible.

Let's see what the New Testament teaches us about these two ages. Questions that we need to try to answer are: What age did the new testament writers live in? What age do we live in? How is 'this age" characterized in the New Testament? What does the New Testament say about "the age to come"? When does "this age" end and "the age to come" begin?

WHAT AGE DID THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS LIVE IN?

The New Testament writer lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers the "age to come" was future, but it was very near because "this age" was about to end.
1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NKJV) However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age,who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The wisdom and rulers of "this age" were coming to nothing because the age was passing away. He is speaking of the Jewish leaders and the Old Covenant system. The rulers of "this age" crucified the Lord. These rulers would shortly have no realm in which to rule because "this age" was about to end. Think about this, If the Jewish age ended at the cross, as so many claim, why were they still ruling the age?

1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV) Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages was coming upon them, the first century saints. "This age," along with its wisdom and rulers, was about to end.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Jesus was speaking in the last days. What last days? The last days of the Bible's "this age" -- the Old Covenant age.

Hebrews 9:26 (NKJV) He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

When was it that Jesus appeared? He was born, not at the beginning, but at the end of the ages. To suppose that he meant that Jesus' incarnation came near the end of the world, would be to make his statement false. The world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. Jesus was manifest at the end of the Jewish age. Peter says the same thing.

1 Peter 1:20 (NKJV) He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

Jesus came during the last days of the age that was the Old Covenant age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. All the things prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24 occurred at the end of that age. Alright, so the New Testament writers lived in what the Bible calls "this age."

HOW IS "THIS AGE" CHARACTERIZED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?

1. It is an evil age:
Galatians 1:3-4 (NKJV) Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Paul says here that the "present age" which is "this age," the one that was about to pass away, is an "evil" age. Christ came to deliver them from the "present age" because it was evil. Could "evil age" be referring to Christianity? Could the Christian age be called an "evil age" that we need to be delivered from? No! Christ came to bring us out of the evil age and place us into His kingdom.

2. It was an age of darkness:

Colossians 1:12-13 (NKJV) giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

Christ came to deliver them from the "power of darkness." This is a reference to the Old Covenant or "this age."

John 8:12 (NKJV) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

Jesus was speaking to the Jews, He was calling them to leave the darkness of the Old Covenant and follow Him.

3. It was an age in which Satan ruled.

Acts 26:18 (NKJV) 'to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

The "present age" was one of darkness. Satan is called the god of "this age."

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NKJV) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

Remember "this age" is not referring to our age, it was the "this age" of the first century. Satan ruled in the Old Covenant world of Judaism but his reign was shortly (in the first century) to come to an end.

Romans 16:20 (NKJV) And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Satan would be crushed when the "present age" of darkness came to an end. When John wrote his first epistle he said that the darkness was passing.

1 John 2:8 (NKJV) Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

The "darkness" is speaking of the Old Covenant age, and the "true light" is speaking of the New Covenant age.

4. It was an age of death and condemnation.

2 Corinthians 3:5-11 (NKJV) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

Here Paul is comparing the two Covenants, the Old Covenant was one of death and condemnation, but the New Covenant was one of life and righteousness. When Paul wrote this to the Corinthians, the Old Covenant age, the "present age," was in the process of passing away.

Paul spoke to the Galatians about these two covenants and said that the Old Covenant was at that time in effect.

Galatians 4:21-26 (NKJV) Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Hagar, represented both the Old Covenant and the Jerusalem that "now is" (the Old was still present at that time), and Sarah represented both the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem that was "above" (it was still to come).

5. It was an age that was called "night."

Romans 13:11-12 (NKJV) And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Their salvation was drawing near, and the night was just about over. Is the Christian age day or night? It is day! The night of Old Covenant Judaism was just about to end, the day of the New Covenant, the Christian age, was just about to dawn.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 (NKJV) But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.

Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that they were not in darkness, they were sons of light and sons of the day that was about to dawn.

So, "this age" of the Bible is the age of the Old Covenant that was about to pass away in the first century. It was characterized as evil, darkness, Satan's rule, condemnation, death, and night. It should be clear to you that "this age" is not the Christian age in which we live. In the first century the age of the Old Covenant was fading away and would end completely when the temple was destroyed in AD 70.

Hebrews 8:13 (NKJV) In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The book of Hebrews was written at around 65-69 AD. At this time the Old Covenant was still in effect but it was ready to pass away. It passed away in AD 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. The "this age" of the Bible is now ancient history.

At the end of the Old Covenant age several things happened:

1. Christ returned:

Hebrews 10:37 (NKJV) "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

2. The resurrection occurred:

John 11:24 (NKJV) Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

3. The Judgment occurred:

Matthew 13:40 (NKJV) "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

WHAT AGE DO WE LIVE IN?

We now live in what was to the first century saints the "age to come." When most Christians read in the New Testament and see the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future (to us) age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.

Since the "present age" of the Bible ended in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Lord, we must be in the "age to come."

Mark 10:29-30 (NKJV) So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 "who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

We live in the "age to come," we have eternal life now!

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT "THE AGE TO COME"?

It is an age that has no end! The end of the age came upon the first century believers . The Bible nowhere speaks of an "end" far removed from the first century inspired writers. The end was always at hand, near, about to come. The New Covenant age has no end.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah predicted the establishment of Christ's rule on the throne of David that would have no end. Christ's reign is endless. Daniel says that Christ's kingdom will never be destroyed.

Daniel 2:44 (NKJV) "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

In the days of the Roman empire, God set up his kingdom and it stands forever.

Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV) "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Christ's dominion is everlasting, it will never pass away or be destroyed.

Luke 1:32-33 (NKJV) "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
Ephesians 3:21 (NKJV) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Paul says that it is the mission of the church to give glory to God forever and ever. The Christian age, the New Covenant, is not temporary. The age we live in will never end, it is an everlasting age.

Hebrews 13:20 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. It has no last days, no end, and nothing left to be fulfilled.

What are we to be doing in this age of the New Covenant in which we live? We are to be calling men and women to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that they may have the gift of eternal life.

We dwell in the New Jerusalem in the very presence of God and the invitation of salvation is still going out today. Notice the invitation that goes forth from the New Heaven and Earth:

Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

That is our message, come, all who are thirsty, come. I hope that you are faithfully proclaiming the glories of God's eternal kingdom and inviting all who are thirsty to come.

This age will never end, but some day we will all drop this mortal body and receive our spiritual body which we will dwell in in heaven throughout eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

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