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How Will The
World End?

How will the world end is the question on the minds of many.  The world ended in 1656 BC when the apocalypse of a global flood engulfed the world and only 8 people on the entire planet escaped destruction.  The world that now is, is vastly different from the one that was before.  So the original world ended in water.  God; however, promised to never again send a global flood.

“I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.” Gen. 9:11, The Message

Common Sense Promo

That is the past.  As we look into the future - which is what most people think of with their end of the world predictions - how will the world end? Christians know, because of the above verse, that water is out.  There are a couple of verses in 2 Peter that many Christians take to teach that the Judgment Day apocalypse will be by fire.

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."  2 Peter 3:10-13, NIV

If you have read much on this site or my courses on Bible prophecy you will know that I believe the Bible predicts the victory of the Holy Spirit through the Church on earth before the return of Christ.  [We look at the Scriptures which teach this in Is The Kingdom Of Heaven Destined For Victory Or Defeat?, Secret Signs Of The Coming Of Christ and elsewhere.]  But I have always answered the question of how will the world end with the popular belief of the world ending in fire at the Final Judgment.  This confused me somewhat.  It seemed pointless to train generations and work for the victory of the Kingdom of God in every area of life only to have it consumed in a fireball at the return of Jesus.  Nevertheless, if that is what the Scripture teaches, so be it.

Have you ever wondered how the world will end?  Christians have traditionally believed that it will end in fire - but is that what the Bible really teaches?

Recently I read a Christian book which challenged me to rethink the popular interpretation of 2 Peter.  If you believe the Word of God is the final Authority but you are willing to examine things to see if you are correctly understanding it, then proceed.  If you believe that your interpretation is as divine as the Scriptures, then you can save time and stop reading now.

Although Rev. 20:9 speaks of fire coming from heaven and devouring evil people, as far as I can tell 2 Peter 3:10-13 is the only section of Scripture that appears to predict that the physical world will end in a global fireball.  As every diligent Bible student knows, you cannot establish a firm doctrine on only one Scripture.  There must be collaborating and coordinating verses elsewhere.  So, even if we continue to believe that the world will end in fire, we cannot afford to be overly dogmatic about it.  The key point is that we believe in the physical, visible return of Christ at some point in the future.

Let’s look at this Scripture in detail.

How Will The World End:
The Earth

1.  The word that is translated “earth” is the Greek “ge”.  While it can mean the inhabited earth or earth as opposed to heaven, it emphasizes the earth as soil or “a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, a tract of land, territory, region”.  For example, almost half the times it is used in Matthew and Acts it is without question being used for a specific place [i.e. land of Judah] or for soil [i.e. seed in good ground].  Sometimes it does refer to the inhabited earth such as “kings of the earth” or “heaven and earth”.  

So, if Peter is teaching that the entire world will become a fireball, why does he use the word “ge”?  Why not use the word “kosmos” which is used 187 times in the New Testament and 186 of those times it is translated as “world”?  In fact, Peter used the word “kosmos” in the previous chapter [verse 5] when he talked about the “old world” being destroyed by water.  If he meant to say our world would be destroyed by fire, why not use the same word?  Again, in this very same chapter [3:5] Peter speaks of the earth [Ge] standing out from the water [i.e. the land/soil] and in the next verse [3:6] speaks of the world [kosmos] as being destroyed in the flood.  So, to repeat, if Peter meant in verses 10-13 that our entire world would be destroyed by fire, he would have used the word “kosmos” not “ge”.

How Will The World End:
The Elements

2.  What about the elements melting with “fervent heat”?  That sure sounds like an apocalyptic vision of how the world will end!  Again, we need to ask questions instead of making Western assumptions.  What does the word “element” mean?

The word “element” is the Greek word “Stoicheion” and is used 7 times in the New Testament.  It means “any first thing” in a series or a fundamental/foundational principle from which other principles are derived.  For example, the spoken letters of the alphabet as the elements of speech or [as the Greeks thought] water, air, earth and fire as the basic elements of life.

How is this word used in the New Testament?

In Gal. 4:3,9 Paul refers to being “in bondage to the elements of the world” and “beggarly elements” which bring bondage.  From context we see these are references to being under law as a foundational system of control and judgment.

In Col. 2:8, 20 Paul used the term “rudiments [stoicheion] of the world” by which he meant the foundational teaching/thought patterns of the world.

The writer of Hebrews talks about having to teach again the “first principles [stoicheion] of the Word of God [Heb. 5:12]

So that in these 5 uses of the word in Scripture none of them refer to the physical earthly elements.  The other 2 times it is mentioned are in are the 2 Peter selection.  Should we assume that the Holy Spirit is suddenly going to change how the word is used in these verses?  No, Scripture is its own best dictionary.

How Will The World End:
The Heavens

3. The heavens can refer to the sky, the atmosphere, space or the place with spirits dwell.  It is also used in prophetic language for great judgment.  See the examples below:

They come from faraway lands,

    from the ends of the heavens

the Lord and the weapons of his wrath—

    to destroy the whole country.

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;

    it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Is. 13:5-6

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;

    and the earth will shake from its place

at the wrath of the Lord Almighty,

    in the day of his burning anger. Is. 13:13

Judgment on Edom

All the stars in the sky will be dissolved

    and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;

all the starry host will fall… Is. 34:4

Israel’s Sin

 I clothe the heavens with darkness

    and make sackcloth its covering.” Is. 50:3

Judgment On Israel

I looked at the earth,

    and it was formless and empty;

and at the heavens,

    and their light was gone.

I looked at the mountains,

    and they were quaking;

    all the hills were swaying…

   before the Lord, before his fierce anger. Jer. 4:23-26

Judgment On Egypt

I will drench the land with your flowing blood

    all the way to the mountains,

    and the ravines will be filled with your flesh.

When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens

    and darken their stars;

I will cover the sun with a cloud,

    and the moon will not give its light.

All the shining lights in the heavens

    I will darken over you;

    I will bring darkness over your land,

declares the Sovereign Lord. Ez. 32:6-8

How Will The World End:
The Day Of The Lord

4.  Like the “heavens,” The Day Of The Lord speaks of God coming in great judgment.  While there is certainly a Final Judgment when Jesus physically returns, that is not the only time God comes in Judgment.

Judgment On Babylon

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;

    it will come like destruction from the Almighty…

See, the day of the Lord is coming

    —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—

to make the land desolate

    and destroy the sinners within it.

The stars of heaven and their constellations

    will not show their light.

The rising sun will be darkened

    and the moon will not give its light.

I will punish the world for its evil,

    the wicked for their sins. Is. 13:6-11

For the Lord has a day of vengeance,

    a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Is. 34:8

Judgment On Egypt

For the day is near,

    the day of the Lord is near—

a day of clouds,

    a time of doom for the nations. Ez. 30:3

Joel’s prophecy is quoted by Peter in his first sermon as being in the process of being fulfilled at that time.

“And afterward,

    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

    your old men will dream dreams,

    your young men will see visions.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

I will show wonders in the heavens

    and on the earth,

    blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness

    and the moon to blood

    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls

    on the name of the Lord will be saved; Joel 2:28-32

Compare with:

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,

    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

    your young men will see visions,

    your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

    and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heavens above

    and signs on the earth below,

    blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness

    and the moon to blood

    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls

    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ Acts 2:16-21

How Will The World End:
The Context

5.  As we look over 2 Peter, we see that he is writing to people who were living at the same time as he was.  Sometimes we forget, as we apply the Scriptures to ourselves, that they had meaning and purpose for the people to whom they were originally given.  We must look at things from that perspective if we are to come to a correct, Biblical understanding.

Peter said, “I think it meet as long as I am in the tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance…”  2 Peter 1:13, KJV.  The people he had in mind with this letter was the people alive when he was.  Consider the following phrases: we made known unto you… [1:16], there shall be false teachers among you [2:1], make merchandise of you [2:3], while they feast with you [2:13], I now write unto you [3:1] and seeing ye know these things before [3:17].  The whole context is that the epistle has meaning for the original recipients.

Also consider a verse in the middle of the “fire” section: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness [3:11, KJV].  If Peter was talking about an event that was to be 2,000 plus years in the future, it would not be much motivation to live Godly for his generation.  It would be very motivating if he was referring [using symbolic prophetic language] to something that was about to happen in his own generation.

Also see the article, When Are The Last Days?

How Will The World End:
The Meaning

I know that this is a new thought for many of you as it was also for me.  There was a terrible event that happened in that generation that destroyed the land of Israel in fire and blood. But if you can’t accept this idea, that’s ok.  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Study the Word with an open mind.  See what the Holy Spirit will say to you.

How Will The World End?

So if the world doesn’t end in fire, how will the world end?  

…for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea. Is. 11:9, NIV

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea.  Hab. 2:14, NIV

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:22-16

This does not sound like a world to be destroyed under the wrath of God.  Look at 1 Cor. 15.  Christ rules through His Church destroying all opposition until the final enemy, death, is destroyed.  Then the end comes.  That is when Jesus, the Head, returns to be united with a mature Church, the body.  The dead are raised and judged.  The last scrapes of sin and its consequences are forever removed.  Those who had previously accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour live with Him on a perfect but developing earth and universe and those who have rejected Him exist with the devil and his demons in hell.  This sounds like a program for victory that should excite every Christian and motivate them to share the gospel, live righteously and work hard to see that the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven [Matt. 6:10].

We should note that although in Genesis 9:11 God promises “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” [NIV] in the preceding chapter He states it more generally, “And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done” [Gen. 8:21, NIV].  I am sure it could be argued that in the first case God only mentions life and in the second case He mentions both life and the earth; therefore, since Christians meet Him in the air the earth could be destroyed by fire and still be within God’s promise.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting point.

For more information about Glenn Davis, see our About Glenn page or visit Glenn Davis Books.

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Please note: We no longer have the commenting feature [maybe again in the future].  Joshua Institute students who have questions or comments on their courses can use the contact button and mention the course name and lesson number in the email.  Thank you.  Glenn

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