We can fit together various pieces of information from the Bible to form a more complete picture of the end of the world.
Many people have tried to give an exact date for the end of the world, but this is futile because Jesus said,
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.Mark 13:31-33 NIV
But about that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Be on guard! Be alert!
You do not know when that time will come.”
This article looks at how prophecies should be interpreted with partial and final fulfilments, a vivid picture of how the world will end and Jesus’ part in the folding up of our present age.
(This article is based on Matthew 24:26-35 which is included at the foot of the page)
1. How to interpret the end of the world prophecies
Before we dive into this we just need to understand how to interpret some things in the Bible, otherwise we will get lost in it all.
Time in prophecies is meant to be vague
Some of the prophecies that Jesus says in around AD 30-33 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem which happened in AD 70, but woven into this can be the prophecies that refer to the end of the world.
It is meant to be vague, but the interesting thing is that when a prophecy begins to come to fruition, people start to see the true meanings hidden within the prophecies.
Immediately after the distress of those days.”Matthew 24:29 NIV
Also, when terms like ‘Immediately after’ are used, we need to realise that this could mean months or even centuries later.
So why is it written like that?
When a Prophet speaks of things that are important and serious, it is often spoken of as being near and about to happen.
For example, Jude says:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam prophesied: ‘See the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones.’ “Jude 14 NIV
He said ‘The Lord IS coming’ making it sound as if He had already set out and was about to arrive.
And that was said well before Abraham and even Noah!
The other thing to bear in mind is that:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.”2 Peter 3:8 NIV
All of this makes God’s Word relevant to everyone in any era.
The warning does not just apply to those when Jesus physically appears again, it applies to everyone in every century.
Partial and final fulfilments of prophesy
Because the prophecies can speak with partial fulfilment until the final, full completion of the prophecy, they can speak into two different eras or even many generations.
So for example, Jesus said:
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that the desolation is near.Luke 21:20 NIV
Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
When Jesus’ followers saw the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem in April AD 70, they knew what to do, so many fled from the city.
By August the defenders were overwhelmed and the temple was destroyed. 1
2. The end of the world is by fire
The world will be destroyed by fire, and great heat and will be rolled up like a carpet
This is an awesome description of the end of the world:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.Matthew 24:10 NIV
The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything 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 it′s 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, the home of righteousness.”
In a Psalm it says of the heavens and the earth:
They will perish… they will all wear out like a garment, like clothing You [God] will change them, and they will be discarded.”Psalm 102:26 NIV
What an amazing change there is going to be!
God will just roll up this whole universe like a piece of cloth.
3. Sudden darkness at the end of the world
Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet wrote about the end of the world:
See, the day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger –Isaiah 13:9-10 NIV
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.“
Then later Isaiah wrote:
All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;Isaiah 34:4 NIV
all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig tree.”
It is interesting to see the wording in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus quotes from the prophet, Isaiah and he moulds them together and says:
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it′s light;Matthew 24:29 NIV
the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
The moon shines because of it′s reflected light from the sun, so, when the sun is blacked out, then the moon won’t shine.
Genesis speaks about God creating the world and states:
God made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night.Genesis 1:16-18 NIV
He also made the stars.
God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night.”
So, the snuffing out of the light of the sun, moon and stars, signifies the putting down of all earthly rule, authority and power.
This darkness at the end of the world will be short-lived
In the new heaven and earth, God will be all in all, there won′t be a sun to govern the Earth’s timings, as God Almighty will be its light:
There will be no more night.Revelation 22:5 NIV
They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”
4. At the end of the world Jesus Christ comes with authority
At this time Christ will round up the Devil and his angels and there will be no more rebellions.
God will reign supreme.
Perhaps God snuffs out the created lights so that for a moment there would be total blackness, then there would be the glorious appearance of Christ in the clouds.
He will come with great power and glory with his angels with him.
That previous darkness would be a preview of the eternal darkness, that those who have rejected God will be sent to.
Jesus said, referring to himself as the Son of Man:
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.”Matthew 24:30 NIV
When Jesus Christ first came to this earth he was a sign to be spoken against, as it says in Luke 2:34.
But at Jesus’ second coming he will be a sign that will be too powerful to ignore.
John in Revelation says:
Look, he [Jesus Christ] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;Revelation 1:7 NIV
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.”
The believers will look up with joy, knowing that he is their Saviour.
They have had their times of mourning over their sin and guilt, but now it is turned to joy.
Whereas the unbelievers had no serious thoughts about the error of their ways until Jesus Christ appeared to them.
Then they will mourn when it is too late.
As a Mediator between mankind and God, Jesus Christ has also been given the responsibility of judging the world.
The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son…John 5:22 & 27 NIV
God the Father has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man.”
We are now being told how this whole world will become totally under God’s authority:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:Revelation 11:15 NIV
‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’ “
The apostle Paul expands on how all authority is given over to God the Father at the end of the world:
Then the end will come, when he [Jesus Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.1 Corinthians 15:24-28 NIV
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
For he ‘has put everything under his feet’.
Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.
When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.“
May the sight of Jesus fill us with joy and not dread.
Here below is some of Jesus’ teaching on the end of the world, he first mentions the false Christs that will appear:
So if anyone tells you,Matthew 24:26-35 NIV
‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”