For the past few generations, the “end of the world” has become a lucrative topic. Many people have made fortunes promoting a future age of destruction and misery. Is this the hope that Jesus gave the church concerning His Kingdom?
One of the foundational problems with this pessimistic worldview seems to be our understanding of the original words for both “end” and “world”. The Greek word use for “END” should be more properly understood as “completion” or “fulfillment” instead of something that is completely over; like the end of a movie.
The word for “World” that is used for the “completion of the world” is not the Greek word “kosmo” which is where we get cosmos from and does relate to the universal world or earth, as we know it. Instead; it is the word “aionon” or “aion” which means “ages” or “age”. It conveys the idea of a time-frame or period rather than the material world. So a better way to understand the “end of the world” would actually be “the completion of the age”.
At the time Jesus walked the earth; the Religious Jews were expecting “a completion of their age” and “a future age” that Messiah would bring. What the Gospel makes clear is that “For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to every one who is believing” (Rom.10:4)
The Jews had been living in the “Age of the LAW” for about 1,500 years and Jesus completed that age! It didn’t happen when he was born in Bethlehem, when he died and rose again or even when he ascended to Heaven but; it happened within that generation! Jesus fulfilled the LAW as it was intended and even demonstrated that His body was the true Temple, not that stone structure which was destroyed in 70 AD. (John 2:19-21)
That was the completion of the age (often called “end of the world”) of the LAW and Mosaic Covenant. It had existed for 1,500 years and within that time all O.T. Scriptures were written.
Jesus said ~“12“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13“For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” ~ Matt.11:12,13
Jesus kept comparing ALL the Law and the prophets to what had already arrived. Remember how he described that love was the commandment which the entire Law and prophets hung? Not one jot or tittle from the Law and Prophets would pass away until all was fulfilled/accomplished but, His words will never pass away!
Jesus declared that John the Baptist was “Elijah” written about in OT prophecies that would precede the “Coming of the Lord”.
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger (Elijah/John the Baptist), and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.” ~ Malachi 3:1 (Confirmed in Mark 1:2, Luke 1:76 & 7:27 and others)
What is really interesting is how the following verses in Malachi describe Jesus ~ 2“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3“He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver…” 5“Then I will draw near to you for judgment…”7“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them.Return to Me, and I will return to you,”….9“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”….
This is ALL a warning directed towards Israel to return to God and obey him. Malachi continues in the entire next chapter (4) to prophesy the “Day of the Lord”, the destruction of Israel, coming of Jesus, appearance of Elijah = John the Baptist and the entire “LAND” (of Israel) being cursed.
All of this prophecy was because they had a Covenant with God and they kept straying from it. When the very One who gave their Covenant, WAS the promise of the Covenant and even KEPT the Covenant came in love…they completely rejected him.
Back to Matt.11 ~ ” 20Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent…You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24“Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
All of this was spoken to that generation because they were the generation that Elijah= John the Baptist came too and Messiah brought the New Covenant! It all happened just as the O.T. prophets and Jesus declared in 70 AD.
When Paul wrote Corinth, he detailed O.T. symbolism and how it applied to them and wrote ~“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
Everything Paul wrote here pertained to the people of Corinth that he was writing to at around 56 AD. According to Paul’s use of the verb “katēntēken” which is “have come” it literally means ~ Has come and the results of the action are continuing in effect until it reaches it fulfillment of the result which has already been accomplished.
The “completion of the age” (end of the world) is not something that they were waiting for. It had already come upon that generation and it will manifest until it is completed. The Kingdom of God came like a stone (Jesus) that shattered the kingdoms of man and will increase until it becomes a Mountain (Mt. Zion) that fills the entire earth!
The judgements were on Israel, Judaism and their children in “that generation” but the promises are to us! The Law and Prophets have passed away; it is finished! They have been fulfilled!
We have a bright future full of Covenant love and grace; not future destruction or wrath.