Article X of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Last things

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The world as we know it ends with the return of Jesus, but it’s not really the end of the world, for Christ creates new heavens and a new earth.

Article X of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.”

Contemporary culture embraces the drama of a cataclysmic end of the world as we know it. In the 1979 film, Mad Max, a shortage of fossil fuels drives the breakdown of society, prompting leather-clad hoodlums in bizarre vehicles to terrorize anyone with a full tank of gas.

In Planet of the Apes, astronaut George Tayler discovers he has traveled through space and time, returning to an earth where humans are mute and loud-mouthed armor-wearing primates are in charge. 

And in Ray Bradbury’s short story, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” a robotic house continues to serve its human tenants long after they have become burnt silhouettes on the wall, presumably the victims of a nuclear holocaust.

Whether entertaining or horrifying, the end of the world is a topic of great interest and much debate. World religions and cults often contrive detailed apocalyptic views, including specific dates that, when missed, leave their leaders red-faced and their followers asking neighbors to return the cookware they thought they would never need again.

Christians have reliable information about the end of days through God’s revelation in Scripture. And while we may vigorously debate the order of events surrounding the return of Christ, we can all agree on seven biblical truths about how the world ends.

1. The world ends when the Father says so. Jesus makes this clear in his prophecies and parables. He tells his followers, “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows – neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son – except the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36). 

The first-century Jew hearing Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins understand that no wedding begins until the father declares everything ready. Meanwhile, like the bridesmaids waiting for the groom, we are exhorted to “be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour” (Matt. 25:13).

2. The world ends with the return of Jesus. It’s important to look for Jesus’ physical and visible appearing, in which angelic and human followers accompany him in glory as he takes his rightful place on the throne of David and restores all things.

Jesus promises, “I will come again,” and he makes it clear that people witness his return with their own eyes (John 14:1-3). For example, the Lord tells his followers, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27). He further states that “all the peoples of the earth … will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). 

Remember also what the angels tell the apostles at Jesus’ ascension: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11). 

3. The world ends with the resurrection of the dead. Christians are divided as to whether all people are raised from the dead at the same time, or whether there are multiple resurrections stretching across 1,000 years or more. In any case, we should heed the plain teaching of Jesus that “a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his [the Son of Man’s] voice and come out” – either to the resurrection of life or the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).

4. The world ends with judgment. Jesus tells us in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work.”  Resurrected believers face judgment for their obedience or disobedience to God’s commands and are rewarded for faithful stewardship (Matt. 16:27; Luke 14:13-14; Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10). 

Resurrected unbelievers also stand before Christ and are punished in varying degrees for their evil deeds. All are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). There is a day of reckoning for those who reject Christ and persecute his people (Rom. 12:19; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Heb. 10:29-31; Rev. 19:11-21). 

5. The world ends with separation – specifically a separation of God’s people from those who have rejected Christ. Jesus promises his followers, “I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). The wicked, however, are cast into hell, which Jesus describes as “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12) and “the blazing furnace” (Matt. 13:42, 50), a terrifying depiction of eternity far away from the light of the world (John 8:12). 

6. The world ends with the creation of new heavens and a new earth. The apostle Paul describes the present world in which we live as “groaning together with labor pains” beneath the weight of sin (Rom. 8:22). But a day is coming when the returning Christ purges our fallen world of sin and its stain – a fiery refinement that results in a pure, fully restored creation (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Revelation 21-22 provides further details of the new heavens and earth. 

7. The world ends as it began, with God dwelling with us. Heaven is the temporary home of believers. The restored earth is our eternal home and God’s throne. The apostle John hears a loud voice from God’s throne declaring, “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself with be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). 

In the next verse, we’re told that God wipes away every tear from our eyes. Death is no more, neither are grief, crying, and pain. These are “the previous things that have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). 

The curse of sin is gone. Satan, evil spirits, and rebellious humans are banished. Eden – the intersection of the unseen realm God inhabits and the physical world he created – is restored. “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Next: Article XI of the BF&M: Evangelism and missions

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