July 23, 2014 Broadcast

The End & Purpose of the World

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Why would God create the universe knowing that it would cause Him the life of His only begotten Son? Wednesday on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul addresses this question as he explains the end and purpose of the world. Join us for this intriguing lesson from the 2014 National Conference, Wednesday, on Renewing Your Mind.

From the series: Overcoming the World: 2014 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The End of All Things

  2. article

    Conquering the World

  3. article

    The Bravest & Newest World

The End of All Things

In the past few decades, some of the most popular Christian books published in the United States have dealt with the events that will surround the end of this present age. Whether works of fiction or nonfiction, these books display a fascination with trying to figure out the exact sequence of events that surround the return of Christ. Some have even predicted an exact date of Christ’s return or have offered a time frame of several years in which Jesus must come back.

We should not be too surprised at this; after all, every generation of believers since the first coming of Christ has had people who have tried to determine the exact timing of His return. However, while the Bible does have much to say about eschatology (the doctrine of last things), such teaching was never given so that we might figure out the exact timing of the second advent (Matt. 24:36–44). Rather, as today’s passage shows us, the New Testament emphasizes the coming of Christ in order to motivate us toward proper living.

Peter has already reminded us of the judgment on the non-believer and the vindication of the true Christian that will come at this day. In 1 Peter 4:7, we read that this day — the consummation of all things — “is at hand.” For Peter’s original audience and no less for us, the return of Christ is imminent. This might seem strange to us, especially since we live so long after Peter did. Yet we must remember that our relation to time is not the same as the Lord’s. Given that a day for Him is as a thousand years and vice versa (2 Peter 3:8), it is entirely appropriate for Him to tell us the end is at hand even though we have been waiting for two thousand years. In light of eternity, John Calvin reminds us, “if we could understand the perpetuity of future life, many ages would appear to us like a moment.”

Whether tomorrow or thousands of years from now, from God’s perspective, the end is imminent. Therefore, we must live in light of the new world that will soon arrive. Instead of indulging in the passions of non-believers we must live sober and self-controlled lives for the sake of our prayers (1 Peter 4:7). Instead of dating the second advent, we must be praying that we might see it come (Rev. 22:20).

Conquering the World

R.C. Sproul Jr.

Thomas Aquinas was a great gift to the church. He stands among the greatest minds the world has ever known. This doesn’t mean, of course, that he did not have his flaws, one of which goes to the heart of his intellectual labors. He saw it as his goal to synthesize the wisdom of Aristotle with the wisdom of the Bible. Now, Aristotle was no intellectual slouch either. That said, Thomas’ goal ought to immediately raise flags for us. Even a dummy like me can see: why would anyone want to synthesize the Bible with anything? What does the Bible lack that Aristotle brought to the table? The Bible is sufficient to tell us that the Bible is sufficient. We don’t need Aristotle — or Aquinas — to remind us that at the end of the day we don’t need Aristotle or Aquinas. What we need is the Bible.

This propensity for mixing the Bible with our own wisdom did not die with Thomas. Because we are inveterate syncretists, we are inveterate synthesizers. We want to combine our philosophy with the Bible. We want to combine our political theories with the Bible. We want to combine our psychology with the Bible. We want to combine our economics with the Bible. And we want to combine our understanding of the business world with the Bible. Of course, we all ought to believe what the Bible says about each of these things. The trouble isn’t bringing the Bible to bear on questions of wisdom. The trouble isn’t asking what the Bible tells us the state is called to do, nor asking what the Bible tells us about the human soul. The problem is taking a body of “knowledge” built on an unbiblical worldview and then trying to mesh that with the Bible.

Consider, for a moment, how little Scripture and how much psychology we have in the field of business. Consultants there are eager to tell us of the vital importance of developing a “vision,” of putting together a “mission statement.” While it is always good to know where we are going, it is always better to go back to the Bible. There we are told to mediate on the Word of God. We are told to seek out the wisdom therein. What we are not told is to have a “mission statement.” If anything, we are given a mission statement — seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

This is not merely Jesus’ mission statement. It is not merely my mission statement. It states the mission for all of us, which means in turn that it states the mission of missions. This is what the church is to be about in every corner of the world. And when the church in one corner reaches out to aid the church in another, this is where that aid ought to be moving.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that the body of Christ is made up of different members. We all have different callings under our one, grand calling. His caution, however, is that too often we confuse our specific calling with God’s general calling. That is, we are seeking to build our own little kingdoms rather than seeking His. When our peculiar mission is driven by our peculiarities rather than His one grand mission, we are upside down and likely in the way. When we seek to syncretize our end with His, we miss our true mission.

Every Lord’s Day where I worship we confess together our faith. Some Sundays we sing together the Apostles’ Creed. Some Sundays we sing the Nicene Creed. I often remind the congregation that each Lord’s Day we do not worship alone. Instead, we are lifted up into the true and eternal Mount Zion where we meet with the souls of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:22–24). But it is not our local congregation alone that is so lifted up; rather, the church across the globe gathers together there. The Lord’s Day is like a celestial “wave” whereby as the earth spins on its axis the saints of God rise up to give Him praise.

We are not united, of course, by a common tongue. We do not share the exact same history (though we all have Abraham for our father). We are not of the same skin color. What unites us is our common faith. We confess the same Lord. We have the same mission. Together we are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And together is the only way this will come to pass.

God has indeed given each of us a part to play, a little mission that works toward the single grand mission. The serpent, however, delights in our confusing the part with the whole. Our glory, however, isn’t found in building up our little corner of the kingdom. Instead, our glory grows only insofar as His kingdom grows. We must decrease, but He must increase. And as we die, so we live. In other words, when we seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us. His kingdom is not only forever, but it is for everywhere. May He be pleased to give us eyes to see that “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does His successive journeys run.” May we see “His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

The Bravest & Newest World

Andrew Davis

As human imagination conceives of the future, it tends to envisage either dreams or nightmares. The dreams live in the hearts of idealists who suppose that human ingenuity is sufficient to craft a perfect world. The nightmares torment the minds of realists, who express their fears in doomsday scenarios they think are inescapable. Christians, however, have been called by God to an infinitely higher future reality, a hope better than any dream — the new heavens and new earth — coupled with a bravery that acknowledges the journey to that perfect world will be bloody and terrifying.

Since the time that humanity was banished from the garden of Eden, we have longed to return to, or at least to craft, a perfect world of our own making. Human pride drove the building of the Tower of Babel, enabled by a technological breakthrough in engineering materials — the discovery that thoroughly baked ceramics were superior to carved stone in building lofty structures. God’s assessment of human potential is striking: “Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:6). But God interfered by confusing language and slowing down the process of social engineering.

Since then, history has been a long journey of human pride, power, and technology seeking to craft a perfect world apart from God. By the beginning of the twentieth century, utopian dreams soared to astonishing heights of optimism. H.G. Wells, undaunted by the carnage of World War I, wrote Men Like Gods in 1923. He describes a utopian parallel universe in which socialism, science, and education had eradicated all evils. In 1932, Aldous Huxley responded with a pessimistic parody entitled Brave New World. In it, he gave a frightening vision of a world where technology and hedonistic nihilism crafted a meaningless existence of pleasure. His brave new world was a nightmare.

Nowadays, Christians are facing a world that changes at a dizzying pace. The 9-11 attacks resulted in the instantaneous implosion of two of the tallest buildings in the world. The last quarter of 2008 saw the almost instantaneous eradication of years of pension investments in a stock market plunge. Meanwhile, the laboratories of the world keep churning out both technological marvels and ethical nightmares: wireless internet devices and freakish genetic laboratory experiments. Christians look out over a very uncertain future, driven by forces that are hard to understand and harder to predict. How should Christians contemplate the future?

The starting point for us is Scripture’s revelation of God’s sovereign power in orchestrating a plan for a future world of unspeakable glory. Though humanity can craft technological marvels rising from the plains of Babel, God had to descend a long distance from His heavenly throne to inspect their handiwork. God rules, His power is infinite, and He is still committed to interfering in human history, restraining evil, and accomplishing His plan.

And how glorious is that plan? Human hearts would never have crafted it and can’t even conceive of it properly, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9–10). That plan is for the bravest and newest world possible. It will be the bravest possible world because it will be founded on the incomparable courage of Jesus Christ in drinking the cup of God’s wrath for its inhabitants. And none but the brave will enter that new world, for the cowardly will be weeded out (Rev. 21:8), and only those who overcome the world by faith will be granted the right to enter. No bravery will be required to live there, yet it will be a world achieved through the greatest acts of bravery in history. The book of Revelation makes it plain that it is a journey of tribulation, even of bloody martyrdom, that leads to the perfect world, and the willingness of the saints to count their sufferings as not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in them brings the greatest glory to God.

And it will also be the newest world possible, for God says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5), so it is called the new heavens and new earth. It will be a new world to explore, a world where there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. The worship will be new, as the inhabitants of the place will sing a new song that cannot be taught on earth (14:3). Their dwelling place will be new — the New Jerusalem — shining with sights and technologies presently unimaginable. And their vision of the glories of God will be constantly renewed, for the redeemed will never tire of gazing at His face.

Christians should saturate their hearts with these promises, while girding themselves with bravery for the road ahead. It is a road filled with changes, but those changes are ordained and managed by the sovereign wisdom of God. The unbelieving imagination looks inward to study human ingenuity and wickedness, and then it looks ahead to utopian dreams or dystopian nightmares. The Christian heart looks upward to the God of the Bible, and then it looks ahead with bravery at the earthly journey still remaining, and with hope at the new world coming.

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