Divine Principle Six Hour Lecture
The Meaning of the Last Days
Next, we will look into the consummation of human history. At the end of the world, Will heaven and earth literally burn up and melt, the sun and moon lose their light and the stars fall from heaven as described in the Bible? Will the dead literally rise from the grave, and will all living people be raised up to the clouds to meet Jesus in the air?
Or, like in many parts of the Bible, are these symbolic or metaphorical? Let us examine these prophecies of the Last Days, keeping in mind the purpose of God's creation, the facts of the fall, and God's purpose of restoring this fallen world.
If Adam and Eve had perfected themselves in the Garden of Eden by observing God's commandment, they would have become the origin of the ideal family and produced children of goodness. The center of their thought and action would have been God and they would have formed the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in which only God's sovereignty of goodness would have reigned. If this had occurred, their individual and family histories, as well as the ensuing history, would have been histories of goodness. God has sought this history of goodness.
However, because of the fall of the first human ancestors, sin began and they formed the family that God had not purposed, and thus Satan came to rule man and the world. This world then became hell on earth, full of sin and pain, and each individual and family, up to the world itself, has given rise to a history full of contradiction and sin.
The human history God desired was the history of goodness, but at the onset, history began contrary to His desire. Would God then leave the world as it is? No, God wants to achieve the world of His original intent through His providence of salvation. Thus, we call the period of transition from the sinful world of satanic sovereignty into the original world of God's sovereignty the end of the world, or the Last Days. The Last Days are the time of change from the fallen hell on earth into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, where the ideal of creation is realized. Therefore, the Last Days are not only the time of fear when earthly catastrophes occur, but also, the time of joy for which the original mind of each person has been waiting since the beginning of human history.
In other words, the end of the sinful world is also the hopeful time when the new world of goodness will begin. Since God cannot just leave this world of evil and hell as it is and begin another world of goodness and heaven, a time of judgment, a time of destroying sinful things, must accompany the Last Days.
God has been working with such an aching and anxious heart to restore the world into goodness, so God has always hoped for man to successfully fulfill His providence for the Last Days. However, man repeatedly failed to accomplish his responsibility and thus the Bible records that the Last Days were to occur in Noah's time and in Jesus' time and will again occur at the time of the Second Coming of Christ.
In Noah's time, God said, ". . . I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:13). This clearly indicates that it was the time of the Last Days.
Jesus' time was also the time of the Last Days; for this reason, Jesus said that he had come to judge and destroy the sinful world and build the world of the ideal of creation (Matt. 5:48), John 5:22).
When the Lord comes again it will also be the Last Days, for it says in Luke 17:26, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man."
All the signs and phenomena of the Last Days can be explained by understanding God's will for the dispensation of the Last Days. As explained before, God's ideal world cannot be realized without restoring the sinful world; therefore, God undertakes the providence of the Last Days. God governs the Last Days to realize His ideal of creation. This is the reason He cannot destroy the earth literally, for it is man who must be restored, not nature.
Then, what is the true meaning of the destruction of heaven and earth (II Peter 3:12) and the formation of a new earth (Rev. 21:1)? It seems contrary to Ecc. 1:4, which says, "A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever." Therefore, it must mean that God will destroy the sinful sovereignty and begin the good sovereignty and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. God would not plan the Garden of Eden without realizing it; therefore, what is said to be destroyed is not the literal earth, but the sin, death and false sovereignty of Satan, all of which are symbolized by the earth.
The scriptural verse which records that records that heaven and earth will be consumed by fire (II Peter 3:12) could not be a literal one, otherwise the purpose of creation could not be fulfilled. In Jesus' time, it was recorded that the judgement would come by fire (Mal. 4:1), but it was not done literally. James 3:6 says "the tongue is a fire," meaning that judgment by fire is the judgment of the tongue or the spoken word. In other words, judgment is done by truth. John 12:48 says, "He who rejects me and does not receive my saying has a judge, the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day." II Thess. 2:8, Isa. 11:4 and John 5:24 all also indicate judgement by words.
Neither could the passage describing all men being caught up to meet the Lord in the air to be raised up to heaven (1 Thess. 4:17) be fulfilled literally because God's purpose of creation is not fulfilled in the air but on earth. All throughout the Bible, the earth connotes the fallen, evil world and heaven connotes the sacred world of the true sovereignty of goodness. Thus, being caught up from the earth to the air (heaven) means that fallen man will be restored or raised up to the original standard of sacredness and goodness from which he fell. Thus, when the Lord comes, the evil sovereignty will be ended, man will be restored to his original sinless state and the Kingdom of Heaven will be established.
Will the sun and moon be darkened and the stars fall from heaven (Matt. 24:29)? When the sole purpose of the Last Days is to restore the world, how can the purpose of creation be realized by these catastrophes?
To explain, let us refer to the interpretation of the dream which Joseph had in Gen. 37:9-11. The sun denoted his father, the moon, his mother, and the stars, their children. In our religious life we have also used the sun and the moon to mean the light of truth which shines over the spiritual world and the heart of mankind, and stars mean the people receiving the light of truth. When the New Testament appeared, the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit outshone the works of the Old Testament. Likewise, in the Last Days, when Christ comes again and gives new words of truth, the mission of the New Testament will be over.
The stars symbolize the saints who are under the light of truth; therefore, this is a warning to the saints to take heed and not fail to recognize the Lord when he comes. Luke 18:8 says, ". . . nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" It is a prediction by Jesus that in the Last Days the Christians might be likely to fail to believe in the Lord.
In summary, the Last Days do not imply physical destruction. Rather they mean a time of banishing pain and disbelief and removing the sinful sovereignty of Satan, which clearly is the obstacle in restoring the purpose of creation and realizing a new starting point of re-creation. We should pray that God's providence of the Last Days will be successfully carried out and we should prepare ourselves to meet this time with repentance and hope.
We should not be among the foolish ones who will become liable to judgment along with all other sins, but rather we should recognize and accept the dawn of the new heaven and new earth and serve our Lord to come with all our strength.
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