Destruction or Freedom? Thoughts on the End of the World
The rather straightforward story of Christian scripture is that God created a good world to be populated and overseen by creatures who bear his divine image. Sin and death ravaged that originally good creation and left it in bondage to decay. In Christ, God is committed to the salvation of his image bearing creatures who are instrumental in the ultimate rescue of all creation. The story of the Bible both begins and ends in a garden where God dwells with his beloved image bearers.
In contrast, end of the world predictions often take this straightfoward story and press it uncomfortably into an elaborate scheme that has the appearance of biblical fidelity but is in reality far from it. The notion that the faithful will escape the utter destruction that is coming on the world and its evil inhabitants is usually typical of this approach. Such destruction, though, would be the culmination of creation’s entropic bondage, not freedom from it. Creation will certainly be transformed, but transformation is not annihilation.
One peculiarity is that the church has, for centuries, maintained good biblical eshcatology in her liturgy. The Gloria Patri preserves in song the hope of God’s intention for creation:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. Amen (emphasis mine, of course).
Week by week, the faithful have gathered to sing of God’s commitment to uphold and redeem the work of his hand. God has not and will not abandon his creation. Instead, he promises to liberate it from bondage to decay. The second coming of Christ will certainly be the end of the world as we know it, but it will hardly be the end of the world.