Therefore judgment comes by words. These words of God’s judgment will be revealed by His chosen prophets. This is the process of the ending of the world. Those who obey and listen to the new word of truth shall have life. Those who deny the word will continue to live in death.
God chose Noah to declare the word. Noah’s announcement was, “The flood is coming. The salvation is the ark.” The people could have saved themselves by listening to Noah’s words. However, the people treated Noah as if he were a crazy man, and they perished–because they opposed the word of God. According to the Bible, only the eight people of Noah’s immediate family became passengers on the ark. Only these eight believed, and only these eight were saved.
God had said to Noah,
‘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)
Did this actually happen? We know the evil people perished, but was the physical world demolished in the process? No. This passage was not literally fulfilled, and God did not destroy the earth. God did eradicate the people and destroy evil the sovereignty, leaving only the good people of Noah’s family. This was God’s way to begin to restore the original world of goodness through Noah.
If God had fully consummated His restoration at that time, then we would have heard no more about the end of the world. Once the perfect world of goodness is realized, another end of the world is not necessary. Nothing could then interfere with the eternal reign of God’s perfect kingdom.
But the very fact that we anticipate the end of the world today is proof that God did not succeed at the time of Noah. What happened to Noah after the flood should be fully explained, but I cannot spend too much time on that subject tonight. To make a long story short, once again, sin crept into Noah’s family through his son, Ham. God’s flood judgment was thereby nullified, and evil human history continued until the time of Jesus Christ.
With the coming of Christ, God again attempted to end the world. Jesus came to start the new Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Thus, the first words Jesus spoke were, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Indeed, the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry was the end of the world. That great and terrible day was prophesied by Malachi, about 400 years before the birth of Jesus:
For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil-doers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch! (Mal. 4:1)
Was the judgment of Jesus Christ done by literal fire? Did the day come at the time of Jesus when everything literally turned to ashes? No, we know it did not. Since these things prophesied did not literally happen at that time, some people say that such prophecy must have been meant for the time of the Second Advent. But this cannot be the case.
John the Baptist came to the world as the last prophet; Jesus said:
‘ . . . all the prophets and the law prophesied until John . . . ‘ (Matt. 11:13)
The coming of John the Baptist should have put an end to prophecy and the Mosaic Law. This is what Jesus said would happen. The purpose of all prophecy before Jesus was to prepare for his coming, and to indicate what was to be fulfilled up to the time of his coming. These prophecies are not for the time of the Lord of the Second Advent. God sent His son Jesus into the world, intending full and perfect salvation to be accomplished. The Second Coming was made necessary only by lack of fulfillment at the time of the first coming.
Why then was the time of Jesus the end of the world? We already know the answer. It is because Jesus came to end the evil sovereignty and bring forth God’s sovereignty upon the earth. This was the end of the Old Testament age and the beginning of the age of the New Testament. Jesus brought the words of new truth.
How did the people receive the gospel which he brought? The Jewish leaders accused Jesus and had him crucified. They were prisoners to the letter of the Old Testament and could not perceive the presence of the spirit of God in the new truth. It is ironic that Jesus fell victim to the very prophecies that were to testify to him as the Son of God. By the letter of the Mosaic Law he was judged a criminal. Blindly the people nailed him to the cross.
At the time of Jesus many learned people, many leaders of churches, and many people prominent in society who were well versed in the Law and the prophets were waiting for a Messiah. How happy they would have been to have their Messiah recite the Old Testament exactly, syllable by syllable and word by word! But Jesus Christ did not come to repeat the Mosaic Law. He came to pronounce a new law of God. People missed the whole point. And Jesus was accused. The people of Israel said to him,
‘We stone you for no good work, but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.’ (John 10:33)
The Bible states: “And they reviled him (one of Jesus’ disciples), saying,
‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ (John 9:28-29)
This was the way they looked at Jesus. Those people who diligently obeyed the letter of the Mosaic Law disobeyed Jesus Christ. The most devout of the Jewish faithful were the first ones to be judged by Jesus.
Now at this time I would like to clarify the meaning of “judgment by fire.”
We read in the New Testament:
. . . the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! (II Peter 3:12)
How can this fantastic prophecy come true? Will it happen literally? No. The statement has symbolic meaning. God would not destroy His earth, His stars, and all creation without realizing His ideal on earth. If He did so, then God would become the God of defeat. And who would be His conqueror? It would be Satan. This can never happen to God.
Even on our human level, once we determine to do something, we see it through to its completion. How much more so will God almighty accomplish His will. When God speaks of judgment by fire in the Bible, He does not mean He will bring judgment by flames. The significant meaning is a symbolic one.
Let us now consider another biblical passage which speaks of fire. Jesus proclaimed,
‘I came to cast a fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!’ (Luke 12:49)
Did Jesus throw literal, blazing fire about? Of course not.
The fire in the Bible is symbolic. It stands for the word of God. This is why James 3:6 states,
“. . . the tongue is a fire . . . ”
The tongue speaks the word, and the word is from God. Jesus himself said,
‘He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.” (John 12:48)
In contemporary society, the word of the court executes judgment. The word is the law. In this universe, God is in the position of judge. Jesus came as the attorney with authority to oppose Satan, the prosecutor of man. Satan accuses man with his words, but these are false charges. Jesus champions the cause of believers, and his standard is the word of truth. God pronounces the sentence: His love is the standard, and love is His word. There is no difference between the earthly court and the heavenly court, in that both conduct their trials by words, not by fire.
So the world will not be burned up by fire when it is judged. The Bible
“. . . the Lord Jesus will slay him [the evil one] with the breath of his mouth. . .” (II Thess. 2:8)
The word of God is the breath of his mouth. Jesus came to slay the wicked by the word of God, and
“. . . he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.” (Is. 11:4)
What then is the “rod of his mouth?” We take this symbol to mean his tongue – through which he speaks the word of God.
Let’s resolve this point completely. Look to where Jesus was instructing the people: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24) Men pass from death to life by words of truth. God will not send you the Messiah to burn you up. He will not send you the Messiah to set your houses afire or destroy your society. But if we reject the word of God spoken by the Lord, we leave no choice open except to be condemned by judgment. Here is the reason why.
In the beginning God created man and the universe by His word-logos. Man denied the word of God and fell. Spiritual death has reigned ever since. Through His salvation work, God has been recreating man. Man fell by disobedience to God’s word, and man shall be recreated by obedience to the same word of God. The word of God is given by the Lord. Accepting the word brings life out of death. Such death is the hell in which we live. Thus the word of God is the judge, and it will bring upon you a far more profound effect than the hottest flames.
(from the book: God’s Will and the World by Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon)