This world and this universe in which we currently live will not last forever. There will come a moment, a new Big Bang, when the current universe will end and God will create from nothing a new one. A physicist could think of this as a situation in which suddenly all matter implodes into a single black hole, and then God creates from nothing, speaking into being a new universe in which, as the Bible says, there is ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. In this new universe, everything may be entirely different to this current one. Time may be different. Matter may be different. Many concepts may be different. People can be there forever without getting bored. There is no evil there. There is only happiness and love. The Book of Revelation describes a group of beings that again and again get inspired and excited by some new aspect of God so much that the scene is similar to what the Icelanders would have experienced if Iceland had won the World Cup. And this takes place spontaneously, again and again and for evermore, with passion and complete freedom. In our current universe, this would be impossible, because people get bored very quickly even with the most splendid things. Which of us could put up with listening to our favourite song from morning until evening even for a single day, let alone forever?
Everything, therefore, will be new and different. God will choose a group of people for the new universe based on the choices these people have made in this current universe. This is called resurrection. But what are the stages through which we will get from here to there?
One way of thinking about how we will move on from this current state is to consider the final setting in which Jesus’s second coming will take place. At that time, Jesus will be like a bridegroom that comes to collect his bride from the Earth. The bride of Christ is the church. At that moment, the church will be beautiful and completely worthy of the bridegroom. Once, many years ago, I prayed to Jesus and asked Him what this means. I felt that He responded and said that when He died, He was two days in the tomb and then rose from the dead on the third day. In the same way, the bride has been in a kind of tomb, even for as long as two thousand years, but will also rise again. Jesus does not want a bride that looks like a zombie, but rather one that is perfect in her beauty.
And Jesus wants only one bride. He is not coming to collect 100 different quarrelsome brides, but rather one single bride, the one He loves. This is Jesus’s objective, so whatever may come to pass in the future, He will guide things towards this final goal. I believe that this is the big agenda around which Jesus’s thoughts and actions are centred, and He also has the ability to steer our whole world as well as the future of individuals and whole nations so that He achieves His goal. Many events which we puzzle over now may be things which, without our noticing, are steering world history, like a GPS signal, towards this final end.
If we know, therefore, the final result, what will be the stages leading to this? We don’t know everything, but some things are described in some biblical prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. The first example that comes to mind are the dreams of Pharaoh that were interpreted by Joseph:
“Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’
‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
‘In my dream I saw seven ears of corn, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven good ears. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.’
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of corn are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn scorched by the east wind: they are seven years of famine.
‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.’”
Pharaoh was the leader of the world’s first superpower, right back then in the shadowy dawn of history. God allowed him to see a prophetic dream which then later came true. Because the dream was given two times, I believe that it will take place a second time right at the end of world history, although the second time it will take place in a spiritual sense. I believe that there will come a time when for a short period the Kingdom of God will advance rapidly all over the world and a huge spiritual harvest will be gathered in. Jesus said that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’. This prayer will be heard, and indeed why shouldn’t it if Jesus Himself prayed it and commanded his followers to do the same? Won’t his heavenly Father hear the prayer of his own Son?
After this time of harvest there will come another time, an extremely hard time, when the followers of Jesus will be bitterly persecuted. This time, and even a specific seven-year period, is spoken of also in the Book of Revelation. I believe that the two stages of this dream will move things towards the moment when Jesus comes to collect the beautiful bride that He desires.
Another significant dream was seen by Nebuchadnezzar, who in his time was also a leader of a world superpower. The vision is described in the second chapter of the book of Daniel:
“As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing-floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure for ever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
Here the course of world history is being painted with broad brush strokes. The head of gold represents the Babylonian Empire, while the chest of silver signifies the Persian Empire that followed it. Likewise, the belly of bronze represents the Macedonian Empire that was formed by Alexander the Great. After Alexander came the Roman Empire, which is well represented by iron. There are two legs, just as the Empire itself split into the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) and the Western Empire. Each leg then split further, forming the different toes. From the Eastern Empire came Russia and the different states of Eastern Europe, while the ‘toes’ formed from the Western Empire included Germany, Italy, France, England and Spain. On both sides of the Empire it has been seen that the weak clay described by Daniel has been there mixed in among the iron. Both sides have attempted to form a unified whole, be it through the Soviet Union or the European Union, but the unifying process has been very difficult and the unions have not succeeded in holding together. What is significant, however, is that God in the end intervenes in a way that none can stand against. It is important also to note that although the statue which Nebuchadnezzar saw related only to the part of the world which he knew, the mountain which represents the Kingdom of God grew to fill the whole earth, including all the parts of the world which had not yet even been discovered at that point.
When we think about these end times, they can bring either feelings of fear or feelings of safety. It can feel frightening if things will end and huge transformations will take place. We can feel that many things which we find safe will be shaken. On the other hand, our comfort is all the greater when we seek with all our heart to locate our security and our source of life in God and in the Bridegroom, who is Jesus. Then we can look forward to the moment when God makes us part of Jesus’s beautiful bride, and we are now simply on a journey towards something so good, so beautiful, that we are not even able to imagine it.
The new universe awaits. I hope you will join me on the journey there.
May your life be blessed with the presence of the Bridegroom,