The Corinthian church was plagued with a multitude of problems, a variety of which are discussed in Paul’s epistle designated as First Corinthians.
One of their doctrinal issues involved the misguided conviction that ultimately there will not be a resurrection of the human body. Paul addressed this issue in the fifteenth chapter of the epistle.
The apostle’s rebuke was framed thusly: “[H]ow say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead [plural, ‘dead ones’]?” (v. 12). He argued that this no-resurrection ideology undermined the very foundation of the Christian religion, namely that Jesus himself was raised from the grave (v. 13ff).
In the subsequent development of his proposition that the dead will be raised, Paul introduces an abrupt phrase, “Then comes the end” (v. 24).
The End of What?
This brief but poignant statement begs for some attention. The question is: the end of what?
The immediate context suggests the present kingdom reign of Christ—that is, the regime over which he currently exercises supreme authority (Eph. 1:20ff) and in which he serves as our Savior and Mediator (1 Tim. 2:12).
This kingdom is the equivalent of the church (Mt. 16:18–19). After this, the Son of God will surrender his “all authority” status (Mt. 28:18) back to God and lovingly subject himself to his heavenly Father (1 Cor. 15:28).
As suggested above, the expression “the end” has reference to the current Messianic reign of Christ.
Incidentally, this negates the common denominational theory that there is a future, earthly millennium (one thousand years) following this present age—to begin at the time of the Lord’s return. This millennial theory contradicts Paul’s affirmation that Christ’s present reign will cease at the time of “his coming” (v. 23).
However, there can be some profit in considering some other things that will end at the Lord’s return.
The End of Time and the Material Universe
Time can be defined as that span between the beginning of the material universe (Gen. 1:1) and the second coming of Christ, when the material heavens and earth will be consumed, passing away into oblivion (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10).
At the Lord’s return, time, as we understand it from our earthly perspective, will cease. Human existence will transition into eternity (i.e., a state of endless existence). It will be either in Heaven or Hell (Mt. 25:46; cf. “eternal” [Danker, 33]). This end of which the Lord spoke is the equivalent of the “last day” elsewhere mentioned by Jesus (Jn. 6:40; 11:24; 12:48).
Some appeal to the Old Testament for evidence that the earth will remain forever (cf. Eccl. 1:4). The Watchtower Witnesses attempt to argue this case (Aid To Bible Understanding, 476).
However, “for ever” (Hebrew
olam) does not always imply endless existence. For instance, in the Old Testament the word is used to describe the duration of the Passover celebration and the Levitical priesthood (cf. Ex. 12:14; Num. 25:13), both of which lasted only as long as the Mosaic regime.
Girdlestone noted that when
olam is applied “to things physical” (e.g., the “the heavens and the earth”) it does not signify a literal eternity (317).
The End of Human Rebellion
The human family, since the days of Adam and Eve, to one degree or another has been on the road of rebellion.
Though we have not inherited the guilt of human depravity, as Calvinists allege, nonetheless earth’s environment is saturated with sin, somewhat similar to the circumstances that prevailed in Noah’s days (cf. Gen. 6:5).
Accordingly, when we reach a state of intellectual and moral responsibility for our choices and become influenced by others, we drift into sin and guilt (Gen. 8:21).
At the time of the Savior’s return, however, human rebellion will end. The wicked will acknowledge their infidelity and bow before their Creator. Sadly for many, conversion will be too late at that point (2 Thes. 1:7–9). Earth’s present opportunities are all that we have (2 Cor. 6:2).
Once death has come, there is no transition of the lost from punishment to reward. The impassible gulf is permanently “fixed” (the force of the perfect tense verb in Luke 16:26), and the punishment will be eternal (Rev. 14:10–11).
The End of Suffering and Death
There were many consequences associated with humanity’s plunge into sin. Adam and Eve began their earthly trek in the splendor of Eden, a lovely garden likely somewhere in the area of Mesopotamia. They were furnished with everything they needed for the implementation of human happiness.
Through Satan’s temptation, they disobeyed Jehovah, partaking of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to which was attached the penalty of ultimate death (Gen. 2:17). Thus the human family began that long and treacherous road to the grave.
Along the way has been a universe of escalating physical and mental maladies. Satan is portrayed as the “murderer” of our race (Jn. 8:44), the original source of all our ailments (cf. Lk. 13:16).
In the book of Revelation, however, there is the promise of ultimate relief from these debilitating maladies (7:16–17; 21:4). In another refreshing metaphor, the heavenly “tree of life” is depicted as bearing fruit every month, facilitating the “healing of the nations” (22:2).
Additionally, as Paul indicated in the Corinthian letter, Christ would reign until all his enemies were destroyed, the last of which would be “death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
As the body wears out, man eventually goes to his everlasting home, the nature of which is determined by how he has lived (Eccl. 12:7; Jn. 5:28–29; 2 Cor. 5:10). The righteous will be “at home with the Lord,” free from the suffering of this life and the consequences of sin (2 Cor. 5:8). The wicked will be with Satan and his rebel angels in a place of eternal torment and affliction (Mt. 25:41).
The End of Theological Error
History has been punctuated profusely with religious doctrines antagonistic to divine revelation. There were false prophets in the Old Testament era (1 Kgs. 18:1–40) and later during the apostolic age (Mt. 7:15; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Jn. 4:1). And they are with us yet today, both outside and inside the church of Jesus Christ.
There are somber warnings for those who do not carefully prove what is the truth and submit to it. There will be devastating judgment for those who have “believed not the truth” (2 Thes. 2:12). Those who pervert divine truth, by addition or subtraction, will face a similar judgment (Rev. 22:18–19).
The End of Redemptive Opportunity
Some people labor under the illusion that there is some after-death, second-chance provision of pardon. They dream in vain.
Christ once told a parable about ten virgins who were to be attendants at a wedding feast (Mt. 25:1–13). Five were described as wise, while the remaining five were foolish.
The qualitative difference between the two groups is this: the wise made adequate personal preparation, while the foolish did not. As the bridegroom tarried, all the virgins slept (a symbol of death).
When the announcement came that the bridegroom was on his way, all the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. However, the foolish (who had not made adequate preparation for themselves) attempted to borrow “preparation” from the wise. They were refused.
While they scurried about to obtain their needed oil, the bridegroom came “and the door was shut.” The foolish begged for the door to be opened, but were refused.
Here is the lesson. Preparation must be personally made—now. It is not transferable from one person to another!
There is no such theological creature as proxy salvation or postmortem redemption. No souls will be delivered from that mythical purgatory by earth-generated prayers, as alleged by Catholicism.
Those who imagine that a proxy baptism for the dead (as practiced by Mormons) avails on behalf of others will be sorely disappointed.
The ones who surmise that there is a second chance beyond death, as advocated by the Watchtower Witnesses, will learn better when their own judgment arrives.
The apostle Paul was explicit in his plea that “now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2b).
Or, as inspiration later says, it “is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
The precious kingdom of God will have no end (Dan. 7:14; Lk. 1:33). But obviously there was to be an end of some kind that was coming (1 Cor. 15:24).
The context clearly indicates that the apostle’s point has to do with the current “redemptive reign of Christ” (Thomas, 496). The ultimate “heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18) will be eternal in nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:11).