One of my favorite family traditions was reading time at the dinner table. While the kids were eating, I would read a chapter from one of the classics. These readings provided plenty of fodder for the conversations that followed.
On one particular night, after I read the conclusion to The Time Machine, I looked up to see three very dissatisfied faces. Clearly, no one approved of how the story had ended. Each thought they had a better idea of how it should have concluded. Seizing on an opportunity to extend a learning experience, they were each assigned the task of writing their own ending and presenting it the next night.
Try to imagine God giving us that same assignment. What if He said, “Write your own conclusion to the story of man,” what conclusion would we write? What would the perfect ending look like?
No doubt, we would want to see all of the evils that plague the world dealt with once and for all; things like war and bigotry and sexism, etc. And we’d wish for a better world, one without hunger or crime or disease. And on the positive side, we’d ask for endless opportunities to be prosperous and to find meaning and fulfillment. Then, finally, man would enjoy the utopia for which he has long yearned. Right? Not so fast!
It may surprise you to discover that God has actually given mankind several opportunities to write his own ending, but sadly, every one of them has ended in disappointment. The period of innocence ended with willful disobedience by Adam and Eve and all of Creation being cursed with futility and death (Genesis 3). The period of conscience ended with universal corruption and the Flood (Genesis 6). The period of human government ended with the Tower of Babel and man’s dispersion (Genesis 11). The period of promise ended with God’s people displaced from the Promised Land and under bondage in Egypt (Exodus 1). And the period of law, beginning with Moses, ended with God’s chosen people rejecting the very Messiah sent to them (Matthew 27). And from the Scriptures, we learn that the current period, the Church age, will end with apostasy (1 Timothy 4).
Nevertheless, despite these disappointing outcomes, God will provide yet one more opportunity for man to prove himself. This final period is called the Millennial Kingdom. It’s the Kingdom promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament; it’s the Kingdom the disciples of Jesus were waiting for and fully expected Him to establish; it’s the Kingdom over which the promised Messiah, a descendant of David, Jesus, will reign; it’s the Kingdom whose capital city will be Jerusalem; it’s the Kingdom that will provide humanity with its last opportunity to get it right; only this time, the conditions will be perfect. At the return of Christ to the earth, God will usher in a thousand years of unprecedented peace and prosperity, fulfilling all of mankind’s wildest hopes for a utopian age.
The prophet Isaiah, who had more to say about the coming Millennial Kingdom than any other author in the Bible, wrote, “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He (Messiah) will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
There will be peace among the nations, as well as peace among God’s creatures. Isaiah also wrote, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them … The infant will play near the cobra's den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6, 8-9).
But despite being granted a kingdom of unparalleled peace and prosperity, we are told in Scripture that the thousand years will end with the vast majority of the world’s population chomping at the bit to rebel. Although living in external compliance with the authority and reign of Christ, the vast majority of the descendants of those who first entered the Kingdom will yearn for someone to lead them in revolt.
That’s when we read the shocking conclusion of man’s utopian age. The Apostle John wrote, “When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations … in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle--a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God's people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them” (Revelation 20:7-9, NLT).
So much for man’s perfect ending! Despite Jesus reigning from Jerusalem, despite the reversal of the curse on the earth, despite the presence of angels and the testimonies of resurrected, glorified men and women walking the earth, despite 1000 years of absolute peace and prosperity, most will withhold their hearts from God.
Like mildew inside the walls that has only been treated on the surface, so the sin nature of man will once again come roaring back when given the first opportunity. What this shows us is that there is one very important thing missing in man’s idea of the perfect ending; the necessity of eradicating the sin nature of man. When God gives the world everything we want, the vast majority of those who are born during the Millennial Kingdom age will still resist the new birth. Like men of this present age, they will believe that the only fix they need is a better set of circumstances. They will foolishly believe that if they were given the perfect conditions, utopia would follow. What the Millennial Kingdom will prove, conclusively, is that man’s real problem isn’t a fallen and flawed world, but his own fallen and flawed heart. Having everything we want doesn’t mean we will want God.
After God gives man one last chance to build the perfect world, He will step in and do what we could not—He will write the perfect ending. And when He does, we will discover that the perfect ending to man’s story has been there, hiding in plain sight, from the very beginning. It was first put on display when God gave us the perfect beginning. As Genesis tells us, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (1:31, NLT). In other words, it was exactly how He wanted it to be! That is our perfect ending! God’s intentions are perfect, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible ends by coming full circle, back to God’s original plan.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, intending that it should be our eternal abode, our Heaven. In the end, God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth and it will become our eternal abode, our Heaven! In the beginning, human beings were given bodies that were intended to live forever. In the end, we will be given our bodies back, and we will live a physical life in a physical world forever! In the beginning, God created a world filled with animals and placed man as head over His Creation. In the end, God will fill the New Earth with animals and place the man who is God, Jesus, over it all.
But here's the big difference between God's perfect ending and all of man's attempts. In the beginning, there was no sin in the world. In the end, the New Heavens and the New Earth will be the “home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). That’s because God will populate the New Earth exclusively with those who have experienced both spiritual as well as physical renewal. For while Jesus said everyone who enters the Millennial Kingdom “must be born again,” it was left to their descendants to make their own personal decision to accept Him as Savior. In God’s perfect conclusion, only those who have made that decision will enter.
God’s intentions are as perfect as He is, and so the perfect ending naturally takes us back to God’s original intentions. After God has allowed us one last time to try it our way, He will be there to write the perfect ending.