The World


     There are a total of about nine biblical words translated "world" in our translations. Six of these nine words are Hebrew and three are Greek. Since our study shall focus on the New Testament's teaching about the "world," I shall now briefly introduce the three Greek words.

     The Greek kosmos is frequently found in the about 170 occurrences of "world" in the vernacular of the New Testament. There are at least seven nuances of kosmos: Order or arrangement (I Pet. 3: 3); the earth itself (Matt. 13: 35), the earth in contrast with heaven (I Jn. 3: 17); mankind (Matt. 5: 14); the present condition of human affairs, especially as viewed detached from God (Jn. 7: 7); the totality of temporal possessions (Matt. 16: 26); and perhaps the universe itself (Rom. 1: 20). The Greek aion normally suggests a period of time or age. We read of the cares, rulers, and wisdom of the age (Matt. 13: 22; I Cor. 2: 6, 8; I Cor. 1: 20). The third Greek word is oikoumene, which is usually translated earth or whole inhabited world and, sometimes, the people who make up the earth (Matt. 24: 14; Acts 17: 31).

     While I shall not always endeavor to establish the particular nuance in our study, I did want you to be generally aware of the spectrum of potential meaning regarding "world." Let us now turn our attention to what the scriptures teach regarding the world.

     The world began. In Jesus' prayer to the Father he said, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (Jn. 17: 5, Greek kosmos). Hence, the world (creation) had a beginning (Rom. 1: 20). Moreover, this beginning was not an incomplete inception that slowly over vast periods of time evolved into what we presently know (Gen. 1; 2). Notice that on the third day of creation there was grass and vegetation and then the fourth day provided the great source of light to sustain the creation of the third day (Gen. 1: 11, 14-19). Much of creation consists of essential components that are not only necessary, but they must all be present at the beginning in order to exist (mutual dependence). Hence, progressive creation sometimes called theistic evolution is also precluded.

     Without God in the world. One of the saddest verses in the entire Bible is Ephesians 2: 12. Paul wrote, "That at that time ye were without Christ…and without God in the world" (kosmos). Man is either lost or saved, there is no area of neutrality (Matt. 25: 31-46). Man alone in this world is indicative of man's helplessness and aloneness. Yet, many remain without God in this world.

     Crucify the world. Paul wrote of the cross or death of Jesus thus: "…by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6: 14)  The idea of "world" in this case is that which is detached from God or the baser elements of the world. This is precisely John's meaning when he wrote:

     "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (I Jn. 2: 15-17).

     The world could not contain all of Jesus' deeds. Peter said of Jesus, "…who went about doing good…" (Acts 10: 38). How much did Jesus actually do? John answers our probe, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (Jn. 21: 25, kosmos is here probably used in the sense of universe).

     Jesus was in the world. John 1: 10 declares at least two cardinal truths: Jesus created the world and thus existed prior to it and he himself was also in the world. Consider the language:

     "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (kosmos is here use for the earth and also its inhabitants).

     The ancient Gnostics (present also today) denied that Jesus Christ ever came into this world. In view of their understanding of the material being inherently evil, they had to reject the Son of God having a human body. "I came forth from the Father," declared Jesus, "and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (Jn. 16: 28). The Son of God was indeed in the flesh and had been "seen" with human eyes and handled by human hands; hence, he was real as opposed to a phantom manifestation as believed by the Gnostics (I Jn. 1: 1-3, see also 4: 2, 3).

     Jesus not only lived in this world as a man, but he was "…in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4: 15). Having lived in this world made Jesus uniquely suited to be the Great High Priest for the Christian (Heb. 4: 14-16).

     The light of the world. The world without God is presented as benighted (Jn. 3: 19). However, Jesus served as the "light that is come into the world" (Ibid.). Jesus' light was stronger than the powers of darkness. Hence, of Jesus we read:

     "The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (Jn. 1: 2-5).

     It is in and through Jesus that we have available "life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1: 10).

     God so loved the world. The golden text of the Bible declares in a very simply yet profound fashion God's love for man. "For God so loved the world," Jesus taught, "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3: 16). Here "world" (kosmos) means mankind.

     God so loved the world when man was totally undeserving of God's love and the giving of God's Son (Rom. 5: 6-8).

     The peace of this world. The world offers peace, but this peace is not the peace that God offers. Hear Jesus, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you…" (Jn. 14: 27). Many without God are searching for peace through such means as alcohol, drugs, and denial in general. God's peace is deep, satisfying, and abiding. Paul wrote, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phili. 4: 7).

     Not of this world. The scriptures teach that Christians are in the world, but not of the world (Jn. 15: 19). While Christians live in this kosmos, they do not adhere to the standards and values of the lower and baser domain. In a word, they are "not conformed" but "transformed" (Rom. 12: 1, 2). After the same fashion, Jesus' kingdom is "not of this world" (Jn. 18: 36). Those who attempt to present Jesus' kingdom as fun and frolic, secular in nature, and offering worldly rewards and pleasure, are reducing the kingdom to this world. However, the kingdom "is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14: 17).

     Overcoming the world. The world offers a myriad of pleasures and temptations. The lure of the world is so strong that most will give into the world (cp. Matt. 7: 13, 14). However, the world can be overcome. Listen to John:

     "For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I Jn. 5: 4, 5).

     The world shall be judged (oikoumene). Paul preached thus to the Athenians, "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17: 31).

     The destiny of this world shall be, "And the world passeth away and the lust thereof…" (I Jn. 2: 17). All men will be assembled before the great judgment throne of Jesus and sentenced (Matt. 25: 31-46; Rom. 2: 6-9; 2 Cor. 5: 10). After the final sentencing, this world shall be destroyed down to the basic components making up this world (earth and universe, 2 Pet. 3: 10ff.). In view of the destruction of this world, man's present habitation, Peter wrote, "…seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Pet. 3: 11).

     In conclusion, this world has a special design and limited duration. However, God has prepared a new heaven and earth or habitation for his faithful (2 Pet. 3: 13).  (You might enjoy reading, "The Truth about the Earth."