If you want to see how America ends, you drive south from Miami, Florida, down Highway 1 until you get to Florida City. Stay on Highway 1 down to Key Largo, then over the chain of islands known as “the Keys.” After a hundred miles or so, you reach the last island, Key West.
Follow the road into town, and eventually you’ll come to Whitehead Street. Keep heading south, past the lighthouse museum and the home where Ernest Hemingway used to live, past a church and the Elk’s Lodge. You cross over Catherine Street, Louise Street and United Street, and eventually you reach it – the end of America
There is a big black, red and yellow marker informing you that you are at the southernmost point of the United States. From the end of the road the Caribbean Sea stretches away to Cuba, 90 miles over the horizon.
That’s it – that’s how the United States ends. It is a rather depressing spot. Except that someone has painted on the curbstones the words “America Begins Here.” For some reason that seemed very encouraging.
“America begins here”! You go through downtown Key West and over the Keys to Key Largo and Florida City. Before you know it you’re back in Miami. From Miami you can take a plane or one of the interstate highways to any of the 50 states. You can go to the great plains of Kansas, the deserts of Arizona or the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. You can visit California’s spectacular national parks or the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. You can even go farther, through vast, friendly Canada, until you reach Alaska. Or fly halfway across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.
It’s all accessible from that point at the end of Whitehead Street on Key West. Looking at it that way, the end of America is an exciting place to be.
Have you ever looked at the end of this world from that point of view?
You and I probably spend a good deal of time thinking about the end of the world. We know it is coming, because we believe Bible prophecy. We know that it is going to be a time of trouble and tribulation.
The world will be plunged into a war so awful that unless God intervenes no one will be left alive! Everything familiar, everything that stands for security in this, the only world we know, teeters on the edge of destruction.
It has long been the responsibility of the people of God to face the fact that the world as we know it is coming to an end.
The first to do so were the prophets that God sent to Israel and Judah. Their work was to carry an unpopular message to an ungrateful and rebellious people. No wonder some of the prophets described their work as a “burden” (Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Malachi 1:1). It was hard and often discouraging, and occasionally their faith and courage broke down under the strain.
Those men were the forerunners of God’s servants today, and the true Church is built on the foundation that they laid (Eph. 2:20). So it is not surprising that the apostle James, writing to encourage the brethren of his day – and us, wrote that we should consider the prophets “as an example of suffering and patience” (James 5:10).
God’s great prophet Elijah exposed the priests of Baal as liars and false prophets. You probably have read this story in I Kings 18. But did you realize that after his great event Elijah became very discouraged?
Elijah’s actions had brought upon him the wrath of Queen Jezebel, and he had to flee for his life. Alone and frightened in the wilderness, he asked God to let him die. Everyone, it seemed, was against him, and everything looked like it was coming to an end. Life just wasn’t worth living anymore, he reasoned.
God had to encourage him. How? By focusing his mind on the positive. For a start, God reminded Elijah that he wasn’t the only one left in the kingdom who was faithful. There were still 7,000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal. And things weren’t coming to an end – there was still work to do (I Kings 19). Elijah was encouraged and got going again.
Satan, the great discourager, would like us to give in to a feeling of helplessness and foreboding. We can see this from an example in the life of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s work was particularly difficult. He was the last prophet to be sent to his nation before its end came. Jeremiah became depressed at the somber message and the constant lack of appreciation. He complained to God that he had been deceived (Jere. 20:7), and he even threatened to quit announcing God’s message (v. 9).
But God brought him back to his senses. Even though Jeremiah was called to prophesy of the end time for his people, he could not permit himself to get into a “what’s the use” frame of mind. He still had work to do – important work.
For even as his old world tumbled down around him, Jeremiah had to accomplish the task of carrying a princess and a stone of destiny to a new world, so that life could begin again.
Or take Ezekiel. He was also called at a difficult time. He and much of his nation had already been taken into captivity. In those trying circumstances, he had to continue to warn and correct, for he was used to reveal prophecies that were to be fulfilled many years in the future. God had to encourage him to keep going, and not let the trying circumstances wear him down (see, for example, Ezk. 2:6-7; 3:7, 9, 19-21).
If those men who had to prophesy of the “end of the world” occasionally became discouraged and overwhelmed, we can expect that those of us who are called to fulfill God’s great commission in that very end time will have the same problem.
Jesus knew this. He encouraged us to stay positive and look ahead even if things become really rough: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
So, like the prophets, we must maintain a positive and constructive approach about what we know is soon to come on the world.
Really, when you stop and think about it, what is it that is coming to an end? Life is not ending. Life is going to continue, and will flourish even better than before. The “end” of this world is also the time of “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). All things! Think what that means.
Everything that is good and right will be either preserved or restored to this earth. We will see the creation as God intended it to be. The nature of savage creatures will be changed. There will be no more pollution. Nature will have a chance, instead of having to fight for its survival in a world dominated by man’s greed and ignorance. Never again will we have to struggle to preserve an endangered species. Maybe even species that have been lost through our stupidity and mismanagement will be restored.
But most of all – and best of all – life will eventually be restored to all people who have lived.
The wonderful prophecies of the Kingdom of God will begin to be put into effect. Cripples will know what it is to be whole, the blind will see and the deaf hear. There will be no more political prisoners, orphans or refugees. Human beings can begin to be taught the truth in a world free at last of religious confusion.
Jesus Christ has been preparing for this for 6,000 years. Satan’s world is coming to an end. The preparation period is nearly over – it is the end just before the beginning.
So how should we be thinking about the end of the world? It is a somber, worrying, perilous time. It is a time of great difficulty for those who are trying to stay faithful to God.
It will, of course, be far harder for those who are disobeying, but that is nothing to rejoice over, we don’t want to see people suffer or get hurt.
The last days of Satan’s system will be a time of sustained horror. Knowing about it in advance is, indeed, sobering and discouraging. Unless you look at it another way.
When Jesus Christ returns, “All the tribes of the earth will mourn,” says the Bible (Matt. 24:30). Poor people! They won’t know who He is. Some will have been taught that He is the Antichrist, and will turn to fight Him.
But a very few will not be mourning. They will be rejoicing with all of their being. It is the end of the world and, at the end of this world, the Kingdom of God begins here!