This English word is employed in the A.V. to translate more than a dozen
Hebrew words, and seven Greek words. Those of dispensational importance,
however, are two. They are the Greek words telos and sunteleia.
means ‘the end’ in the sense of completion, fulfilment, or realization, not so
much the end in the sense of cessation.
‘It denotes strictly, not the ending of a departed state, but the arrival
of a complete or perfect one’ (Dr. E. W.
Bullinger, Greek Lexicon).
Thus in Greece, one might have been invited to a party celebrating the happy
fact that the firstborn son had come to the end of his life, not of course that
he had died or ‘ceased to live’, but that he had attained to the great goal of
life and reached man’s estate. Closely associated with this word are the derived
which are translated ‘perfect’ again with the basic idea of attaining a goal,
not of being sinless or flawless. It is an easy transition then for the word to
indicate maturity as over against infancy. This aspect, however, is discussed
under the heading PERFECTION OR
PERDITION , and is also a feature in the structure of the epistle to the
HEBREWS which should be consulted. When we
examine the Scriptures which contain the other word
sunteleia we shall have to include one or two references to telos in the context, but the one
passage that demands consideration at the moment is 1 Corinthians 15:24. The
structure of 1 Corinthians 15 will be found in the article entitled
EARTHLY THINGS and the twenty-fourth verse
is a part of the teaching of the apostle concerning the relationship of
resurrection with the goal of the ages. In verses 20-23 the figure that is
stressed is the ‘firstfruits’ both in connection with the first (20) and second
The Corinthians are now taken one step further in the endeavour to impress
upon them the fundamental importance of the resurrection. The very goal of the
ages is impossible without it. This is shown in the verses that follow.
1 Corinthians 15:24-28
15:24. The end.
15:24-. WHEN He delivers up the
15:-24. WHEN He abolishes all
15:25-. FOR He must reign.
15:-25. Till all enemies under feet.
d15:26. The last enemy; death abolished.
c15:27. FOR He hath put all
things under His feet.
15:-27. WHEN. The one exception.
15:28-. WHEN. The Son Himself
15:-28. That God may be all in all.
There is no word for ‘cometh’ in the original of verse 24. It simply reads
‘then the end’. Some understand the words to mean ‘then the end
rank’ but we can find no justification
for such a rendering. Cremer, in his note on to
telos, says that this word does not primarily denote the
end, termination, with reference to time,
but the goal reached, the completion or
conclusion at which anything arrived, either as issue or ending; or as a
result, acme, consummation, e.g., polemon telos, ‘victory’
(literally ‘the end of war’, end, not measuring time but object);telos andros, ‘the full age of
man’ (not the end of man - death), also of the ‘ripening of seed’. In Luke 1:33
and Mark 3:26 the idea of termination seems uppermost. The idea of issue, end,
conclusion, is seen in Matthew 26:58, ‘to see the end’; James 5:11, ‘Ye have
seen the end of the Lord’; 1 Peter 4:17, ‘What shall the end be of them that
obey not the gospel?’
The idea of a goal reached is seen in
Romans 6:21, ‘the end of those things is death’; Philippians 3:19, ‘whose end is
destruction’. So also 2 Corinthians 11:15; Hebrews 6:8. When the apostle wrote
the words of 1 Corinthians 15:24, ‘then the end’, what goal had he in view? What
is the object of resurrection? Does it not take man back into the place intended
for him in the Divine purpose, for which sin and death had for a while rendered
him unfit? The goal, this end in view, is contained in the words of 1
Corinthians 15:28, ‘that God may be all in all’. Although ‘the end’ is mentioned
immediately after the resurrection of those that are Christ’s at His parousia,
it is not attained without a reign of righteousness and a rule of iron. The
uninterrupted statement of the end is as follows:
‘Then the end, when He shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God, even the Father ... with the object that God may be all in
The reader is aware, however, that the end is not attained in this unbroken
sequence. The first ‘when’ is conditional upon the second, ‘when He shall have
abolished all rule and all authority and power’. This will not be effected by
one grand miraculous stroke, but by the reign of Christ as king, ‘For He must
reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet’. He reigns ‘till’, His reign
has one supreme ‘end’, and that end cannot be reached while one unsubdued enemy
In this category comes death, the last enemy of mortal man. ‘Even death, the
last enemy, shall be abolished’. This is included in the Divine purpose, ‘For He
hath put all things under His feet’. The resurrection therefore is absolutely
essential to the fulfilment of the great purpose of God. But it may be asked:
Can such an expression as ‘destroyed’ or ‘abolished’ speak of resurrection? Take
the statement of 2 Timothy 1:10:
‘But now is made manifest by the manifestation of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Who abolished (katargeo)
death, and illuminated life and incorruptibility through the gospel’ (Author’s
This refers to the Lord Himself, in the first instance. He abolished death
when He arose from the dead. Not only did He abolish death, but He commenced
that destruction of all rule and power which He will carry through when He sits
upon the throne of His glory:
‘That through death He might destroy (katargeo)
him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’ (Heb. 2:14).
Other passages illustrating the meaning ofkatargeo (‘put down’,
‘destroyed’, 1 Corinthians 15:24-26) are Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1
Corinthians 13:11; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Ephesians 2:15; and 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
When we read ‘all rule and all authority and power’, we may be inclined to
make too wide a sweep, but the corrective of verse 26 enables us to see that we
are dealing with enemies. There are two distinct actions, and two distinct
classes in view in these verses. The enemies are ‘abolished’, but others are
‘subdued’. This word ‘subdued’ (hupotasso)
is a cognate of
tagma, ‘order’, ‘rank’ of verse 23, and looks to the
perfect order and alignment that will characterize the kingdom of Christ. It is
used of Christ Himself in the words, ‘Then shall the Son also Himself be
subject unto Him ... that God may be all
The first occurrence of the word is beautiful in its suggestiveness. That One
of Whom it was prophesied that ‘all things should be subjected beneath His feet’
did not presume to act out of harmony with the Father’s will for Him during His
‘He ... came to Nazareth (with His parents), and
was subject unto them’ (Luke 2:51).
In Romans 8:7 the two words ‘enmity’ and
‘subjection’ are seen to be irreconcilable:
‘The carnal mind is
enmity against God: for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither
indeed can be’.
The word ‘subject’ involves the idea of a ‘willing surrender’. All must come
down in that day. Some by being ‘abolished’ or ‘destroyed’, others by a willing
surrender like unto that of the Son of God Himself. In Romans 8:20 it is
revealed that the creation has become involuntarily subjected to vanity, and
this cries aloud for that willing submission of all things to the true goal of
all creation which is summed up in Christ. The word is used in Philippians 3:21,
where the transforming of the body of humiliation is said to be according to the
self-same energy whereby He is able to subject
all things to Himself. Surely this cannot include the power that destroys - it
is foreign to the thought. Destruction or subjection is the idea of 1
While 1 Corinthians 15 is mainly concerned with the human phase of the great
purpose of God, as expressed in the words ‘in Adam’, nevertheless the reference
to ‘all rule and all authority and power’ goes beyond the sphere of Adam. Before
the Son delivers up the kingdom, all rule, authority and power (arche,
exousia, dunamis) will be abolished. Ephesians 6 reveals
that the Church of the one Body has principalities and powers among its
spiritual enemies, and Colossians 1:16-20 shows that some principalities and
powers will be reconciled. Once again we are forced to see that the reign of
Christ before ‘the end’ is reached will be a process of discrimination. Some
will be ‘destroyed,’ others will be ‘reconciled’, and when all enemies will have
been abolished and all the redeemed and unfallen brought into perfect line
(subjection carries with it the idea of perfect order and harmony) with the
great Archetype of all, then ‘the end’ is reached and God will be all in all.
There is a tendency on the part of some expositors to wander outside the
passage and introduce subjects which are quite foreign to the intention of the
apostle. This is so with regard to the word ‘death’. What ‘death’ is intended in
verse 26? The subject is introduced in verse 21 definitely and exclusively.
There can be no doubt as to what is intended:
‘By man came death ... as in Adam all die’ (1 Cor.
‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15:54).
Its sting is removed (verse 55), which sting is sin (verse 56). By comparing
the two balancing portions of this chapter together we shall get further and
fuller light upon the whole subject. The two portions are balanced in the
Adam and Christ. Death destroyed. ‘When?’ 15:36-57. The first and last Adam. Death
swallowed up. ‘When?’
The differences of every one’s ‘order’ are
amplified (15:23 with 15:37-44).
The nature and relation of Adam is explained
(15:21,22 with 15:45,47,49).
The nature and relation of Christ is explained
(15:20-22,28 with 15:45,47,49).
The meaning of the destruction of death is given
(15:26 with 15:54).
The time periods are illuminated (15:24 with
These amplifications by the apostle of his own words are worth more than
libraries of other men’s thoughts, and give us inspired explanations which to
see is to come under an obligation to accept and hold against all theories.
This word occurs six times in the New Testament and always in combination with
the wordstou aionos
‘of the age’, namely in Matthew 13:39,40,49; 24:3; 28:20 and Hebrews 9:26. The
first passage gives the clue to the meaning of the phrase ‘the end of the age’,
‘The harvest is the end of the world’ (Matt. 13:39). When the apostles asked the
‘What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ (Matt.
they used an expression familiar in their mouths as household words, for the
Septuagint uses the wordsunteleia for the harvest
ingathering. In Exodus 23:14-16 we learn that Israel were enjoined to keep three
feasts in a year:
The feast of unleavened bread.
The firstfruits of their sowing in the field.
The ingathering, at the end of the year.
The word ‘ingathering’ is this word sunteleia, a term in
common use in Palestine. The apostles’ question is practically ‘What shall be
the sign of Thy coming, and the true antitypical harvest ingathering at the end
of the age?’ The Lord in His reply differentiates between ‘the end’
telosand ‘the end’ sunteleia, saying that
even though they may hear of wars and rumours of wars, ‘the end’telosis not yet, only after all has taken place, that is predicted in
verses 7-14, will ‘the end come’ (Matt. 24:14).
When these simple facts and essential differences are known, the great
commission of Matthew 28:20 will be seen in its true dispensational light. ‘Go
ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of)
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded
you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the sunteleiaof the age, Amen’
(Matt. 28:19,20). There is no reference here to the gospel of the grace of God,
indeed, that gospel was not then known. The commission speaks of ‘making
disciples’ of all nations matheteuo, a
word never employed in the epistles. The baptismal formula is never used so far
as the subsequent record of the Acts and epistles is concerned, and the main
feature of this commission is the teaching to ‘observe’ commandments already
given, and which belong to the dispensation of the King’s advent, not to the
extension of the gospel of grace among the Gentiles as it is today. Matthew
28:19,20 will have glorious results in its own proper season, but it is a poor
substitute for the preaching of the ‘One Mediator’ which Paul declared was the
testimony for its own peculiar season, namely now during the intervening
dispensation of grace during Israel’s blindness.
Just as the ‘end’ of 1 Corinthians 15:24 transcends everything that the
lesser ends of Matthew 24 or 28 can comprise, so the commissions given to the
apostles and witnesses at different times deal with narrower or wider phases of
the one great purpose and should be kept apart, and not confused. Neither the
commission of Matthew 28 nor that of Mark 16, Luke 24 or John 21 are the
marching orders of the Church today, these can only come through the one apostle
who has been given to the Gentiles today, namely the apostle Paul. See the
APOSTLE for fuller exposition of
this and related themes.