The meaning of “the pillars of the earth” & “world without end”

Ken Follett’s 1989 novel, The Pillars of the Earth, and its 2007 sequel, World Without End, have been made into acclaimed TV series. The former tells the story of the building of a cathedral in twelfth century England, during the tumult of the civil war between Matilda and her cousin Stephen. The latter chronicles life in fourteenth century England, during the reign of Edward III, in the aftermath of the civil war between Isabella and her husband Edward II. Ken Follett presents the contests for power as a game of thrones, but in actuality, it was God who was giving power to kings and taking power away from kings.

By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.”
– Proverbs 8:15

“For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
– Psalms 75:6-7

What is most interesting is that both stories are titled with biblical expressions.

1. The Pillars of the Earth:

What sets an English cathedral apart from others is its towering ceiling and buttressed walls. If the pillars are not sturdy, if the foundations are weak, the roof will collapse, the whole building will fall apart.

Biblically, “the pillars of the earth” are Christians, now in the age of the church and later during the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ, 1 Samuel 2:8.

“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.”
– 1 Samuel 2:8

Revelation 3:12 describes the saints of Jesus Christ as pillars in the temple of God.

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
– Revelation 3:11-12

The pillars of the earth keep the earth from falling apart: from disorder, destruction, death.

“And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
– Revelation 5:10

I am not sure whether Ken Follett was consciously aware of the metaphor he used in The Pillars of the Earth, but it is remarkably apt: the cathedral, in an epoch of anarchy.

2. World Without End:

The sequel World Without End is not as good. There is no striking metaphor. There is some degree of artistic licence with regard to the historicity of Edward II, Isabella and Edward III. And the title does not reflect the plot.

In the Bible, the phrase “world without end” occurs twice, Ephesians 3:21 and Isaiah 45:17.

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
– Ephesians 3:21

“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
– Isaiah 45:15-17

The phrase refers to the kingdom of God, which will include Christians and the descendants of Jacob.

“But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.”
– Joel 3:20

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
– Luke 1:32-33

By definition, the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ will last for 1000 years. After that, the kingdom will be delivered to God the Father, 1 Corinthians 15:24.

“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:24-25

However, because of the Trinity, the kingdom of God will not end.

“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”
– Revelation 20:7-9

“Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”
– Ezekiel 38:23

Even when the sun comes to its end and the planet earth burns up, 2 Peter 3:10, a new earth will be created, Revelation 21.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
– 2 Peter 3:10

This new earth, the heavenly Jerusalem, will have no need for a sun, because the Lamb will be the light, literally.

“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.”
– Revelation 21:23-24

Therefore, to all intents and purposes, the kingdom of God will be a world without end.

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