'The World' as seen in the Bible

The Bible refers many times to ‘the world’. We are warned about the world and its influence. Perhaps, the one scripture that demonstrates so clearly the division between Christians and ‘the world’ is in John’s gospel: “He was in the world, and the world had its being through him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). However, this verse can become a little perplexing when we try and define what is meant by ‘the world’.

What is “the World”?

There are three ways the term “the world” is used in the Bible.

  • The world is the earth and includes all the material things on it.
  • The world is the people (i.e. all mankind) and their actions.
  • The world is an established system that works to oppose and resist God.

To use the verse already quoted as an example “He was in the world (i.e. on earth), and the world (the earth) had its being through him, and the world (all the people on earth) knew him not”.

The World: The earth and the material things on the earth.

The earth was created by God:

“For from the world's creation the invisible things of him are perceived, being apprehended by the mind through the things that are made, both his eternal power and divinity,—so as to render them inexcusable” (Romans 1:20). The physical earth is a constant testimony to mankind of God’s power and divinity.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, and thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from eternity to eternity thou art God” (Psalm 90:2).

“He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his understanding” (Jeremiah 10:12).

“The God who has made the world and all things which are in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).

The Lord Jesus came to earth:

“Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first” (1 Timothy 1:15).

As Christians we are left in the world:

“And he said to them, Go into all the world, and preach the glad tidings to all the creation” (Mark 16:15).

The saints “which are come to you, as they are in all the world, and are bearing fruit and growing, even as also among you, from the day ye heard them and knew indeed the grace of God, in truth” (Colossians 1:6).

Whom resist, steadfast in faith, knowing that the selfsame sufferings are accomplished in your brotherhood which is in the world. (1 Peter 5:9).

That what is in the world stays in the world and as no eternal value is clearly shown when it says: “For we have brought nothing into the world: it is manifest that neither can we carry anything out” (1 Timothy 6:7).

“And they that use the world, as not disposing of it as their own; for the fashion of this world passes” (1 Corinthians 7:31). We are to use the material things of the world but to remember that it is not ours but is given to us by God.

So the physical world was created by God and the Lord Jesus came into it. We are left in the world so that we can continue to be a testimony and go throughout the whole earth telling people the way of salvation.

The World: Everyone who lives on Earth

The world can often mean people. We often use such terms as “the whole world is going there”. The same is true in the Bible.

Jesus came to save the world (i.e. it’s people) but many of these people have refused Him:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal. For God has not sent his Son into the world that he may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). God loved the people in the world so he sent the Lord Jesus to earth to save everyone if they will trust in Him.

“And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light; for their works were evil” (John 3:19).

“And they said to the woman, It is no longer on account of thy saying that we believe, for we have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).

“For the bread of God is he who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).

“On the morrow he sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

“I am the living bread which has come down out of heaven: if any one shall have eaten of this bread he shall live for ever; but the bread withal which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

“How that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their offences; and putting in us the word of that reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

God will judge the people of the world:

“Before Jehovah, for he cometh; for he cometh to judge the earth: he will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness” (Psalm 96:13).

“Now we know that whatever the things the law says, it speaks to those under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God” (Romans 3:19).

“Before Jehovah, for he cometh; for he cometh to judge the earth: he will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness” (Psalm 96:13).

Christian’s are in the world and witnessing to the world:

“Ye are the light of the world: a city situated on the top of a mountain cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).

“And the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom, but the darnel are the sons of the evil one” (Matthew 13:38). This parable showed that the world consists of two types of people – the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one.

“Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The world is made up of people who follow the Lord Jesus and those who don’t.

“As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

“That they may be all one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21 see also verse 23).

“Righteous Father,—and the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me” (John 17:25).

“Jesus answered him, I spoke openly to the world; I taught always in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and in secret I have spoken nothing” (John 18:20).

“For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and sincerity before God, (not in fleshly wisdom but in God's grace,) we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly towards you” (2 Corinthians 1:12). Conversation means “way of life” and so our way of life is a testimony of Christ to everyone who sees it.

So God has had and still has a great interest in the world, i.e. everyone. He sent the Lord Jesus to save us all and then has made us to be lights to others. God will judge everyone individually but desires that everyone should be saved (see 1 Timothy 2:4).

The World: The World System

The world system is an entity and influence that God hates. He loves everyone but not the world system as is so evident in the scriptures given below. God will judge the whole system of religion, false morality and corrupt government that exists in this world and all that characterises it (i.e. pride, injustice, sinfulness, etc.) but He desires to save everyone if they will only trust in Him.

The world serves Satan and not God:

"And the devil, leading him up into a high mountain, shewed him all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time. And the devil said to him, I will give thee all this power, and their glory; for it is given up to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If therefore thou wilt do homage before me, all of it shall be thine. And Jesus answering him said, It is written, Thou shalt do homage to the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:6-8). Satan told the Lord Jesus that all the kingdoms of the world and their glory had turned to do the will of Satan.

“I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing” (John 14:30).

“So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the principles of the world” (Galatians 4:3). The world’s principles hold us in bondage to sin until we have been saved and released from it through Jesus Christ.

The world hates the Lord Jesus and those who follow Him:

The world cannot hate you, but me it hates, because I bear witness concerning it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

“And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will make the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will bring low the haughtiness of the violent” (Isaiah 13:11).

“If the world hate you, know that it has hated me before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

“These things have I spoken to you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

“Where is the wise? where scribe? where disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom has not known God, God has been pleased by the foolishness of the preaching to save those that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).

Christians are not part of the world system:

“But far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom [the] world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). We have been released from the world through the death of the Lord Jesus.

“Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan holds everyone in bondage through their fear of death. We have been released by the Lord’s death and resurrection.

“I demand concerning them; I do not demand concerning the world, but concerning those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine” (John 17:9).

“They are not of the world, as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).

“See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God. For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him nor know him; but ye know him, for he abides with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). The world cannot see nor know the Holy Spirit but believers do for He dwells within them.

“But we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which have been freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

“Yet a little and the world sees me no longer; but ye see me; because I live ye also shall live” (John 14:19). The last time the world had anything to do with Jesus it unilaterally condemned Him to death while proclaiming His innocence. The next time it sees Him it will see Him coming as a King.

“I leave peace with you; I give my peace to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it fear” (John 14:27).

"Adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore is minded to be the friend of the world is constituted enemy of God” (James 4:4). James describes those who seek friendship with the world system as being adulterers seeking to be in love with two people. A friend of the world is an enemy of God.

'The world' is a danger to Christians:

“See that there be no one who shall lead you away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

“Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because 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” (1 John 2:16).

The world will be judged by God and by His saints:

“Far be the thought: since how shall God judge the world?” (Romans 3:6).

“Do ye not then know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy of the smallest judgments?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).

“But being judged, we are disciplined of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32). The Lord disciplines us so that we lose the features of the world system that have influenced us.

“By faith, Noah, oracularly warned concerning things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah condemned the world in which he lived and the principles and ethos that it had by building an ark to save his household from the judgement that was about to come upon it.

These are just some of the scripture that make quite clear that Christians are different. We are not part of the world’s ethos and system and therefore it hates us just as it hated the Lord Jesus when he exposed it in the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Gentiles. A Christian’s life condemns the world by being different and so the world seeks to either destroy the Christian or influence them to become more like the world and therefore not affect the conscience of those who follow the world’s thinking. We have become sons of God and saints meaning that we have been made completely different to the world system. You might say that we have joined God’s system and the world system does not honour God meaning it is opposed to God’s system.


The term “the world” has a few different meanings. The world that God created was declared by God as “very good”. The created world and the material things in it are not evil. However, the things of the world may gain a wrong place in our lives (e.g. the love of money). The world (i.e. all the people on earth) is loved by God. It includes the whole of mankind, Christian and non-Christian, and God’s desire is that everyone would come to Him and be saved. The world (what I have called the world system) includes the whole ethos, character, aim, influence, systems and organisation of mankind without honouring God. The whole focus of mankind has given itself over to Satan’s influence and therefore he has become its invisible, though ever present ruler. The world system does whatever he wants, even to the crucifying of God’s Son. The world system has set itself to honour people and not God even in organisations that claim to be Christian so that within Christendom there is a mixture of the world system and honour to God. God hates this world system and will judge it one day. We, as Christians, are to have already judged it for what it really is in our hearts.

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