At one time or another, all of us have gone through the academic exercise of plowing through the foundational ancient empires that spawned our current 21st century Western world. If it's been awhile since you've thought of Western Civ class, allow me to restart your mental engines down the pathway to long-ago civilizations.
The study normally begins with Egypt and its sand-worn monuments and moves to Babylon under Hammurabi and then returns to Egypt under Ramses. It leaps over to the Mesopotamian empires of the warlike Assyrians and the golden age of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. Our standardized studies then deal with the Persians and their nemesis, Greece.
We then proceed with a study of the golden age of Athens under Pericles and the spread of Hellenism by Alexander the Great. Such a systematic study always winds up with the formidable force that was Rome with its seemingly invincible armies and code of law.
The basic lesson that comes from studying Western civilization, as well as all history, is a simple maxim: What goes up must come down. All civilizations, even the best and brightest, run a certain course, even Rome. Stages of societal development always move in an inevitable cycle of infancy, ascendancy, maturity and ultimately decline. None of them are immune. Some of them last longer than others, but they all ultimately "go the way of the dinosaur."
Who is next?
Understanding and expecting this pattern always motivates us to await the next chapter to see who will supplant the people who, for the moment, place their footprints in the shifting sands of history. In doing so, we expectantly turn to a new chapter full of unknown place names, dynasties of rulers, famous battles and contributions to civilization.
The apostle Paul was not immune to this basic historical truism with his educational and travel background. His hometown of Tarsus had experienced multiple occupiers. But God inspired him to look beyond the present circumstances of his time to pen something very special regarding a society yet to come. It comes in the form of a doxology in which Paul is concluding a parenthetical prayer in the midst of the New Testament Epistle of Ephesians. He simply writes, "Unto him [God the Father] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21 Ephesians 3:21To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
American King James Version×, King James Version). A profound revelation if ever there was one: "world without end!"
Consider the implications!
The original Greek word translated by early biblical scholars is aeon from which we derive the English word eon that means "an immeasurably long period of time." Thus other translations of the Bible speak of "forever and ever" or as "forever and ever through endless ages."
Consider the incredible implications of believing in a "world without end." So often we pray "thy kingdom come," but how often do we fully grasp that it is not ever going away?
We find that Paul is anchoring his belief structure and thus his life on a prophecy discovered in chapter two of the book of Daniel. It is here that we discover the basic ingredients of this ageless kingdom for which Paul praises and glorifies God.
An all-powerful king that had conquered other ancient societies such as Egypt, Phoenicia and Judah defined Daniel's world. His name was Nebuchadnezzar.
His capital city of Babylon was rumored to be 100 feet high and had walls so wide that six chariots could ride together on top. Within those walls were magnificent edifices such as the Hanging Gardens, the Great Ziggurat and the triumphal Lion's Gate with its magnificent decorations. King Nebuchadnezzar was a king over kings. It is this same king that seemingly dismisses the historical maxim of "what goes up must come down" as he touts, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30 Daniel 4:30The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?
American King James Version×).
This same king who conquered the world had trouble conquering his dreams and asked Daniel to interpret a dream dealing with a great towering image of many magnificent metals that ultimately breaks into pieces (Daniel 2:25-46 Daniel 2:25-46  Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus to him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known to the king the interpretation.
 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?
 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king has demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show to the king;
 But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
 As for you, O king, your thoughts came into your mind on your bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that reveals secrets makes known to you what shall come to pass.
 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that you might know the thoughts of your heart.
 You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible.
 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
 You saw till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image on his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces.
 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
 You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
 And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold.
 And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
 And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.
 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
 And whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not join one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
 For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odors to him.
American King James Version×). Many Bible students have come to understand the various metals of gold, silver, bronze and iron as representing the rise and fall of the gentile kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.
Three specific declarations in one verse
In verse 44 Paul's declaration of "world without end" is given a definition: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
Here we notice an abrupt departure from history as we know it. Three specific declarations are embedded here. A kingdom emerges that "shall never be destroyed." This declaration promises to break the cycle we have so far seen in human history. What God introduces through Daniel is not simply the rise of one government after another, but the complete altering of how the future—your future—will exist.
Secondly, it is a society that will "not be left to other people." This new world is not physical as we know it, but extraordinary in the sense of a spiritual habitation.
Lastly, this spiritual realm supplants and consumes all before it and former kingdoms are swept away. It alone exists!
What this verse plainly declares is that this kingdom will not end and will not be subject to people, time or the historical maxim of "what goes up must come down." Simply put, this kingdom that emerges from elsewhere simply is!
"A stone made without hands"
What or who makes possible such a departure from how we commonly comprehend the ongoing turnover of human governments? Here in this verse that cycle screeches to a halt! The answer is found in verse 45. It mentions a stone "cut out of the mountain without hands" that breaks the image. It is described in verse 35 as a stone that "became a great mountain and filled the whole earth."
Who or what can this be talking about? Let's allow the Bible to interpret itself. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (Psalms 118:22 Psalms 118:22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
American King James Version×). The apostle Peter builds upon the theme surrounding this stone in 1 Peter 2:4 1 Peter 2:4To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
American King James Version×: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious."
Indeed, this stone is none other than Jesus Christ. Yes, the same Jesus not born in a palace but a cow stall in a small out-of-the-way town. Yes, the same Christ that never marched in front of a human army but walked into masses of people who were sick, poor and forgotten by much of society.
Yes, the same Messiah that never built earthly monuments to Himself but placed His monumental truths and teachings in the hearts and minds of men and women to this day. Yes, the same Captain of our salvation who did not offer up others for His cause but gave only Himself when He was rejected by the same people He came to save. It is this same humble carpenter—who has ascended on high, who is coming back as that same heaven-sent "stone shaped without hands"—to frame a "world without end."
The Book of Revelation gives life, color and action to the ultimate future collision between the stone and image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war" (Revelation 19:11 Revelation 19:11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
American King James Version×).
Verses 19 and 20 of the same chapter describes how humanity's last attempt at a ruling government is to actually try to preserve its power over God's direct intervention. It reads, "And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image."
Amazingly, humanity is going to think it can fight against God and win, but the divine stone of God "made without hands" is going to dash to pieces "the image," which is first introduced in the book of Daniel.
What does this mean to you?
What does this mean to you and me? Simply put, human history will not be simply on hold. It will stop. The kingdom of man will cease to exist. The Kingdom of God will arrive. There will be no more kingdoms or civilizations to learn about. No more place names to memorize. No more lists of kings—just one, Jesus Christ! No more capitals to memorize—just one, Jerusalem. No more emerging religions to discover in the next chapter of a history book. "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×), and He will return for all to see! Yes, it will begin a "world without end."
But you might be saying, "That's it? Just one long, continuous future that never ends? Won't that be boring?"
How about concentrating on the personal qualities that Christ will bring to this prophesied "world without end"? Let's focus on the unchanging nature and attributes of the world to which you are invited. Isaiah 11:1-4 Isaiah 11:1-4  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
American King James Version×states, "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth." Who could ever tire of this?
But, let's take it a step further. A "world without end" means an end to tears, death, sorrow and crying. It is a society in which there is an end to pain (Revelation 21:3-4 Revelation 21:3-4  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×). A "world without end" means an end to war under the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
American King James Version×).
Let Paul's prayer be yours
The prophetic revelation of Paul's statement a "world without end" is designed to motivate every action of our lives. The admonition of "this is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×) is expressed in the words of Paul's prayer where that statement is found.
"When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
"Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more then we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen" (Ephesians 3:14-21 Ephesians 3:14-21  For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
 Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
 To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).