In the Bible, we are told that there will be a Kingdom of a “New Heaven and New Earth” (Revelation 20:4-6, 12-14, Revelation 21:1-4, Isaiah 65:17-25). This has lead some to conclude that this Earth will be eventually destroyed, either by man or by God to make way for the “new Earth”.
There are several scriptures which can be interpreted either for or against this notion. So to try and understand what will become of this Earth, we need to understand these scriptures and weigh out the evidence to reason either for or against this notion.
- Genesis 8:21-22: “So Yehovah said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground on man’s account, for the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up; and never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done. As long as the earth remains, the earth will never cease to have seed-sowing and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night.””
- Psalm 37:29: “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.”
- Psalm 104:5: “God has established the earth on its foundations; it will not be moved from its place forever and ever”.
- Ecclesiastes 1:4: “The earth remains forever.”
- Isaiah 45:18: “The One who formed the earth, its Maker who firmly established it, . . . did not create it simply for nothing, but formed it to be inhabited.”
- Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
- Luke 16:17: “Indeed, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled”.
- 2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12-13: “But by the same word the heavens and the earth that now exist are reserved for fire and are being kept until the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly people… But Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works/deeds (ἔργα-ergon) in it will be exposed/found/will not be found(?)… as you await and keep close in mind the presence of the day of the Lord, through which the heavens will be destroyed/disolved (λύω-luó) in flames and the elements will melt in the intense heat! But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell”.
- Revelation 21:1: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more”.
Many bring attention to Luke, 2 Peter and Revelation, which appears to describe the Earth passing away, being destroyed and replaced by a new one, with the elements melting, the sea vanishing.
However, this seems to contradict God’s promises in earlier chapters where God promised to Noah that He would not curse or harm the entire Earth on the basis of man’s sin ever again, and that the Earth would remain forever. Thus there seems to be an apparent contradiction.
It is possible this can be looked at in two ways:
1. The Earth will not be destroyed, and any references to destruction are merely symbolic, or speaking of the destruction of the wicked.
2. The Earth will be destroyed, and the scriptures describing the Earth lasting forever are symbolic, referring to Mankind being forever, or being forever relative to its purpose, just as the laws of the Old Testament were described as eternal relative to when the old law applied, but were then revealed to be “shadows” of the true fulfilments.
If the world is to be destroyed, then the scripture can be read plainly as presented, the wicked will be exposed, and then will never be found again due to the Earth being physically destroyed and everything on it will be completely vaporised along with the stars and galaxies of the universe, and replaced by a completely new creation on a new Earth.
However, we also have reason to believe that the Earth will not literally be destroyed. Genesis states in relation to the literal event of the global flood, that God would not again harm the entire Earth or its creations in such a way on man’s account. There appears to be no symbolism in this statement, and thus is one our major premises to looking into the “destruction” verses in an alternative context.
Firstly addressing Matthew 24, this could be easily addressed as a figure of speech, in which Jesus states the certainty of God’s promises, in that the Earth would more likely pass away before God’s promises could ever fail. As the premise is that the Earth will not pass away, it in fact further strengthens the promises Jesus makes on behalf of Yehovah God. That they are a certainty.
As for 2 Peter, this merely may refer to the sin and wickedness in the Earth. It has been suggested by some scholars, such as J. Richard Middleton, that if we pay attention to the original Greek, these verses say the works of the Earth and the things in it will either be “exposed”, “found” or “not found”, by means of the “melting”. He made an interesting point in that the term “found” is actually a root word from the term “foundry”, which is a metal forging workshop, and thus could refer to something that is being “shaped by fire”, purged of impurities, as opposed to being “destroyed” by fire.
The “works” in these scriptures means the “actions” or “things” upon the Earth, the “deeds” of the people. Thus, this “melting” could also be seen to be an action from God which is a “revealing”, the “heavens and elements” possibly referring to the elements of this world, the dark and unseen underbelly of what is Satan’s rule (1 John 5:19, Ephesians 6:12), playing on the words at Luke 12:2, that there is nothing on the Earth that is hidden will not be revealed. Thus, God’s judgement could be said to be melting away, or revealing and removing the wicked deeds from the Earth, so that they are to never be seen again, mirroring once more the promises of Psalm 37:10 and Isaiah 66:24, saving the righteous, and making the Earth “like new” again, as opposed to a literal “new Earth” being made to replace the old one, which keeps in line with God’s promises to “never harm the physical Earth on man’s account”.
As for Revelation, it is known for often speaking in symbolic imagery. Thus the visions John saw of Earth and Heaven passing away, and the sea passing away, all to be replaced by God’s presence and the blessings of the Kingdom, could be seen to symbolise the renewal of the Earth under the Kingdom, just as the beasts of Revelation symbolise not literal monsters, but the Earth’s Kingdoms with Satan and his demons to be punished. It is also to be noted that this event happens ‘after’ Armageddon, when the Anointed one, Jesus takes back control of the world, thus, destroying it when it has been cleansed, that is, when the animal kingdom is brought to peace, and when mankind is healed of its ills (both sin and fleshly sicknesses) during or after his 1000 year reign, would additionally appear to be meaningless if the Earth is to pass away literally afterward.
Of course, one may reason it also could be possible that whilst God will not destroy the Earth as He promised not to, that mankind itself would, and is perhaps why there will be need for a “literal New Earth”, and that the promises of “Earth remaining forever” may be the verses that are in fact “poetic” as opposed to the verses about Earth’s destruction, being in reference to the everlastingness of mankind, as opposed to the Earth itself.
Personally, I do not think God would allow His creation, this Earth to be destroyed by men, and if not by men, He Himself would not destroy it based upon his promises to Noah. God made it known to us that he “did not make this Earth for nothing but to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18), and thus if that is His everlasting will, then this Earth will stand forever.
I reason that on the basis of the scriptures discussed, especially alongside the prophecies of Isaiah, of the world being brought to peace, which includes both the current animal kingdom and man, would identify this Earth we live on now being “the New Earth”.
Matthew 24:22, which says “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” is another interesting verse to consider. If referring to the coming of Jesus and not just the Christian’s flight from the destruction of Jerusalem, it could very well refer to the state of affairs on Earth that we face today, the threat of climate change, pollution and destruction of the Earth, in that God will “cut short” these days, to ensure that mankind and this Earth will survive.
Of course, whilst I do personally subscribe to the interpretation that this Earth will go on forever, if this is not the case, we still need not worry ourselves, for God has ensured everlasting life and happiness to all who put faith in Him and his Anointed Son, Jesus, and we will have a brand new Earth awaiting faithful mankind which will be ruled over by His Kingdom and His chosen elect. Thus, whichever interpretation is correct, there is no reason to despair, all is in the good hands of our Heavenly Father. His will be done.