One of our readers asks: “Please could you explain to me the Scriptural teaching on the final condition of the earth? Is it really totally destroyed by fire, or is it only “renovated” by fire?” He asks in this especially in connection with II Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 21:1-4.
We believe that Scripture teaches that the earth will be cleansed and renewed by fire and that it will not be annihilated and recreated. We offer the following arguments:
(1) The earth that was destroyed by the flood was not annihilated. Rather it was cleansed and renewed by water. And since the flood is a picture of the end of all things (Matt. 24:37; II Pet. 3:5-7), it would follow that the “destruction” of the world at the end is of the same sort as in the days of the flood.
(2) Scripture teaches that God does not “discard” this present creation and start all over again, but rescues it and redeems it (Rom. 8:19-22; Col. 1:20). In this respect, His dealings with the physical creation are on the same order as his dealings with mankind. He redeems and rescues what He has made (though not every individual creature).
The reasons why He does not start over again are two. First, He does not need to begin again - He is sovereign and is not thwarted and frustrated by the coming of sin into the world. Indeed, He decreed and determined it. Second, the world is His creation and belongs to Him. To give it up or cast it away would be an admission of defeat and a loss on God’s part of what belongs to Him.
II Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 21:1-3 do not contradict this, though they speak of a new heavens and earth, of the old being destroyed by fire and passing away.
Indeed, II Peter 3:5-7 actually supports what we are saying. There Scripture talks about the world that existed before the flood being “destroyed.” But we know from Scripture that the old world was not annihilated. It was only cleansed by water.
Along the same lines these verses speak of the world after the flood as a different world and the earth as a different earth (“the heavens and earth which are now” in contrast to “the world that then was”). Yet it was not a different world in the sense that it was entirely new - it was not a replacement for what existed before the flood.
That earth was different, not because the previous earth had ceased to exist as result of the flood, but because things were greatly changed by the flood as they shall be also in the end of all things. Those changes are described in II Peter 3:5-7.
All this is important for several different reasons. For one thing, it reminds us that we look not only for a new heavens, but also for a new earth. In fact, Scripture seems to suggest in Revelation 21:1-3 that the two shall become one and be united. The New Jerusalem shall come down from God out of heaven.
Even more, this promise of a new (renewed and cleansed) earth is the answer to those who seek to establish the kingdom of God in this present world and on the earth as we now know it. When they read Old Testament prophecies which concern the earth they seem to be able to think only in terms of this present world and do not seem to know that the earth itself shall be changed and glorified as part of the inheritance of God’s people in the life to come. Perhaps if they understood what Scripture teaches about a new earth they would abandon their false hopes.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 24
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA