Author: Ron Graham
Is the Earth Eternal?
—Dwelling in the promised land forever
There are several verses in the Bible which say that the earth or land is forever. For example in the Psalms David says, "The righteous will inherit the land, and dwell in it forever" (Psalms 37:29). Again Asaph says, "He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which he has founded forever" (Psalms :78:69).
How do those statements about an everlasting earth fit in with those other passages in the Bible that say the earth will be destroyed? For example Peter tells us that the heavens and earth which God created will be destroyed by fire. When Christ comes "the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up... destroyed..." (2Pet 3:10-12).
1 Transformation Through Destruction
Alongside of Peter’s warning, in the very next verse, there is a promise of "a new heavens and a new earth" (2Pet 3:13). That's how the world can be everlasting when it is going to be destroyed. At the destruction, a new eternal heavens and earth will appear.
Something that is obviously very corruptible and temporary can be viewed as eternal if we take into account its transformation by destruction from something physical and temporal to something heavenly and eternal.
As an example, the offerings and sacrifices in the law of Moses were said to be perpetual ordinances "forever" (Ex 12:14, Numbers 18:19, 2Chronicles 2:4).
The writer to the Hebrews points out that these sacrifices foreshadowed of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and when Christ died the symbolic sacrifices ended because they were fulfilled in the eternal sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-22).
2 The Earthly Swallowed up by the Eternal
The Bible's clearest teaching about transformation through destruction concerns our bodies of flesh and blood. Paul uses a wonderful analogy of how a seed dies in order to become another "body". We are all familiar with what happens when we plant a seed. The seed dies. But in its place there is given something new and better, some kind of plant.
Paul points out that the seed and the plant are quite different "bodies". The seed is not the plant, and the plant is not the seed. On the other hand they are not disassociated. There is a connection. The plant cannot be given, if the seed is not destroyed. Likewise our physical bodies must give way to our new immortal, glorious, and eternal bodies. (1Corinthians 15:35-38,42-55).
Paul tells us that although we "groan" in our mortal earthly bodies, which are subject to death, God has prepared us to be clothed in heavenly bodies that are eternal, so that "what is mortal may be swallowed up of life" (1Corinthians 15:54, 2Corinthians 5:1-5, Philippians 3:20-21.)
The Whole Creation
Now what Paul has said about our earthly bodies in particular, he seems also to view as true of "the whole creation" (Romans 8:18-25). In this passage "the redemption of our body" or its transformation through destruction into an eternal body, is part of the same process for "the whole creation" (Romans 8:22-23).
So this earth will be completely destroyed, but through that destruction it will be transformed into "a new heavens and a new earth" (2Peter 3:12-13). This new world as a whole, is like the new bodies we will have there. This new world is "eternal in the heavens" (2Corinthians 5:1).
Like the true heavenly tabernacle within it, this new world is "not of this creation" (Hebrews 9:11). It is not an earthly world but a "heavenly" one (Hebrews 11:13-16).
It is the destiny of the earth to be destroyed to make way for the new world to be given. The point of God’s plan is not to destroy the earth for the sake of destruction, but that the earth might thereby be redeemed and transformed, absorbed into the heavenly and eternal world.
3 More Than Mere Renovation
There is a popular teaching that the earth will not be completely destroyed but merely renovated. Although it is supposed that there will be a quite comprehensive clean up and transformation, it will still be the same earthly earth and sky. What we have studied above shows this to be a wrong view of this earth’s future.
The correct view of the earth’s future is what we have been noticing in the scriptures. This temporal earth is but a seed which needs to undergo a death and destruction, in order to make way for, and be absorbed into, a new eternal heavens and earth.
We can correctly think of the earth as eternal, only if we have in mind this transformation through destruction, and understand that the new heavens and new earth are not earthly but heavenly and eternal. The scriptures certainly have this eternal view, and therefore we should take it into account whenever the scriptures speak of the earth.
Thus when the scriptures say that the earth abides "forever" and is "eternal", they are saying so with the transformation through destruction in mind. The earth is eternal, but not in its present form and substance. For the present earth is temporal and so it must die, in order that the heavenly and eternal land may be seen.
The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the "firstfruits" (1Cor 15:20-23) and the "forerunner" (Hebrews 6:17-20) of the process we have been thinking about. It has already happened to him.
- He died and was buried.
- But he was raised up and ascended into glory.
- He now lives forever in heaven.
- He has gone through the transformation.
- He promises us that we can follow him through that transformation at the appointed time for us.
"I go to prepare a place for you, and... I will come and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also" (John 14:1-6).
We all know that Christ did not create the earth in vain, neither did he live on it and die in vain. He is following his Father’s plan and purpose, and we can follow him. "The meek shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5, Psalms 37:11).
This inheritance of the earth is a "new heavens and a new earth... an inheritance imperishable and undefiled, that shall not not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (2Peter 3:13; 1Peter 1:4).