Eternal Perspectives

Will earth simply be renewed, or will it be completely destroyed and replaced by another earth, newly created by God? Some passages appear to speak of an entire new creation: The author of Hebrews (quoting Psalm 102) tells us of the heavens and earth, “They will perish, but you remain; they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantle you will roll them up, and they will be changed” (Hebrews 1:11-12). Later he tells us that God has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven,” a shaking so severe as to involve “the removal of what is shaken . . . in order that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26-27). Peter says, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and all the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). A similar picture is found in Revelation, where John says, “From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them” (Revelation 20:11). Moreover, John says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1).

Within the Protestant world, there has been disagreement as to whether the earth is to be destroyed completely and replaced, or just changed and renewed. . . . It is difficult to think that God would entirely annihilate his original creation, thereby seeming to give the devil the last word and scrapping the creation that was originally “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The passages above [that] speak of shaking and removing the earth and of the first earth passing away may simply refer to its existence in its present form, not its very existence itself, and even 2 Peter 3:10, which speaks of the elements dissolving and the earth and the works on it being burned up, may not be speaking of the earth as a planet but rather the surface things on the earth (that is, much of the ground and the things on the ground).

~ Wayne Grudem, [Systematic Theology]

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