Art design "Purged by Fire" by Pete Garcia
Many prophecy teachers in our day believe that the current heavens and earth will be annihilated (cease to exist) and be replaced by a second ex-nihilo creation. This and this alone, they insist, is what is meant by the new heavens and earth. But I believe this is a mistake. Consider the following points.
ONE—GOD CREATES ETERNAL THINGS. In Ecclesiastes 3:14 we read the amazing statement, "I know that whatsoever God does, it shall last forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before him.” This is an intrinsic part of God's nature. The eternal God creates eternal things. When He made the angels, mankind, the earth, and the heavens above, he made them eternal institutions. Their annihilation is morally impossible. To insist that any one of these institutions will cease to exist is to impugn God with either a superintendence failure or a design flaw.
But the argument doesn't hang on the application of the broad principle alone. There is a multitude of passages in the Bible that testify to the eternality of such divine institutions as the heavens, the earth, the land of Israel, Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, and David's throne.
Take the heavens, for instance. God pointed the patriarchs to the heavens above their heads and promised them that Israel would endure for as long as the sun and moon endure (Jer. 31:35-36). He didn't misspeak here. This is the eternal truth of the God who cannot lie. The future destinies of the heavens and Israel are inseparably intertwined. If the current heavens are going to cease to exist, then Israel will also cease to exist. But Israel will never cease to exist. Therefore, the current heavens will never cease to exist.
This same truth is also stated absolutely. Psalm 148:3-6 reads, "Praise him, you sun and moon. Praise him, all you stars of light … Let them praise the name of the Lord. For he commanded, and they were created. He has established them forever and ever. He has made a decree which shall not pass.”
For another example, the eternality of Mt. Zion is unequivocally stated. Psalm 132:13-14 says, “The Lord has chosen Zion. He has desired it for his dwelling place. This is my resting place forever.” And Micah 4:6-7 adds, "In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame, and I will gather the outcasts and those whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant and the outcasts a strong nation. And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from that point on, even forever.”
TWO—THE PRECEDENT OF THE PHYSICAL REALM. In the Bible, we read about three earths. The earth that existed prior to the flood. The earth that exists now. And the new earth that shall exist after the current earth is destroyed by fire. These three are detailed in 2 Peter 3:1-13. This same passage also establishes God's precedent for the destruction of the earth. Notice that when He destroyed the former earth and introduced the current earth, he did not do so with annihilation and recreation but with radical transformation of the earth through the flood (2 Peter 3:6). The earth did not cease to exist. Mankind today lives on the same orb of rock and dirt that mankind lived on prior to the flood. This raises an important question when it comes to the new earth. Why would God depart from this precedent? He is the God of order and pattern. And this precedent suggests that the coming destruction of the earth will be a renovation by fire (2 Peter 3:7) rather than a cessation of existence and replacement.
THREE—THE PRECEDENT IN THE MORAL REALM. God's handling of defilement in the moral realm sheds much light on how he will handle the effects of defilement in the physical realm. God doesn't fix the defilement problem in his moral creation with annihilation. He fixes it with sequestration. He casts the wicked angels and men into the lake of fire forever. They don't burn up. They don't cease to exist. They experience eternal punishment with the smoke of their torment ascending day and night forever. But the annihilation-and-recreation theory introduces a conundrum that challenges the wisdom of God. If he can fix the problem in the moral creation without the annihilation of the guilty perpetrators, why can't he fix the problem in the physical creation, which is an innocent victim, without annihilation? Why would he subject physical creation to a worse fate than moral creation? Physical creation, mind you, has no sin, no wickedness, and no iniquity to remove. It only has scars caused by rebels, both angelic and human. And God can easily remedy these scars by renovation.
FOUR—THE SANCTITY OF PLANET EARTH. There is a sanctity about this planet that precludes its non-existence. It absorbed the sweat, tears, and blood of the Lord. He was born here, lived here, died here, buried here, and raised here. He walked its dusty surface. It is the scene of many glorious victories he wrought on behalf of his people over the centuries: the ark, the Exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, the battle of Jericho, and crossing the Jordan on dry ground. Dozens of his prophets and apostles testified here. Millions of his martyrs had their blood mingled with the dust of this planet. To think of God separating himself and his people forever from the scene of all this moral glory is simply unthinkable.
FIVE—GOD'S ORIGINAL INTENTION. God's original intention was to enjoy fellowship with Adam, Eve, and their progeny in the paradise that he had created for them here on earth. If the serpent hadn't introduced sin and rebellion into the world, this happy relationship would have continued for eternity. When man succumbed to the serpent's temptation, he not only lost his standing with God and came under the strong influence of the deceiving spirits, he suffered banishment from the garden and the judgment we know as the curse. The planet also fell under the effects of the curse and suffered defilement from the cooperation between mankind and the fallen angels. But God provided redemption for mankind. This comes through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed his blood for all mankind that whosoever believes on him might be saved and inherit eternal life. And this redemption, while not directly for the planet, does involve the planet. For we clearly read in Scripture that on that happy day when the saints receive their resurrection blessings and eternal life, creation itself gets to participate in the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:19-21). Moreover, Satan and his evil minions are bound and cast into hell, leaving man and nature completely free from the influences and damage of the wicked angels.
But there is no full and glorious restoration according to the annihilation and recreation theory. There is no restitution of all things. Nature receives no permanent enjoyment of the glorious freedom of the children of God. It only gets a temporary taste, then it shall cease to exist. This tarnishes the sovereignty of God. If this theory be true, God will redeem less from the clutches of the serpent than was lost in the garden. Mankind will be redeemed, but the earth will not be. God will be forced to scuttle this planet, indeed the entire creation, to deal with the defilement problem. He will be obligated to ferry the redeemed survivors of the ordeal to a new creation.
CONCLUSION. I trust you can see that there are numerous weighty objections to the new heavens and earth being an annihilation and ex nihilo replacement of the current heavens and earth. If you want to study this subject in depth, I cover it with much more detail in my book The New Heavens and Earth: Recreation or Renovation?, which is available on Amazon in paper and Kindle. There are also links on my website (soothkeep.info) under the Books menu for various purchase options including iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.
Lee W. Brainard