What Does The Bible Mean When It Says “Heaven And Earth Shall Pass Away?”

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What did Jesus mean that “heaven and earth shall pass away?” Will heaven and earth both pass away or vanish or are they to abide forever?

Doesn’t the Earth Abide Forever?

The Bible says in many places that the earth shall ever abide. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:4 that “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” The psalmist wrote “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved” (Psalm 104:5) and speaking of God “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures” (Psalm 119:90) but then we read passages such as “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). We know that God and His will and His Word (the Bible) will exist forever just as those who do His will (which is to repent and believe the gospel noted in Mark 1:15) but the Apostle John wrote that the world is passing away. Did he mean that the physical earth is passing away or the world system? It doesn’t seem to fit the context of his statement because the world is being described as the fallen, sinful world in 1st John chapter two so John seems to be saying that the worldly pleasures are passing away and not the world itself and only those who obey God (and His will) will abide or live forever. This explains Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 7:31 where he writes that “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”

What Does The Bible Mean When It Says Heaven And Earth Shall Pass Away

The Earth, Burned with Fire?

Peter talks about the elements of fire that will consume the earth as he wrote in 2nd Peter 3:10 that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which 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.” Does the fact that Peter says the earth will be destroyed with intense heat or fire mean that it will be gone? No, something that is burned with fire can still exist. Gold is refined by fire, yet is continues to exist. Those in the lake of fire exist forever after being cast into it (Rev 20:10-15). Notice what Peter says is specifically burned up; “the earth and its works” meaning that the earth is not necessarily burned up but the works done there, which are clearly the sinful works of the flesh or all unrighteousness, as we shall see.

Peter continues and gives us some context about his previous statement that the earth will be destroyed by intense heat and burned up in 2 Peter 3:11-13 “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Peter said that “all these things” are going to be destroyed but not that they will cease to exist. That’s a huge difference. The earth will pass through the fire but so too will the heavens and the elements of the universe which will “melt with intense heat” but there is hope in this; “we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Something that is new doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something totally different. What is destroyed is all of the old ungodly “works” of the earth and it’s replaced with a new heaven and a new earth “in which righteousness dwells.”

Heaven and Earth Passing Away?

Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” so did He specifically say that the heaven and the earth would pass away? No, he is saying that His Word given in what is called the Olivet Prophecy about the end of the age will not fail. His Words, like the Word or the Bible, will not ever pass away. We can understand it in this way; heaven and earth will pass away before my words do, which is never. We have already read that the earth abides forever, despite the fact that it will be burned up in the intense heat or fire. Fire is symbolic of God’s judgment which is fully realized in the lake of fire. Before Jesus left the earth He said that He will be with them, even unto the end of the age (Matt 28:20) but that doesn’t mean the end of the earth. Jesus said that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt 24:14) but the end is not the end of the earth but the coming of such horrendous events that it can hardly be described…it will consummate in the end of this evil world’s system.

Conclusion

Today is your day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2) if you haven’t already been born again. As the late preacher Adrian Rogers once said, “If your born once, you’ll die twice but if you’re born twice, you die once” meaning that if you’re not born again, you die a physical death and then face an eternal punishment which is worse than death but if you are born again, you’ll only die once in a physical manner but then you’ll live forever in the joyful fellowship of Jesus Christ. We are born twice only in this way; we have a physical birth and a spiritual birth (John 3:3, 7) and then after one physical death, we have eternal life but if someone’s born only once by their mother, they will have both a physical death and an eternal death so why die twice when you can live forever by being born again by repentance and faith in Christ?

Have you seen this article, also written by Pastor Jack? Are Guardian Angels Biblical?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits August 5, 2015 at 10:13 am

Great explanation Pastor Jack,

I was wondering what your thoughts were on the lake of fire’s location. I always have thought that it was in the center of the earth as this location is a fire ball of 6,000C! It goes along with the demons dire concern about Jesus sending them back into the abyss(Lk 8:31). It concerned me that the earth must be present for this to work out. You have explained this well with the earth not ceasing to exist! Thank you.

DocReits

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Jack Wellman August 5, 2015 at 10:20 am

Thanks Doc….great question. I have heard some say that it could even be a black hole that has no bottom and where even light cannot escape (see Jude 1:6 & 2nd Pet 2:4) and Jesus often referred to this place of “outer darkness” (thus the bottomless pit) but the Luke 8:31 verse does make sense and the core of the earth also does for it is essentially, molten lava (See Jude 1:7). I just don’t know for sure as the Bible isn’t clear and so I can’t be. Thanks for the encouragement my beloved friend in Christ. Always the Barnabas!

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Padraig August 13, 2015 at 9:57 am

Great post Pastor Wellman,
I’m currently reading a great book called Hungry Souls by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg. From his many descriptions of documented premonitions from hell and purgatory, the souls immersed in flames was oftentimes not physical flames and fire, but an immense burning feeling in the lonesome soul of longing for God and purification.

Or if the soul is in hell, that longing is replaced with an eternal burning regret without hope of purification and reconciliation with God for eternity.

I find these descriptions both scary and liberating at the same time.
As a family man I sometimes imagine the longing I would suffer for them if I was ever separated from them. This horrible burning feeling is a stark reminder of what hell may be. That is eternal damnation alone and without hope of ever being with God and my love ones.
Liberating in the sense that this stark reminder helps me avoid sin and lead try to lead any lives I touch in the same path.

For me being born again did not happen out of fear of the above but out of love and blessings from God that changed my life completely. Armed with God in my heart, I like to use the reminders above not as a scare tactic to keep me on track, but rather as reminder of the blessings, grace and peace God has given me.

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Jack Wellman August 13, 2015 at 10:03 am

I believe you are very correct Padraig. I know that the phrase “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44) indicates that it is a mental anguish for sure and that of regret for eternity with no hope of changing their circumstances would be hell for sure. I also agree that scaring someone into the kingdom is not right; we want tear-filled converts not fear-filled converts and foxhole conversions are rarely successful. Thank you sir for your kind words.

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DocReits August 19, 2015 at 10:29 pm

“I also agree that scaring someone into the kingdom is not right”

While appreciating your concern about not scaring people, I would suggest that more people need to be scared.

Jude said in verse 23: “…others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…” We cannot ever understand God’s love without understanding His wrath. It was because we broke God’s Law that we are all under His just judgement for we are all sinners and have all broken His Laws. We will never be saved by obeying the Golden Rule. Many(most?) in church today would disagree with me.

God’s great love is displayed at the cross. For it was at the cross that Jesus, God’s only beloved Son died to satisfy God’s judgement against you and me. It is by first understanding our position as lost and on our way to hell that we will seek the remedy for this condition…. repenting-turning from-our sins and believing in Jesus.

God paid the bail bondsman with the dollars of Christ’s blood. We are free, free, free! That is love. God spending His dear Son’s life that we sinners might be saved. Saved from eternity lost. That is a horrible thought…lost for all eternity in utter darkness…that is scary. It should scare the “hell” out of us. It did me!

I don’t want to tell people God has a wonderful plan and love for them before they know their position outside of God’s family. Without the knowledge of their position, they have no need of a payment for their debt.

“Donald Grey Barnhouse on Romans 3:20: “Here we meet by far the most difficult Divine utterance for the human heart to yield to that we have met in the entire epistle. Even those without law Gentiles that have not the law (of Moses Rom. 2:14) we find throughout history so many committed to their ideas of what is right, that they will desperately fight for their convictions”.

“It is much easier to detach a Chinese from the Analects of Confucius and bring him to a knowledge of Christ, than it is to detach some people, born within the sphere of Christendom, from their hope of salvation by the golden rule. They are astonished when you tell them that Christ did not give them the golden rule as a formula for salvation, but as a means of revealing to man that he is fundamentally crooked (sinful, i.e., full of sin) and that therefore he needed a power outside himself. . . . The law was a standard that was given in order to convince men of their own hopeless incapacity, so that they might come to God in grace”.

“The law of God is like a mirror. Now the purpose is to reveal to you that your face is dirty, but the purpose of a mirror is not to wash your face. When you look in a mirror and find that your face is dirty, you do not then reach to take the mirror off the wall and attempt to rub it on your face as a cleansing agent. The purpose of the mirror is to drive you to the water. Any other use of the mirror is plain folly. It is by the straight edge of the law of God, whether expressed by Moses or reaffirmed by our Lord Himself, that man may know how crooked he really is, and may turn from the folly of self effort to the reality of the life of faith in Christ”.

“This new life furnishes us with power which we can never have of ourselves, and which will act within us. May God slay us with the law, in order that we might be raised from the dead by His gospel. For this is the true relationship between the two. Before God can ever give us the gospel, He must slay us with the law. The gospel is the power of resurrection; the law is the power of condemnation; and when the two are put together, they then serve their proper purpose”.

DocReits

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Jack Wellman August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

You make a great point Doc. Perhaps I could put it this way; God doesn’t want fearful converts, He wants tearful converts. Foxhole conversions are rarely genuine but as always my brother, you bring up great points and the mirror is enough to scare even me (especially in the mornings). I so agree that the law of God brings the sinner to the dangerous cliff to show him or her their fall and so to step back and grasp the cross is their only hope. I thank God for your insight and great hunger for the Word brother.

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Bill February 15, 2017 at 8:07 am

What are your thoughts/ scriptures on ” once saved always saved”?

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Jack Wellman February 15, 2017 at 8:52 am

Hello Bill. The words “once saved always saved” are not found in Scripture. What has your own pastor said about this subject? Do you agree or disagree with him?

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