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.


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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