The Expository Files

The Earth Shall Cease

Number 9 of 12 in the Second Coming Series

Billions and billions of years in the future, the sun will sputter as it gives off its last glimmering spark to become a cold, dark body. It will have long before ceased to have enough energy to give light and heat to the earth. The earth will at that time have been a frozen, lifeless planet for eons. And now in darkness, it will remain forever as star after star fails, succumbing to the laws of entropy. All the ruins of whatever was left of long dead civilizations on earth will become permanently frozen giving testimony to no one in particular that the human race once existed.

Well, that's the picture of the end of the earth that the atheist describes. Pretty bleak, isn't it! Maybe we can find a better future in religious doctrine. The "Jehovah's Witnesses" teach that the earth and life on the earth will never end. They maintain that 144,000 righteous ones will go to heaven and that the earth will be cleansed of it physical and moral pollution. This future earth they describe with words such as "paradise", "loveliness", "breathtaking beauty" and "glorious". The rest of the righteous other than the 144,000 will live on this new earth eternally in a perfect, permanent youthful state.Now I like that picture better than the first one. But, like the first one, it isn't true. Consider what the future holds for the earth as is related to us in the Scriptures.

"And He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has founded forever" (PSALM 79:69). "A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever" (ECCLESIASTES 1:4). In both of these verses the earth is said to be founded or remain "forever". The Hebrew word in both is the same: it is "olam". A study of this word will show that it does not mean "eternal" or "without end". Rather, it means "age-lasting" or "to the end of the age". It is used of temporary things such as the observance of the Passover (EXODUS 12:24), the washing of hands at the bronze laver before offering animal sacrifices (EXODUS 30:21), the law concerning the grain offering (LEVITICUS 6:22) and the blowing of the silver trumpets by Aaron's sons to convene assemblies (NUMBERS 10:8). These are all parts of the Old Law and were therefore temporary (HEBREWS 8:6-13; GALATIANS 3:24-25). "Forever" must be understood not as "eternal" but as "to the end of the age". When used of the earth, it means that the earth will last until it reaches the end of its age which God has established.

"But 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...the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!" (II PETER 3:10-12). There are a number of words used in these three verses to describe the end of the world. The word "destroyed" or "dissolved" in verse 11 means to loose or break, as it is used to describe the breaking down by Christ of the wall of partition that had divided Jew and Greek in times past (EPHESIANS 2:15). The "elements" which melt are the very substance of the material world. The phrase "pass away" means to cease to be, like the glory of a rich man (JAMES 1:9-11). This world will not end in a frozen state. It will not continue eternally. Its final hour will come with intense heat.

"But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (II PETER 3:13). Those who believe the earth will last forever insist that this is the same heavens and earth "made like new" by cleansing and restoration. But the same word is used by Jesus to describe the new covenant (LUKE 22:20). This was not the Old covenant redone, but an entirely new covenant (HEBREWS 8:8,9). Likewise, the word is also used of the new tomb Joseph laid the body of Jesus in (MATTHEW 27:60). It was not an old tomb cleaned up and made like new. It was completely new. The new heavens and new earth is also completely new. The old heavens and earth will have passed away (REVELATION 21:1).

The Lord has said that He will once more "shake not only the earth, but also the heaven". What does that mean? We are not left to guess because He explains: "And this expression, 'Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things that can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (HEBREWS 12:26,27).

"Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth" (COLOSSIANS 3:2). There are so many passages that show that our eternal home is not of this world, that it and the things it contains are only temporary. We are told that the things we see with our eyes are only temporary. It is the unseen things that are eternal. The earth is obviously in the first category; things that are seen and therefore temporal (II CORINTHIANS 4:16-18; see also 5:1-10).

Jesus taught that a Christians true treasure is in heaven, not upon the earth (MATTHEW 6:19-21). He also promised that He was going to go to His Father's house and prepare a place there for us so that we could one day go and be with Him (JOHN 14:2). The Bible says that the Christian's citizenship is in heaven (PHILIPPIANS 3:17-21). Paul looked forward not to a future earthly paradise but to a home in the heavenly kingdom (II TIMOTHY 4:18). The great heroes of faith never considered this world their home. Instead, they looked for a heavenly home; a city not made with hands; because they recognized that they were strangers and exiles here upon the earth (HEBREWS 11:13-16). To inherit this kingdom we must shed flesh and blood. We have borne the image of the earth; we shall bear the image of the heavenly (I CORINTHIANS 15:49-50). We look forward to that day as we live by faith.

 By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.9; September 1999