What Is the Bible’s View?
Will the Earth One Day Be Destroyed?
INJUSTICES, crime and war are increasingly making the earth a more dangerous place for human habitation. In spite of that, is not the earth itself a beautiful home, filled with a great variety of plant and creature life? Truly there is so much to delight the senses of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing.
Are we to believe, then, that the Creator of the earth has decreed the end for towering snowcapped mountains, secluded green valleys, lush meadows, luxuriant jungles, dark forests, palm-lined beaches, cascading waterfalls, winding rivers, mighty seas and oceans, the chirping and singing of birds, and the antics of thousands of fascinating animal varieties? Will God destroy this earth or permit man to reduce it to a lifeless waste? To answer these questions, we need to consider how God views his creation.
The opening chapters of the Bible relate the progressive steps that God undertook to make the earth a suitable and pleasant home for man. Upon completion of each creative period, he pronounced the things made as “good.” Nothing in the Holy Scriptures indicates that God has come to look upon all the earthly creation as inherently bad, fit only for destruction.
To the contrary, the Scriptures reveal that Jehovah God deeply cares about all his creation. Even what befalls unreasoning birds does not escape his notice. Jesus Christ told his disciples: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” (Matt. 10:29) Also, the feelings of animals are of concern to him. The Law that God gave to the Israelites encouraged showing compassion for animals. They were not to take a vulnerable mother bird sitting on a nest, but were to let her escape so that she could raise more young. (Deut. 22:6, 7) God prohibited the yoking of a bull and an ass together, in order to prevent the weaker animal from experiencing hardship. (Deut. 22:10) While threshing grain, a bull was not to be muzzled. The animal was not to be tormented by being prevented from feeding on some of the grain it was threshing.—Deut. 25:4.
All of this illustrates that Jehovah God is interested in his creation. He does not look with favor upon man’s ruining the earth and upon the wanton slaughter of animals. The Bible tells us that it is God’s purpose “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Rev. 11:18) Also, “this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) So he will never allow humans to make a total wreck of his creation.
But might not the destruction of earth’s ruiners spell destruction for the earth itself? That can be answered with counterquestions: Why should earth’s ruiners, in effect, force God to wreck his own good works? Why should their action move him to act contrary to his declared purpose for the earth?
That the end of those ruining the earth does not mean the destruction of the earth is evident from what happened in the days of Noah. By means of a global deluge, God destroyed a violent world of people. But he saw to it that righteous Noah and seven members of his family, along with basic animal kinds, were preserved alive.
Using what happened back then as an example of what lay ahead, the apostle Peter wrote: “The world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Pet. 3:6, 7.
Note that the destruction to come, as in the case of the Flood, is directed—not against all humans and earthly creatures—but against “ungodly men.” As in Noah’s days, the literal earth will not be destroyed. But why, then, does 2 Peter 3:10 say: “The heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered”?
In view of God’s purpose to have the earth inhabited, manifestly these words should be understood in a symbolic sense. They are not without parallel in other parts of the Bible. For example, regarding God’s judgment against Babylon, Isaiah 13:13 states: “The earth will rock out of its place at the fury of Jehovah of armies and at the day of his burning anger.”
When Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.E., the literal earth did not rock out of its place. However, this did happen to the earthly realm of Babylon. Defeated, Babylon lost control of a vast portion of the earth and became simply a province of the Persian Empire.
Similarly, the reference to the destruction of “the heavens and the earth that are now” is symbolic. In Biblical usage, the word “earth” at times simply means the people on the earth. For example, at Genesis 11:1 we read: “All, the earth continued to be of one language and of one set of words.” Now, to whom or to what have the people constituting the “earth” directed their confidence and appealed for aid? The history of mankind shows that they have looked to their lofty governments, “the superior authorities,” for help and protection. (Rom. 13:1) So the “heavens” that will pass away “with a hissing noise” are such governments. As for the “earth” composed of ungodly mankind, it, too, will perish. The “earth [wicked human society] and the works in it will be discovered.”
This does not mean that the symbolic earth and its works will merely be seared bare and left lying exposed. Rather, they will be found or “discovered” by the fire as being combustible. The idea conveyed by the expression “discovered” is similar to the point made by the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 3:13: “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is.”
The passing away of the symbolic heavens and the destruction of ungodly mankind will pave the way for making our earthly planet a most delightful home for those seeking to do God’s will. The earth will be transformed from a place where sorrow, pain, sickness and death prevail, into a paradise free from such things.—Rev. 21:4.
So the earth, in harmony with God’s purpose, will continue to exist. If you desire to remain an abiding part of his creation, heed the inspired admonition: “Do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:14) Yes, make sure of what God’s will is and determine to do it.