Question: Will the earth exist after Christ’s return, since the Bible tells us that the earth will be destroyed?
At first glance, 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13 appears to indicate that the earth will cease to exist and an entirely new planet will be created in an entirely new universe. A closer look reveals something a bit different.
Verse 7 says, “…the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
Notice first the timing: This fiery destruction of the heavens and the earth will take place as part of the Day of Judgment, which follows the Return of Christ and His one thousand year reign on the earth (Rev. 201-21).
Second, the word “destruction” translates the Greek term apoleia, meaning “ruin,” or “waste.” It does not mean, “cease to exist.” Not only so, but it is the “ungodly” who are said to be destroyed in this verse, not the heavens and the earth.
Verse 7, therefore, teaches that the “present heavens and earth” will be preserved until the Great White Throne Judgment.
On the other hand, verse 10 has the Day of the Lord in view—the Lord’s Return and the outpouring of God’s wrath upon sinful mankind. According to verse 10, “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire;” and the earth “will be laid bare.” Since we already know from verse 7 that the “present heavens and earth” will be preserved until the Day of Judgment—a thousand years after Christ’s Return—what is meant by verse 10?
The word translated “disappear” in verse ten literally means to either “pass away” or to “pass by.” And the adverb translated “roar” or “great noise” “is especially used of the noise caused by a devouring flame.” So a more contextually accurate translation of verse ten would read:
“But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass roaring by…”
This supports Scripture in general concerning the Return of the Son of Man:
Mark 13:24 “…‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
Rev. 6:14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Peter goes on to say that the “elements” will be “burned up” (not ‘cease to exist’) (v. 10) and “melted in the heat” (v. 12). In other words, Jesus’ appearing is accompanied by mountain-flattening earthquakes and worldwide darkness as the heavens almost instantaneously explode into flame with ear-shattering force, then seem to disappear in a rolling, broiling cloud of smoke (like a scroll being rolled up, cf. Is. 34:4) as giant meteors crash to the earth, setting the world aflame and ‘laying it bare’ (v. 10).
The “new heaven” and “new earth” (v. 12) are built on the remains of the original creation, purified by fire. It is still this earth where Jesus reigns during the Millennium:
Rev. 11:15b “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”