When Noah, by faith, witnessed to the ungodly of the first world that God would soon send a deluge of water that would destroy the world he became the object of scorn and ridicule. These scoffers who followed after their own lusts derided Noah with these words: “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (II Peter 3:4).” The fact that God would utterly destroy the earth with a flood was far beyond their sin-darkened imaginations. Nevertheless, it came to pass while they ate and drank and made merry, and while they married and were given in marriage, “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”
Today too, when we confess before men that in that great day of the Lord this creation will be utterly destroyed, we meet with criticism and scorn. According to evolutionists man is developing in such a way that soon he will be intelligent enough to control his own destiny. He will be able to produce the master race which by means of medicine and technology will usher in a perfect earthly utopia which will last forever. What makes the situation more pathetic is that there are theologians who support, with only minor changes, this corrupt humanism. These claim, that, prior to Christ’s return, this world will have developed into its perfect state. When man has achieved that state then Christ will come and take His place upon His throne and rule over a perfect earthly kingdom. God will not need to destroy this earth, but things will continue to exist as they have been. One need not look far to find the parallel between modern thought and the thought of wicked men prior to the Flood. For sure, sudden destruction will come upon this modern world just as it did with the Flood.
The clear testimony of Scripture is, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Such are the words of Peter in II Peter 3:7. Later in this same chapter (II Peter 3:10-13) Peter describes that destruction of this present creation: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. . . . Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be desolved. . . .” There must be no doubt in the mind of a child of God that this present creation will be destroyed to be replaced by a new earth. In contrast to the fleeting dreams of worldly men stands the sure promise of God to His people: “For, behold I create a new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17).
The child of God who maintains this promise of God must himself be careful, however. Never must he find himself swinging to another extreme by claiming that this present creation will be totally annihilated. He must not believe that the destruction of this creation will leave nothing left of it, so, as a result, God will have to create a new earth out of nothing, as He did in the beginning. It is easy to do this, especially when superficially considering the language of certain passages. When we picture to ourselves that the sun, moon, and stars will fall from their places, that this earth will be dissolved with a fervent heat, that God will create a new heavens and a new earth then it is easy enough to imagine that nothing will be left of creation and God will begin anew. This, once again, must not be our conception of the destruction of this creation. It will not be annihilated but it will be qualitatively changed from old to new.
It is true, that the elements of creation will be dissolved and this earth shall pass away, but it will be in such a way that through this destruction God will miraculously transform this old creation into a new. Perhaps a passage such as Psalm 102:25-26 best explains it for us; “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed.” This passage speaks of the “perishing” of this old earth and heaven in terms of “changing.” That “changing” comes about by means of the destruction of this present creation and then by means of its renewal. Whenever Scripture speaks of a new heavens and earth it does not mean that God begins again by calling into existence something new, but it means that this old, worn-out, destroyed world will be made new.
Of this whole idea the Flood is a type. At that time the entire earth being covered with water perished. It was destroyed! That did not mean that the entire earth had been annihilated so that there was nothing left of it. Not at all! Obviously, God by means of this destruction renewed the earth, cleansed it from ungodly men and delivered His church. It must be remembered, however, that this Flood was merely a type of the destruction of the last day. There are some essential differences between the two. In the Flood the earth was destroyed; in the last day the entire creation will be destroyed. In the Flood the earth was destroyed by water; in the last day it will be shaken and destroyed by fire. In the Flood the earth was renewed only in a temporal way; in the last day the earth and heaven will undergo a spiritual transformation.
In order to understand this spiritual transformation (concerning which our understanding is very limited) we must first of all consider the relationship of this creation to man. When we do, then we will also understand why this present creation is changed and not abolished. The very act of Adam’s creation witnesses to his relationship to this earth. Man was formed out of the dust of the ground and received the breath of life, thus becoming a living soul. After the fall we were told that our body will return to the dust from whence it came. It is evident, therefore, that man and the creation are intimately related. This earth and all it contains was created by God for the purpose of sustaining man’s earthly life. In Genesis 1:28, 29 we find that God supplied man with every herb bearing seed and every tree bearing fruit in order to feed man. To man himself God gave the command to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it. Such was man’s relationship to creation. In fact, so close was that union between man and the rest of creation that when Adam sinned the earth was cursed for his sake and the creature was made subject to vanity. Now creation, along with God’s children, awaits the final redemption of man. That is the point of Paul inRomans 8:19-23 where he writes, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestations of the sons of God. . . . Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” God’s children long earnestly for the resurrection from the dead, for it is then that this corruption will put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality. “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (II Cor. 5:2). In that resurrection from the dead our present bodies will be changed. We will not be given an entirely different body, but we will be given a renewed spiritually body.
The destruction of this present creation is intimately related to our resurrection. Even as God purposed this earth and all it contains to support our earthly, physical life so also had He purposed it to support our heavenly, spiritual life. But in order for this to take place this creation must go through a transformation. Even as our mortal and corruptible bodies are by means of the resurrection changed into immortal and incorruptible bodies, so also will God miraculously transform this temporal, finite, sin-corrupted creation into an everlasting, spiritual, perfected realm. He will do that by means of the destruction and renewal of this present creation. How that transformation will take place is beyond all human comprehension. This too is a wonder of grace, somewhat on the same order as the resurrection from the dead.
That is why this world must be destroyed, and that is why this world is not annihilated. The wicked of this world may continue to dream concerning the bright future of this sinful world, but their dreams will be shattered. Sin will develop into perfection. The child of God continues to watch for Christ’s return when he and this present creation will be made new and the tabernacle of God will be with men.