DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH
THE WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY (JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES):
“The earth to be destroyed at the world's end is Satan's system of supporters. The earthly globe will remain for ever, will never be burned up or desolated...” --Make Sure of All Things, 1953, p.108. cf same book, edition , 1965, p.166.
“2Peter 3:10, 12. It is manifest that the Apostle is here using symbolic language. . .The heavens taken symbolically mean the invisible power of control, consisting of Satan and his unseen agencies, as well as his visible agencies in the earth. The earth symbolically represents organized society under Satan's dominion. The elements here meant are the various selfish elements of the earth. . . The words here have no reference to the mundane sphere or globe upon which the human race resides. . . The symolic fire is now burning fiercely. . .” -Harp of God, 1927, p. 252.
The heavens and earth which Jesus predicted will pass away are not our literal earth and solar system. . . The heaven and the earth doomed to destruction. . . are symbolic ones, the creation of Satan the Devil. . .the doomed symbolic heaven. . . is composed of the demons. . .The doomed symbolic earth is Satan's visible human organization. It is composed of his earthly seed, the seed of the Serpent, sons of the wicked one...” --This Means Everlasting Life, 1950, p. 261.
“. . .a careful examination. . . shows the fire is symbolic just as the heavens and earth doomed to be burnt up are symbolic. . .” --This Means Everlasting Life, 1950, p. 263.
Compare: The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life” 1968, p. 101.
Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, p.477
Things in Which It Is Impossible For God to Lie, 1965, p.378, 379
33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (KJV)
Note: The “earth” that will pass away is a place upon which people dwell.
2 Peter 3:3-13.
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, 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. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth (1093 gee) standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world (2889 kosmos) that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth (1093 gee), which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
10 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 (1093 gee) also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth (1093 gee), wherein dwelleth righteousness. (KJV)
1. The earth before the flood was the literal dry land that stood “out of water” “by the word of God”
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. 9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. (KJV) (cf. Gen. 7:17--8:2)
2. The water was clearly literal. The fire should likewise be literal.
3. Note that Peter makes a clear distinction between the “world” (2889 kosmos) that perished and the “earth” earth(1093 gee) that is stored up for fire.
Note, Heb. 11:38, “The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and . . . caves of the earth.”
4. What words could any plainer describe the destruction of the earth?
OBJECTION “Did not God promise never to destroy the earth again? Gen. 8:21-22; 9:11”
The promise was qualified.
Genesis 8:21-22 21 ...I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 9:11 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
Revelation 20:11, 13; 21:1-3, 25; 22:5. cf. Gen. 8:22.
11 and I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (KJV) cf. Rev. 21:10
1. They claim the earth and heaven in 20:11 and 21:1 are only symbolical. However, they inconsistently claim that the sea in 20:13 is literal while in 21:1 they claim it is figurative.
2. If “heaven” represents wicked angels and “earth” represents wicked people, then what does the “sea” represent?
3. They claim the “new heavens” represents spirit beings of Jehovah that rule over the earth. There is difficulty reconciling this with the “holy city” which comes “down out of heaven.” On the other hand, if the previous references are all to a figurative heaven then how could 21:2 have reference to the place where God dwells?
4. How can Rev. 21:1-2 be speaking of the entrance into the thousand year period of the reign on earth described in 20:1-10 when 21:4 says, “death” will be “no more?” --Yet 20:5 plainly says that the “rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” Likewise, if those who reject obedience during the thousand years die then this would contradict 21:4.
5. Rev. 21:25; 22:5 also speaking of the time when the New Jerusalem has come “down out of heaven” to the “new earth” declares plainly that there will be “no night there.” However, Gen. 8:22 just as plainly says that night will not cease while the earth remains.
6. Isn't it a lot simpler to just take chapter 21 as referring to a period following the thousand years and the end of the old globe, oceans, and the expanse above it as revealed and defined in Gen. 1:6-10?
7. Does not Rev. 20:8, 9 use “earth” to refer to the dry land? Why would it intersperse the literal and figurative without any hint of a distinction?
25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
The passage in Hebrews 12 is a quotation from Haggai 2:6-7
6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
1. Moses spoke to the people from upon the dry land. (Heb. 12:18-21; Deut. 5:1, 5) The physical land was shaken by Jehovah. (Ex. 19:18; Ps. 68:7, 8) The words, “not only” and “also,” indicate that the same earth then shaken is the one to be shaken “once more.” The text points out that “once more” indicates that this is the final shaking that brings removal of what was then and now is to be shaken, the earth, with the heaven this time added.
2. It is also obvious that “heaven” is a location. Certainly God was not speaking from the wicked heaven but from an area.
3. The quotation in the Hebrews passage is a partial quotation from Hag. 2:6. It goes on to mention not only the heavens and earth but also “the sea and the dry ground. . . and all the nations.” Obviously, these cannot be figurative.
4. The word translated, “set in commotion,” is the Greek word, “seiso” from which we get the word, “seismograph.” It is used in Matt. 27:51 and in its noun form in Matt. 27:54 and 28:2 to indicate a quaking of the earth.
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. (KJV)
This is a quotation from Ps. 102:25, 26.
25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 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: (KJV)
1. In this passage, verse 11, the Watchtower's Kingdom Interlinear uses the word, “destroy” to translate “apolountai,” here rendered “perish.”
2. The “earth” and “heavens” spoken of are the ones laid by God. As we have seen, the “Everlasting Life” book, p. 261, says that it was the devil who created the wicked spiritual and human organizations. (cf. Ac. 14:15)
3. This passage is a quotation from Ps. 102:25-26. Note that in 102:19 the word, “Heaven,” is a place of “height” from which Jehovah looks “down” at the “earth.” (cf. Ps. 33:13, 14)
4. See how Hebrews elsewhere uses the word “earth” (Heb. 6:7; 8:4; 11:13,38)
Isaiah 51:6, 7.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
1. Isa. 51:4 shows this is spoken to his “people.” People can “look up” at the literal heavens and down at the literal earth. They could not look down at the human organizations. (cf. Isa. 51:13)
2. Also, there is a clear distinction between the “inhabitants” and the “earth.”
3. If all of these passages have reference to figurative “heavens” and “earth” that consists of wicked spiritual organizations and wicked human organizations then why does it fail to indicate this in the context? Why didn't God say what he meant, since the Bible was written for the enlightenment of the righteous? Why did He explain so many other symbolic statements but never once explained the many references on this? Why did He repeatedly talk about the literal heavens and earth and then go on, without explanation, to use the same words in a figurative sense?
#1. “God created the earth and said it was 'good.' Why destroy something good?”
ANSWER: Because it will grow “old” and “wear out” (Isa. 51:6; Heb. 1:11, 12). God recognizes His law of entropy -- the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the total amount of energy in the universe is gradually dissipating and becoming less available for useful work.
Also, just because a thing was “good” in the beginning is no indication that it cannot have an end. The Law was “good” (1Tim. 1:8; Rom. 7:12, 13, 16) but was abolished (Gal. 3:24, 25; Col. 2:14).
God is not going to just patch up the “old garment” (Mk. 2:21, 22). he is going to start all over with a “new” heaven and “new” earth.
#2. “Is not evil man ruining the earth? If you had a destructive renter, would you burn down the hourse, or evict the renter?”
ANSWER: It would depend upon how much damage the renter did. However, anyone in the rent business had better take into account depreciation and the mater of ultimate obsolescence which will require eventual replacement, regardless of how good his renters are -- even if he leaves the house sit vacant. All houses eventually grow old and must be removed. In the same way, even good men help make the earth to “wear out” although God is particularly provoked at those who unnecessarily waste its resources. But even where man has not yet been, there is a gradual wearing out. Even the sun is slowly radiating away its energy. If God in time decides to make a new heaven and earth, that is no indication that he has failed.
#3. “Was not God's plan for the earth in the beginning that it should be inhabited? If he has to start over, does that not make the devil victorious and God a failure?”
ANSWER: God intended that the earth should be inhabited. He did not fail. He did not create it without purpose --he created man to live upon it and man is inhabiting it.
God's desire to have righteousness dwell in the earth while planning to eventually replace it, is no more an indication of God being a failure than when the wicked are eternally lost. God never desired any man's destruction but it will happen to some.
If He planned from the beginning to eventually create a new earth then the ultimate accomplishment of that objective cannot be considered as a “failure.”
If I promised that you could live in my house forever and the time came that I decided to tear down the old and build a new one for you, I would not have broken my promise
#4. “What heaven is going to be destroyed? --Will God destroy the place where He dwells?”
ANSWER: 2Cor. 12:2-4 indicates that there are at least three heavens above the earth. The “third” is the location of “paradise.” Genesis 1:6-8 defines the area of the first heaven as being the expanse between the waters on the earth and the waters above that surrounding the earth. Thus we may deduce that the “second” covers the area in between, probably of the sun, moon and perhaps the stars of our galaxy.
The passages do not require that all of the various heavens be destroyed. If the first two are destroyed then that satisfies the plural number predicted. However, if He wants to create a new place for His throne, I see nothing against it.
#5. “Luke 11:2. Jesus said to pray for God's will to be done on earth as in heaven.”
ANSWER: Yes. We are each day to pray for God's will to be done on earth. The standard is, “as in heaven.” However, universal fulfillment of that prayer will take place in the new earth (Rev. 21:1; 2Pet 3:13).
2Pet. 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
#6. “Matt. 5:5. The Bible says that, 'The meek shall inherit the earth”
ANSWER: Yes. The new earth, though this could speak of a general promise of God’s people being victorious.
#7. “Why destroy the earth after the Devil and his servants have been cast out?
ANSWER: Because the damage has already been done. It is worn out (Heb. 1:10-12). God has used it as a place to test his people. He wants to provide them with something completely new. He is not going to patch up an old garment (Mark 2:21, 22).
#8. “Ecc. 1:4 and Psalms 78:69 say that the earth 'abideth forever.”
ANSWER: The New World Translation of the Watchtower says it abides, “to time indefinite (5769 `owlam).”
Owlam means beyond sight--no known end. The Watchtower book, Let God Be True, explaining how the Sabbath law could be “forever” (Ex. 31:16,17) and yet have passed away under the New Testament, says of this word, “Not to eternity, so as to beyond abolishment.” Davies Lexicon, p. 485, defines it as “indefinite or uncertain time.” Strong's Concordance Lexicon (#5769) says, “properly concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; gen. time out of mind. . .” This is conclusively substantiated by examples of its use in describing the length of slavery (Ex. 21:6); lamps burning in the tabernacle (Ex. 27:21; Lev. 24:3); the offering of the wave-breast (Ex. 29:28; Lev. 7:34, 36; 10:15; Num. 18:8, 11, 19). All of these have ceased to exist or are no longer required (cf. Col. 2:16).
#9. “Ps. 37:29 and 104:5 teach that the earth will be forever”
ANSWER: The Hebrew word, “Ad” (#05703) is used here. Davies Lexicon, p. 452, defines it, “properly progress, duration, hence long or indefinite time. . ..” In Amos 1:11 it says that Edom's anger “keeps tearing away forever” ( #5703 ad) Edom has long ago ceased to exist, so we know that the word does not mean there can be no end. In Job 20:4 it is translated, “of old, since man was placed upon the earth.” In Dan. 4:23 it is translated, “till seven years pass.”
#10. Does not Ps. 119:89-90 teach that the earth shall continue as long as God's word?”
ANSWER: It says,
Ps. 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. 90 Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. (KJV)
All this says is that God established the heavens and the earth and it continues to stand. That does not mean that in the future it will not be destroyed..
#11. “Is this not a contradiction of God's claim that he does not change?” (Mal. 3:6)
ANSWER: That is a misuse of the passage. Verse 5 shows he is talking about judgment and that he was not going to change what his word has said to let them live in adultery and oppression of the weak. Other scriptures show us that God's promises to those who love him are not going to be defaulted. In line with the plans God made from the beginning he does not change. However, Heb. 7:12 says it was necessary to change the law. However, that change was planned from the beginning. In Gen. 6:6 we see a change when God regrets making man and wipes out civilization which he had originally told Adam to establish. Again, in Ex. 32:10, 12, 14, we find that Jehovah God turned from his intention of exterminating the children of Israel.
#12. “Are there not cases where 'earth' refers to people rather than the ground?”
ANSWER: This is not a valid argument to prove that the earth will not pass away even if there were. For example, the fact that “body” is sometimes used figuratively of the church does not prove that all other passages mean that. The question is whether the context of a passage indicates that it is speaking of the physical earth.
However, in the cases I have examined the apparent use of “earth” for “people” does not support the claim.
1. Sometimes the language actually has features that properly require it to mean people. For example, in Gen. 11:1, 9 we see a usage which, in the Hebrew, indicates “earth's population,” not just “earth.” The footnote to the Watchtower's New World Translation admits this and in Ps. 33:8; 66:1, 4; 96:1, 9 etc. explains that people are indicated by the plural verb that modifies the word, “earth.” Thus, we have a sort of elipsis with the plural verb implying “people of” the earth.
2. Sometimes it is simply a case of personification of the earth. It has nothing to do with people but rather is using a poetical description in reference to the literal earth. (Ps. 96:11, 12; 148:10) Note that “fire, hail, snow, thick smoke, wind, mountains, and hills” are all commanded to praise Jehovah. This is a poetic license.
#13. “Psalms 148:4-6 say that the earth will not pass away”
ANSWER: The passage only indicates that God's regulation cannot pass away or fail. However, this in no way prevents God from acting on His original plan to modify the regulation. The point here is that time cannot invalidate God's regulations nor can anyone else revoke them. He keeps them standing for an unrevealed or indefinite period which cannot be measured by the lives of men.
#14. “Eph 3:21 say the world will not end.”
The Greek does not use the word, “cosmos” (world). Nor does it say that the earth (gee) will not end. It is “eis pasas tas geneas tou aioonos toon aionoon” literally translated, “unto all of the generations unto the age of the ages.”
It is proclaiming, the glory is to God through Christ Jesus without end.
#15 “Psalms 89:36-37 teaches that God’s promises to David endure forever like the sun and moon. If God’s promises endure then so do the sun and moon”
36 His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me.
37 It shall be established for ever [owlam] as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
Matthew 19:26 26 ...With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
The passages we have cited clearly teach the literal earth will be destroyed. The contexts demand this and without some human book or theological agenda to explain these away this is the natural conclusion. It is highly unlikely that anyone could reach any other conclusion. This is the natural force of the text and harmonizes perfectly with the known laws about the wearing out of the universe. When it specifies the “sea and dry land” as being included, along with the heavens, earth, and the nations (Hag. 2:6-7) it is impossible to reasonably think that the earth is not included.
Furthermore, it is reasonable with regard to what we know about God. He is not going to just patch up an “old garment” for his faithful people. He is going to make an earth for them that is entirely new.