After a discussion about climate change with other believers, I noted that the Lord will destroy the Earth and create a new one - particularly in light of Isaiah 65:17-25 & 2 Peter 3:7 where it notes the destruction of the ungodly and the destruction and recreation of a new heavens and a new earth.

To which people responded, this earth is not going to be destroyed by the fire in 2 Peter 3:7, but be purified by the fire.

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17 NIV)

By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:7 NIV)

This made me realise that they did not believe in the recreation, but rather in a redemption of the existing earth.

What is the origin of this theology and what is the fullness of what this doctrine teaches?

2 Answers 2


There may be earlier roots than this, but I would see the comparatively recent rise of pre-millennialism as requiring a continuing planet earth.

This was a development within the Brethren groups of the early 1830s, promoted by J.N. Darby and other early Brethren leaders. After the Plymouth division, Schofield incorporated the idea (and dispensationalism), adding it to his "Schofield Bible". In Ireland, the castle of Lady Powerscourt was the venue for J.N. Darby and other early Brethren leaders to gather, plus various clergymen. What was the particular belief that you ask about?

The Plymouth Brethren adopted and promoted the idea that the book of Revelation had a secret rapture of the church stowed away in chapter 4. As the church would not be on earth thereafter, from there to chapter 22 had nothing to do with the church. Those chapters dealt with Israel over a literal seven-year period of tribulation. Then a literal thousand years would see literal Israel on earth. The Old Testament priesthood, temple and sacrifices would be reinstated, with the Lord being on earth reigning over Israel and the world during this thousand-year millennium.

For those who hold to this idea, and variations on it, a literal millennial rule of Christ over (or on) a literal planet earth requires this present earth to remain. Despite such a lot of literal interpretations of Bible prophecies about the end-times, they have to spiritualise other bits of Bible prophecies, such as the following:

"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.... the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless we, according to his promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:4-13).

It is essential to include this text because all who believe God will not destroy the world (and there are many groups, other than Brethren ones) have to explain such verses. They say the 'fire' is symbolic, representing judgmental cleansing; the exposure of all in the earth is symbolic, representing everything hidden being revealed in the sense Jesus meant it (in Matthew 10:26) - he spoke of not fearing what people try to hide, because it will all be made known (on the Day of Judgment, which some don't take to be a literal day - it's symbolic of a 1,000-year-period, they claim).

Because the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 are said to be literal years, with Satan being loosed out of his prison then, they see no need for a re-created earth and a new heaven as the cleansing of them makes them 'new' in a symbolic sense. It all just runs on from the present time till after the millennium. That is their view, but the origin of this view arose in Protestant circles in the early 1830s.

It soon gained ground so that even non-Protestant groups that arose in the 1870s embraced the concept of the literal earth remaining forever. Of course, they extracted various verses from the Bible that they interpreted in support of this, but I'm trying to just deal with the origin aspect. However, it would not surprise me if someone with a deeper grasp of church history could go much further back, for I have heard tell that the Catholic church had a similar idea some time after the Reformation. If anyone can dig that up, I would be glad to know about it.

  • Thats very interesting, thanks Anne. Its very interesting how this understanding is driving social justice in churches here in Australia. Though for me its a bit disheartening to see scripture seen as 'hyperbolic' and 'symbolic' by a lot of these parties.
    – Oliver K
    Nov 11, 2021 at 2:31
  • It would be very interesting if you could link sources for "the origin of this view arose in Protestant circles in the early 1830s". I looked up premillenialism, and was surprised to learn that amillenialism is the more traditional interpretation. I always naively assumed premillenialism was the dominating view. Also, Wikipedia traces the belief further back, so if you have well sourced arguments why you think the rise should be placed in the 1830s, I would love to see them.
    – kutschkem
    Nov 11, 2021 at 15:39
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    @kutschkem The history of such beliefs is incredibly complex, going back centuries, as may be seen in this link, newadvent.org/cathen/10307a.htm It would be impossible to condense such a history into an answer here. As is my wont, I was working backwards, from now, with 200 years ago being my starting point for this particular question. That link works from the 1st century forwards but is scant on the recent history. But if you check it, you will be amazed at how beliefs chopped and changed. "There's nothing new under the sun" all right!
    – Anne
    Nov 11, 2021 at 15:48
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    @kutschkem The reason why I didn’t use info from that link is that it does not actually deal with God destroying the present world; millennialism is its topic but it does not link that with specific beliefs about whether the planet would be destroyed at any point. The question here is homing in on the belief that this planet will never be destroyed. My angle was that a literal millennium rule on earth is necessary for that view.
    – Anne
    Nov 11, 2021 at 15:56
  • 1
    @Anne sure that makes sense.
    – kutschkem
    Nov 12, 2021 at 15:03

What is the origin of the belief that God will not destroy the world but use the current one?

Thou shalt send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth. - Psalm 104:30

St. Paul speaks to us a the whole of creation being compared to the pains as being in childbirth.

For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. - Romans 8: 22

Fire is seen as a means of purification to renew or purify many things.

But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up. - 2 Peter 3:10

Many of the Church Fathers believed the world will be consumed by fire, but that does not in itself exclude a renewal of the earth and the universe as we know it.

Yes, St. Peter saw the world will altered at the Last Judgement, but it does not exclude that it would or would not be used to simply renew the existing world as we know it.

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 the ungodly men. - 2 Peter 3:7

Unless I am misreading something, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae tends to believe that the earth will be renewed rather than being destroyed and recreated. He deals with it in Question 91: The quality of the world after the judgment.

Whether the world will be renewed?

We believe all corporeal things to have been made for man's sake, wherefore all things are stated to be subject to him [Psalm 8:5, seqq.]. Now they serve man in two ways, first, as sustenance to his bodily life, secondly, as helping him to know God, inasmuch as man sees the invisible things of God by the things that are made (Romans 1:20). Accordingly glorified man will nowise need creatures to render him the first of these services, since his body will be altogether incorruptible, the Divine power effecting this through the soul which it will glorify immediately. Again man will not need the second service as to intellective knowledge, since by that knowledge he will see God immediately in His essence. The carnal eye, however, will be unable to attain to this vision of the Essence; wherefore that it may be fittingly comforted in the vision of God, it will see the Godhead in Its corporeal effects, wherein manifest proofs of the Divine majesty will appear, especially in Christ's flesh, and secondarily in the bodies of the blessed, and afterwards in all other bodies. Hence those bodies also will need to receive a greater inflow from the Divine goodness than now, not indeed so as to change their species, but so as to add a certain perfection of glory: and such will be the renewal of the world. Wherefore at the one same time, the world will be renewed, and man will be glorified.

Whether the movement of the heavenly bodies will cease?

There are three opinions touching this question. The first is of the philosophers who assert that the movement of the heaven will last for ever. But this is not in keeping with our faith, which holds that the elect are in a certain number preordained by God, so that the begetting of men will not last for ever, and for the same reason, neither will other things that are directed to the begetting of men, such as the movement of the heaven and the variations of the elements. Others say that the movement of the heaven will cease naturally. But this again is false, since every body that is moved naturally has a place wherein it rests naturally, whereto it is moved naturally, and whence it is not moved except by violence. Now no such place can be assigned to the heavenly body, since it is not more natural to the sun to move towards a point in the east than to move away from it, wherefore either its movement would not be altogether natural, or its movement would not naturally terminate in rest. Hence we must agree with others who say that the movement of the heaven will cease at this renewal of the world, not indeed by any natural cause, but as a result of the will of God. For the body in question, like other bodies, was made to serve man in the two ways above mentioned (Article 1): and hereafter in the state of glory man will no longer need one of these services, that namely in respect of which the heavenly bodies serve man for the sustenance of his bodily life. Now in this way the heavenly bodies serve man by their movement, in so far as by the heavenly movement the human race is multiplied, plants and animals needful for man's use generated, and the temperature of the atmosphere rendered conducive to health. Therefore the movement of the heavenly body will cease as soon as man is glorified.

Whether the brightness of the heavenly bodies will be increased at this renewal?

The renewal of the world is directed to the end that, after this renewal has taken place, God may become visible to man by signs so manifest as to be perceived as it were by his senses. Now creatures lead to the knowledge of God chiefly by their comeliness and beauty, which show forth the wisdom of their Maker and Governor; wherefore it is written (Wisdom 13:5): "By the greatness of the beauty and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby." And the beauty of the heavenly bodies consists chiefly in light; wherefore it is written (Sirach 43:10): "The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven, the Lord enlighteneth the world on high." Hence the heavenly bodies will be bettered, especially as regards their brightness. But to what degree and in what way this betterment will take place is known to Him alone Who will bring it about.

Whether the elements will be renewed by an addition of brightness?

Just as there is a certain order between the heavenly spirits and the earthly or human spirits, so is there an order between heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. Since then the corporeal creature was made for the sake of the spiritual and is ruled thereby, it follows that corporeal things are dealt with similarly to spiritual things. Now in this final consummation of things the lower spirits will receive the properties of the higher spirits, because men will be as the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30): and this will be accomplished by conferring the highest degree of perfection on that in which the human spirit agrees with the angelic. Wherefore, in like manner, since the lower bodies do not agree with the heavenly bodies except in the nature of light and transparency (De Anima ii), it follows that the lower bodies are to be perfected chiefly as regards brightness. Hence all the elements will be clothed with a certain brightness, not equally, however, but according to their mode: for it is said that the earth on its outward surface will be as transparent as glass, water as crystal, the air as heaven, fire as the lights of heaven.

  • Thanks Ken, i appreciate your use of scripture in bringing a new light into this understanding of the world.
    – Oliver K
    Nov 11, 2021 at 2:32

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