The word rapture does not occur in the Bible. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away.” The concept of the “carrying off” or the rapture of the church is clearly taught in Scripture.
The rapture of the church is the event in which God “snatches away” all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the tribulation period. The rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50–54. God will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies, and take them from the earth, along with all living believers, who will also be given glorified bodies at that time. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
The rapture will involve an instantaneous transformation of our bodies to fit us for eternity. “We know that when He [Christ] appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). The rapture is to be distinguished from the second coming. At the rapture, the Lord comes “in the clouds” to meet us “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, the Lord descends all the way to the earth to stand on the Mount of Olives, resulting in a great earthquake followed by a defeat of God’s enemies (Zechariah 14:3–4).
The doctrine of the rapture was not taught in the Old Testament, which is why Paul calls it a “mystery” now revealed: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).
The rapture of the church is a glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God’s presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope; God wants us to “encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
What Is The Resurrection?
The Bible is clear that resurrection is a reality and this life is not all that there is. While death is the end of physical life, it is not the end of human existence. Many erroneously believe that there is one general resurrection at the end of the age, but the Bible teaches that there will be not one resurrection, but a series of resurrections, some to eternal life in heaven and some to eternal damnation (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29).
The first great resurrection was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is documented in each of the four Gospels (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20), cited several times in Acts (Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 26:23), and mentioned repeatedly in the letters to the churches (Romans 1:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:3). Much is made of the importance of Christ’s resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, which records that over five hundred people saw Him at one of His post-resurrection appearances. Christ’s resurrection is the “first fruits” or guarantee to every Christian that he will also be resurrected. Christ’s resurrection is also the basis of the Christian’s certainty that all people who have died will one day be raised to face fair and even-handed judgment by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31). The resurrection to eternal life is described as “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6); the resurrection to judgment and torment is described as “the second death” (Revelation 20:6, 13-15).
The first great resurrection of the Church will occur at the time of the rapture. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ during the Church Age, and have died before Jesus returns, will be resurrected at the rapture. The Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost and will end when Christ returns to take believers back to heaven with Him (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Apostle Paul explained that not all Christians will die, but all will be changed, i.e., given resurrection-type bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-58), some without having to die! Christians who are alive, and those who have already died, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him always!
Another great resurrection will occur when Christ returns to earth (His Second Coming) at the end of the Tribulation period. After the rapture, the Tribulation is the next event after the Church Age in God’s chronology. This will be a time of terrible judgment upon the world, described in great detail in Revelation chapters 6-18. Though all Church Age believers will be gone, millions of people left behind on earth will come to their senses during this time and will trust in Jesus as their Savior. Tragically, most of them will pay for their faith in Jesus by losing their lives (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 13:7, 15-17; 17:6; 19:1-2). These believers in Jesus who die during the Tribulation will be resurrected at Christ’s return and will reign with Him for a thousand years during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4, 6).
Old Testament believers such as Job, Noah, Abraham, David and even John the Baptist (who was assassinated before the Church began) will be resurrected at this time also. Several passages in the Old Testament mention this event (Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-2; Hosea 13:14). Ezekiel 37:1-14 describes primarily the regathering of the Nation of Israel using the symbolism of dead corpses coming back to life. But from the language used, a physical resurrection of dead Israelis cannot be excluded from the passage. Again, all believers in God (in the Old Testament era) and all believers in Jesus (in the New Testament era) participate in the first resurrection, a resurrection to life (Revelation 20:4, 6).
There may be another resurrection at the end of the Millennium, one which is implied, but never explicitly stated in Scripture. It is possible that some believers will die a physical death during the Millennium. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). On the other hand, it is also possible that death in the Millennium will only come to the disobedient. In either event, some kind of transformation will be required to fit believers in their natural bodies in the Millennium for pristine existence throughout eternity. Each believer will need to have a “resurrected” type of body.
It is clear from Scripture that God will destroy the entire universe, including the earth, with fire (2 Peter 3:7-12). This will be necessary to purge God’s creation of its endemic evil and decay brought upon it by man’s sin. In its place God will create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4). But what will happen to those believers who survived the Tribulation and entered the Millennium in their natural bodies? And what will happen to those who were born during the Millennium, trusted in Jesus, and continued to live in their natural bodies? Paul has made it clear that flesh and blood, which is mortal and able to decay, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. That eternal kingdom is inhabitable only by those with resurrected, glorified bodies that are no longer mortal and are not able to decay (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). Presumably, these believers will be given resurrection bodies without having to die. Precisely when this happens is not explained, but theologically, it must happen somewhere in the transition from the old earth and universe to the new earth and new heaven (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4).
There is a final resurrection, apparently of all the unbelieving dead of all ages. Jesus Christ will raise them from the dead (John 5:25-29) after the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:5), and after the destruction of the present earth and universe (2 Peter 3:7-12; Revelation 20:11). This is the resurrection described by Daniel as an awakening “from the dust of the ground … to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). It is described by Jesus as a “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).
The Apostle John saw something that would happen in the future. He saw a “great white throne” (Revelation 20:11). Heaven and earth “fled away” from the One sitting on it. This is evidently a description of the dissolution by fire of all matter, including the entire universe and earth itself (2 Peter 3:7-12). All the (godless) dead will stand before the throne. This means they have been resurrected after the thousand years (Revelation 20:5). They will possess bodies that can feel pain but will never cease to exist (Mark 9:43-48). They will be judged, and their punishment will be commensurate with their works.
But there is another book opened—the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27). Those whose names are not written in the book of life are cast into the “lake of fire,” which amounts to “the second death” (Revelation 20:11-15). No indication is given of any who appear at this judgment that their names are found in the book of life. Rather, those whose names appear in the book of life were among those who are blessed, for they received forgiveness and partook of the first resurrection, the resurrection to life (Revelation 20:6).
The tribulation is a future seven-year period of time when God will finish His discipline of Israel and finalize His judgment of the unbelieving world.
The church, made up of all who have trusted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus to save them from being punished for sin, will not be present during the tribulation. The church will be removed from the earth in an event known as the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The church is saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Throughout Scripture, the tribulation is referred to by other names such as the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; 2:1-31; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2); trouble or tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30; Zephaniah 1:1); the great tribulation, which refers to the more intense second half of the seven-year period (Matthew 24:21); time or day of trouble (Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 1:15); time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
An understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 is necessary in order to understand the purpose and time of the tribulation. This passage speaks of 70 weeks that have been declared against “your people.” Daniel’s people are the Jews, the nation of Israel, and Daniel 9:24 speaks of a period of time that God has given “to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” God declares that “seventy sevens” will fulfill all these things. This is 70 sevens of years, or 490 years. (Some translations refer to 70 weeks of years.) This is confirmed by another part of this passage in Daniel. In verses 25 and 26, Daniel is told that the Messiah will be cut off after “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” (69 total), beginning with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. In other words, 69 sevens of years (483 years) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, the Messiah will be cut off. Biblical historians confirm that 483 years passed from the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time when Jesus was crucified. Most Christian scholars, regardless of their view of eschatology (future things/events), have the above understanding of Daniel’s 70 sevens.
With 483 years having passed from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the cutting off of the Messiah, this leaves one seven-year period to be fulfilled in terms of Daniel 9:24: “to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” This final seven-year period is known as the tribulation period—it is a time when God finishes judging Israel for its sin.
Daniel 9:27 gives a few highlights of the seven-year tribulation period: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” The person of whom this verse speaks is the person Jesus calls the “abomination that causes desolation” (Matthew 24:15) and is called “the beast” in Revelation 13. Daniel 9:27 says that the beast will make a covenant for seven years, but in the middle of this week (3 1/2 years into the tribulation), he will break the covenant, putting a stop to sacrifice. Revelation 13 explains that the beast will place an image of himself in the temple and require the world to worship him. Revelation 13:5 says that this will go on for 42 months, which is 3 1/2 years. Since Daniel 9:27 says that this will happen in the middle of the week, and Revelation 13:5 says that the beast will do this for a period of 42 months, it is easy to see that the total length of time is 84 months or seven years. Also see Daniel 7:25, where the “time, times, and half a time” (time=1 year; times=2 years; half a time=1/2 year; total of 3 1/2 years) also refers to “great tribulation,” the last half of the seven-year tribulation period when the beast will be in power.
For further references about the tribulation, see Revelation 11:2-3, which speaks of 1260 days and 42 months, and Daniel 12:11-12, which speaks of 1290 days and 1335 days. These days have a reference to the midpoint of the tribulation. The additional days in Daniel 12 may include the time at the end for the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46) and time for the setting up of Christ’s millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6).
In summary, the Tribulation is the 7-year time period in the end times in which humanity’s decadence and depravity will reach its fullness, with God judging accordingly.
The Great Tribulation
The Tribulation is a future time period when the Lord will accomplish at least two aspects of His plan: 1) He will complete His discipline of the nation Israel (Daniel 9:24), and 2) He will judge the unbelieving, godless inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 6 – 18). The length of the Tribulation is seven years. This is determined by an understanding of the seventy weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27; also see the article on the Tribulation).
The Great Tribulation is the last half of the Tribulation period, three and one-half years in length. It is distinguished from the Tribulation period because the Beast, or Antichrist, will be revealed, and the wrath of God will greatly intensify during this time. Thus, it is important at this point to emphasize that the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation are not synonymous terms. Within eschatology (the study of future things), the Tribulation refers to the full seven-year period while the “Great Tribulation” refers to the second half of the Tribulation.
It is Christ Himself who used the phrase “Great Tribulation” with reference to the last half of the Tribulation. In Matthew 24:21, Jesus says, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” In this verse Jesus is referring to the event of Matthew 24:15, which describes the revealing of the abomination of desolation, the man also known as the Antichrist. Also, Jesus in Matthew 24:29-30 states, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” In this passage, Jesus defines the Great Tribulation (v.21) as beginning with the revealing of the abomination of desolation (v.15) and ending with Christ’s second coming (v.30).
Other passages that refer to the Great Tribulation are Daniel 12:1, which says, “And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.” It seems that Jesus was quoting this verse when He spoke the words recorded in Matthew 24:21. Also referring to the Great Tribulation is Jeremiah 30:7, “Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.” The phrase “Jacob’s distress” refers to the nation of Israel, which will experience persecution and natural disasters such as have never before been seen.
Considering the information Christ gave us in Matthew 24:15-30, it is easy to conclude that the beginning of the Great Tribulation has much to do with the abomination of desolation, an action of the Antichrist. In Daniel 9:26-27, we find that this man will make a “covenant” (a peace pact) with the world for seven years (one “week”; again, see the article on the Tribulation). Halfway through the seven-year period—”in the middle of the week”—we are told this man will break the covenant he made, stopping sacrifice and grain offering, which specifically refers to his actions in the rebuilt temple of the future. Revelation 13:1-10 gives even more detail concerning the Beast’s actions, and just as important, it also verifies the length of time he will be in power. Revelation 13:5 says he will be in power for 42 months, which is three and one-half years, the length of the Great Tribulation.
Revelation offers us the most information about the Great Tribulation. From Revelation 13 when the Beast is revealed until Christ returns in Revelation 19, we are given a picture of God’s wrath on the earth because of unbelief and rebellion (Revelation 16-18). It is also a picture of how God disciplines and at the same time protects His people Israel (Revelation 14:1-5) until He keeps His promise to Israel by establishing an earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6).
The Battle Of Armageddon
The word “Armageddon” comes from a Hebrew word Har-Magedone, which means “Mount Megiddo” and has become synonymous with the future battle in which God will intervene and destroy the armies of the Antichrist as predicted in biblical prophecy (Revelation 16:16; 20:1-3). There will be a multitude of people engaged in the battle of Armageddon, as all the nations gather together to fight against Christ.
The exact location of the valley of Armageddon is unclear because there is no mountain called Meggido. However, since “Har” can also mean hill, the most likely location is the hill country surrounding the plain of Meggido, some sixty miles north of Jerusalem. More than two hundred battles have been fought in that region. The plain of Megiddo and the nearby plain of Esdraelon will be the focal point for the battle of Armageddon, which will rage the entire length of Israel as far south as the Edomite city of Bozrah (Isaiah 63:1). The valley of Armageddon was famous for two great victories in Israel’s history: 1) Barak’s victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4:15) and 2) Gideon’s victory over the Midianites (Judges 7). Armageddon was also the site for two great tragedies: 1) the death of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:8) and 2) the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22).
Because of this history, the valley of Armageddon became a symbol of the final conflict between God and the forces of evil. The word “Armageddon” only occurs in Revelation 16:16, “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” This speaks of the kings who are loyal to the Antichrist gathering together for a final assault on Israel. At Armageddon “the cup filled with the wine of the fury of [God’s] wrath” (Revelation 16:19) will be delivered, and the Antichrist and his followers will be overthrown and defeated. “Armageddon” has become a general term that refers to the end of the world, not exclusively to the battle that takes place in the plain of Megiddo.
The Second Coming Of Jesus
The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.
The Old Testament prophets did not clearly make this distinction between the two comings. This can be seen in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and Zechariah 14:4. As a result of the prophecies seeming to speak of two individuals, many Jewish scholars believed there would be both a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah. What they failed to understand is that there is only one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (Isaiah chapter 53) in His first coming. Jesus will fulfill the role of Israel’s deliverer and King in His second coming. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7, describing the second coming, look back to Jesus being pierced. Israel, and the whole world, will mourn for not having accepted the Messiah the first time He came.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels declared to the apostles, “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:11). Zechariah 14:4 identifies the location of the second coming as the Mount of Olives. Matthew 24:30 declares, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Titus 2:13 describes the second coming as a “glorious appearing.”
The second coming is spoken of in greatest detail in Revelation 19:11-16, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
The Millennial Kingdom
The millennial kingdom is the title given to the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Some seek to interpret the 1000 years in an allegorical manner. They understand the 1000 years as merely a figurative way of saying “a long period of time,” not a literal, physical reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. However, six times in Revelation 20:2-7, the millennial kingdom is specifically said to be 1000 years in length. If God wished to communicate “a long period of time,” He could have easily done so without explicitly and repeatedly mentioning an exact time frame.
The Bible tells us that when Christ returns to the earth He will establish Himself as king in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David (Luke 1:32–33). The unconditional covenants demand a literal, physical return of Christ to establish the kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant promised Israel a land, a posterity and ruler, and a spiritual blessing (Genesis 12:1–3). The Palestinian Covenant promised Israel a restoration to the land and occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 30:1–10). The Davidic Covenant promised Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever—giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Samuel 7:10–13).
At the second coming, these covenants will be fulfilled as Israel is re-gathered from the nations (Matthew 24:31), converted (Zechariah 12:10–14), and restored to the land under the rule of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the millennium as a perfect environment physically and spiritually. It will be a time of peace (Micah 4:2–4; Isaiah 32:17–18), joy (Isaiah 61:7, 10), and comfort (Isaiah 40:1–2). The Bible also tells us that only believers will enter the millennial kingdom. Because of this, it will be a time of obedience (Jeremiah 31:33), holiness (Isaiah 35:8), truth (Isaiah 65:16), and the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). Christ will rule as king (Isaiah 9:3–7; 11:1–10). Nobles and governors will also rule (Isaiah 32:1; Matthew 19:28), and Jerusalem will be the political center of the world (Zechariah 8:3).
Revelation 20:2-7 gives the precise time period of the millennial kingdom. Even without these scriptures, there are countless others that point to a literal reign of the Messiah on the earth. The fulfillment of many of God’s covenants and promises rests on a literal, physical, future kingdom. There is no solid basis for denying the literal interpretation of the millennial kingdom and its duration being 1000 years.
The Final Judgement
The first thing to understand about the final judgment is that it cannot be avoided. Regardless of how we may choose to interpret prophecy on the end times, we are told that “it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We all have a divine appointment with our Creator. The apostle John recorded some details of the final judgment:
“And I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And a place was not found for them. And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell delivered up the dead in them. And each one of them was judged according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
This remarkable passage introduces to us the final judgment—the end of human history and the beginning of the eternal state. We can be sure of this: no mistakes will be made in our hearings because we will be judged by a perfect God (Matthew 5:48; 1 John 1:5). This will manifest itself in many undeniable proofs. First, God will be perfectly just and fair (Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28). Second, God cannot be deceived (Galatians 6:7). Third, God cannot be swayed by any prejudices, excuses or lies (Luke 14:16-24).
As God the Son, Jesus Christ will be the judge (John 5:22). All unbelievers will be judged by Christ at the “great white throne,” and they will be punished according to the works they have done. The Bible is very clear that unbelievers are storing up wrath against themselves (Romans 2:5) and that God will “give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). (Believers will also be judged, at a different judgment called the “judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10), but since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will be rewarded, not punished, according to our deeds.) At the final judgment the fate of the unsaved will be in the hands of the omniscient God who will judge everyone according to his soul’s condition.
For now, our fate is in our own hands. The end of our soul’s journey will be either in an eternal heaven or in an eternal hell (Matthew 25:46). We must choose where we will be by accepting or rejecting the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, and we must make that choice before our physical lives on this earth come to an end. After death, there is no longer a choice, and our fate is to stand before the throne of God, where everything will be open and naked before Him (Hebrews 4:13). Romans 2:6 declares that God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”
The New Heaven & New Earth
The Bible consistently warns us that this world will not last forever. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said in Matthew 24:35. His statement was in the context of end times’ prophecies and the eternal nature of Jesus’ words: “My words will never pass away.” This means that trusting Jesus is wiser than trusting anything in this world.
Jesus also refers to the passing away of heaven and earth in Matthew 5:18. In Revelation 21:1, John writes of a new heaven and a new earth in the eternal state, having seen that “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (cf. Isaiah 65:17 and 2 Peter 3:13). To “pass away” is to disappear or be no more. This refers to the physical heaven and earth—the material world and all it contains—but not to the spirits/souls of the inhabitants of those places. Scripture is clear that people will outlast the current material universe, some in a state of eternal bliss and some in a state of eternal misery, and that the current universe will be replaced by another that will never know the contamination of sin.
The method of this world’s destruction is revealed in 2 Peter 3:11–12: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire. . . . That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” In Noah’s day, the world was destroyed with water, but God promised to send no more global floods (Genesis 9:11). In the Day of the Lord, the universe will be destroyed by fire.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the passing away of heaven and earth, too. “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4). The Lord assures His people that, even as the heaven and earth are passing away, His salvation is secure: “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (Isaiah 51:6).
Knowing that heaven and earth will pass away gives us perspective in life. This world is not our home. “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Jesus tells us to have the proper priorities: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. . . . But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20). And Peter, after reminding us of the temporary nature of this world, says, “Dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him” (2 Peter 3:1.