When the fire falls upon the wicked, the whole earth turns into the lake of fire. Through the prophet Malachi, God has told us that at some time in the future, that He would cleanse the earth by fire:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Mal. 1:1-3.
Paul tells us that the whole earth ‘groans’ under the weight of the sin that has been perpetrated upon it (see Rom. 8:22). Symbolically, the earth is ‘crying out’ to be cleansed. The only way to cleanse the earth of its pollution and corruption is through fire. The earth has to be cleaned because nothing unclean can be present when God creates a new earth and a new heaven.
The Antitypical New Earth
It has always been God’s intention to solve the problem of sin, and cleanse all traces of it from His universe, so that it will never have cause to happen again (see Nahum 1:9)). If the Israelites/Jews had been faithful and accomplished the task God had planned for them, there would have been a new earth and new heavens, in Old Testament times:
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Isa. 65:17.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. Isa. 66:22-24.
In his second letter, Peter draws attention to the “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4), in God’s word. Continuing on, Peter writes that there will be scoffers, denying that the promises will be fulfilled. However, Peter assures his readers that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9). And that there will come a time when:
…the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up – wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. 2 Pet. 3:10, 12.
Peter continues to make his point, which is, but we are not like the scoffers, we are believers in the promises of God, and we are looking forward to the aftermath of the fervent heat (the lake of fire):
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 2 Pet. 3:13.
Peter is telling us, that new heavens and a new earth are created after the annihilation of the wicked and the cleansing of the earth in the lake of fire. This new creation is the antitypical fulfilment of the promises of God made through Isaiah and brought to remembrance through Peter:
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… And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. Rev. 20:1, 5.
The New Heavens
When God destroyed the earth by a flood, in the time of Noah, something happened to the earth and its atmosphere. Prior to the flood there was no rain falling on the earth. Prior to the flood there were no seasons, there was a uniform climate over the whole earth. At that time God made changes to the earth and the heavens.
It has been prophesied that God will make more changes. The psalmist tells us that the heavens, “shall perish…yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (Ps. 102:26). And Isaiah tells us to, “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…” (Isa. 51:6). These prophetic utterances are the types and John, in vision, saw the antitypical fulfilment, “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Rev. 6:14).
When God recreates the heavens what does that mean? And what does the heavens mean? Paul wrote about the third heaven (see 2 Cor. 12:2). Therefore, it has been generally understood that the word heaven, refers to three different spheres or realms. The first realm would be the earth’s sky and atmosphere (see Deut. 11:11; Ps. 104:12; Isa. 55:10). The second realm would be outer space (see Ps. 8:3; Isa. 13:10; 40:26). The third realm would be the dwelling place of God (see Ps. 33:13, 14; Isa. 66:1; Matt. 6:9; Heb. 7:26). In all probability, when it is stated that God will create new heavens, it is not referring to the third heaven (the dwelling place of God), but the atmosphere of earth and its solar system. This conclusion is supported by the fact, that when the New Jerusalem settles on the earth, we are told that the solar system will be rearranged:
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. Rev. 21:23-25.
No more curse
When Adam and Eve sinned, one of the consequences was that, the human experience on the earth would always be accompanied by toil and sorrow called the ‘curse’ – this curse would affect, not just human kind, but also the animal world and all creation:
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed… Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children… And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread… Gen. 3:14-19.
For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been moaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now. Rom. 8:19-22. Amplified Bible.
As long as the spectre of sin reigned over God’s creation, the whole of creation was burdened with untold misery and suffering. But when sin is finally conquered and eradicated, the curse is also eradicated:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Rev. 21:4.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. Rev. 22:2, 3.
God with us
One of the promises of God, is incorporated into one of the names given to Jesus – that of ‘Immanuel.’ The name Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ This promise was realised when Jesus instructed the Israelites to construct a sanctuary. The sanctuary was placed in the middle of the camp, and Jesus took up residence there in the form of the Shekinah (meaning, dwelling or one who dwells) glory (see Ex. 40:34-38; 1 Kings 6:13; 2 Chron. 7:1, 2). Because of the spiritual condition of the people, this was as close, as the ‘God with us’ promise, could be fulfilled. The dwelling place of God changed with the coming of Jesus and with the effect of His teaching, on hard hearts and stiff necks. Under the influence of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, the hard hearts began to be softened and the stiff necks began to turn (see Acts 2:37; 2 Cor. 3:1-3). With the softening of the hearts etc., both Jesus and the Father could take a giant step closer to humanity and ‘dwell’ in believer’s hearts (see Jn. 14:15-23). Once more, another giant step takes place when Jesus returns, when the New Jerusalem settles on the earth, and the new creation takes place:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Rev. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. Rev. 21:2; 22:4.
All mankind walks around with holes in their hearts. It is the cause of much anxiety and mental and emotional distress. This misunderstood lack and longing is caused because, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (Isa 59:2).
We were designed to have fellowship with God – without God we are dysfunctional and under the burden of the curse. God has always wanted to restore the fellowship that was lost in Eden. A partial solution was found at Sinai. A better solution was implemented at the cross of Christ. The final and ultimate solution will be found in the New Jerusalem. The face-to-face communion that Jesus had with Adam and Eve will be then restored. The communion that was formerly spiritual (in the heart) will be literal. God will be and forever – ‘God with us.’