When will the earth finally be destroyed—during or after the Tribulation or after the Millennium?
Second Peter 3:10 reads, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned.”
Indeed at some future point the earth as we know it will completely destroyed, not a mere purging, but a complete solution of the present universe. Then God will re-form the whole mass into a new heaven and a new earth.
The Day of the Lord is a time period in which God sends judgment. We believe this period begins after the catching away (Rapture) of believers to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:13–18). Following this event is the seven-year Tribulation (Matthew 24:4–29), a horrendous time when God will judge unbelieving Israel and make them ready for the second coming of their Messiah (Matthew 24:30, 31). The Day of the Lord also includes the subsequent Millennium, a period of 1,000 years in which Christ will rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15; 20:4–6).
We believe that it is at the end of this glorious reign that the final destruction you have asked about will take place. This we see in Revelation 21:1: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there was no more sea [oceans].” Again, we see something totally different is indicated, though the new earth may have some resemblance to the old. Various Bible teachers have pointed out that our oceans, however, are the result of God’s judgment (see Genesis 6—8) and that the new heavens and new earth will not have this stigma.
This verse in Revelation (21:1) comes after verses telling about the last part of the Millennium—the time in which Satan will be released after being bound for most of that 1,000-year period and the time in which the Great White Throne Judgment (the sentencing of unbelievers) will take place. Revelation 20:11 may indicate that the Great White Throne Judgment takes place right between the dissolution of earth and universe (“the earth and the heaven fled away”) and God’s making of a new one.
The apostle Peter used the future destruction of the earth to illustrate its temporary nature. He was warning those reading his letter, including us, that should look on the affairs of this world as transient and that we should live accordingly. He also encouraged us that a new home is awaiting us—something brand new (2 Peter 3:13, 14)!
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