Psalm 104:5—Will the earth abide forever or will it be destroyed?

Problem: This verse, and several others (cf. Ps. 78:69; Ecc. 1:4), speak of the earth being “established forever.” By contrast, the Bible also teaches that the heavens and the earth “will perish” (Ps. 102:26) or “pass away” (Luke 21:33), being “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Solution: First, the Hebrew word for “forever” (olam) often simply means a long period or an indefinite time. Hence, one need not take the verses that speak of the earth lasting “forever” as literally meaning without any end. Further, even taken literally an important distinction must be made. While the earth will not abide forever in its present form, its constituent elements will remain, and it will be reformed into a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) which will never pass away. In this sense, both are true—the basic elements of the universe God created will last forever, but not in their present shape which has been infected by sin and decay (Rom. 8:18ff). God will one day destroy the universe in its present form and reconstruct it into a perfect world, “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) which contains no disease, death, or decay (cf. Rev. 21–22).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.