Let’s read Revelation 21:1, “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.” In order to answer your question we will quote several passages from scripture that deal with “the first heaven and the first earth.”

Genesis 1:1 declares: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This verse is definitely speaking about “the first heaven and the first earth,” for this is the beginning of creation. Verse 2 seems to indicate that some catastrophic event resulted in a state of ruin for the heaven and the earth. It says, “And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In the remainder of the chapter we see God working to bring the heaven and the earth back to a state of order to make them habitable for fish, birds, animals and man. The heavens were indeed “where the birds, sun and moon are” (see verses 14-20). This was NOT the heaven where God lives, which is described in the Bible as the “third heaven.” 2nd Corinthians 12:2 says, “I knew a man in Christ…such a one was caught up to the third heaven” (NKJV). Paul later refers to it as “paradise” in verse 4 and this is term the Lord Jesus used when He promised the dying thief he would go to heaven that day. Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’.”

Another very important passage that speaks of the first heaven and the first earth is 2nd Peter 3:3-6: “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days…saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.” Ungodly men refuse to acknowledge the fact that God judged “the first heaven and the first earth” with a devastating flood that destroyed the lives of all except for Noah and his family. We should note that though it says “the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water,” the heaven and the earth did NOT pass away. They went through a dramatic change, just as they did after the ruin described in Genesis chapter one, but they were STILL “the first heaven and the first earth.”

2nd Peter 3:7 goes on to say, “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Peter speaks here of another great judgment, but in this judgment the heavens and earth will be COMPLETELY DESTROYED and PASS AWAY. Verse 10 states, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will PASS AWAY WITH A GREAT NOISE, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both THE EARTH AND THE WORKS THAT ARE IN IT WILL BE BURNED UP.” This verse graphically describes what we saw in Revelation 21:1 when we read, “For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”

When will this occur? We have the answer in Revelation 20:11: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, FROM WHOSE FACE THE EARTH AND THE HEAVEN FLED AWAY.” This verse introduces the “last judgment” when the Lord Jesus Christ will sit on His throne and judge all who had died without believing in Jesus Christ as their savior (see verses 12-15). It will be at the end of His Millennial Kingdom and just before the eternal state begins. The “first heaven and the first earth” will pass away forever and then God will create “a new heaven and a new earth” that will never pass away. They will never pass away because sin will never come in again to defile them. Peter refers to this in 2nd Peter 3:13, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” There will be a permanent state of HOLINESS in the new heaven and new earth. (253.1) (DO)