When the apostle Peter wrote, “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13), he was not describing an earth altogether different from the one we now inhabit but rather the cosmos resurrected without decay, disease, destruction, or death.
First, we might rightly conclude that the cosmos will be resurrected, not annihilated, on the basis of Christ’s conquest over Satan. As the cross ultimately liberates us from death and disease, so too it will liberate the cosmos from destruction and decay (Romans 8:20–21).
Furthermore, the Greek word used to designate the newness of the cosmos is kainos, meaning “new in quality,” not in kind—a cosmos existing in continuity with the present creation. Put another way, the earth will be thoroughly transformed, not totally terminated. When a flood destroys an island, it does not cease to exist, nor will the earth when it is renewed by fire.
Finally, the metaphor of childbirth is instructive: from Paradise lost will emerge Paradise restored. As Scripture puts it, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). But, like a mother, earth will birth a new Eden in which God will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:1–4).
the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only
so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies.
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002).