Will God Destroy the World?

Question

God says he would never destroy the world again in Genesis 8:21, so why does 2 Peter 3:10 say he will.

Answer

Genesis 8:21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done."

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

In Genesis 8:21 God promises never to destroy the world again in the same manner, or "as I have done". Note that 2 Peter 3:10 speaks of destruction by fire, not water. God has kept his covenant with mankind, a sign and seal we witness every time we see a rainbow (Gen. 9:13-16).

This verse in 2 Peter is a transformation of the present earth into the new heavens and new earth (Is. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Unlike in the Flood in Genesis 8, there will be a resurrection of the elect from all the ages (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Unlike Noah, who sinned after the flood (Gen. 9:20-21; Num. 20:8-12), God's people will be unable to sin (non posse peccare) in the new heavens and new earth. Unlike the Flood, all creation looks forward to the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19-22; cf. Ps. 96:12; Is. 35:1; 55:12). The cursed ground in Gen 3:17-19, is now the blessed ground in the new heavens and new earth.

Though judgment of sin and rescue of the elect are related, the events of the last day also differ from the Flood both in means (fire vs. water) and final outcome.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).