“What does The Bible mean when it says that heaven and earth will pass away?”
The Bible consistently warns us that this world will not last forever. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said in Matthew 24:35. His statement was in the context of end times’ prophecies and the eternal nature of Jesus’ words: “My words will never pass away.” This means that trusting Jesus is wiser than trusting anything in this world.
Jesus also refers to the passing away of heaven and earth in Matthew 5:18. In Revelation 21:1, John writes of a new heaven and a new earth in the eternal state, having seen that “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (cf. Isaiah 65:17 and 2 Peter 3:13). To “pass away” is to disappear or be no more. This refers to the physical heaven and earth—the material world and all it contains—but not to the spirits/souls of the inhabitants of those places. Scripture is clear that people will outlast the current material universe, some in a state of eternal bliss and some in a state of eternal misery, and that the current universe will be replaced by another that will never know the contamination of sin.
The method of this world’s destruction is revealed in 2 Peter 3:11–12: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire. . . . That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” In Noah’s day, the world was destroyed with water, but God promised to send no more global floods (Genesis 9:11). In the Day of the Lord, the universe will be destroyed by fire.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the passing away of heaven and earth, too. “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4). The Lord assures His people that, even as the heaven and earth are passing away, His salvation is secure: “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (Isaiah 51:6).
Knowing that heaven and earth will pass away gives us perspective in life. This world is not our home. “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Jesus tells us to have the proper priorities: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. . . . But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20). And Peter, after reminding us of the temporary nature of this world, says, “Dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).
Recommended Resources: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware and Logos Bible Software.