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Luke 21:33 says the heavens and the earth “will” pass away not “can”, implying that it will one day be gone. Can someone explain this?

The heaven and the earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

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8 Answers 8

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This question is explicitly answered in Rev 21:1 -

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Thus, what Jesus said in Luke 21:33 meets its fulfilment as prophesied in Rev 21:1 as quoted above. This is further confirmed in Rev 21:5 -

And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

The apostle Peter also prophesied the same thing:

2 Peter 3:13 - But according to His promise, we are awaiting new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

The above appears to be a direct allusion to the prophecy of Isa 65:17 -

For behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

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  • It should perhaps be made clear that "the first heaven" does not refer to God's Heavenly abode, but only to Earth's atmosphere. Commented May 30 at 14:11
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    @RayButterworth My understanding is that the first heaven is all that we see above our heads : atmosphere, blue sky, sun, moon and stars. The second heaven is the angelic principalities and powers. The third heaven, the heaven of heavens. is God's dwelling place. The first shall all be removed and new heavens and new earth replace them. The powers of (the second) heaven shall be 'shaken'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 30 at 15:21
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The verse in question does not, in itself, provide further information than its bald statement - Jesus makes an emphatic promise that HEAVEN AND EARTH shall pass away, but HIS WORDS shall never pass away. The contrast could not be clearer. The transient nature of the created heaven and earth we live in and know of, and the eternality of Christ's words, he who is "the Word of God".

Other Bible verses support what Jesus stated, confirming this. Revelation prophesies about that time:

"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed like a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Revelation 6:12-17 A.V.

This echoes the prophesy of Isaiah 2:9-22 when God will be glorified and exalted in that day. "when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth". Remember the fig tree in Luke 21:29, and again in Rev. 6:13? Too much in Isaiah to copy here, so do check it out for yourself, also Isaiah 13:4-13 & 24:19-20 & 34:2-5. Now read this commentary on Revelation 6:12-17:

"The number seven recurs. It is sevenfold twice told. Earth; sun; moon; stars; heaven; mountains; islands. Seven things brought to final judgment. Again: kings of the earth; great men; rich men; chief captains; mighty men; bondmen; free men. The seven classes encompassing humanity brought to the last judgment. Here is a twofold witness to the perfection of vengeance in the great day of the wrath of the Lamb... therefore divine judgment upon all the Creation and upon every class of mankind... judgment upon the heavens and the earth and all that therein is." The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John Metcalfe, pp.166-7, 1998, http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

Consider also these other New Testament statements about when Christ suddenly comes again:

"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men... But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:7 & 10-12 A.V.

But that quote would be incomplete without adding what it says in verse 13 - that Christians have the promise of God that there will then be "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This is also confirmed in Revelation, chapter 21:1 when, after all unrighteousness has been swept away on the Day of Judgment, John 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." The explanation sought for Luke 21:33 requires careful compilation of related Bible verses.

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We must realize that the New Testament books relied upon and drew from the Old Testament prophesies. God's prophetic language contained many types of literature including metaphors, similes, antonyms, and hyperbole. We must also become more aware of the Hebraic idioms that people 2,000 years ago commonly used.

For example, today we might casually use the phrase "by the skin of our teeth" and we understand that it is not literally speaking of our teeth having skin. The phrase "heaven and earth" was an idiom that the Jews used for the temple where God met with man... heaven and earth.

When Jesus told His disciples that heaven and earth would pass away they heard and understood it as a reference to the temple. They knew He was telling them that their place of worship, that old Jerusalem sacrificial temple was going to be destroyed, just as it had been destroyed the 1st time about 586 BC. Jesus was not speaking literally of the physical earth and cosmos passing out of existence.

But, we keep in mind how YHVH originally used this phrase for both the land nation of Israel and for the old Mosaic covenant.

19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. (Lev. 26:19-20, KJV)

Moses warned the people of the consequences of disobedience and made the phrases "your heaven" and "your earth" equal to "your land."

We can also see how Moses used them again when calling to the people of Israel.

`Give ear, O heavens, and I speak; And thou dost hear, O earth, sayings of my mouth!" (Deu. 32:1, YLT)

Moses wasn't calling God in His spiritual heaven above to hear him. He was calling to two groups of people on the land of Israel, the ruling authorities (heaven) and the common people (earth) of that land.

Moses also specifically called the old covenant "heaven and earth."

I have caused to testify against you this day the heavens and the earth, that ye do perish utterly hastily from off the land whither ye are passing over the Jordan to possess it; ye do not prolong days upon it, but are utterly destroyed;" (Deu. 4:26, YLT)

And, later specifically called out that witness as the covenant.

26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” (Deu. 31:26, YLT)

So, Jesus was also referring to the old covenant passing away. And, in fact it did when He used the Romans to destroy that temple in AD 70 in the judgment He meted out against those who had crucified Him (Rev. 1:7)

Therefore, as the old "heaven and earth" was the old covenant, then the new heaven and earth of Rev. 21 is the new covenant, the gospel of Christ.

We must not attempt to force every word of the Bible to be literal, as all of the metaphors, idioms, and similes are all defined in the old Hebrew scriptures of the old testament.

I have discussed this in more depth in this post at my blog: Heaven and Earth Have Passed Away.

The Bible never discusses the end of the physical earth, not the end of the literal heavens. In fact, God specifically says in Gen. 8 that:

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Gen. 8:20-21, KJV)

See the post Testing the Spirits - Part II: The End to see how God used the phrase "the end."

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Yes, both the heaven and earth as we know them now, before the end of the world history, will be gone, that is to say, changed for good, for there will be “new heaven and new earth where the righteousness reigns” (2 Peter 3:13), as Peter predicts through the Holy Ghost.

Thus, “pass away” does not mean a total annihilation and turning from existence to non-existence, but a drastic and irrevocable change.

The same will happen with our bodies, that is to say, they will be resurrected, i.e. reunited to their souls that survive them, but now with their perishability being abolished, that is to say, clad in imperishability ("For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality" /1 Cor. 15:53/).

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Just as when a person is regenerated [paliggensia Titus 3:5] is the same person, in that e.g., the age of their body, height and name do not necessarily change when they are regenerated, so too heaven and earth.

In Matthew 19:28 the physical creation is regenerated/paliggenesia.

Helps word-studies

palin/again; genesis/birth. paliggenesia is used twice in the NT. a} the re-birth of physical creation at Christ's return [Advent],which inaugurates His millenial kingdom [Ro 8:18-25] and b} the re-birth all believer's experience at conversion Titus 3:5.

Psalm 104:5 NKJB

"You who laid the foundations of the earth, So that it should never be moved." My emphasis.

["foundations"=basic forces keeping it in place]. This could be that the earth does move, but cannot be moved from its present trajectory, or course of spinning and circling.

From 2 Peter 3:10 ESV

"the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved.."

"heavenly bodies/stoicheia".

In Galatians 4:9 stoicheia are "elementary principles". ESV.

In Hebrews 5:12 stoicheia are "basic principles". ESV.

When the stoicheia are removed, the elementary principles [the curse] which this world is currently under, is removed, then the earth will be made "new", or, "renewed", i.e., made as it was before the curse.

Neos/ new in time; "baked today"; freshly made. Compare with kainon/ new recipe; the New Covenant is a different way of doing things compared with First Covenant.

From Revelation 21:1 ESV

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away..". [new/kainon]

The first heaven and the earth will pass away as we presently experience them, as the curse will be lifted. God's words, "my words" will not pass away as God's truth will rule, and not the result of Adam listening to Satan. A new/different/kainon way of doing things will ensue.

Luke 18:8

"Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?"

Jesus is coming back to this earth, the same earth that He left. But different as heaven and earth re-newed/regenerated.

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  • The Bible seems to imply that there are going to be two ends. One before and one at the end of the millennium. Commented Jun 3 at 23:26
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In English Bible translations, the heavens and heaven are two different things. Basically the heavens means the sky, whilst heaven refers to what you may know as heaven. So basically what he is saying is that the physical world will cease to exist, but his words won’t. So while it may seem like the Bible is contradicting itself, it isn’t. It only looks like that because of our translations.

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  • @ WhatsYourIQ192 - Thank you for your contribution here. However it is best to include some Resources or Greek word study to back up your comments. It is true that many statements seem like contradictions, but in depth study erases doubts . Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented May 30 at 21:03
  • Note that in Hebrew and Aramaic, "heaven/s" is always written in the plural, while in Greek it's usually singular for grammatical reasons. A scholarly resource is Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew, the PhD thesis by Jonathan T. Pennington, which he adapted for publishing as a ~400-page book.
    – Dieter
    Commented Jun 3 at 16:39
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Two points:

  1. "Heaven" in this passage should not be confused with dwelling place of Christians in the spiritual realm. Rather, it should be understand as what we call "the skies." The pioneering American rabbinical scholar Kaufmann Kohler explained that heaven is:

the upper part of the universe in contradistinction to the earth (Gen. i. 1); the region in which sun, moon, and stars are placed (Gen. i. 17). It is stretched out as a curtain (Isa. xl. 22), and is founded upon the mountains as on pillars sunk into the waters of the earth (II Sam. xxii. 8; Prov. viii. 27-29)

  1. Jesus is using a hyperbole here, saying, in effect: "everything else is transient, but my words are eternal." This is almost certain if one considers the preceding verse:

I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

If Jesus' words about heaven and earth passing away were meant literally, then his prophecy was not fulfilled, for heaven and earth did not pass away in the generation that Jesus addressed. But if he meant that his words are eternal, while the physical universe is fleeting, then the validity of the saying is retained.

Conclusion: "Heaven" in this verse is part of the physical universe, not a part of the spiritual world. Moreover, Jesus' saying here was not meant literally. He meant that his teaching can be relied on absolutely, while everything else will pass away. Otherwise, his prediction would be false when he said that heaven and earth world pass away in his generation.

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  • I am afraid you have misunderstood what "this generation" means, but you are excused as the English translations are misleading. The Greek expression means "a certain group of people". In this context, it refers to the group/class of believers throughout time. They are the ones who will keep the Word of Jesus throughout time. academia.edu/37043228/…. See also: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/601/… Commented May 31 at 5:50
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No. Genesis 8 and Genesis 1 and John 1.

Without the sky “heavens” there cannot be night and day, summer and winter, and therefore cold and heat and furthermore seedtime and harvest. If the heavens do not exist then the earth shall not endure. The earth will not exist meaning it will return to its former state of formlessness spoken of in Genesis 1:2. By substituting John 1 known as the Hymn to the WORD: in the beginning (substitution) was the WORD, the WORD was the heavens and earth before it was created into a state that had form and was not empty. If the WORD passes away it follows that the heavens and earth shall pass away by necessary consequence of the WORD passing away. To pass away means to return once again to this state of formlessness and emptiness.

To see the heavens and earth in the state of formlessness and emptiness is to see God. God was the heavens and earth in that state of formlessness and emptiness. Nobody has seen God. Nobody can see the heavens and earth in that former state. God cannot pass away because if God did pass away the heavens and earth would return to that former state which was God.

Luke 21:33 does not logically agree with Genesis and John? It is both false and true by logic and reason.

Conclusion Unknown.

Genesis 8 Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though an every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

John 1 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning

Genesis 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

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