The meaning of the heavens, earth, and fire referenced in 2 Peter 3:7 is revealed by the context. Verses 5 and 6 establish a comparison with Noah's deluge. An old world was annihilated on that occasion, yet our planet did not vanish. Instead, the flood annihilated a violent society, or "earth." This old earth will be replaced by a new one upon the coming of Jesus Christ (see 2 Peter 3:13). The phrase "a new heaven and a new earth" indicates that God is capable of renewing what he has created.
The word translated as "annihilate" can also mean "destroy completely," such as when Moses told the people of Israel that they would be "destroyed" if they disobeyed the Lord (see Deuteronomy 32:21). This shows that God is able to destroy even his perfect creation if it turns its back on him. However, Christians should not fear death because the resurrection guarantees that their souls will live on in eternity with God.
Peter used similar language in his first letter when talking about the end times. He wrote that when Jesus returns, he will either restore everything, including this old earth, or he will replace it with something new.
So the coming end of the world as we know it will involve either 1 a restoration of all things, or 2 replacement by something better.
Many instructors used to believe that God will destroy the planet at the conclusion of the Millennium and replace it with a new one, but this is not true. We may observe how this mistake developed by reading 2 Peter 3:10-12:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient toward us, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. So then, my friends, be all the more diligent to make sure that you are found by him without spot or blemish. At the day of judgment people will not be punished for misdeeds committed in ignorance, but those who have lived in willful defiance of God will be condemned.
In other words, God will not destroy the Earth because he is always ready to forgive us if we turn to him in faith. He wants everyone to come to heaven where they will be happy forever. If we do not trust in Jesus Christ we will end up in hell suffering eternal punishment after death.
Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 10:22: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like someone who has kept my word."
"I will undoubtedly kill both them (the people) and the Earth," God said (Genesis 6:13b). In Genesis 6-9 alone, the worldwide breadth of the deluge is mentioned more than 30 times! "I pledged that the rivers of Noah would never again engulf the Earth," God says in Isaiah 54:9.
The Bible's account of the flood is one of only two parts of history recorded by humans. The other is the Book of Exodus which tells the story of Moses and the Israelites' escape from Egypt. Together these books form what are called the Flood Narratives. They are found in chapters 5-9 of Genesis and in chapters 1-4 of Exodus.
In addition to describing how wide the flood was, the text also mentions many different animals including birds, reptiles, and insects. Scientists have used this knowledge to create a detailed map of the world at that time. They have discovered that most of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia were covered by an enormous water body called Pangea. Only part of Australia was not covered by water.
Before the discovery of fossil fuels, people used animal fat and oil for lighting and cooking. Because no oil spills or burnt bones are found around ancient sites, it seems likely that people had developed ways to extract oil from plants.
So the LORD annihilated every living thing on the ground's surface, including humans, animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky. They were extinguished off the face of the world. Only Noah and those on the ark with him survived. The only creatures that survived the flood were those that had been taken aboard the Ark.
The word "destroy" means to make completely nonexistent or extinct. Thus, the meaning of the phrase "the Lord destroyed everything" is that God made all life extinct. This statement counteracts any teaching that might suggest that some life was preserved on Earth after the flood.
It is important to understand that this verse does not teach that everyone on Earth died. It says that "the LORD destroyed everything," not that "everyone on Earth died." Although most people assumed for many years after the flood that everyone except Noah and his family had perished, this idea comes from an incorrect interpretation of the verse. In fact, several passages indicate that a small number of people survived the flood: Nimrod, one of Noah's sons; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (all men who played major roles in the Old Testament); and Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others (all of whom were prophets).
Some scholars believe that these survivors went into hiding after the flood and started new tribes or nations. However, there is no direct evidence that supports this idea.
The Prophet Isaiah The term "New Earth" is used in the Bible to denote the end condition of redeemed mankind in the books of Isaiah (65:17 & 66:22), 2 Peter (3:13), and Revelation (21:1). These passages describe a perfect, sinless world that will last forever with no more death or suffering.
According to these passages, at the end of time: 1 All humanity will be saved, including every person who has ever lived; 2 There will be no more pain or suffering; 3 There will be no more death; 4 There will be no more Satan or evil; 5 There will be no more sinning because there will be no one to sin. 6 God will reign as King over this New Earth forever.
These descriptions of the New Earth are similar to descriptions of heaven found in other religions. However they differ in two important ways: first, while in Christianity salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, in these other religions good deeds can also get you into heaven; second, whereas in other religions the new Earth will exist separately from our current one, for Christians the new Earth will be fully integrated with our own planet earth.
So, according to the Bible, after God saves all humanity there will be a New Earth where everyone will live eternally without any more death or suffering.