2 Peter 3:10
" . . . the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
It is argued that since the earth is to be destroyed by fire, the future inheritance of the righteous must be in heaven, and not on the earth.
Peter states that "the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved." (vs. 12). Are those who argue for the literal burning up of the earth prepared to allow the literal dissolution of the heavens? What in the literal heavens is burnable?
The literal earth will not be destroyed. This is proven from Peter's quotation from Isa. 65:17 and Isa. 66:22. The "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13) is portrayed in Isaiah as a time on the earth when Jerusalem will be a rejoicing and the nature of the animals changed. (Isa. 65:18-25). The prophecy requires the continued existence of the earth.
The "heavens" and "earth" (2 Pet. 3:10,12) is figurative for a constitution or order on the earth. This is also proven by Peter's quotation from Isa. 65:17. Since the new heavens and earth is the creation of "Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy" in which "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isa. 65:19-25), the heavens and earth which are destroyed must be prior constitutions or orders on the earth which are removed for the establishment of the new.
Peter says that the "world"1 in the days of Noah perished. (2 Pet. 3:6). The literal earth or "world" did not perish, only the "everything living" (R.S.V.) of Gen. 7:21 perished. Similarly, "I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:13) did not mean the literal destruction of the planet, but only the wicked order of things on the earth.
The burning up of the earth is an Old Testament expression for the destruction of a wicked order, but not the literal earth. Consider the following:
". . . my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." (Zeph. 3:8). The prophet continues, however, to tell of the day when the people would speak a pure language and "from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering." (Zeph. 3:9,10).
"And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire . . . " (Micah 1:4). The prophet continues, however, to speak about the day when the law of the LORD would go forth from Zion and Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1,2).
Rather than being destroyed in a great conflagration, the earth is to become filled with the glory of the Lord. (Num. 14:21; Hab. 2:14; cf. Ecc. 1:4; Isa. 45:18).
The Greek word "kosmos" translated "world" literally means "order, I.e., regular disposition and arrangment." Ethelbert W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek Testament, (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957), p. 900