How do you harmonize Gen. 8:22, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (implying that the earth is eternal) with 2 Pet. 3:10, “The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up?”
The physical earth is without question eternal. We have the plainest statement of this fact in Ecclesiastes 1:4, that “the earth abides for ever” (see also Ps. 148:4-6).
In Revelation 21:1, John tells us of his glorious vision, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” John was not speaking of a new physical heaven and physical earth, but of the glorious future inhabitants of the earth. This is the same new heavens and earth that we are looking for. “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). “A New earth in which righteousness dwells” shows clearly that more than physical masses of matter are being described; the “new heavens” and “new earth” are righteous people.
In 2 Peter 3:6 and 2:5, Peter speaks of God not sparing the old, ungodly world (the wicked inhabitants) but bringing in the flood upon them, “By which the world that then existed perished.”
In Gen. 8:22, when God said, “While the earth remains…” He could well have been speaking of the inhabitants, this race of mortal men, rather than of the physical earth. This use of “earth” is found elsewhere in Scripture. In the previous verse He says, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” And earlier, in chapter 6:11, referring to the people, it reads, “The earth also was corrupt before God.” In chapter 11:1, earth is again used in reference to the people: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.”
An Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong substantiates this, giving “nations,” as one definition of the Hebrew word erets, translated “earth” in Gen. 8:22. While “nations” remain there shall be seedtime and harvest, summer and winter, and night and day. Ezekiel 37:21-22 uses “one nation” to describe the state of earth’s government when Christ becomes earth’s king. Then at the end of the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ and His saints, when the earth is filled with His glory, mortality will be forever banished and the former ‘earth’ will be no more.
The corrupt earth (inhabitants) of Noah’s time perished by the flood. And just as certain, by “the same word,” Peter says, the present heavens and earth which “are reserved for fire until the day of judgment…of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7, 10) will perish. But the new heavens and earth that we are looking for will be forever; those glorious immortals will need neither artificial light or sunlight, for the Lord God will give them light (Rev. 21:23). The physical heavens and earth, being destined to abide forever as stated earlier, shall survive the judgments of God, but the political heavens and earth shall pass away, be “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
The apostle John distinguished between that which will pass away and that which will abide forever in 1 John 2:16-17, “For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
The physical earth will remain, but the corrupt earth and all that pertains to it will pass away, and a glorious future age will come to pass.