The resurrection of Christian believers from the dead is part of God’s eschatological purpose to renew the whole of creation. When man fell into sin, corruption and death entered the universe. In Christ, God has acted to redeem the world that he made.
The Old Testament prophets pointed forward to the final goal of the universe, Isaiah 65:17-25. Peter preached of Christ “whom heaven must receive till the times of the restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since the word began.” (Acts 3:21.) This theme is developed further in the New Testament. Jesus spoke of “the regeneration” (Matthew 19:20). Paul wrote of God’s purpose that, “he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:10 compare Colossians 1:20).
Christ will transform the bodies of believers “according to the working by which he is able to subdue all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:21.) This includes the physical universe (Romans 8:19-21).
The present, fallen universe is subject to entropy and decay. These are the birth pangs of the new creation (8:22.) When the sons of God are revealed in resurrection glory, the universe will be liberated from corruption and gloriously renewed. God will not annihilate the world that he has made and make a fresh universe from nothing. If he did that, sin and evil would have defeated his purpose in creating the world for his own glory. He will transform the earth just as he will transform and redeem the bodies of those who believe in Christ (8:23).
What, then of passages such as 2 Peter 3:10-13 that suggest that this present creation will “pass away”, “be dissolved”, “melt with a fervent heat”? This seems to speak of the annihilation of this present creation. In that case, the new earth would be created from nothing, completely unrelated to the old one. But we must be careful not to read too much into Peter’s words. He also wrote that the pre-flood creation “perished” (3:6) in the deluge. That does not suggest that the pre-flood earth was literally annihilated and then remade after the flood.
This old earth will be purged by the fiery judgement of God (3:7). All blemishes and impurities will be removed, all vestiges of the fall destroyed in the crucible of judgement. Then God will renew the cosmos. The division between heaven as God’s dwelling place and earth as the abode of men will be dissolved. “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people…Behold I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:3, 5.)
Then Christ’s redemptive mission will have been accomplished, “Now when all things are made subject to him, then the Son himself will also be subject to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all”. (1 Corinthians 15:28.)