There will come a time, at the Final Judgement, when both Heaven and Earth will flee as Christ sits on the throne on judgement.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. — Revelation 20:10-15
This is serious business, and it is certain to happen.
So, the first thing all my readers must do is to be sure that their names are in the Book of Life.
Now, with the critical point addressed, a second point can now be spoken of. Will heaven and earth literally flee before Jesus Christ at the end of history?
As I believe in using the Bible as the guide in interpreting the Bible, we should turn to other instances when the sun, moon, and stars fled or fell during a judgement… and in understanding what those heavenly objects represent. As such, I will be using David Chilton’s books Paradise Restored and Days of Vengeance as my guides here, as he did far more work here than I am able to do.
Let’s turn first to the Second Coming in Matthew:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. — Matthew 24:29-31
But hold on – is this really the Second Coming? After all, Jesus insisted that these events would happen in this generation – that is, the generation that was alive during His time on earth. And we know that the Second Coming didn’t happen then.
The above text is not about the Second Coming (which did not happen in Jesus’ generation) but about the end of the covenant with Israel, the fall of the Temple in AD 70, and the burning/destruction of adulterous Israel with the Church, the Bride of Christ.
From Days of Vengeance, page 196-197 (no footnotes in my quotations, bold in original):
[Revelation 6:]12-14 As the Sixth Seal is broken, we are more clearly brought into the closing events of the Last Days. The Lamb reveals the next great aspect of His covenantal judgments, in a symbol often used in Biblical prophecy: de-creation. Just as the salvation of God’s people is spoken of in terms of creation (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6; 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:24; Col. 3:10), so God’s judgments (and the revelation of His presence as Judge over a sinful world) are spoken of in terms of de-creation, the collapse of the universe-God ripping apart and dissolving the fabric of creation. Thus St. John uses the fundamental structures of creation in describing the fall of Israel:
These seven judgments are detailed in terms of the familiar prophetic imagery of the Old Testament. First, destabilization: a giant earthquake (cf. Ex. 19:18; Ps. 18:7, 15; 60:2; Isa. 13:13-14; 24:19-20; Nah. 1:5). Second, the eclipse and mourning of Israel: The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair (Ex. 10:21-23; Job 9:7; Isa. 5:30; 24:23; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Mic. 3:6). Third, the continued image of an eclipse, with the idea of defilement added: The whole moon became like blood (Job 25:5; Isa. 13:10; 24:23; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31). The fourth judgment affects the stars, which are images of government (Gen. 1:16); they are also clocks (Gen. 1:14), and their fall shows that Israel’s time has run out: The stars fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind (Job 9:7; Ecd. 12:2; Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:8; Dan. 8:10; Joel 2:10; 3:15); the great wind, of course, was brought by the Four Horsemen, who in Zechariah’s original imagery were the Four Winds (Zech. 6:5), and who will be reintroduced to St. John in that form in 7:1; and the fig tree is Israel herself (Matt. 21:19; 24:32-34; Luke 21:29-32). Fifth, Israel now simply disappears: The heaven vanished like a scroll when it is rolled up (Isa. 34:4; 51:6; P s . 102:25-26; o n the symbolism o f Israel as “heaven,” see Isa. 51:15-16; Jer. 4:23-31; cf. Heb 12:26-27). Sixth, the Gentile powers are shaken as well: Every mountain and island were moved out of their places (Job 9:5-6; 14:18-19; 28:9-11; Isa. 41:5, 15-16; Ezek. 38:20; Nah. 1:4-8; Zeph. 2:11). God’s “old creation,” Israel, is thus to be de-created, as the Kingdom is transferred to the Church, the New Creation (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7-14). Because the rulers in God’s Vineyard have killed His Son, they too will be killed (Matt. 21:33-45). The Vineyard itself will be broken down, destroyed, and laid waste (Isa. 5:1-7). In God’s righteous destruction of Israel, He will shake even heaven and earth (Matt. 24:29-30; Heb. 12:26-28) in order to deliver His Kingdom over to His new nation, the Church.
A quick re-quotation of the last sentence – “He will shake even heaven and earth (Matt. 24:29-30; Heb. 12:26-28) in order to deliver His Kingdom over to His new nation, the Church.” – points to how Matthew is tied to Revelation.
Now, on to Paradise Restored, page 98-100:
The Sun, Moon, and Stars
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus said, the universe will collapse: the light of the sun and the moon will be extinguished, the stars will fall, the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The basis for this symbolism is in Genesis 1:14-16, where the sun, moon, and stars (“the powers of the heavens”) are spoken of as “signs” which “govern” the world. Later in Scripture, these heavenly lights are used to speak of earthly authorities and governors; and when God threatens to come against them in judgment, the same collapsing-universe terminology is used to describe it. Prophesying the fall of Babylon to the Medes in 539 B.C., Isaiah wrote:
Behold, the Day of the LORD is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth with their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises,
And the moon will not shed its light. (Isa. 13:9-10)
Significantly, Isaiah later prophesied the fall of Edom in terms of de-creation:
And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree. (Isa. 34:4)
Isaiah’s contemporary, the prophet Amos, foretold the doom of Samaria (722 B.c.) in much the same way:
“And it will come about in that day”
Declares the Lord GOD,
“That I shall make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight .“ (Amos 8:9)
Another example is from the prophet Ezekiel, who predicted the destruction of Egypt. God said this through Ezekiel:
“And when I extinguish you,
I will cover the heavens, and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
And the moon shall not give its light.
All the shining lights in the heavens
I will darken over you
And will set darkness on your land;
Declares the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 32:7-8)
It must be stressed that none of these events literally took place. God did not intend anyone to place a literalist construction on these statements. Poetically, however, all these things did happen: as far as these wicked nations were concerned, “the lights went out.” This is simply figurative language, which would not surprise us at all if we were more familiar with the Bible and appreciative of its literary character.
What Jesus is saying in Matthew 24, therefore, in prophetic terminology immediately recognizable by his disciples, is that the light of Israel is going to be extinguished; the covenant nation will cease to exist. When the Tribulation is over, old Israel will be gone.
Glory to the Lord!
OK, one more time. From Days of Vengeance, page 531-532:
John heightens our sense of awe at the terrible majesty of the Judge: From whose face earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. The allusion is to Psalm 114, which shows us that it is in light of the Final Judgment that we can see the significance of its precursors in preliminary historic judgments:
When Israel went forth from Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary,
Israel, His dominion.
The sea looked and fled;
The Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The hills, like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, before the LORD,
Before the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of water. (Ps. 114)
Earth and heaven flee from before His face, terrified at His approach; yet the people of the covenant need have no fear. For them, God’s judgment is redemptive, not destructive. If the earth trembles, it is for our sake, so that God may give us the water of salvation. In fact, as we shall see, the judgment portrayed in these verses is concerned with the wicked dead, those who come under the judgment of the Second Death. The elect, who reign with Christ, are not in view here. Rejoicing in the fruit of Christ’s final victory, they do not come into judgment, but have passed out of death into life (John 5:24).
So, in summary, the heavens and the earth will not literally flee from Christ. After all, His people will still approach Him in safety and reverence – and you can’t do this if the earth is disintegrating/fleeing beneath your feet!
It then stands to reason that the rise of the New Heavens and the New Earth does not mean the physical destruction of the old, but their redemption and restoration…
But it DOES mean the destruction of the wicked, the unbelieving, and the rebellious! The old powers are doomed, as is anything that stands against Christ the King.
Even Death itself is doomed to destruction, as the Word of Christ expands to fill all the Earth.