The Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that “this earth was created, not to be destroyed, but to be inhabited forever by righteous, perfect men and women” (Let God Be True, p. 264). They appeal to such passages as Ecclesiastes 1:4 to prove their case: “the earth abideth for ever” (cf. Psalm 78:69).
What they fail to perceive, however, is that the term “for ever” does not always denote an absolutely endless existence.
The Hebrew word
olam basically means “age-lasting.”
It is employed to describe the duration of the Passover, and the Levitical priesthood (Ex. 12:14; Num. 25:13), both of which lasted only as long as the Mosaic economy.
These references should be entered in the margin of your Bible in connection with Ecclesiastes 1:4 and Psalm 78:69.
Also, note this interesting passage. In Isaiah 32, the prophet of God depicts the horrible punishment that is to be visited upon Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, on account of the nation’s transgressions. He says the holy city will be deserted and become the haunts of animals “for ever” (Isa. 32:14).
But, in the very next verse, he declares that these conditions will prevail only “until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high.” This is a prophecy of the blessings of the gospel age (cf. Joel 2:28ff).
Underline the term “for ever” in verse 14, and then mark the word “until” in verse 15. Connect them. The latter word clearly shows that “for ever” can be used in a qualified sense. The context must determine the meaning in a given setting.
The earth will not literally last for ever. In Ecclesiastes 1:4, the expression is used in a relative sense. The earth will abide until the end of God’s plan for it.
The New Testament further clarifies God’s plan for the earth. Eventually, it will be destroyed along with the entire material universe (cf. Mt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:5-13).