Questions From Readers
Psalm 102:26 states that the earth and the heavens “will perish.” Does that statement mean that planet Earth will be destroyed?
In a prayer to Jehovah, the psalmist stated: “Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing; and just like a garment they will all of them wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will finish their turn.” (Psalm 102:25, 26) The context shows that these verses are speaking, not of the destruction of the earth, but of the eternity of God. The context also shows why that vital truth is of comfort to God’s servants.
The psalmist, perhaps in exile in Babylon, begins by describing his afflictions. He laments that his life is fleeting “just like smoke.” Feverish anxiety wrecks his body, making his bones feel “red-hot just like a fireplace.” He is exhausted, “dried up like mere vegetation,” and he feels lonely, “like a bird isolated upon a roof.” His trials have robbed him of his appetite, and his days are marked by mourning. (Psalm 102:3-11) Even so, the psalmist has not given up all hope. Why not? Because of what Jehovah has promised to do with Zion, or Jerusalem.
Although Zion has been destroyed, Jehovah has promised that it will be restored. (Isaiah 66:8) Therefore, the psalmist confidently says to Jehovah: “You will have mercy on Zion, for it is the season to be favorable to her, for the appointed time has come. For Jehovah will certainly build up Zion.” (Psalm 102:13, 16) Then the psalmist returns to the subject of his personal suffering. He reasons, in effect, that if desolated Jerusalem can be restored by God’s power, Jehovah is well able to rescue him from his miserable condition. (Psalm 102:17, 20, 23) And something else moves the psalmist to put his full trust in Jehovah. What? The fact that God is eternal.
Jehovah’s eternal existence stands in stark contrast to the brevity of the psalmist’s own life. “Your years are throughout all generations,” he says to Jehovah. (Psalm 102:24) The psalmist next states: “Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are the work of your hands.”—Psalm 102:25.
Yet, even the great age of the earth and the heavens cannot be compared with Jehovah’s eternal existence. The psalmist adds: “They [earth and heavens] themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing.” (Psalm 102:26) The physical earth and heavens are perishable. True, Jehovah stated elsewhere that they will last forever. (Psalm 119:90; Ecclesiastes 1:4) But they could be destroyed if this was God’s purpose. In contrast, God cannot die. The physical creations keep “standing forever” only because God maintains them. (Psalm 148:6) If Jehovah ever stops renewing the physical creations, then “just like a garment they will all of them wear out.” (Psalm 102:26) As a man outlives his clothes, so Jehovah could outlive his creation—if he chose to do so. However, we know from other scriptures that such is not his will. God’s Word assures us that Jehovah has determined that the literal earth and heavens will remain forever.—Psalm 104:5.
It is a source of comfort to know that Jehovah will always be there to fulfill all his promises. No matter what trials may befall us, when we cry out to him, we can be confident that he “will certainly turn to the prayer of those stripped of everything, and not despise their prayer.” (Psalm 102:17) Yes, Jehovah’s assurance of support found in Psalm 102 is even more solid than the earth we stand on.