Following on last night’s beginning discussion of the Biblical teaching about the coming new heavens and earth, here’s some thoughts from Thomas Oden to answer this question:
Does the Biblical teaching that the present earth will be done away with and remade lead Christians to mistreat the environment as they live their lives now?
Believers do not simply pray for destruction, but the restoration of God’s will in creation.
The earth was not simply demolished or destroyed in substance by the flood, but renewed with a rainbow promise. Similarly but on a more grand scale, “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31) to make way for cleansing and a new setting-in-order (Romans 8:19-22; Revelation 21:1).
Yet this renovation requires a complete negation of all that has gone awry, not merely a rearranging of its present broken qualities (Psalm 102:26-27; Isaiah 51:6; Matthew 24:35, 2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12). The scriptural metaphors here are “vanish like smoke,” “be dissolved,” “melt,” “burn,” “pass away,” and “be no more”.
Is there something ecologically dangerous in the idea that the world is transitory? The answer is yes, if one systematically forgets that the transitory is also profoundly valuable, and the gift of God the Creator, given for human stewardship. But such forgetfullness would be a grotesque distortion of the intention of the Christian doctrine of creation.
— from Classic Christianity by Thomas C. Oden (p. 820-821)