I've been reflecting on Hebrews 12:27 over the weekend. In this verse, the author of Hebrews says that God's shaking of the heavens and earth refers to the metathesis of the things being shaken--since they have been created--so that things that cannot be shaken might remain. The word metathesis can mean either transformation or removal, and certainly a meaning of "transformation" would be far more likely given the background of Jewish apocalyptic and the rest of the NT.
Every time I look at this verse, I waffle on exactly what is being said here and yet still come down with it speaking of the "removal" of the created realm. This is an unprecedented idea, one I find nowhere in any existing literature up to that point in history. I'm contemplating a new spin this time, but in the meantime, here are the reasons I conclude this:
1. It is the very createdness of the skies and earth that make them shakable. This is obviously not God's fault but the inherent instability of the materials themselves. It does not seem likely that belief in creation ex nihilo had arisen yet at this point, so the assumption would seem to be that God did not create the primordial materials of the world, only that he organized them, gave them order. So transformation in that sense does not fix the problem.
2. Hebrews seems to have a more pervasive dualism between heaven and earth than any other part of the New Testament. Although it uses the language and imagery of resurrection (e.g., 6:2; 13:20), it arguably does so in a way that clearly identifies spirit with the highest heaven and consistently/strongly contrasts the materials of this realm with the created realm.
3. We find hints of this position elsewhere. Although it is not clear, if the author equates the universe with a cosmological sanctuary, as I believe, then the removal of the "outer tent" of the true tent might allude to the removal of the creation as the outer room of a cosmic sanctuary whose Most Holy Place is the highest heaven (9:8).
More crucial is 1:10-12, which may provide significant insights. Here Christ may "change" the created realm like a garment. This obviously involves a removal. But if the imagery holds, it would also imply putting a new garment on. I'm contemplating this option today, which would give us a both/and. Yes, the created realm would be removed, but then God, as it were, would create a new one ex nihilo.
Could this be the first implied instance of ex nihilo in extant literature?