I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
In these last of the Last Days not only can we expect to see a proliferation of false teachers and false teachings, lying signs and wonders, and strange occurrences; but we can also expect to hear from an increasing number of mockers. The Apostle Peter spoke of this in his second epistle. He wrote, “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts…”. [2 Peter 3:3 NKJV]
There are a couple of salient points here I would like to call your attention to: 1) In the last days – This phrase is literally, “Upon the last of the days”. A similar phrase can be found in Jude 1:18, “Upon the last time”, and in 1 Peter 1:20, “Upon the last of the times.” It is a picture of reaching the summit of a mountain after a long climb. It pictures the point of reaching a desired destination. This describes then, I submit to you, the time in which you and I live. The time of the season of the Lord’s Return. 2) Scoffers – This is the Greek word, empaiktes. It describes mockers. Peter uses a bit of a play on words here. He says literally, “mockers mocking.” It is a picture of playing like children. A playground taunt, if you will. 3) Lusts – This is, epithumia. It is a desire, craving, or longing. It is a strong desire for something, and in this context speaks of evil desires. This is quite a picture that we have here.
So what we have here are mockers, who will arise at the summit of time, the season of the Lord’s Return, and will come mocking while following their evil desires. What will they mock at? Many things, but primarily the idea of the Second Coming of Christ, and the subsequent judgment of the sinful world. Peter went on to write,
“and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” [2 Peter 3:4 NKJV]
This concept expressed in this passage, in the taunt of the mockers, is uniformitarianism. What is that? Simply stated, this means people who think like this observe that which presently is, and assume things in the distant geological past were exactly the same as things are now with no significant changes whatsoever. In other words, this earth has always been since it came into being, and it always will be, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. They think that is the case, but they are absolutely wrong. In fact, Peter gives us a pretty strong description of their mindset. He continues,
“For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.” [2 Peter 3:5, 6 NKJV]
I really prefer the KJV here. It says, “ For this they willingly are ignorant of…”. That which Peter lays out here escapes the notice of the mockers because by an act of their will they ignore the truth because they so desire to be right in their assumptions. That is really the thought here. They don’t want to believe that Christ will Return to this earth to judge and make right all that sin has made wrong, so they ignore and overlook it.
That which Peter gives us a picture of here is original creation. He shows us something very interesting. He says, “…by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.” [2 Peter 3:5b, 6 NKJV] The key to understanding the rest of verse 5, is in the word, “world” in verse 6. This is the Greek, kosmos. This word speaks of an orderly system. Why is that important? Because it lets us know that the Earth was not originally created in a chaotic state, and then brought to a state of order. It was created in an orderly fashion, then became a water-covered, chaotic mass, like that which we see in Genesis 1:2.
The Holy Spirit through Peter shows us here that earth was originally made up of land masses, surrounded by water. That perfect world however perished. This is the Greek word, apollumi. This Greek verb appears 92 times in the King James Version, and it means to destroy fully, and render useless. Pastor, author, and Bible teacher Rick Renner says concerning this Greek word, “The word “destroy” is from the Greek word apollumi, meaning to destroy. It carries the idea of something that is ruined, wasted, trashed, devastated, and destroyed.” [Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Vol. 1 – commenting on the word, “Destroy” in John 10:10]
So, at some point in the distant past, in eternity past, this world was rendered useless, it was wasted, it was trashed, and it was destroyed. Which “world” was brought to a state of apollumi, that is, was utterly destroyed? Peter says, “…the earth that then existed.” I submit to you, there is a difference between the, “world that then existed” [vs. 6], and, “the heavens and the earth, which are now” [vs. 7]. The world that then existed was the pre-Adamite world, which admittedly, we know little about; and the world which now is, has existed since Genesis 1:3 through Noah’s day, and exists today. The destruction that came on the world which Peter describes is not the flood of Noah. The world, the kosmos, was not utterly destroyed in Noah’s flood. The Pre-Adamite world however, that ordered society, whatever that consisted of, was totally trashed, and had to be brought back to a habitable state. That is the re-creation, the “face-lift”, if you will, we see the earth getting beginning in Genesis 1:3.
We could go a lot deeper with this, but what I really want you to see is that even though the mockers overlook and ignore the fact the heavens and the earth were totally destroyed in the distant past, and because of that will again be rendered useless and have to be made new in the future. Peter says the, “world that then was”, was overflowed with water and perished. The word translated, “overflowed”, is the Greek, katakluzo. We get the word, cataclysm from it. It is to be totally overwhelmed by water, to submerge, a deluge. The heavens and earth which presently exist will not be destroyed by water, but by fire. That is exactly what the Bible teaches. Peter went on to say,
“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” [2 Peter 3:7 NKJV]
You and I live in the earth which is. It has existed since the time of Noah. We live on earth number two, if you will. The heavens and the earth in the distant past were destroyed by a cataclysm that involved water, and they were rendered useless, and had to brought back to a state of order. The heavens and the earth which presently exist will face a cataclysm involving fire.
The phrase in 2 Peter 3:7, “…reserved for fire,” is very interesting. Without getting too technical with the Greek here, this phrase could just as easily be translated, “stored up with fire.” In other words, there are resident forces in the earth that could (and will), destroy it, and render it useless. The world that was faced the judgment of water. The world which is now, will face a judgment of fire. The present order of things is temporary. It will come to an end. Peter will give us more details concerning this in verse 10. The KJV says in verse 7, “…kept in store.” The ESV renders it, “…stored up.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible has it, “…stored up”, as well. These all translate the Greek, thēsaurizō , “to amass, lay up in reserve, to lay up treasure.” God has laid up the earth for a future time of judgment. He laid aside the secrets of how the earth was comprised, and what it consisted of. What has man done? Man has gone where he never should have. Why do I say that? Because man in his quest for knowledge has stepped across the line, into an area he didn’t belong. That is, he discovered the basic element of all that is, which is one of the “secret” things (See Deut. 29:29), that belong solely to God. I speak of the atom. All physical things, including the earth, are made up of atoms. Now, I realize that is a very simplified statement, but in its most basic composition, all physical things are made of atoms. I realize different physical things have different properties, and that can be attributed to the fact that not all atoms are the same, but still, all physical things are made of atoms.
I want to make it abundantly clear, I am a preacher and Bible teacher, not a scientist. However, the Bible revealed a great deal of what we now know to be scientific fact, long before men discovered them. One of those can be seen in 2 Peter 3:10. Lets take a look at it.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” [2 Peter 3:10 NKJV]
Before we dissect this verse a bit, there is a bit of understanding we need to get. For the Bible in general, and Bible prophecy specifically, to make any sense to you, there are four “days” you need to understand:
- The Day of Man – The day of man began in the Garden, when man was given the privilege, the opportunity, to be the steward of this planet (Gen. 2:15). When man chose to disobey God, and instead listen to Satan, the day of man became a total, unmitigated disaster characterized by famine, starvation, disease, and death. All the affects, I submit to you, of sin coming into the earth-realm. We still live in the Day of Man.
- The Day of Christ – The next day on the prophetic calendar is the Day of Christ. This will begin when Jesus appears in the air, in the clouds, to catch away (rapture) His Bride, and take us to the Father’s House and a seven-year honeymoon in Heaven (1 Thess. 4:13 – 17).
- The Day of the Lord – This prophetic day begins with the Great Tribulation. It is a time when God again will begin to directly intervene in human affairs (Joel 2; Revelation 6). It will extend all through the period of time we refer to as the Millennium, or Kingdom Age. The Day of the Lord starts out dark, but gets brighter and brighter. Just like the Jewish day begins at sundown and works its way to dawn.
- The Day of God – This prophetic day is referred to in 2 Peter 3:12. Verse 10 and verse 12 are referring to the same day, the same time. The Lamsa New Testament, which is based on the Peshitta Aramaic text, does something very interesting in verse 10. Mr. Lamsa renders it, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night, when the heavens shall suddenly pass away, and the universe shall separate as it burns, and the earth also and the works that are in it, shall pass away.” [2 Peter 3:10 Lamsa NT] What I find interesting about the translation of this verse, is the fact Lamsa renders, Lord as, LORD, all in uppercase letters, as is the case in the Old Testament when the proper name of God, the tetragrammaton, which simply means, “the four letters”, appears in the Hebrew text – הוה‘, yod, hey, vav, hey. This is again the proper Name of God, typically transliterated either Yahweh or Jehovah. So, what Peter is referring to in bother verses 10 and 12 of 2 Peter 3 is the, “Day of God.”
Now that we have looked at these four prophetic days, lets take a look at 2 Peter 3:10.
- First, it is the, “Day of God” that will come as a, “thief in the night”, not the “Day of Christ”. This “day” will come as a total surprise to the unbelieving world, as the scoffers, the mockers will be in total denial of it. It will not catch the redeemed off guard. We are looking for the Return of the Lord. (1 Thess. 5:4)
- When the, “Day of God” comes, not only will it come suddenly and unexpectedly, but the “heavens will pass away with a great noise…”. First, “heavens” refers to the sky, or atmospheric heavens, and the planetary bodies at least in our immediate solar system. “Heavens” translates the Greek word, ouranos, which speaks of the expanse of the sky and all things visible in it. So the sky and all things visible in it will, pass away. This is the Greek, parechomai. This particular word Peter uses here is used in a metaphoric sense to, “pass away or perish.” (See Psalm 102:25, 26; Hebrews 1:10 – 12; Revelation 6:14) The sky and everything visible in it will pass away with a, great noise. This translates the Greek word, rhoizedon. The sound of this word suggests its meaning. This particular word was used for the whistling of an arrow, the sound of a shepherd’s pipe, the rush of wings, the splash of water, and the hissing of a snake.
- Peter also tells us, “the elements will melt with fervent heat…”. “Elements” translates stoicheia, and it speaks of the four basic elements of which the universe is composed – fire, air, earth, and water. It speaks of the basic building blocks, if you will, of all that is. “Melt” is luo, which means, “to dissolve”. “Fervent heat” is, kausoo, “to burn up, or set fire to.” This word denotes a violent, consuming heat. Literally, this would be, “the elements being scorched up, shall be dissolved.”
- And then finally, when the, “Day of God” comes, “…both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” There is some disagreement among authorities as to how that which Peter writes here should be understood. Some manuscripts, in fact the majority, have the Greek, katakaio, “to burn up, or consume by fire.” A couple of the oldest manuscripts however have the future tense of, heurisko, “shall be exposed, or shall be found.” As a result of the rest of the passage, and the context, I submit to you, “shall be burned up” is probably the correct reading. At any rate, as a result of this event described by Peter, certainly both would occur.
Peter is describing in his pre-scientific world-view and understanding things that must have been mind-boggling to say the least. Today, we recognize Peter’s terminology, a great noise, wind of fire, the melting of gamma rays (which is suggested in the Greek, stoicheia – elements), to all be associated with nuclear radiation. Those of of us in this modern age can look back in history to a time when prophetic passages like 2 Peter 3:10 took on a much clearer, and even ominous meaning. On December 2nd, 1942, on a cold winter day, on the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Ferme, and Albert Einstein tested their theory that if Uranium 235 was bombarded with neutrons, energy would be released. And indeed it was.
Moving the experiment to a desert in New Mexico, on July 16th, 1945, engineers were shocked when the ten-inch rail metal used to drop the first nuclear device was immediately vaporized, shooting debris seven miles into the air and eighteen hundred feet in every direction. With heat so intense that the surrounding sand was turned into glass, it was clear something ominous was taking place. The Nuclear Age was born.
Finally, in August of the same year, the A-bomb was dropped over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
All of the critics who had looked at this passage in 2 Peter and certain Old Testament passages that spoke of a future cataclysmic judgment and scoffed, “Impossible! Elements can’t melt!”,were suddenly silenced by the events of 1945.
While the, “Day of God” will certainly usher in the destruction spoken of here, I submit to you Peter’s reference is to something deeper, even more ominous and devastating. Can we have a little Bible study? I know this has already been lengthy, but please track with me a bit longer.
Paul writing to the Colossians said, “For by Him (the Messiah Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” [Col. 1:16, 17 NKJV emphasis added]
The word translated, consist in verse 17, translates the Greek word, sunistemi. You could simply translate it, “bind or hold together.” So in Christ, all things are “held together”. What things? All created things. This is the same thought as that expressed in Hebrews 1:3, “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power...”. [Hebrews 1:3a NKJV emphasis added]
“Upholding” in this verse translates the Greek, phero, and in this context speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as being the preserver of the created universe. “Word” in this passage is the Greek, rhema, which is an utterance, or the spoken Word of God. So, the Lord Jesus is preserving the created Universe by the same thing that brought it into being in the first place, His spoken Word. Lastly, “power” here is the Greek, dunamis, which speaks of inherent power, the ability to perform miracles. Putting this all together, we see here that God the Son is preserving the created Universe by the force that brought it into being initially, namely His spoken Word, performing the miracle of holding all created things together.
Why is all this a big deal? Because it shows, contrary to what deists teach, that God is actively involved in His creation. He created it, and He sustains it. Remember earlier we said that there are forces resident in the earth that can (and will) destroy it? That is absolutely the truth.
Coulomb’s “Law of Electricity” tells us that like charges repel. So, what causes the positive charged protons in every atom to hold together, rather than pushing apart as they naturally should? With no better explanation, scientists call it, “atomic glue.” You should do a Google search of the term, “atomic glue”. There are some interesting articles online concerning this. Here is one of them that looks at this from a biblical perspective: http://godschemistryset.blogspot.com/2011/12/atomic-glue-force-that-holds-atom.html
At any rate, were it not for the Lord Jesus Christ holding all things together, the positively charged protons in every atom would simply fly apart, destroying everything in their path. This is exactly what I think 2 Peter 3:10 is portraying. There will come a day when He will simply let go – and when He does everything will be wiped out, obliterated, and done away with in the coming Day of God.
Following this will come New heavens, and a New earth. While the present atmosphere and earth are being renovated by fire, the unredeemed of all the ages will stand before God at the Great White Throne. This is in the certain prophetic future.
The New Heavens and the New Earth will begin the perfect age, the Dispensation of the fullness of times. How should these future prophetic events affect our lives today? Peter tells us in verse 11,
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…”. [2 Peter 3:11 NKJV]
In view of that which is coming on the prophetic horizon, may we found to be people walking in the fear of the Lord, walking by faith and not by sight, wholly consecrated to God, and obedient.
With this post I bring to an end our series on God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations. I trust it has been a blessing, challenge, and encouragement to you. If you have questions, feel free to email me at: email@example.com, or leave a comment below.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson