But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.2 Peter 3:10-13 ASV
The great ethical purpose of Christianity is clear in this.
What will it all be like?
We do not know.
Faith in God and in his holy word is the only true enlightenment that is available on such a passage as this.
The prophetic tense is in use here: Seeing that all these things are being dissolved. The participle is present, and implies the certainty of the event foretold.
All to be dissolved …
In our version, the same word occurs in Isaiah 34:4; but, as one reads Peter’s words here, the conviction deepens that the Saviour himself had given instructions to his apostles which have their outcroppings in passages like this, despite the fact of their not having been recorded elsewhere in the New Testament.
There is a positive and definite connection between what one believes and what one does.
It was to this principle that this verse is addressed.
When people reject the knowledge of God and the revelation in his word, life for such persons automatically loses all real value.
On the other hand, when people view life as a probation lived under the guidance and observance of the Father of all Creation, life becomes, for them, endowed with infinitely greater dimensions.
Here is a summary of the end results of godless lives, gleaned from the heathen tombs, thus:
I was nothing; I am nothing; so thou who art still alive, eat, drink, and be merry.
Once I had no existence; now I have none.
I am not aware of it.
It does not concern me.
Charidas, what is below? Deep darkness. But what of the path upward? All a lie … Then we are lost.
Without the truth embodied in the second coming doctrine, life is going nowhere; there is nothing left to live for
looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements melt with fervent heat?
Peter seems here to be repeating the words he had heard from Jesus’ own lips.
Earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God …
Such an understanding does not commend itself to all commentators; but there is no good reason for rejecting it. Peter implied the same thing. No! He said the same thing in Acts 3:19-21.
A certain amount of work in the saving of men was to be accomplished before his coming.
This is indicated by the qualifying remark, “whom the heavens must receive until the restoration of all things whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets.”
It is suggested by many that this underlies Jesus’ commandment to pray, “Thy kingdom come,” meaning the kingdom in its eternal phase.
There is a remarkable coincidence of thought between this passage and the one in Acts 3:19-21 furnishes an argument of considerable weight in favor of the genuineness of this epistle.
Day of God …
In this verse is used of the very same day called “the day of the Lord” in 2 Peter 3:10, where Jesus Christ is clearly intended, being an incidental but powerful witness of the apostolic identification of the Lord Jesus Christ with deity.
Elements melt … fervent heat …
By this is meant the basic building blocks of all material things, the very atoms themselves. These words were written by Peter long before the atomic age, but they fit strikingly into the atomic vocabulary.
Well into the period spanned by countless people now living, the scientific world was certain that such a thing as that mentioned by Peter here was impossible.
He even “proved” that it cannot burn (with a Bunsen burner, no less!), by applying it to a handful of soil! Well, science has at last caught up with revelation.
And if such a fact as this does not convince one of the apostles’ inspiration, such a person cannot be convinced. Today, all nations tremble in fear of atomic fires that may devastate and make uninhabitable the whole earth.
Besides that, the strides in the field of astronomy postulate a fate of our earth that almost invariably is described as fiery dissolution, whether from the explosion of our sun, or by the sun’s becoming a “black hole” and drawing our earth into itself!
No one knows, of course, how the end will be; but only a fool can believe that the end will not occur; and there is no reason at all to reject Peter’s prophetic revelation that the end will be by fire, a fate which he prophesied nearly two millenniums ago, and which today is recognized as true by every scientist on earth.
All elements which make up the physical world will be dissolved by heat and utterly melt away.
It is a picture which in an astonishing degree corresponds to what might actually happen according to modern theories of the physical universe.
No distinction is made between the Day of the Lord and the Coming of Christ.
This is remarkable as excluding any idea of millennarian teaching.
Those familiar with some of the so-called translations and certain writers will be aware that some attempt to translate “will be burned up” in this passage, as “shall be manifested”; The reading `shall be burned up’ is well supported, and suits the context best.
But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
God had said through Isaiah that a new heavens and a new earth would be created, and that the former heaven and earth would be no more (Isaiah 65:17); and whether Peter meant by “his promise” in this verse, that of God through Isaiah, or the Saviour’s own promise through himself may not be differentiated, for they are the same anyway.
It goes without saying that Christ and the apostles did not add very much information to that Isaiah gave.
It was not intended for people to know more than this. Also, regarding speculations about “just how” all of the marvelous things that are foretold will come about is exceedingly dangerous and precarious.
We have no means whatever of conceiving what a resurrection body or a restored universe will be like.