Peter is speaking of the mockers who will appear during the last days, and who will particularly put in derision those who hope upon the Lord’s final and blessed return upon the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead.
We have noticed the thrust and point of their wicked jest and scorn in our former essay. Their false claim and boast is that there is nothing in all of history and in the very constitution of heaven and earth to indicate this return of the Lord! However, Peter calls attention to a very telling point which these mockers willfully omit when they pretend and allege to be quoting the record. They willfully forget and omit that the world before the Flood and after the Flood are not the same, but that in the very manner in which all things are contained by the Word of God before the Flood and after the Flood there is a difference. The difference is such that all things loudly proclaim that Christ will return, that the elements will burn with a fervent heat, and that God will bring about a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell.
In the last essay we called attention to the world before the Flood. We noticed that then all things were “out of the water and in the water.” Water was the element in which all was contained, held together by the Word of God. And by this very element God also destroyed the world.
It is our purpose now to call attention to the words of the Apostle Peter in the verses 7 and 10, where we read respectively the following:
“But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word of God are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (vs. 7).
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Let us pay a bit more close attention to this awesome truth and revelation from the pen of Peter and from the will and counsel of God.
The perspective here too is not merely the “earth,” nor merely the “heavens”; Peter speaks quite definitely of the “heavens and the earth which are now.” They are the same heavens and earth which were formerly, that is, before the Flood and by virtue of God’s creation in the beginning. However, they are the same identical heaven and earth with a difference. The difference is not in their identity but in their mode of existence under the dispensation of God and his mighty judgment of all wickedness, whereby, incidentally, the entire creation is subjected to vanity in the hope of its own final liberation to share in the glory of the sons of God. But, even so, the perspective and scope here is that of the heavens and the earth, that is, the entire created universe after the creation and by virtue of it, and prior to the ushering in of a new heaven and a new earth.
The point is that now the entire world is kept by the Word of God as a treasure stored up unto fire!Fire is the element now! And just as the world was contained by the Word of God in water and out of the water then, so now by the same Word of God it is kept unto fire. Here too the very element of its existence will be the medium by which the Word of God will destroy the world!
It is of interest to properly understand this word of Peter here concerning the “5re” to take notice of the fact that after the Flood there is fundamentally a twofold usage of fire as the manifestation of the justice and mercies of God; the justice and wrath upon all who work unrighteousness and live ungodly lives, and the mercy of God upon those who wait for his redemption.
Let us attempt to show this from the Scriptures.
First of all we must take careful notice of the truth and confession already uttered by Moses to Israel, and recorded in Deut. 4:24, “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” Israel is admonished to keep the Covenant, and walk as a peculiar people with whom God only talked and gave such holy oracles! They must not add to the word nor detract from the words of God’s Covenant. They must look to the coming of God to salvation, and wait for the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. They must not have any other gods before Him, nor make any graven images. For God is a jealous God. He is worthy of all Israel’s worship and praise. And those who refuse to walk thus will experience that God is a consuming fire. They must not make the matters of God, his temple, his worship “common'” and profane. Those who do not hold to the blood of Jesus, which speaketh better things than Abel, will certainly know that they have to do with God, the living God as He is a consuming fire. Thus the writer of the book of Hebrews ends the twelfth chapter by writing, “For our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:29.
That God is a consuming fire really indicates that in his holy jealousy He insists that all things were made by Him and for Him (Rev. 4:11). God is worthy to receive all glory, honor and power! And then He is such, so to speak, both positively and antithetically. He is a consuming fire both toward his beloved and redeemed people as well as toward those who go abhorring from Him and break His commandments and precepts!
A very striking manifestation of God’s being a consuming fire toward Israel we have in the vision of God at the mount of God to Moses while he was tending Jethro’s sheep in the wilderness. There the fire is in the bush, yet it did not consume it. Thus Israel is in the fire of God’s chastisement without being destroyed by it. Yet this same fire when turned in holy jealousy against Pharaoh because He is jealous of His name and honor utterly consumes the Egyptian king when He sends upon him and his people the ten great plagues!
Especially do we see the consuming fire in Israel when those who break the covenant rise up against the Lord and His anointed ones. Think of what happened to the Captain of fifty with his fifty when they would come and bring Elijah to terms after he had foretold to Ahaziah that he would not rise from his bed. It is then that the Lord, upon Elijah’s word, sends fire from heaven and kills them. Only after this is repeated does the message go home to the Captain of the third band of fifty, who pleads for mercy (II Kings 1:10-12).
That God is such a consuming fire in his holy jealousy is indicated shortly after the Flood in his dealings with the cities of the plain, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim. He rained fire and brimstone upon them in His holy and righteous jealousy and anger. He told Abraham the reason for it and also that Abraham might explain as a prophet to his succeeding generations the meaning of it so that they might walk in holy fear (Gen. 18:17-20). Often the Lord refers to this “example” set, as it were, as a warning on the doorstep of the post-diluvian world in the very morning of the seasons after the Flood, in Moses, the prophets (Deut. 29:23, Isaiah 1:7, 13:19-22). And Christ speaks of it repeatedly as the great “example” of the judgment of God which shall finally come upon all the world (Matt. 10:15, 11:23, 24).
It may be well to notice that Peter himself, in this very Epistle, speaks of this fire of God’s judgment when he says, “and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (II Peter 2:6), And Jude 1:7 tells us, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Such is the severe justice of God which must be satisfied.
God wholly consumes and claims wholly His own honor in His revelation from heaven of His wrath. It does not wait till the final hour. His wrath is revealed both in time and in eternity over the wicked.
Yes, there is a sense too in which the fire wholly consumes the thank offering upon the altar. Such was the speech of the burnt offering. It was the fire from heaven, holy fire (contrasted with “strange” fire) which consumed that which was on the altar in the times of Aaron and of that of Solomon (II Chron. 7:1). It was nothing new and different when the Lord sent fire from heaven on Mount Carmel upon the prayer of Elijah to consume the sacrifice (I Kings 18:38).
For our God is a consuming fire in his holy temple!
His ways and goings are in the holy place!
Against this background it ought to be quite evident that there is nothing strange or contrary to the holiness of God in reserving the heavens which are now and the earth unto the great day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. All of the footsteps of God in history speak of it!
Only those who are willingly ignorant do not perceive.
The entire world today is surrounded by fire? Nay, the entire world is really fire. There was more truth in it than what the astronaut himself understood, when re-entering into the earth’s atmosphere through the very “heavens” he said and exclaimed, “What a ball of fire!!” Is not the entire world rocked from within by fiery volcanoes? And is what the modern scientist has found not true when he “discovered” the atom? When he split it and found that the very elements burn? Was not Hiroshima a little Sodom and Gomorrah? But wait! God will presently cause the very elements to burn with a fervent heat. What man “plays” with will then be dread reality. The entire world desires to keep the nuclear bomb under control. But wait! Presently God will show that this entire world is indeed a heavens. He will then shake not only the earth but also the “fire-ball.”
All the things in the world shall be destroyed in one moment. What a great noise that will be! It will be the voice of God; it will be the fury of the Almighty. Behold, He comes and will not keep silence. Then shall all these mockers of whom Peter here speaks be in silence and in utter desolation and perdition.
It will be the judgment of ungodly men. Men are afraid in our day. They are afraid of the elements of the earth.
Yes, the Bible is quite up-to-date. It speaks eternal truth. And what it says is corroborated by the very stones from which the uranium is taken. In those eternal (?) mountains there is the speech of God. Here is piled up the stock-pile of God for the destruction of the world. And these hills will cover and these mountains will fall upon wicked man!
The Lord shall come. It will be suddenly. He “shall have come” is really the force of the verb in the Greek “eexei.” It has the force of the pluperfect tense. Suddenly the Lord will come. And when these elements burn then shall the fearful truth register in the anguished hearts of men: “the Lord has come.” The promise of His coming is fulfilled.
Then shall the righteous stand unashamed in that day!
Let not these mockers draw you away from your own steadfastness!