In our former essay we considered that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night as far as the wicked are concerned, but it shall not be thus for the righteous who are children of the day and not of the night! We also observed that Peter is not attempting to stir up the minds of the wicked, seeking a certain point of contact with their natural understanding, but that he expressly states that he is stirring up the sincere mind of the believers. No amount of evidence from either Scripture or the world about us (geological evidences) can possibly cause the wicked to look for the coming of the Lord with earnest expectation. Seeing they shall see and not perceive, and hearing they shall hear and not understand. Verily, the very rocks do cry out to the wicked, and wisdom crieth in the streets. But fools do not perceive; the blind do not see colors, and deaf do not heed the words of God that go out throughout the world. Matt. 13:14, 15 (Is. 6:9), Rom. 10:18 (Ps. 19:5).
But in all the awesome judgments of God upon the wicked there is a speech and promise of God to the righteous which they must and do heed, since the Lord, in His longsuffering, brings them all to repentance at His own time and place and manner. Concerning what will take place to this “heaven and earth” after the Flood, and that, too, in the judgments of God, Peter writes as follows: “. . . 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 conversation (walk) and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring (and hastening) the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Verses 10b, 11, 12.
What Peter pens here under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ and of prophecy defies all human imagination! I can do no better than request, by the mercies of God, that you read and reread this passage for yourself. Certainly I cannot improve upon this bold and clear revelation concerning the final destruction of this present heaven and earth.
In the first place, let me emphasize that we do well to give heed to this prophetic Word until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts. This means that we let it stand in its literal sense and do not do as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect, which corrupts this passage to its own destruction. They would make this simply symbolic language of the destruction upon evil men, but not that the heavens and the earth itself shall be destroyed. All post-millennialism and premillennialism is fundamentally earthy. They desire a kingdom upon this earth. They cannot allow for the destruction of all things. The deepest reason for the insistence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and of all “adventism” is a theological one. They deny the Deity of Christ, the personality of the Spirit. Hence, they deny the Triune God. It is the error of Unitarianism (Modernism) and really also of all Arminianism, following the teaching of Socinus. Implied in this is the next reason for the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect to deny the destruction of this world by fire, the very dissolving of the elements. They deny that the Son of God came into the flesh, that He is Immanuel, God-with-us! They deny that Christ was delivered on the cross for our offenses, and that He was raised for our justification. They deny the wonder of the resurrection, the overcoming of sin and death, and the wonder of the changing of this present heaven and earth into a new heaven and earth. They cannot allow for the destruction of an eternal substance. At bottom this is a denial of creation, of providence and of re-creation in Christ. It is a denial of the great mystery of godliness. It is the lie of Satan on every count, being not simply un-Christian, but Anti-Christian! Do not receive such into your house, neither bid them god-speed.
We shall take the words as penned by Peter here in these verses at face value. We believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. He called all things into being by His almighty Word, and He sustained all things by this same Word, and now by this same Word He also reserves all things as a treasure for the day of the judgment of ungodly men. Since creation is not self-existent and self-contained, but upheld by God, He alone can and will destroy all things in His day!
Peter gives us some particulars here which we can really only enumerate.
In the first place we ought to notice that Peter clearly singles out this present heaven (the firmament, sun, moon, and stars) and the earth. The first heaven was between the waters below and the waters above (Gen. 1:6, 7). The present heaven is reserved unto fire as a treasure. The very elements, the atom is fire. Both shall be destroyed. We hereby posit that the “third heaven” of which Paul speaks is not the heaven whose elements shall be dissolved. This is the heaven of which the writer to the Hebrews speaks when he says, “Thou Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they shall perish, but Thou continuest; and they shall all wax old as doth a garment; and as a mantle shalt Thou roll them up, as a garment, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail.” Heb. 1:10-12; Psalm 102:25-27.
In the second place, we should notice the earth too is singled out. The entire earth shall be burned with all that is in it. This means that the dwelling place of man and beasts and of trees and herbs shall be not simply marred and scarred, but it shall be totally destroyed by fire so that nothing remains of the present heaven and earth but ashes and ruins. Sun, moon and stars shall be no more; the light, the day and the night shall be gone forever. The measuring of time and seasons shall be no more. It shall be nothing but the great deep. All of man’s replenishing and fulfilling the earth shall be gone. All of man’s building, his culture and art, his philosophy and learning, his dreams and aspirations, apart from God in Christ, shall be destroyed forever. It all is dissolved. We have a very pictorial and graphic description of this in Rev. 18:4-20 which we here quote in part:
“. . . therefore in one day shall her plagues come, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived wantonly with her, shall weep and wail over her, when they look upon the smoke of her burning . . . And the merchants of the earth weep and wail over her, for no man buyeth her merchandise anymore . . . Rejoice over her thou heaven and ye saints, and ye apostles and ye prophets; for God hath judged your judgment upon her.”
Yes, the earth and the works therein shall be destroyed. Thus did the seer Isaiah see it from afar as we read in Isaiah 66:15, 16, “For, behold, Jehovah will come with fire, and His chariot shall be like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fierceness and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will Jehovah execute judgment and by his sword upon all flesh, and the slain of Jehovah shall be many.”
Yes, we see the portents of this all about us. How much does fire not destroy in spite of the warning of “Smokey the Bear.” How many fires are not begun by the lightnings of God that lighten the earth? Think of the destruction of the fiery volcanoes in all the earth, the. awesome rumblings of the earthquake in the bowels of the deep! The fear of man, we repeat, as he toys with the atom bomb, with the chain radiation action is great! Man is afraid of the destruction of the very earth. Do not Sodom and Gomorrah testify mutely that “all was destroyed”?! And has God not set this as an “example” (Hupodeigma) for all who would live ungodly lives? II Peter 2:6. These are the righteous judgments of the Lord; God shall judge the judgment of the righteous upon her, yea, also upon the mockers of Peter’s day, who say: “Where is the promise of His coming?”
Yes, the destruction of this world has in it a strange motivation for the righteous. We then must not be as the wife of Lot. Says Jesus: Remember the wife of Lot. He that shall seek to gain his life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life shall gain it. Only through the judgments upon this world shall the righteous be saved.
Writes Peter here, “What manner of men ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God.” Yes, this means that we press the gates of heaven. Yet, it must not be in a mere mystical manner. But it means that we love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For the world passeth away and the lusts thereof. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever! I John 2:15-17.
This is a “walk” of which Peter often speaks. Thus we read of it in I Peter 1:15: “But as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, as it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.” For have we not been redeemed from our vain “conversation” by the precious blood as of a Lamb without spot or blemish, Jesus Christ our Lord? In I Peter 2:12 we read, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles in order that, in that they speak evil of you as of evil-doers, out of your good works they may glorify God in the day of visitation!”
It must be a walk of godliness. The term in the Greek is “eusebeias.” The term means to have respect for and to be pious toward one. Thus the term is here used in relationship to God, and in I Tim. 5:4 towards the parents of one’s own house, and in Acts 17:13 of the attitude of the Athenians toward the UNKNOWN GOD! In the Old Testament Scriptures the term “godly” is the translation of the verb Chasid or Chadas which really means: having ardent desire. It is the avowed and eager purpose to serve God, and on the part of God the eager longing to save His people from their sins. That is the mercy of God. Ps. 145:17.
It is not difficult to see that this ardent desire is a hoping upon God. We are to be godly and to hope for the coming of the Day of the Lord. All our life must be concentrated on that day as the day when in His righteous judgment He will destroy the wicked and their dwelling-place and take us into glory. We are reminded of that beautiful answer in Question 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism,
“That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head, I look for the very same person who before offered Himself, for my sake to the tribunal of God, and hath removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven; who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me, with all His chosen ones, to Himself, into heavenly joys and glory.”