Recently there was a mini-TV series that dealt with the subject of how the world will end. This show proposed a number of creative scenarios, from a gigantic meteor striking the earth to a pandemic which will wipe us all out. These scenarios left us with no hope, as we are just the victims of some really nasty circumstances. And there is really no way to avoid our ultimate doom. But these people have let their minds loose and have dreamed up all kinds of fascinating possibilities. I have sort of enjoyed viewing their speculations because I have inside knowledge on the subject. I know how the earth will end. And none of the TV folks got it right. I, of course, do not have the prophetic gift, but I do know someone who has it. That someone is the Apostle Peter, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
In his second preserved, inspired letter he lets us in on how this earth and this universe comes to their end (2 Peter 3:8-14). Before Peter reveals that crucial information, he reminds us that God’s view of time and ours is often quite different. We are impatient and sometimes begin to doubt if God will really fulfill His promises. But Peter reminds us that God is not “slack/slow” about His commitments, which include the end of the world. The word Peter uses tells us that God is not just loitering around, marking time. He is not simply “hanging out” while we, in frustration, wait for Him to act. He seems “slow” in doing what He said He will do because of His mercy. He is very desirous that stubborn, sinful, unbelieving people will turn to Him and be saved. But that being said, the DAY OF THE LORD (His day of special intervention and involvement) WILL COME. There is no doubt about that. And when it comes, it will come with incredible power and force, and God will fulfill His promises.
Peter informs us three time (3:7, 10 and 12) that the universe will be totally destroyed. There are at least five points that Peter makes on the end of the world.
(1) God is keeping all in place until He decides it is time to judge (3:7). The cosmic order that we see (“the present heavens and earth”) are completely under His control, and nothing will happen (no meteors, pandemics, etc.) until He says it is the right time. Man, Satan nor circumstances can bring the world to its end. The universe is under His protective care. Colossians 1:17 teaches that Jesus, as the Creator, holds all things together; and He will do so until He decides to “let go”.
(2) God will destroy the world by means of fire (3:7). He once destroyed the world by a flood, but this time it will be fire (a symbol of judgment in the OT) that He will use. It is the picture of the purging out of evil.
(3) The entire universe will disintegrate (3:10, 12). There will be nothing left of the earth or of the entire universe even with its billions of galaxies. The “elements” that make up all matter will be “destroyed” with intense heat.
(4) This complete judgment is necessary because of evil. There is a moral order in the universe which requires the punishment of ungodliness (3:7). God has not gone soft on sin nor is He presently disinterested in good and evil; His mercy influences His “delayed” action on this matter.
(5) This destruction of the entire universe is necessary in order to prepare for the creating of a brand new earth and universe. He must remove the old before He can create the new. In this new order, righteousness will be the order of the day (3:13) because God Himself will be dwelling among His people (Revelation 21:1-5; 22:3-4). So the best days are yet ahead for man; that is, those who are children of God because they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ.
But there is more. In light of our certain knowledge of how the world will end, the Apostle tells us to: (1) keep focusing on the future. This helps us keep perspective on the present. And (2) we are to be actively pursuing godly living and actively serving the Lord Jesus (3:11, 12, 14). In other words, this is not just some academic (or TV) issue. Armed with this insight from Peter, we are to think and act purposely and righteously.
One final matter. The Apostle Peter does not give the detail concerning when the world ends. He, in fact, leaves out the messianic kingdom age in his presentation. The end of the world comes after the messianic age is completed according to Revelation 20:11 – 21:1.