The Apostle Peter adds much detail to how this earth will come to an end. He points out that in spite of the general “agnosticism” that will exist about prophetic events, in His timing God will bring to an end the heavens and the earth in preparation for the creation of a “new” earth and universe.
I firmly believe in the “big bang”. There is just no doubt about it. Oh, not the one that allegedly took place in the past, billions of years ago and was the starting event for our universe. That idea comes from fertile minds trying to account for the existence of the material universe without a Creator God. I believe in the future “big bang” which is not speculation but will certainly bring about the end of the present heavens and the earth. Interestingly, it is not the Book of Revelation that gives us most of our information about the end of the present heaven and earth, but it is the Apostle Peter who does. In this study, we want to investigate Peter’s discussion in 2 Peter 3:8-15.
(1) Peter’s Explanation of the Delay for the End Time Events. 3:3-9
Peter and the other Apostles spoke often about the return of the Lord Jesus and end time events, and they apparently expected Him to come in their lifetimes or sometime in the First Century. But, at the writing of 2 Peter, Jesus had not come back. This not only perplexed believers but also stimulated some cynics to declare in taunting tones, “Where is the promise of His return.” The Apostle responds to these mockers but also gives additional vital information for his readers.
Peter had spent all of chapter 2 exposing the teaching, behaviors and attitudes of false teachers that were in the church. He now focuses more specifically on their view of end time events. In 2 Peter 3:3-4a, he says
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘where is the promise of His coming?’
This subject is of great importance in Peter’s view as in seen in the phrase “first of all” (3:3). The verb “will come” is emphatic by its being placed first in the sentence and communicates the point the church should not be caught off guard by the mockers presence or surprised by their declarations. Unfortunately, too often in the church today, prophetic events are diminished in importance. But not so with Peter and the Apostles. These end time events are also referred to as a “promise” simply because that is just what Jesus did; He promised to return and bring to an end this present world order.
In explaining the delay of end time events, Peter points out (3:8) that while God created time, His relationship to time is very different from ours as humans. God may use a thousand years to do what we think should be done in a day (like getting prepared for the coming of Jesus); and He can accomplish in one day what we might believe it would take a thousand years to get done (like paying for sin in one day on the cross). We cannot conform Him to our schedule. (Note this verse has been misused to try and teach that the days of Genesis 1 are long periods of time. The idea that days are long periods of time is simply not what Peter is saying). Often we hear sincere believers say, “The world is so bad that Christ must return soon.” While we wish this were so, we must remember that God does not order His actions according to our times and schedule.
Peter also speaks to the matter of God’s use of time (3:9) and observes that God does take His promises seriously. Delay is not denial. What appears to be reluctance or slowness on God’s part to bring about end times events is because of mercy. God really doesn’t want any to perish and so continually works towards the end of men being saved. It is not that God is just “hanging out” (the basic idea of “slowness”) or is negligent or unconcerned. God takes no pleasure in the death of wicked people (Ezekiel 33:11), and so, often delays judgment (1 Peter 3:20) as He did for 120 years in the days of Noah. So the mockers are wrong when they suggest that these end time events are really not that important; that even God isn’t particularly focused on them!
(2) The certainty of the coming “day of the Lord.” 2 Peter 3:10.
This day “will come.” We can be absolutely sure of this. But what exactly is the “day of the Lord?” This is a phrase based on the Old Testament and used as well by New Testament writers. It is that special time of God’s intervention into human history. God, of course, is always at work in the affairs of men and nations, but this is looking at God’s special activity in the end times. It includes three major events: (1) the Tribulation, (2) the Second Coming of Christ, and (3) the Messianic (millennial) kingdom. So this period of time will last a little over 1000 years and will culminate with the “big bang.”
The commencement of the “day of the Lord” is likened to the coming of a thief; it is unexpected. Men apparently will be inclined to listen to the mockers with the result that they are caught off guard by end time events.
In his discussion, Peter skips over the three major events of the “day of the Lord” in order to emphasize how the “day” will end. He has already (3:6) noted that the world has faced cataclysmic events in the past (contrary to the mockers) with the flood of Noah, and will in the future face an unprecedented destruction of the universe (3:7). He states in 3:10 and 12,
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up….the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.”
The elements of the universe will disintegrate in this massive explosion (big bang) and with intense heat (like nuclear blasts) will disappear. Revelation 20:11 adds that the heaven and earth goes out of existence and “no place was found for them.” The “big bang” is in preparation for the creation of a new heaven and a new earth where righteous reigns (3:13; Rev. 21:1).
So the mockers are wrong. They don’t see time correctly and they don’t understand God’s great mercy. The reality is these end time events are definitely, unmistakably, doubtlessly going to take place. God’s delay is not His denial.
(3) Our present responsibilities in light of the end time events. (3:11, 14)
With the certainty of end time events in mind, the question is “how are we to live?” Peter says “what sort of people” are we to be (3:11) which is not really a question as much a statement or exclamation.
We are to live holy lives. Diligently we are to separate ourselves from sin and separate ourselves to the Lord. We know that success in any endeavor, whether it be on the job, in sports, in school, requires diligent effort. It takes discipline and focus in our lives to be holy. Remembering end time events, especially our accountability to the Lord is designed to assist us mentally and spiritually in disciplining ourselves unto holiness.
We are to serve the Lord. He speaks of us “hastening the day” of the Lord’s return. God factors in our service, evangelism, prayer, etc. and that will have an effect on His returning.
We are to found in “peace” at His return. We are to be living in a harmonious relation with Christ, removing all things from our lives which would cause discord between us and the Lord. We have peace with God because of our salvation but we also need that harmonious fellowship with Jesus by “abiding” in Him (John 15).
We are to found “spotless” and “blameless” at His return. It is possible for us to be this way, not because we achieve sinless perfection, but because of His blood is available to keep on cleansing us as we keep on confessing (1 John 1:9).
It is very important that we observe the situation in Peter’s day and see that we face a similar attitude today in the church. In the “last days” (3:3) there will be those who diminish end time events. They will dismiss these events as too controversial, too complex, too obscure and too irrelevant to “real life.” Such teachers badly miss the significance of biblical prophecy and actually find themselves opposed to both the Apostles and Jesus Himself on this subject. In light of the certainty of end time events, we are to believe what has been written and order our lives according to the Word.