II Peter 3:10 – But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
In our last post, we mentioned the return of Jesus. Though it seems to be ‘taking forever’ in our opinion, the Lord is not bound by time. For him, a thousand years of time is like a single day.
And though his return may or may not be imminent, we can rest assured IT WILL CERTAINLY OCCUR. Once the appointed time arrives, Jesus will return like a thief. In other words, his return will come suddenly and unexpectedly.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 – For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
This implies that some people will be unprepared for it. (Also see Revelation 16:15 and Matthew 24:43-44). While the heathens are obviously unprepared, it should be noted that there will be unprepared Christians as well (as in the five foolish virgins). The wise Christian will be constantly mindful of the Lord’s return.
The rest of this verse describes events that will take place at the end of time. Peter’s words have generated an immense amount of speculation on the part of believers. For example:
Peter declares that the heavens will pass away. Does this mean only the earth and its atmosphere (the first heaven), or does it also include the planets and stars located in the second heaven?
Peter says the earth (and planets?) will be set on fire, or burned. Everyone agrees there will be a raging conflagration on earth. But people disagree on the effects of the fire. The disagreement centers around the word ‘dissolved’.
Some are persuaded that this should be taken literally; the earth will not only be destroyed, but it will pass away or cease to exist entirely, even on a molecular level.
Some believe that this refers only to the inhabited portions of the planet.
Others maintain that fire/heat merely changes the form of things. For example, if you burn wood on a campfire, it does not cease to exist; its form is merely changed into heat, gases and ash. Likewise, these people believe that fire will simply change earth it to a new form, perhaps converting it into the elements it was originally formed from. They believe that unless God intervenes and annihilates it, the actual matter which now makes up the earth will still be in existence after the fire. This may be substance God uses to make the new heavens and the new earth.
And what about the great noise or roar which will accompany the fire? Some speculate the noise will be caused by the changing of the earth’s present form back into its elements. Others believe the sound is literally the crackling or roaring sound accompanied by fire, as in the case of a forest fire. Still others think it refers to the explosion of an atomic bomb, which they believe will initiate the fire.
Clearly, there is room to speculate on how this event may occur, but the result of it is clear – the works of both God (plant/animal life, seas, mountains, etc) and the works of man (art, cities, infrastructure, buildings, money, etc) will be destroyed.
While these opinions/scenarios are really interesting, the exact nature or cause/effect of the inferno is not the main point the apostle wants us to see. We don’t want to get so caught up in them that we miss Peter’s true point. Putting all speculation aside, his true point is very clear: Just as God destroyed the old heavens and earth by water, he will destroy the current heavens and earth by fire.
This point should cause us to stop and examine our own lives. If the world itself needs to be purged from the effects of sin, how much more do you and I need to rid ourselves of sin and live holy lives?
II Peter 3:11 – Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
The purpose of knowing that the earth will once again be destroyed is not so we can indulge in vain speculation. It is so we can prepare ourselves against that day. If Jesus came today, would you be comfortable standing before him?
Are you satisfied with your spiritual life?
There are certainly times when we eagerly anticipate the return of Christ, and it spurs us to great levels of spiritual activity.
But on the other hand, how often do we put off things we should be doing, while promising ourselves that tomorrow is another day? The busyness of daily life sometimes crowds out our spiritual goals; the cultivation of holiness and godliness falls to the wayside. We should regard Peter’s admonition in this verse as a wake-up call – the time to be negligent or idle has passed.
2 Corinthians 7:1 – Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
This world is not our home, so don’t make plans to stay here! Our fleshly desires need to be crucified and our personal holiness needs to be nurtured. We need to discover, accept and operate in our spiritual gifts. We need to find our kingdom assignment, and accomplish it will all our might.
Do you earnestly desire the return of Christ? Have you prepared yourself for it?
II Peter 3:12 – waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
The Greek word ‘hastening’ reflects expectation, or to wait with eager desire. So, as we diligently work in the kingdom, we should long for or expect the return of our Savior.
Titus 2:12-13 – Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
In other words, we should not be surprised at the return of Jesus. As his children, we not only expect him to return, we live in such a way that we are prepared to be commended as good stewards when he does come. We are not the foolish virgins, but the wise ones, who have oil in their lamps. We do not hide our talents in the ground; we use them to produce eternal results for God.
This also means that we do not fear the ending of the world. Have you ever spoken with people about the end of the world? Some will simply laugh and make light of it. Others will express fear or dismay about this topic. But that should never be the case for the Christian.
We should view the return of Christ as the culmination of our redemption. It is the beginning of our eternal life with Jesus; there is no reason for us to fear! This event will only usher us into eternal joy, peace and love. Since this is the case, we should eagerly look forward to it and set all our hope upon it. Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed.
II Peter 3:13 –But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
God has not only promised to return for us, He has promised a new heaven and earth. Isaiah prophesied about it (Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22), and the apostle John actually saw it in his vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ!
Revelation 21:1 – And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
We don’t know all the details of how God is going to accomplish this, but we can rest assured that he will. We can also be sure that this new world will be purified from sin and defilement; righteousness will dwell in it. It is going to be a wonderful place!
II Peter 3:14 – Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Thoughts of the return of Christ and the implementation of the new heaven and earth should motivate us to examine our own lives and see if we are ready for these events.
The person who earnestly pines/waits for the new heaven and earth, will feel the natural desire to renew himself/herself. They will do their utmost to remove sin and fleshly desires from themselves and replace them with Christian graces and holiness. Their desire will be to have every last stain of sin removed from their lives.
The opposite is also true. Those who bury the promises of Christ’s return and never take the time to reflect on them, are likely to focus their time and efforts on the things of this world even though they are Christians.
The more we desire things to come, the more diligent we are likely to be in renewing our minds/hearts and focusing ourselves on kingdom work. For this reason, we would do well to review these promises from time to time.
What does Peter mean by saying we should be found at peace?
He is probably referring to an overall state of mind and heart. Those who are ready for the return of Christ have peace with God, the righteous judge, and peace with their own consciences. This peace will spill over into our relationships and we will be at peace with our fellow man.
This peace comes from God and is not dependent on any outward circumstance. It is a precious peace that the world cannot understand or possess. It is a peace that assures us God will keep all of the promises he has made to his people.
II Peter 3:15 – And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
Christians can be assured that God’s alleged delay in returning to earth is not evidence that he will not keep his promise. Rather, it is proof of his desire that everyone come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His mercy is revealed as he gives chance, after chance, after chance for sinners to repent. Therefore, the believer should not be weary or disheartened if the coming of the Lord delays. We should rejoice in every day that passes, for it keeps the window of salvation open for the lost.
Every new day also affords the believer more opportunities to labor in the kingdom of heaven. We should stop and ask ourselves this: What are we doing with the gift of today? This way of thinking should cause us to share the gospel message at every opportunity.
Mark 16:15 – And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
On the other hand, the alleged delay of the Lord’s return does not change the fact that God will proceed with final judgment and punishment at the end of the age. Wicked men should not make the mistake of thinking they will escape judgment.
This truth about the longsuffering of God has also been confirmed by the apostle Paul in his writings, which would later make up the majority of the New Testament. Obviously, the truth/wisdom revealed by both Peter and Paul had a common source – Holy Spirit.
Peter’s mention of Paul’s writings actually serves another purpose – it binds the church together. Paul is mainly considered the apostle to the Gentiles, while Peter is most often associated with Jewish believers. Here, Peter shows that the same revelation has been given to all the apostles, because there is a single church of Jesus Christ, made up of both Jews and Gentiles.
It is obvious that Peter’s readers were aware of the teachings of Paul. How could that be so?
Much of the New Testament is made up of letters written to the churches by the apostle Paul. After one church read and studied the letter, it was passed on to other churches as well. Thus, his teachings spread throughout the churches. Can you imagine how excited each church would be to get a new letter? To receive new wisdom and revelation about Jesus and their Christian walk?
How vastly different things are today! Most of us are at the point where we can access the entire bible almost instantly – we can even get it on our phones! In light of this, we have to ask ourselves a question: What excuse do we have for not being familiar with it? How much value do we place on our access to the word of God? What excuse do we have for not growing and maturing in our Christian life?
There are many Christians who want to be like Peter Pan – they never want to grow up! They want pastors and teachers to spiritually spoon feed them like toddlers. Truthfully, if that is what you want, there is enough access to sound teaching that you could do it.
But I encourage you not to be that person. I encourage you to be the person who searches the scriptures for yourself, allowing Holy Spirit to reveal to you the deep things of God (I Corinthians 2:9-10).
I encourage you to be the person who reads the word and discovers for yourself the promises of God that pertain to your life and situation. Don’t depend on someone else to discover this for you.
I assure you, the discovery of these truths is like discovering buried treasure! When you come across a promise and Holy Spirit quickens it to you, you will KNOW that it is for you; you KNOW it will come to pass!
In short, be a grown up in Christ! The time for being a baby is over. Those who refuse to grow up will miss the astonishing things that God has in store for them. They will miss out on being a valued partner with God as he brings to pass his plan for the ages.
Do you want to be part of the army of God – one who can enforce his will on the earth? Or do you want to be the baby who stays on the sidelines and misses all the action?
II Peter 3:16 – as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Are there things in scripture that are hard to understand? You bet there are! If you don’t believe me, go ahead and read Revelation!
But we need to keep this in perspective. The gospel message itself is not difficult to understand nor is it complicated. Rehearse it with me now:
- Mankind rebelled against God and allowed sin into the world.
- God made provision for that sin to be forgiven through the blood of Jesus; it is a free gift resulting in eternal life.
- Those who accept this free gift become children of God.
- At the end of time, God will gather his children to himself while the wicked will be cast into hell.
2 Timothy 3:15 – And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
It’s not complicated, is it? Even a child can understand the message of salvation. In fact, there are many, many, many elemental truths in scripture that are clear and easy to understand.
But at the same time, there are truths that can only be understood by mature believers (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Think of it this way: We would not expect a first grader to be able to complete a thesis necessary to get a doctorate. Eventually, over time, the student could certainly achieve this, but he would need to work up to it.
In the same way, Christians must mature in the knowledge of God. There are two components to maturity.
- The first is ‘head’ knowledge. The believer who wants to mature needs to read and study the word. They need to know the ‘play book’; they must understand the authority, the power and weapons that God has provided for them to use.
- They will also need experiential knowledge. They must put into practice the things they have learned. It isn’t enough to know that God answers prayer – you must learn to actually pray. It isn’t enough to know that Holy Spirit fills believers and empowers them – you must be filled yourself.
As the believer learns and subsequently puts into practice these truths, they mature to greater and greater levels in Christ. As they mature, they can understand the more difficult revelations of God.
How much have you grown in Christ in the last six months or year? What is holding you back? Is it a lack of knowledge? Is it a lack of experience? Have you been negligent in taking the next step that God has made known to you? If you are not growing, I strongly urge you to spend time with the Lord, asking him how to move forward.
While there will be Christians who grow in Christ, there will also be ignorant and unstable people who twist the scriptures.
Here is something interesting – the Greek word for twist is a metaphor taken from torturers, who placed people on racks and stretched/tortured them until they acknowledged lies as the truth, or spoke/confessed things they never intended to really say.
In the same way, there will be people who ‘stretch’ or distort the true meaning of Holy Spirit in the scriptures. They twist the scriptures to make them say something that God never intended, and thus they make lies into truth.
For example, Peter spoke about licentious men who abused the doctrine of grace. As we mentioned previously, they taught that since God’s grace covers every sin, it is okay for Christians to sin as much as they like. According to them, there is no need to pursue holiness – the more God forgives, the more his grace is magnified – so go ahead and indulge! Obviously, this is a twisted and perverse understanding of grace.
Once they accepted this perversion of the truth, they could do any and every sinful thing their evil hearts desired. However, the twisting of the doctrine of grace will eventually lead to their spiritual death and destruction.
II Peter 3:17 – You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
There can be no doubt that scoffers and heretics will come. Here Peter admonishes believers to be on their guard against the false twisted teachings endorsed/promoted by these lawless men who are following their own sinful desires. We want to be careful not to be lured into false beliefs, which appeal to our fleshly natures. We do not want to depart from faith in Christ, and the confidence of our salvation which he has given to us.
II Peter 3:18 – But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Again, we notice that it is possible for the believer to grow in his spiritual life.
Consider this: We plant seeds in the ground, which start off as very tiny plants. But as we cultivate, prune, water and fertilize them, they grown to a point of producing fruit. The amount of fruit produced is in direct proportion to the degree of care and attention we bestow upon the plant or tree.
The same is true in our spiritual lives. We must cultivate Christian graces. We must prune our thoughts and conduct in order to become holier. We must water and fertilize our minds with the word of God, while being on guard against false doctrines presented by scoffers and false teachers.
While we may be more spiritually mature today than we were yesterday, we all still have areas for improvement. Hopefully, what we are tomorrow is not what we are today!
Our ultimate goal is to be made over into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us be ready for the day of his coming!
Let me offer you some encouragement:
Think about this for a minute: Living things do not remain static. Anything that is not actively growing, is actually in the process of dying. Likewise, if you are not growing in your faith, then you are actually dying spiritually.
Why not take a few minutes right now to assess your recent spiritual growth? If you are not on track, I encourage you to repent before God and make some immediate changes in your life.
You don’t need to worry if you don’t understand EVERYTHING about your Christian faith. There are some truths that are for the mature believer.
But here is the good news – one day, YOU can be that believer! Just keep on growing, every day. Keep reading the word, practicing what you learn and keeping your eyes on Christ. Before you know it, you will be ready for increased knowledge and wisdom.
Let me offer you some strength:
It’s not always fun to diet or exercise your earthly body. Likewise, crucifying your flesh and replacing it with personal holiness and Christian graces isn’t always easy or fun either. But I can assure you, it is worth it! Once you begin the process you will be so glad you did!
And eventually, Christ will return. Those who are best prepared will have the most joy at his return. So shake off weariness and hesitation. Get back in the spiritual self improvement game!