In the third chapter of Peter’s second epistle, the Apostle hits on certain bullet points that frequently parallel the book of Revelation, and he does so in a very unique way. Because of this uniqueness, 2 Peter 3 can be perplexing for both the Bible student and Bible teacher alike.
Without a proper understanding of God’s plan of redemption, a correct insight into the divine eschatological timeline, and a comprehension of unique Bible phrases, this chapter can be – and often is – misinterpreted.
In this study, we are going to attempt to remedy any confusion regarding Peter’s subject matter and the distinctive way in which he presents it.
As we like to do, we will take this chapter in sections and offer commentary, supporting Scripture, and investigate some of the original Greek.
Underlined Scripture passages are my own emphasis.
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” – 2 Peter 3:1-2
What a vital point of remembrance this is! All the Word of God – from Moses to the prophets, the gospels of the Messiah, and up through the Apostles of our Lord and Savior – is divine by nature, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we always do well to heed every Word.
Our job, as students of the Scriptures, is to rightly divide or cut straight the Word of God to the best of our abilities with the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 2:15).
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” – 2 Peter 3:3-4a
According to John, we have been in the last days since the beginning of the church age (1 John 2:18), and this prophecy has always been with us, though growing in strength as the centuries have progressed.
Sadly, even from professing Christians who do not believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture, we hear them asking us, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Not surprisingly, we also hear these same words from unbelievers who love to mock us and scoff at the promises of our Lord.
“… for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” – 2 Peter 3:4b
The reason I set this portion of 2 Peter 3:4 apart is because this is the foundational focal point of Peter as he continues to expand on his treatise.
As we move on, we will see that Peter’s doctrinal discourse really revolves around the scoffers in the last days declaring that “… for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
In this scoffing, they are exactly like those in the antediluvian world who said the same to Noah as he warned them of the coming judgment of the global flood. To his warnings, they would reply in the same manner, “… for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Peter will contrast the past with the future, when “… the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). This future judgment and destruction, as we shall see, is the primary subject matter of Peter’s ‘Revelation.‘
Our objective, therefore, is to determine exactly what this coming judgment and destruction is and when it will occur. First and foremost, though, is understanding that Peter is contrasting this future judgment and destruction with the past judgment and destruction of the antediluvian world during the flood that he will mention in our next verse.
In both instances, the people were then, and are today, “willingly ignorant” of what God accomplished in the past and what God will bring about in the future.
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” – 2 Peter 3:5-6
Peter has laid down his doctrinal foundation of the global flood for his forthcoming comparison.
If there is one prevailing thought that I would urge the reader to keep in mind as we move forward, it would be this: The Millennial Kingdom is not our kingdom. The Millennial Kingdom is for Israel when God will fulfill His promises to His chosen people. The Eternal Kingdom that God has prepared for them who love Him is our kingdom, as we are citizens of heaven.
“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2 Peter 3:7
Peter is making a comparison between the destruction of the flood that “perished… the world that then was” – that of the devastating topographical upheaval and the splitting apart of the supercontinent (Pangaea) into the continents we have today – with “The heavens and the earth, which are now… reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
“The heavens and the earth, which are now,” is what is commonly known as the old heavens and the old earth that God created in the beginning and has been under the curse ever since the fall of man. Though Christ will regenerate and restore this present earth and heavens – after the beating the earth and heavens will absorb during the Tribulation – into pristine conditions, they will still be the old heavens and the old earth.
When Peter says, “by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire…” we should be reminded of Psalm 33:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” – Psalm 33:6-9
It is this same Word of God that created and sustains creation that has “kept in store” these same heavens and earth and “reserved” them “unto fire against the day of judgment of perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).
The Greek word for “against” is 1519 εἰς “eis” and means to, for, unto, or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, purpose, result), toward.
Therefore, the fire that will purge the old earth and heavens will have reached its appointment in time when “the day of judgment of perdition of ungodly men” takes place. When will this be?
We know from the book of Revelation that “the day of judgment and perdition (destruction from the presence of God, ruin, loss) of ungodly men” will occur at the Great White Throne Judgment, when the ungodly will be judged and thrown into The Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:12-15).
I am of the opinion, as many others are, that this powerful verse lays down an illustrative schematic for the history of mankind and the Lord’s plan of redemption and consummation. That is, roughly 6,000 years from creation (or the fall), plus 1,000 years for the Millennial Kingdom equates to approximately 7,000 years, which is represented by the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest during creation week.
While it is impossible to know exactly where we are on God’s timeline, the general consensus is that we are somewhere around the 6,000-year mark – give or take a couple of hundred years at most, but, more than likely, much closer.
But why, of all places, is this amazing verse here in 2 Peter 3:8? It is because of 2 Peter 3:10, which we will look at shortly. Suffice it to say, Peter will outline for us the bookends of what the Day of the Lord entails.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
Here, Peter takes a quick detour to address the other statement from the scoffers, “Where is the promise of his coming?”
The Lord’s love is certainly magnified in this verse. All throughout the plans of God – through creation to consummation – God’s one purpose of will has always been the salvation of every man and woman who will, of their own freewill, come to Him and His Son’s redemptive provision through His love and sacrificial work for them on the cross.
This promise that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” goes beyond the runup to the rapture of the church. This thought of God’s desire that all be saved is carried on into the Tribulation and even through the Millennial Kingdom. How?
Those who are born into the Millennial Kingdom in their flesh and blood bodies will have their own sin natures and will also need to be saved by Christ’s work on the cross, as they too can come to Messiah for salvation by grace through faith, just as we have.
Now, before we read 2 Peter 3:10, let us remember what 2 Peter 3:8 said: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
“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.” – 2 Peter 3:10
This great verse essentially bookends the Day of the Lord for the reader. In An Examination of the ‘Day of the Lord,‘ we observed that the bookends of 2 Peter 3:10 are the rapture of the church (will come as a thief in the night) and the passing away of the old heavens and old earth (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).
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away…” – Revelation 21:1a
“Pass away” in 2 Peter 3:10 is 3928 παρέρχομαι “parerchomai” and means to pass away, perish. And “passed away” in Revelation 21:1 is 565 ἀπέρχομαι “aperchomai” and is best understood as pass out of sight, pass away, depart, vanish.
John witnessed “a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away [poetically, to vanish], and there was found no place for them” (Revelation 20:11), noting that “the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” to make way for “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), while Peter gives the details of this passing away in 2 Peter 3:10 by revealing that “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.”
So, what exactly is happening here? Scientifically, it appears that every atom in the universe will fly apart! Here is how we summarized this action regarding the “plague” that Messiah will inflict upon what is left of the world’s armies at His Second Coming in A Study of Zechariah 14:12-21:
The atom, the building block of all matter, has a proton and a neutron that should repel from each other, but they don’t. When I was young, the “substance” that held the atom together was unknown, as it is today, and was referred to as “atomic glue.” Today, it is known as “strong force,” and science has no idea what this “force” is. But we do! Jesus Christ, Himself:
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” – Colossians 1:16-17
The Greek word for “consist” is “sunistanó” with the following definitions: to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together; to put together (i.e., unite parts into one whole), to cohere, hold together.
At the Word of the Lord, “the elements shall melt with fervent heat” and “the earth… shall be burned up” when the Lord discontinues his holding together of every atom in the universe by His divine power!
The writer of Hebrews, quoting Psalm 102:25-26, also mentions this event:
“And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” – Hebrews 1:10-12
The Greek word translated “perish” is 622 ἀπολοῦνται “apolountai” and means to destroy, fully destroy, to destroy utterly. And the Greek word for “changed” is 236 ἀλλαγήσονται “allagēsontai” with the root word “allassó” and, in this context, would be better rendered exchanged – the one for the other.
In this account, the writers of Hebrews and Psalm 102 assign an illustration to the passing away of the old heavens and earth, making way for the new, as that of “wax[ing] old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed [exchanged].” This comparative description seems to assure us that the new heavens and earth will be true to the original heavens and earth created at the beginning of creation. And why shouldn’t they be? They were perfect then, before the fall, and they shall be perfect again!
And when do the old heavens and the old earth pass away? Sometime after the Millennial Kingdom! This would mean that the Day of the Lord lasts for approximately 1,007-plus years.
Hence, the Day of the Lord begins with the rapture of the church and includes the unknown Gap of time in between the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, the seven-year Tribulation (2,520 days), the interim between the Second Coming and the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom (75 days), the Millennial Kingdom itself, and the season immediately following the Millennial Kingdom when Satan is loosed from his prison to deceive the nations one last time (Revelation 20:7-9).
‘In That Day’ in the Tanakh
The phrase “in that day” is very often used not only of the Day of the Lord, representing the brutal devastation of the Tribulation, but of the Messianic Kingdom in the Tanakh (Old Testament), as represented in passages such as Isaiah 4:2, Isaiah 11:10-12, Isaiah 26:1-2, Joel 3:16-18, Micah 4:6-7, Amos 9:11-12, Zephaniah 3:14-16, and Zechariah 14:20-21.
As we can clearly see, “in that day,” in the above Tanakh passages, is speaking of the Messianic Kingdom, which, according to 2 Peter 3:10, is within the Day of the Lord!
Again, this Day of the Lord will be 1,007-plus years long and equates with Peter’s admonition, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8), when Peter then interjects that, “… the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night [the rapture]; 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 [the passing away of the first heaven and the first earth (Revelation 21:1a), following the Messianic Kingdom].” – 2 Peter 3:10
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” – 2 Peter 3:11-12
Now Peter introduces us to “The Day of God,” a phrase which, as far as I can ascertain, is never mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.
Notice again that 2 Peter 3:12, “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved” and 2 Peter 3:10, “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,” are both speaking of the same event as described in Revelation 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”
Therefore, “The Day of God” will immediately follow “The Day of the Lord,” which ends with the dissolving of the old heavens and old earth, climaxed by the Great White Throne Judgment “of perdition of ungodly men” mentioned in 2 Peter 3:7.
All of this will be in preparation for “The Day of God” when God will create (or re-create) the new heavens and the new earth for His Eternal Kingdom, which is the consummating Kingdom that began with His Salvation Kingdom. This is the context that we need to keep in mind as we consider the phrase, “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God,” which might be better understood as a parenthetical statement within the verse.
Many Bible teachers claim, because of this verse, that we can “hasten” the Lord’s coming for His church – but we cannot. Nobody can hasten anything regarding God’s plan of redemption and consummation. In the simplest of terms: Virtually everything was seen and known in advance in the sovereign mind of God before He ever created. Nothing can hasten what God has already seen and known.
In any case, as we have observed, the rapture is not even the context of the passage, as the dissolving of the old heavens and the old earth will not occur until after the Millennial Kingdom, over 1,007 plus years after Christ’s Second Coming.
The Greek word for “hasten” is σπεύδοντας “speudontas” with the root 4692 σπεύδω “speudó” and, depending as always on context, can mean hasten, urge on diligently or earnestly, desire greatly, to await eagerly, hurry.
When combined with the introductory phrase “looking for,” we should be able to appreciate that a proper translation of this word within this context would be desire greatly, eagerly await, or some other like derivative.
Here are several translations that properly translate 2 Peter 3:12:
“[while you earnestly] look for and await the coming of the day of God. For on this day the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the [material] elements will melt with intense heat!” – Amplified Bible
“as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat.” – Holman Christian Standard Bible
“looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” – American Standard Version
“While you expect and eagerly desire the coming of The Day of God in which the Heavens, being tested by fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements, when set on fire, shall melt.” – Aramaic Bible in Plain English
“eagerly looking forward to the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens, all ablaze, will be destroyed, and the elements will melt in the fierce heat?” – Weymouth New Testament
“looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, because of which coming the heavens shall dissolve in fire, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” – Anderson New Testament
“Looking for and longing for the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being tested with fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” – Lamsa Bible
“Expecting and seeking earnestly the presence of the day of God, during which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements going to be burned are melted away?” – Smith’s Literal Translation
Truly, there is nothing man can do to hasten the program of God along, as He is omniscient and knows exactly how history will play out within His great plan of redemption and consummation.
This day that we are to eagerly look forward to is not the rapture that comes as a thief in the night – though we do look forward with great anticipation to that day, every day. Nor is this day The Day of the Lord, which will include the Millennial Kingdom for Messiah and Israel. No, this day that we are to look forward to with great desire and eagerly await is “The Day of God,” the Eternal Kingdom, for this is the Kingdom that God has prepared for those who love Him!
The Eternal Kingdom is our ultimate destination and, as Peter declares, we should be looking forward, greatly desire, and eagerly await our final destiny, which will only come after the elements of the old heavens and old earth will melt with fervent heat, be dissolved, and flee away – followed by the Great White Throne judgment – all of which will prepare “The Day of God” with the creation of a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness will reign supreme, and God will make His tabernacle with men and He will dwell with them eternally (Revelation 21:3)!
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:13
This is the Eternal Kingdom that I asked the reader to keep in mind throughout this study – the Kingdom God has prepared for them who love Him!
Peter concludes by showing us that he has, in fact, been speaking all along of the preparation of the new heavens and the new earth, after the passing away of the old heavens and the old earth, that will usher in the Eternal Kingdom, the everlasting Day of God.
Though the rapture, Christ’s Second Coming, setting up His Messianic Kingdom, and the Millennial Kingdom itself can be found lurking within the bookends of the day of the Lord in 2 Peter 3:10 through a proper understanding of end-time eschatology – events that span over 1,007-plus years – there is nothing in this chapter of Scripture that alludes to the Second Coming of Christ and His Millennial Kingdom of regeneration or restoration of the people, the heavens, and the earth after the Second Coming — something that many people erroneously see as the subject matter of this entire passage.
The Messianic Millennial Kingdom
“And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Matthew 19:28
The Greek word for “regeneration” is 3824 παλιγγενεσία “paliggenesia” (used only in this verse and Titus 3:5) is from 3825/pálin, “again” and 1078/génesis, “birth, beginning”) – properly, the coming of new birth because “born again“; regeneration, renewal, the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation.
Messiah Jesus will regenerate, renew, and restore the old heavens and old earth – and even the bodies of those who will go into the Millennial Kingdom so they may live the duration of the kingdom – to pristine conditions. There is no destruction or dissolving of the heavens and earth, and there will be no new heavens and/or new earth created.
While the Millennial Kingdom will be glorious, in and of itself (not only for Israel but even for us as well when we shall be in our glorious eternal bodies and in the presence of our Lord and Savior), it has a dreadful end after the 1,000 years will have been completed (Revelation 20:7-10).
What this tells us is that the “righteousness” of the Millennial Kingdom (apart from the Saints and true human believers) will unfortunately be an enforced righteousness as Christ and His bride will have to rule and reign over the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:26-27, 12:5), for the unregenerate human heart – which most who are born into the Millennial Kingdom will obviously have – will still be “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The Eternal Kingdom, on the other hand, is where our hearts should always be as citizens of heaven, where heaven will finally be realized upon earth, and Christ’s illustrative prayer for His disciples will finally be realized:
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” – 2 Peter 3:14
This verse brings to my mind the interjection and warning of Jesus to His bride, that we covered in An Examination of the ‘Day of the Lord’:
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” – Revelation 16:15
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…” – 2 Peter 3:15a
This is what creation and God’s plan of reconciliation is all about – including in the Millennial Kingdom – salvation. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
“… even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15b-16
How ironic, is it not, that in the most difficult chapter to interpret in Peter’s two epistles, he says of Paul’s epistles that “speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood“!
“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” – 2 Peter 3:17
Peter also warned believers earlier in this epistle:
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:10-11
Though we are saved by grace through faith, and the Lord will never leave or forsake us, we still have an enemy that strives to deceive us, and if we are not grounded in the Word of God, we could find ourselves “led away with the error of the wicked” and “fall from [our] own stedfastness.” The key is “our own stedfastness.” We must have His steadfastness and trust only in Him completely!
And gloriously, “an entrance shall be ministered unto [us] abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” – His Eternal Kingdom – The Day of God!
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18
Amen and Amen!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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