II Peter 3. How It All Ends. It Has Been a Long Time Coming.
Key Notes: Why is the End so long in coming? Prophecy goes back to 700BC. Previous End of the Age predictions. Evidence for an approaching climax. What to think.
Peter's second letter is concerned with false prophets and skeptics. He begins by asserting his first-hand knowledge of Christ. (1:16–19). Then he teaches that the Holy Spirit is author of the Scripture and thus there is no private interpretation. (1:20–21). He deals with those who falsify the truth, in Chapter 2, and with those who are skeptical of it in Chapter 3.
At the end of chapter 3, he focuses specifically on skepticism about the Lord's Second Coming.
3:1–2 He reminds them again of the prophecies and the commandments of the Lord through the apostles. In so doing, he puts the OT prophets, and the NT teaching of Christ and the words of the Apostles into the same category--another affirmaton of the inspiration of Scripture.
3:3–7 Skeptics doubt Jesus' Second Coming because it is long delayed and nothing seems to change. They ignore the fact that God created the world out of water (at the beginning of time), and destroyed the ancient world by water (the Flood). There will also be an end to history: the world will be destroyed a second time by fire, reserved until the Day of Judgment of the ungodly. Hindus believe in endless cycles of time; Christians believe in a linear history with a beginning and an ending.
3:8–9 God's judgment is postponed by His forbearance, waiting for the many to repent. His view of time is not quantitative, as ours is. (Cf. Psa.90.)
3:10–13 Without warning, the heavens and earth will be destroyed by explosion and fire. The word "elements" in Greek was used for parts of a word, or members of a series. In the ancient world the elements were air, earth, water and fire. They did not know of the periodic table of the atoms.
3:11–14 From what Country are we? We are to be living in holiness and godliness, watching for the Day of God, expecting a new heaven and earth that will be righteous. We must be found spotless and at peace at His Coming.
3:15–18 Paul also spoke of our sanctification in his "difficult" letters. His emphasis on grace could be twisted into lawlessness by the ignorant. Peter puts Paul's letters together with "the other Scriptures", supporting Paul's claim to inspiration. (ICor.2:16; 4:1). Peter reminds us not to be carried away by the ignorant and unstable, but to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ. He will be glorified to the Day of Eternity.
Prophecy of the future destruction of the earth and heavens goes back to Isaiah (~700BC).
"Behold, the day of the Lord comes...to make the earth a desolation...for the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light." (Isa.13:9–10). (So also Matt.24:29).
"All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll." (Isa.34:4)
"For behold, the Lord will come in fire...to render his anger in fury and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord execute judgment...." (Isa.66:15).
Paul added this word: "...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire...." (IIThes.1:7)
The generation of those who knew Jesus expected His return in their times.
"We who are alive, who are left until the Coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord Himself will descend with a shout...." (IThes.4:15)
"Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ...we beg you not to be quickly shaken in mind...to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come." (IIThes.2:1–2)
"We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed...." (ICor.15:51)
"Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the Coming of the Lord..." "The Judge is standing at the doors." (Jm.5:7,9)
"For yet a little while and the Coming One shall come and shall not tarry." (Heb.10:37)
"I am coming soon. (Rev.3:11; 22:20).
However, Jesus made it plain that the time was unknown, even to Him. (Mk.13:32). In three of Jesus' parables, a significant delay is indicated: Lk19:11; Matt.25:5; Matt.25:9.
One prophecy helps us understand the rest. When Jesus said "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Matt.24:34), He was evidently referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, as well as a greater fulfillment in the Last Days. Curiously, the Last Days begin with Jesus' First Coming. Heb.1:1
This delay of 2000 years is interpreted by God through Peter, as a sign of His forbearance, gathering in millions of souls. (IIPet.3:9). The end of the world was predicted in the Dark Ages and in the year 1000AD, It was predicted by Luther in the 1500's because the Reformation led to political chaos in Europe. Jehovah"s Witnesses say that Jesus came back in 1914. Many thought the end of the world would come at the year 2000AD, the completion of the sixth millennium according to the Jewish calendar.
Do all things continue as they did from the beginning of creation? Hardly. Curves of all kinds show dramatic upswings in the last hundred years--maximum speed of vehicles, national debt, cost of homes, generation of CO2, volume of junk mail, births to unmarried women, life expectancy, percent of Christians in the world population, explosive power of weapons--all suggesting an approaching climax.
"The earth was not made for our lifestyle". The Green Revolution may delay the inevitable.
Will the world die in an atomic chain reaction? Can we prevent it? How should we respond? Peter is not interested in speculation about who or what will cause the final catastrophe. We are citizens of another country and we must live accordingly. "We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come." We must be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace with Him." (IIPet.3:14). That is our first order of business.
Then we must do all we can to preserve the Planet, saving its energy, and a safe place for our grandchildren.