Donald P. Ames
Man has always been a creature of fear and speculation. We fear the unknown, and yet our curiosity leads us onward to the efforts to conquer space and travel in the hitherto unknown. We fear the power of the atom and H-bombs, and yet have continued to both develop and test such on both sides of the iron curtain. We also tend to fear the great hereafter, and yet we continue to study and strive to lean more of what lies ahead of us and in the future existence of this planet.
There have been many theories advanced by men to try to destroy the force of the word of God and try to humanize the power to be unleashed at the end of time. We are far too prone to think only in terms of what we as humans can produce when we try to understand the workings of God—and certainly the end of time is no exception. Thus, it is of interest to note the refutation of some of these false theories by the writings of Peter in 2 Peter 3.
It is Coming
First of all, contrary to the beliefs and actions of some, he affirms that the Lord is going to return. Oh, there will be mockers and disbelievers, just like in the days of Noah. They will deny Peter and the other apostles had any divine knowledge and merely erred in their guesswork, etc. But, Peter affirms that although God is patient and longsuffering, “the day of the Lord will come” (2 Pet. 3:10).
Realizing this powerful fact, certainly, we should strive to live in accordance with the word of God that we might be ready for such a day. Indeed it will be a day of rejoicing for those who have walked in accordance with His commands, but a day of sorrow for those who have transgressed and failed to fulfill His instructions. We have been forewarned and thus ought to be forearmed, that we do not compromise our convictions and stand for the truth with those who transgress and mock (2 Pet. 3:17).
It Will Be Unexpected and Sudden
Not only does Peter affirm the day will arrive, but he also affirms that we are going to be caught by surprise, that he will come without warning like a thief (3:10). He further affirms that all that now is will pass away with a great noise, implying sudden action. Of course we could note many other passages showing that at the return both the evil and just shall be raised and all will behold Him as He returns. The theory of premillennialism and other such theories of separate resurrections for evil and just not only contradict many plain Bible passages, but destroy the very basis of Christianity—a ruling Christ today. Peter emphasizes that this same day, that is a day of destruction for the wicked (3:7), is also our day of rejoicing (3:12). There is no second chance, no last minute changes, no minor alterations—that will be ended for all.
But in pointing out the unexpectedness of the return, Peter also refutes those who have been speculating the Lord was to have returned during the 1800’s, or in 1914, or at the times of the world wars, etc. We do not know when the Lord will return—God has chosen not to reveal such, as we are to be ready at all times, and not to “live like the devil” till the eleventh hour, and then all get pious and holy. God is patient and longsuffering, He will outwait man, but He will return when He decides man’s corruption has gone far enough. Man may guess, make emergency preparations, but like a thief, God will catch him unawares—and then will he be ready during a normal course of life?
It Will Be a Day Of Destruction
Again Peter refutes the doctrine of men by pointing out that the return of the Lord is to be marked with the sudden destruction of all that now is. There have been those who have sought to avoid this point by contending that the world is to be destroyed by fire (3:7), but that this will be just like the former destruction by water (3:6) in the days of Noah. Thus, they contend, all evil influences will be destroyed, and then this planet will be cleared as the final dwelling place for the righteous throughout eternity.
Such a doctrine not only contradicts the plain teaching of this passage, but is an obvious play on words. A careful study of 2 Pet. 3 reveals Peter had no such thought in mind. Note that it is the world that was destroyed by water (3:6), in the days of Noah, Now, did God destroy the planet, or the people therein? Paralleling 3:6 with such passages as John 3:16, etc., we readily see Peter is not discussing the planet itself, but the world, i.e., the people who dwell therein, whom God loved and sent His son for. But, what is to be destroyed at the return of Christ? In 3:5, we find that the heavens and earth were created from water (Gen. 1:1-2), and that it is this heaven and earth (not world or people) that is to be destroyed at the return of Christ (3:7, 10). No, this planet will not be left as a dwelling place for the righteous.
But, some have concluded, man has continued to develop, and is now on the verge of both self-destruction (development?) and conquering space. Thus they reason, mankind is going to keep going till atomic reaction will destroy the earth, and those who survive on another planet will begin a new life—hence, the destruction of the earth as the Bible foretold, and a new heaven and new earth. This reasoning is not only false, but unsound.
In objecting to this kind of reasoning, we might begin by raising the question, what makes us think that if we escape to another planet we can do any better living there than here—or that God will have any more mercy there than here for evil? Do we attempt to limit God’s power to merely destroying one planet? Can we escape Him? Is this heaven with the resurrected saints?
Hardly, and such reasoning is very short sighted in thus explaining heaven.
But, to the other question—What will be the end? Will man destroy himself and this planet by atomic weapons? Hardly! Peter affirms several facts that makes it quite clear a world-wide, earth rending explosion is not the manner in which the Lord will destroy this planet. First of all, let us note that God is to do the destroying, not the stumbling errors of man pushed on by the devil and lusts for power. God has decreed He will destroy the earth when the time arrives, consuming not only the earth but all things therein. Secondly, Peter affirms that it will not be the earth only, but the whole universe! Man might accumulate atomic bombs and mass them on the face of the earth. He might declare a mass bombing and wipe a large area of land off the face of the earth. He might make life unfit for many, but he will not destroy all life and this planet! God has decreed He will do that. Not only will He do it, but He will do it at the same time He also destroys the entire universe! Even if man possesses the capability to destroy this entire planet (and despite the power of our atomic and H-bombs, I strongly question man’s capability to do so), the explosion and dissolving of this planet is not going to effect the workings of the sun, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, and other planets of our galaxy, much less effecting other galaxies thousands of light years from our own.
Let us not be deceived. God Himself will decree the time! He will destroy both this planet and the entire universe at one blow! There will be no questionings as to whether one planet got too warmongering, or a mistake might have occurred. There will be no places of escape and solitude to watch. In that day, all the universe, not only our galaxy but all the others, will be utterly destroyed from the existence of today. They will be no more. And the same God that created them from nothing will replace them with a, new heaven and new earth far beyond our ability to imagine.
No, God is not human. He is not measured with human ability. He is not limited to human means. Well, then, does Peter portray before us a scene in which the full power and glory of God will be made full to the puny and insignificant efforts and achievements of man. There will be no doubts, no questionings, no guessings! When God’s power is released, all that man has achieved will be dwarfed as a puff from one’s mouth comparable to a tornado. Man will neither destroy himself nor his dwelling planet, but he will have no doubts when God unveils His all-mighty power in the great and terrible “day of the Lord.”
Indeed, then, does Peter admonish us, “Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17). For the righteous, a day of rejoicing—for the wicked and unfaithful, a day of tragedy. Which will it be for you?