By John MacArthur
Let's open our Bibles tonight as we study the Word of God together to 2 Peter chapter 3. We return to our series on the certainty of the Second Coming. And this, by the way, is part 3 in that series...2 Peter chapter 3.
As Christians it is obvious to all of us that we anticipate by way of the revelation of Scripture the return of Jesus Christ. But it is more, I think, than just a part of our theology. It is also a part of the anticipation of our hearts. As believers we long for the day when the Lord Jesus will return to take His own to be with Him and then to judge the sinners of the world to establish His Kingdom and to bring in eternal righteousness.
To all of those who truly name the name of Jesus Christ, such a hope is central to their faith. But to the mockers and the scoffers who attack Christianity, there is continual ridicule about such a doctrine, such an anticipation. We find that such ridicule is the subject of Peter's discussion here in this chapter. You will remember, I'm sure, verse 3, the mockers who come with their mocking and in verse 4 they say, "Where is the promise of His coming?"
One of the major attacks of false teachers and scoffers and mockers through the centuries has been on the doctrine of the return of Jesus Christ. For just a moment, suppose they're right. Suppose that Jesus is not coming back, suppose that Jesus never actually rose from the dead and therefore could not come back for He is dead. Think of the implications. Wrong would never be made right. Injustice in this world would never be replaced by fairness and equity. Suffering would never be rewarded in this world. The curse on this world would never be removed. Paradise lost but never regained. And the hope of the human heart for a better life would be but a pipe dream. The longing for a better world would be an illusion. If this is all there is, a deteriorating wicked world growing worse and worse, and there is no change to be anticipated, no alteration, no transformation, no better world, better life, no end to pain, no end to sickness, no end to death, no end to disappointment, if all of that is true, then sin rules, Satan wins and the universe continues on the path to its own destruction. And for what? What kind of cruel joke is this life and this world?
The question really is...could we bear such a belief? Could we commit soul suicide and believe that there is no real resolution, nothing will ever be made right? Can we really buy into that mockers viewpoint without destroying all hope and making nonsense out of human existence?
The false teachers in Peter's day had reached the point in their heresies where they were outright attackers of the Second Coming. Among the things that they taught that were heresy, the pinnacle seems to be a denial of the return of Jesus Christ. It probably involved a denial of His physical, literal, bodily resurrection but for sure they denied that He would ever come back. That denial topped off all the other denials which were part and parcel of their heresy. Denial of the Second Coming apparently culminated their distorted doctrine and denial of Scripture. So since Peter was writing this second epistle to deal with false teachers, he in chapter 3 then must deal with this, the culmination of their false teaching.
Remember in chapter 1 Peter gave us some safeguards against false teachers, safeguards like living holy lives under the authority of the Word of God, safeguards like being sure you're genuinely saved and knowing your spiritual condition. And then in chapter 2 he described for us the false teachers in great detail so they would be recognizable to us. And now in chapter 3 he defends the faith against their most important error, that is an attack on the return of Jesus Christ.
As we come in to chapter 3 we begin to deal with it immediately. Remember now, Peter opened this chapter by focusing on the debate in verses 1 through 9, the debate between the mockers and those who teach the truth. And then in chapter 10 he makes a statement of affirmation about the return of Christ and then in verses 11 to 18 he closes the chapter by talking about the practical implications that the return of Christ causes.
So the first nine verses show the debate between the mockers and those who speak the truth. Verse 10 affirms the truth. And then verses 11 to 18 delineate its implications.
In verses 1 and following we start out with the arguments of the scoffers against the Second Coming. In verse 3 the mockers mock, in verse 4 they say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" And they have a number of arguments that they use. First is the argument from ridicule. They are mockers and they are mocking. They ridicule anybody who would believe in such a foolish doctrine. This is the emotional attack. It plays on feelings. Some of the Christians, you remember, at that time expected Jesus to have already come. And because He hadn't come they were wondering if somehow He wasn't going to keep His word. Their doubts gave ground for the scoffers and the mockers to attack them. And because they were already struggling...where is Jesus, why hasn't He come, some of us are already dying and what's going to happen, are they dying Christians missing the Rapture, is He not coming, where is the Lord, we thought He would come in our life time...playing on their emotion at that point, the scoffer simply mocks such a foolish belief.
Secondly, the argument from morality. I pointed out to you that the real issue here in verse 3 is that they deny the coming of Christ because they want to follow their own lusts. In other words, their doctrine of no Second Coming comes from the fact they don't want any accountability, they don't want to ever have to answer to God for the life they live. And since they want to live a immoral, lust-controlled life, they don't want any accountability and so they will eliminate a judgment which means you eliminate the coming of Christ. That's the moral approach. The emotional approach...the moral approach.
Their third argument is the argument from uniformity. In verse 4 at the end, they make this ridiculous statement, "Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." They say God never has intervened in judgment, so why would we believe He will in the future. He never has. That's the intellectual argument. They look at history and in their blindedness, their willful blindedness, they say, "Well, there never has been a judgment, so there never will be." So they take an emotional approach, a moral approach, and a historical approach in denying the coming of Christ.
We also remember the second point and that is the arguments from the saints for the Second Coming. On the other side, the first argument of the saints is the argument from Scripture, verses 1 and 2. He says to them, "I want you to remember," verse 2, "the word spoken beforehand by the holy prophets," that's the Old Testament. "And the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles," that's the New Testament. Remember the Second Coming is taught in the Old and the New Testament, that's the argument from Scripture. No matter what the scoffers say, the Bible teaches it.
Secondly is the argument from history, verse 5. He says the scoffers willingly forget that God has judged and he goes from verse 5 to 7 to speak of the judgment of water that came upon the world...the judgment in the day of Noah. How can they say God has never come in devastating destruction, they are willingly ignorant of the Flood. The argument from uniformity is ridiculous, it is a deliberate rejection of truth. They choose that belief simply because they want no accountability for their sin, not because history verifies it.
Thirdly the argument from eternity in verse 8. Because the Lord has not already come does not mean He won't come. It does not mean He's late because with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. God does not operate on a timetable like ours, He operates on eternal terms, eternal basis. You cannot confine God to a human timetable. So the argument from eternity, it may appear to you that God has delayed His coming but remember a day with Him is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day, and so God is not at all late, He is not delaying. The eternal God is not confined by time.
And then fourthly, the argument from the character of God. The argument from the character of God, that is found in verse 9. They say, where is He...where is He...He promised He was coming, where is He? And Peter in the culmination of his argument says this, verse 9, "The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing for any should perish but for all to come to repentance."
Peter said the delay is not a delay of indifference, it is not a delay of impotence. It is not a delay of distraction, it is a delay of patience. God, if He is waiting, is waiting because His patience makes Him wait, because He doesn't wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.
Now this very, very important verse needs to occupy our thinking so that we get a careful understanding. And I want you to kind of follow along in your Bible and thoughtfully as we extract the truth that is found in this great, great verse.
First statement, "The Lord is not slow about His promise." That is a very significant statement. The fact that so much time has passed since Jesus walked on earth calls for this explanation. Even in the time when Peter was writing it, it had only been just a few years since Jesus said He would come back, they were already wondering why He hadn't come back. They were definitely experiencing the hope that it would be in their lifetime. Even Paul indicates that.
Now Peter knew he would die before Jesus came because Jesus told him he was going to die in John 21. So he knew he wouldn't live till the return of Christ. But there were many believers who assumed that they would. And Jesus hadn't come. And so they were questioning why hasn't He come. Here we are two thousand years later and the questions more pertinent for us and we might ask it, it's been a very long time, not just a decade or two, but it's been a millennium and He hasn't come. And then another millennium and He hasn't come. And we're approach two thousand years and where is He? And yet the promise of Scripture is clear, twenty-three out of twenty-seven New Testament books tell us He's coming. There are 260 New Testament chapters and there are 300 references to the return of Christ. So the message is clear, He is coming, He is coming.
Why has He not already come? To which Peter says, "He is not slow." That word means late. It can also mean to loiter. He's not loitering, He's not dilly-dallying, He's not slow, He's not late, it is not the slowness of impotence, it is not the slowness of indifference, it is not the slowness of distraction, it is not the slowness of apathy. He is not late. You remember in Galatians 4 it says, "In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law,"? God does everything in the fullness of time. He does everything on schedule, on time. He isn't slow. He isn't fast. He isn't soon. He isn't late. He is on time.
In Hebrews 10:23 it says, "That He who promised is faithful." And in verse 37 it says, "For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come." He will come on schedule. He is not slow, He is not loitering. He is not fiddling away time. He will come. In fact, you remember Titus 1:2 it says, "God who cannot lie," Hebrews 6:18 says, "It is impossible for God to lie." In Revelation 19:11 it designates Christ as the faithful and true one. God is faithful. God keeps His Word, so does Christ.
So Peter flatly denies that the Lord is delaying His coming out of indifference or apathy or impotence. He is denying that the Lord is late in fulfilling His promise. He may seem late to the mockers and He may seem late to some of the believers who were fearful and worried, but He is not late, He is still on schedule perfectly. Such thoughts are purely human and he says that, "The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness." Some on the human plain might see it that way, some mockers, some scoffers, and some unwitting believers who buy into the lies of the false teachers. Some believers apparently failed to understand verse 8, that a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day in the Lord's mind, and they fell victim to the scoffing and the mocking and were beginning to believe that the Lord was slow. But Peter says He's not slow as some mockers, and apparently some unwitting believers would count slowness. God's apparent delay is not due to any failure on His part, Peter very specifically says this, "But He is patient toward you." And there is the key thought in this whole passage. The apparent delay is not due to a failure, it is due to the character of God. This is Peter's summation in terms of argument.
As he argues from Scripture in verses 1 and 2 and argues from history in verses 5 to 7 and argues from God's eternality in verse 8, he now argues from the character of God. He is patient. And He patiently waits before the Second Coming.
Now keep this in mind, beloved, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is primarily a judgment event. You understand that, don't you? It is primarily a judgment event. We anticipate the return of Christ to take His own to be with Him, but that really is a special pre-day of the Lord event in which Jesus takes out His own. He actually never comes all the way to the earth, we meet Him in heaven, don't we? We meet Him in the sky in the first heaven. He doesn't really come all the way back until He comes back to judge. So the reason that His coming appears delayed is because He is so patient with sinners, He delays and delays and delays the judgment because He has planned to do that, because He is patient.
There are a number of passages of Scripture that demand our attention. Romans 2:4 says, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" And Paul is there saying God has actually put His judgment plans into the future in order that in this present time He may exercise patience toward sinners so that they will repent. He is giving people time for repentance.
In Romans 9:22 it gives us another insight into the character of God. It says He endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. He is so very patient. In 1 Peter chapter 3 and verse 20 it takes us back to the time of Noah and it says that the people of Noah's time were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah. How long did God wait? How patient was He? One hundred and twenty years did Noah build a boat and preach repentance and God patient and patient and patient, allowing men space to repent.
And now in our own chapter, 2 Peter chapter 3, look at verse 15, Peter says, "Regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation." It is for purposes of redemption that God is patient. It is for purposes of repentance and salvation that God waits. And so the scoffers see the delay as a vice and Peter presents it as a virtue.
Let me give you a little insight into the word patience, if I might. It's used there in verse 9, it's the word makrothumia. Thumia is a form of the word thumos which has to do with anger, thumos. Makro we use today, we say something is macro when it's large, opposite micro what is small. Makrothumia then would be large anger, great anger. What does that mean? He has a great capacity for anger. In other words, God has such a vast capacity that His anger has plenty of room. It's a remarkable word. His anger is large, He has an immense capacity for wrath before He breaks loose in judgment. He takes a lot before He acts.
Now you remember that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is a time of final devastating, wholesale, worldwide judgment, condemnation and damnation to eternal hell of all the ungodly. But God, it says in Joel 2:13, is slow to anger. And He is great in mercy. Luke 15:20 says He is eager to show mercy. And while God holds in His hand the power to kill, the power to destroy, the power to cast into eternal hell and He alone has that power and with Him it is as easy to kill an entire world of people as it is to think the thought. But He is patient before He destroys.
Think about His patience. He endures very patiently innumerable adulteries, murders, lies, fornications, thefts, deceptions, endless violations of His law. He endures blasphemies against His name, debaucheries, defiance, challenges to His holy sovereign will. He endures the loose lips of the profane swearer. He endures all of it and is patient...patient, patient. He would have every right to consume the sinner the first time he committed the sin. Back in Exodus 34 and verse 6 it says of God the Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. That, by the way, is repeated often in the Old Testament.
And it is true, sad to say, that the more the divinely compassionate God of mercy suffers patiently our iniquities, the more the wickedness of men presumes on that patience. But it is true, God is not easily provoked by our sins, if He were we'd all be gone, right? He is not easily provoked. But while He is not easily provoked, isn't it a wonderful thought to realize that He is easily pacified? He is pacified by a simple act of repentant faith in Jesus Christ. He is not easily provoked, He is more easily pacified because He is a God of compassion.
See Him in the parable of Matthew 18 where the man with the unpayable debt comes to the king and the king says to him, "You have accumulated a debt that you could never pay back, you have sinned against me, you have violated me. And the man falls down and pleads for forgiveness. And what does the king do? Forgives him. He tolerated all of the man's iniquitous conduct and forgave him in a moment. So is God not easily provoked by our iniquities, but easily pacified by our faith. Thus while having a true and strong, compelling desire for the salvation of the sinner, God is patient to give him the space to repent.
Now the question comes here...to whom does this refer? When it says in verse 9 He is patient toward you, who is in mind there? Some would suggest to us that only the elect are in view, that God is only patient toward the elect. Think about it, is that true? Is it true that God is only patient with His elect? I think not. I think it is abundantly true that He is patient with the unregenerate or He would have consumed them the moment they first sinned. While definitely patient toward the elect, it certainly cannot be limited to us. God is patient with all.
Take the analogy of Noah. Was God patient only with Noah? Was God patient only with Noah's wife? Was God patient only with Noah's three sons and their three wives? The eight souls who were redeemed? Certainly not. For their faith and their salvation certainly took place years before the Flood came and God exhibited even after they were believers a great patience with the sinners whom He would ultimately have to destroy.
So as I read you in 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 20, the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark in which a few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Long after the eight were safe, as it were, in the fold of faith, God was still patiently waiting for sinners to repent. Yes, God's patience extends to all, to all sinners who are not consumed by the breath of His wrath. So you must extend to all mankind in general.
And why is God patient with them all? It says it right here in verse 9, "Not wishing for any to perish." Not wishing for any to perish...the reason He is so patient is because He does not want to come and destroy and damn them.
God had no pleasure in drowning the whole world, except for eight persons. Ezekiel 18, God says, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, none." In Jeremiah 13 the prophet says, "If you don't repent...speaking for God...Mine eye will run down with tears." Jesus in Matthew is seen crying out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, how oft I would have gathered you as a hen gathereth her brood and you would not," and we know that over the city of Jerusalem Jesus wept. God does not wish that any should perish. It is not His desire. Any is an individual term, by the way, not a class or a group. He is not willing that any, not wishing that any should perish. The word perish refers to eternal hell here, to being sentenced, condemned, punished because of unforgiven sin, the worst of which obviously is to reject Jesus Christ. It is not God's wish. So the reason God is waiting is because of His patience with people. As I said, He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Peter's point is simply that man is perishing in the midst of God's patience. Peter's point is that the cause of man's perishing is not some desire of God to damn them without a choice, but their own unwillingness given the patience of God to turn from sin and receive Jesus Christ.
It's very important to balance our doctrine of the sovereignty of God with this comprehension and this understanding, lest we be out of balance and unbiblical in the view of salvation that we hold. In Isaiah 45 verse 21 we read this, "Declare and set forth your case, indeed let them consult together, who has announced this from of old, who has long since declared it, is it not I the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior, there is none except Me, turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth." God has cried out in His patience for all the earth to be saved.
In Isaiah 55:1, "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat, come buy wine and milk without money and without cost." He's talking there about salvation. "Listen that you may live and I will make an everlasting covenant with you." In John 1:12 He says, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the children of God." In John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." In Matthew 11:28 He said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And the Bible actually ends with an invitation in Revelation 22 verse 17, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come and let the one who hears say come and let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."
And so, the reason that the Lord has put His Second Coming in to the future is because of His patience. It is not His desire that men perish. But, says Peter, back to verse 9, "For all to come to repentance." For all to come to repentance.
It seems to me apparent that there were some believers in the church who thought that God willed the damnation of Gentiles. And there may have been some who thought that God willed the damnation of Jews. There were certainly some who thought that God may have willed the damnation of many, both Jew and Gentile.
But Peter confronts such deviant thought and affirm that God by nature is compassionate, God by nature is gracious, merciful, loving, kind, forgiving, and God is Savior. And it is not His desire that men perish. It is His desire that they come to repentance. In Acts 17, in fact, God commands all men everywhere to repent. He commands it because He desires it.
In Luke chapter 13, interesting verse, verse 3, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent you will always likewise perish." Jesus said those words and He is saying the path to perishing is the path of an unrepentant heart. It is not the decree of God. It is not the desire of God. It is not the predetermined will of God to damn certain individuals to hell. The path to damnation is the path of a non-repentant heart, one that rejects Jesus Christ and holds on to sin.
There are other people who look at this verse and say, "Well, if God doesn't wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance," then nobody will perish and everybody will come to repentance. And we call these people universalists and they think everybody is going to be saved. But if everybody is going to be saved, then all of the teaching in the Bible about the day of the Lord is a lie because it says when the day of the Lord comes, sinners are going to be destroyed.
The word used in this verse for wishing, do you see it there in verse 9?, boulomai is a word that we want to understand. We cannot overuse that word. It does not necessarily have the connotation of a predetermination. It can mean just a desire, just a desire. The word thelo which is used in 1 Timothy 2:4 can also mean just a desire. We can't read anything into these words. But we do know very clearly here that God has said it is not My wish, it is not My desire that men perish, it is My desire that they repent. That's consistent with His compassion. That's consistent with Acts 17 where He commands all men everywhere to repent.
So I submit to you then that I believe in the sovereign election of God. I believe in the predestination of believers to eternal life. But I also believe that those who go to hell go because they have made a choice and are responsible for their own rejection and unrepented heart. God has to harmonize those things, I can't. But I know God's heart is broken when sinners refuse to repent.
Now there's a paradox here, obviously, because God does finally yield to His holy justice. There is a point at which His mercy, grace, compassion, forbearance and patience end. That's true in every individual life. God may be repentant and give a man sixty years, but at year sixty it ends and he dies without repenting, without believing in Christ. God may give a woman seventy years but at seventy it ends. God may give a civilization so many years and then a sweeping holocaust wipe out a large portion of its population. And God will give the world so much time but as it says in Genesis 6:2, "My Spirit will not always strive with man," and after 120 years of preaching, the Flood came and it was over.
Finally and ultimately the justice, the holy justice of God will ultimately consign unbelieving men and women to hell. He decrees that, though it be not the desire of His heart. And so He does it because men refuse what is offered them.
Scripture will say it, Jude 4, "He will appoint the wicked for the day of judgment, even ungodly men who are foreordained to this condemnation." The ungodly who persist in ungodliness and unrepentance are foreordained to be damned. Repentance is the only way to salvation and faith in Jesus Christ, turning from sin to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. And as I read you in Romans 2:4 God is patient that sinners may be penitent. God is patient that sinners may be penitent. So says Peter. Four arguments, four arguments for the coming of Christ.
The argument from Scripture says He's coming. The argument from history says He's judged in the past, there's precedent. The argument from eternity says if it seems like a long time, remember it is to you but not to Him. And the argument from character says He's coming and the reason He waits so long is because He is so patient to give time for sinners to repent for it is not His desire, though ultimately it is His decree, that ungodly be damned.
On the basis of those four arguments, Peter then affirms the coming of Christ in verse 10. Look at verse 10, this is the result of those arguments, the affirmation statement. "But the day of the Lord will come, like 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." What a statement. The day of the Lord will come. The day of the Lord, remember please, is a technical term for the culmination, the judgment of God that comes to end this age, to end this world as we know it. The Old Testament prophets saw it as a day of unequalled darkness and damnation, a day when the Lord would act in a climactic way to vindicate His name, to destroy His enemies, to reveal His glory, and to establish His Kingdom. And whether you look at Isaiah chapter 2 or chapter 13, whether you look at Ezekiel chapter 13 or chapter 30, whether you look at Joel chapter 1, chapter 2, Amos chapter 5, whether you look in that single chapter of Obadiah verse 15, Zephaniah chapter 1, Zechariah chapter 14, Malachi chapter 4, wherever you look and you see the unfolding of the final day of the Lord, you see it as a time of judgment.
Some of the prophets indicate that it will have some preliminary signs and so they write of those. Some write about what it will be like when it hits and how it will continue and some speak of what happens after it's over, but the prophets all see it as a day of judgment and doom. The New Testament writers, the same, whenever the New Testament writers speak of that term, the day of the Lord, it is a fearful thing. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 2, "You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. And while people are saying peace and safety, destruction will come upon them suddenly." It is a time of devastation and destruction. Second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 2, the day of the Lord is going to come and again it is associated here with evil, it is preceded by an apostasy, a man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, the son of perdition or destruction. Earlier in that same epistle, the first chapter, it describes the event itself. "When the Lord Jesus comes from heaven, verse 7 of chapter 1, with mighty angels and flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus and they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction." Always a time of judgment. When Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24, in Luke 12, again the emphasis was on the devastation as well as the gathering together of the elect.
So Peter says it will come, this technical term describing the day of judgment, and it will come, he says, like a thief. What does he mean by that? It will be a surprise arrival, a surprise break in, if you will, sudden, unexpected, disastrous to the unprepared. And the verb, by the way, has the force of a present tense. It could be read this way, "The day of the Lord will have arrived like a thief." We don't know when, no one knows the day or the hour. It's not for us to know that, but all generations live in the sense that it could come at any time.
And so Peter says it's coming...it's inevitable. And then he describes its character, look at verse 10, "In which when that day comes the heavens will pass away with a roar." This is such a dramatic picture. It reminds me, and perhaps you, of our Lord's teaching back in Matthew 24 and I don't want to go into it in detail because we've studied it when we studied Matthew 24. But in verse 35 it says, "Heaven and earth will pass away," those are the words of Jesus..."Heaven and earth will pass away." In Luke 21:33 the same thing is said. In Mark 13:31 the same thing is said. We find in the book of Revelation more detail about that, chapter 6 of Revelation verse 14, "The sky was split apart like a scroll when it was rolled up and every mountain and island were moved out of their places," the whole earth and sky in upheaval. "The stars of the sky...verse 13...fell to the ground like a fig tree casts its unripe fruits when shaken by a great wind. The sun becomes black as sackcloth made of hair and the moon becomes like blood." The heavens just completely begin to disintegrate.
What does he mean by the heavens? The physical, visible universe, the vaulted expanse, the sky with all the things that are in it. In the primitive Hebrew they didn't appear to have a concept or even a word for universe, they simply spoke of heavens. But here it means the whole universe will pass away. Please note it, it is not by man and it is not by the natural course of things. It isn't going to be a man-made holocaust because somebody drops an A-bomb, and it isn't going to be some kind of environmental disaster because we've over polluted the ozone with too much hair spray and deodorant. It isn't going to be that. It's going to be the intervention of God. God is going to destroy it. The whole universe is going to go.
Some people have tried to assign this event to the end of the Tribulation, before the millennial Kingdom, that's not possible because you have the destruction of the entire universe. In fact, in Isaiah 34:4 it says all the hosts of heaven will wear away, the sky will be rolled up like a scroll. All their hosts will also wither away as a leaf withers from the vine.
Can you imagine if you unroll a scroll and let go of it, it just rolls back up. The whole universe just rolls up. It does it with a roar. Interesting word. The word is poridon(???), it's an onomatopoeic word, another one of those words that sounds like its meaning. It means with a whizzing, with a whistling, or with a crackling sound of objects being consumed by flames, the noise will be absolutely deafening. The roar of a fire that is unlike anything you can ever imagine as the whole of the universe goes up in some crackling, whizzing, furious flame.
We are clear on that because of what Peter has already told us. The present heavens and earth are being reserved for that final fire on the end day of judgment. God is going to bring a fire that literally burns up the whole universe. And then he says, "And the elements will be destroyed with intense heat." The elements, stoichea literally means thing in a row, like letters in a row, or numbers in a row, basic things. Applied to the material world it means the elements, the basic elements that make up chemical composure of the universe, the components into which matter is ultimately divisible. Even further down, into atomic structure, down to the very elements that make up the universe, the atoms, the neutrons, the protons, the electrons. They're going to be dissolved, to be literally luo, destroyed.
How? With intense heat, furious heat, beyond anything we could ever imagine. We talked about that in our earlier study of verse 7, how that even now the core of the earth is a ball of fire, as well as all the balls of fire that exist in the sky, stars and suns. This whole universe once went up in water, if you can say it that way, and it's going to go up in flames in the future.
He says in verse 10, "And the earth and its works will be burned up." The heavens going to go and so is the earth. The whole of the physical, natural earth as we know it, with it's whole eco system and social system will be consumed.
Now this is an amazing thing, this is something that is beyond description. Somehow the Lord protects His sheep through that, through that whole thing, those who belong to Him, through that devastating final, ultimate holocaust and takes us into the new heavens and the new earth.
Now some of you are saying, "Well now wait a minute, doesn't the day of the Lord come at the end of the Tribulation?" Yes. "But aren't you describing something that happens at the end of the Millennium before the new heavens and the new earth?" Yes, because it says in verse 13, we're looking for a new heavens and a new earth. But you say, "Wait a minute, I know a little prophecy. Isn't there a thousand years between those?" Yes. You say, "Well then does the day of the Lord last for a thousand years?" Not really. The day of the Lord has a component that occurs at the end of the Tribulation when Jesus comes at the end of the battle of Armageddon and consumes the wicked and the day of the Lord has another component at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, but don't be troubled by that because verse 8 explains it. "With the Lord, one day is...what?...a thousand years," and the day of the Lord is just one day with Him. Though from a human viewpoint there's a thousand year interval between phase one and phase two, with Him it's one day of the Lord...one day of the Lord.
And in that final moment, the whole solar system and the great galaxies, even space/time relationships will be abolished. All the elements which make up the physical world will be dissolved by heat and utterly melt away. It is an astonishing picture that really is the final act of God to destroy the remaining ungodly who have accumulated during the Millennial Kingdom. He destroys those on the earth at the coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation time, then the thousand-year Kingdom. People will be born who will reject Christ. An innumerable number of people will fight against God. Satan will be released at the end of the thousand years and lead a rebellion against the Lord. And God will come in ultimate final judgment for the last time and destroy the whole universe and set up a new heaven and a new earth. And we'll see more about that as we go on.
The wrathful voice of God is going to come in the day of the Lord. It's inevitable. The mockers may mock, they're wrong. And they may argue, they may argue from the viewpoint of emotion and feeling, they may argue from the viewpoint of morality, not wanting any accountability, wanting to live the way they want with no compunctions and no restraints and no one to answer to. And they might argue foolishly, blindly, willfully from some revised vision of history, but their arguments are foolish. The day of the Lord will come...will come. And when it hits, it will destroy suddenly with stealth, like a thief. And before it's over, the whole universe will be out of existence as we know it and an entire new heaven and new earth, wherein dwells only righteousness and the ungodly men and demons will be consigned to eternal hell forever. He's coming and He is on schedule.
Next time we're going to find out the implications of this in our lives.
Father, thank You for our time in Your Word tonight. So much to say, so many rich truths. O Lord, we thank You that You've given us such clear warning, what a gracious God you are, not only to be patient, but to be so clear in Your revelation, that we can understand and know. You've made Your Word available. We thank You for Your passion, Your compassion, Your grace, Your mercy, Your loving kindness, we thank You that You do not desire that men perish, You proved that You loved men when You gave Your Son to redeem them. But, Lord, we know at the same time while Your patience lingers, there will be a day when holy justice falls, for Your grace has its limit and we pray that not a person hearing this message will feel the crush of that moment of judgment and its eternal pain because all will have come to Christ, turning from sin to embrace Him as Savior and Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.