2 Peter 3:10 & 12 Speak of the Elimination of the Physical Universe?
Or Is Peter Referring to a Different Matter?
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. (2 Peter 3:10)
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which
the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with
intense heat! (2 Peter 3:12)
question was asked, Aren’t the present heavens and
earth destroyed, according to 2Peter 3:10 & 12, yet according to the Israel
of God article on the “new heavens and new earth” it states that the
earth’s sky and land will not be destroyed, but will continue just as it is?
How is that position reconciled with this scripture?
Let’s see if we can determine, through
the use of other scriptures, what Peter meant when he wrote these words. It may
be that many of us have come to understand these verses based on teachings
founded on prior assumptions that we took for granted in part because those
assumptions were so subtle, and because what we learned came from those we
respected. We would naturally be prone to accept without question such a
teaching that is from a person or organization we held in high regard, never
considering or presuming that they could be teaching something based upon an
assumption or preconceived notion. Should
Peter be understood to say or imply that the planet earth, along with the rest
of the physical universe, will be burned up into physical non-existence and
replaced with a spirit earth and universe? -Or that the entire physical planet
will suffer a global fire of some kind?
While there are numerous points that can
be addressed, perhaps if just a couple are discussed first, we might shed some
insight onto Peter’s comments.
Please notice the listing by Peter in
verse 10. This is easy to overlook, but if you have noticed this before, please
be patient, as others may not have. Verse 10 contains a listing of three things
and what happens to each in the day of the Lord.
1. heavens - will pass away with a roar
2. elements - will be destroyed with intense heat
3. the earth and its works -
will be burned up
Let’s look at this from an analytical
viewpoint, and ask what each of these three things are - the “heavens”, the
“elements”, and the “earth”. Since everybody already thinks that
they know what the “heavens” and “earth” are, it may appear that the
only question to address is the “elements” part of the scripture.
If this is a reference to any of the
“elements” listed in the Periodic Table (elements, as in “atoms”, which
form the basis of all matter) then this is illogical as the planet “earth”,
if that is what you think “earth” means, is entirely composed of
“elements”, which form the molecules and alloys that make up physical
matter. If “heavens” and “earth” means the planet earth and the rest of
the universe, then it is redundant and illogical to also identify the same
physical matter as a separate item to be burned. This would be paramount to
saying that all matter will be destroyed twice and simultaneously. This is a
little illogical. On the other hand, if “elements” does not mean physical
“matter”, then whatever it is- is no longer redundant. Furthermore, we can
then determine whether the “heavens and the earth” really does mean “all
matter” or maybe something of a little different matter. Perhaps we
could and should consider what other scriptures may have to say on this matter
of “the elements” and what they are.
Before we do that, for reasons that will
become apparent soon, we might notice that in verse 11 Peter states Seeing
then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye
to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness,
Why does Peter make a point of our
“conduct” in contrast with things burning up, or being “dissolved”
(loosed)? If the physical universe is going to vanish, that might be the reason,
but let’s hold off on that for just a bit, if I may, there might be more to
the story. We’ll come back to that. Now,
on to the “elements” of this article.
Where else does the word translated “elements”
appear in the NT?
Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements <4747> of the world:
Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements <4747>, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments <4747> of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments <4747> of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one
teach you again which be the first principles <4747> of the
oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
The above scriptures are the only
times this word is used outside of 2nd Peter. Please notice that not
once is this word used in reference to anything “physical”. No planets,
moon, sun, other heavenly bodies, no Periodic Table materials, no compounds,
alloys, nothing “physical” at all. Every use applies to “spiritual” matters
of “conduct”, either godly or ungodly. At this point we might be starting to
see that possibly Peter was alluding to something more and much different than
what many traditional Christian “explanations” portray.
Now let’s go to the “earth”. This
word “earth” is ge in the Greek and is the equivalent of the Hebrew erets
in the OT as numerous NT quotes of the OT scriptures will verify. Thus,
it is not a reference to the planet “earth”, but to “land”, or
ground, often a specific section, region, or territory. Just for fun, substitute
“land” (or even “ground) for “earth” and see if this verse might, just
by this substitution, take on a slightly different look.
Notice that “the works” of the land are included with ge and is not a 4th category. Should we consider that the “works”, ergon, are buildings and manufactured products, as the word sometimes means, or could it be a reference to the “deeds” of those in the land? Could it include both? Maybe now is a good time to see where Peter got some of this wording.
Let’s start by going back a few verses to
2 Peter 3:5-7.
5 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: [NOTE: this usage of the Greek word ge (earth) demonstrates that this is not in reference to the “planet” we identify by the name “Earth”, but rather to the material in the field that a farmer tills by plowing, sowing, and raising crops. While the “planet” Earth is 70% covered with water, the “planet” does not stand “out of the water and in the water”, but the “land” does. At first glance, when coming from the preconceived perspective that “earth” refers to the “planet”, one will assume this verse refers to the planet, but a deeper examination of scripture will quickly dispel such an assumption.]
6 Whereby the world (Kosmos – not ge) that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
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.
Kosmos must be referring to society
(people, humanity) here, as the purpose of the flood was to wipe out sinful
humans. Notice that after the flood of Genesis there was still a planet earth,
in fact, there was still ground and things still grew, the same things that grew
before the “flood”. The post flood erets (earth/land) was the same
basic erets as the pre-flood erets, the difference being that the
post flood erets was “new” erets, which, by default, made the
pre-flood erets “old”. Did the entire universe undergo a “change”
from old to new because of the flood? No mention of such a thing exists in
scripture. No evidence of a perishing of the “old” universe and ushering in
of a “new” universe exists. So, the heavens of old that existed with the
earth (erets) standing out of the water and in the water would not appear
to be the universe, but something much simpler. The idea that the “heavens”
should be understood to be the universe is rooted in the Hellenistic ideas of
“heaven” that infiltrated the early church (ekklesia).
Notice the context of what Peter writes in
these verses. These “old” heavens were the same “heavens” that rain came
from when the “heavens” open up in Genesis. Why would we think that these
heavens are in outer space, or are outer space, or even include outer space? We
need not. The “heavens” is just the sky that one sees from the “land” (erets).
The Hebrew concept and understanding of heaven is understood to mean those
things that “appear to the eye” be in the “firmament”. The
“firmament” is simply the sky (air or atmosphere), overhead, that contains
the clouds, the birds flying, and which appear to also contain the
sun, moon, and stars, even though they may be untold billions of light-years
away. Peter speaks of both the “old” heavens and, in context, the old
“earth”, (erets/ land) as being effected by the flood (see verse 5).
The post flood erets actually became a “new” erets- that is a
“new earth”. The implication being that the heavens was also
“new” as Peter continually links them together, and as does the bible. So,
the post flood heavens and earth were “new” then, but when Peter wrote this
he said that the current heavens and earth (same as erets in Old
Testament) which are now would be replaced with a “new” heavens and
earth in the future. Somehow the current heavens and earth went from being new
after the flood to being old at the time Peter was writing. Why? The thing that
made the post flood “heavens and earth” new was the absence of the now drown
dead sinners whose works (deeds) polluted the land (earth/erets). So,
“the new heavens and new earth”, which existed after the flood, became the heavens
and the earth, which are now in 2 Peter 3. Putting it all together,
the Genesis 1 heavens and earth (erets) were “new” in Genesis 1, but
“old” pre-flood. What made them old was sin, not time. They came under
judgment by coming under water. This resulted in the same land and sky becoming
“new” again! Yet, Peter now identifies them as needing to be replaced once
more. Peter explains that the cause and the result are the same between these
two sets of “new” heavens and earths. Sin made them both old. The difference
between the two “new” heavens and earth is the method of judgment. This next
time of judgment coming up, these current “heavens and earth” face a
different mode of destruction or purification.
Continuing, the flood did not destroy the
land, or the heavens and the earth, as Peter refers to it, it destroyed
what was on it. Why should we think that fire will destroy this planet (some
think vaporize it)? It is the result of the water and the fire
that produces a new heavens and new earth, yet the material world,
meaning “physical”, made of matter, continues. Just as the Flood was
judgment upon the evil humans of that day, so too, is the “fire” judgment
upon the evil humans in the Day of the Lord. Dare I add at this point that
“all” people is not every single human on the planet, but only those
directly involved with the Day of the Lord activities.
A quick look at Hebrews 1 shows an
apparent reference that might support a spirit universe, but let’s look at it.
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou
art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
At face value it does appear that the
present “earth”, therefore, “land” (quote taken from the OT, which was erets)
perishes along with the heavens. But “perishes” is used with reference,
“to destroy”, which is what the Flood judgment and the fire judgment does to
the “land” (erets), which turned out to be the people; a little bit
different than a planet vanishing into nothingness. “Changed” has the intent
of “transform”, not switch. We’ll see more about what “transforms”
Now let’s consider this in light of
what else Paul said later in the same book of Hebrews, this time in chapter 12.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things
that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot
be shaken may remain.
So, the things that cannot be shaken
“remain”, not dissolved or melted? Yes, Paul is putting a different
application to these OT words as they relate to Christians, but does that in any
way abrogate their meaning and intent as originally stated in the OT? (You can
check up on the “shaken” scriptures, I’ll not belabor the point here.
Please notice that there are 30 verses that contain the Hebrew word ra’ash.
A quick review of the uses will support the premise offered herein. Even
Paul’s intent here is one where something remains, or is left, meaning
that it did not vanish. This actually parallels the intent of the OT, but Paul
shows us that the Christian is already in a process that will ultimately
eliminate what should not survive and sustain that which should.
And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the
heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall
down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig
Isaiah 34 has the sound of what
Peter was writing about. It should as it is referring to events in the Day of
the Lord, which Peter is referring to as well (2 Peter 3:10 & 12). The Day
of the Lord occurs at the end of this present evil age. (Galatians 1:4
world = age, as in “time period”).
Let’s look at Isaiah 65 for more
Isaiah 65:17 ¶ For, behold, I
create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor
come into mind.
Now, let’s take a close, a very close,
look at chapter 65. Let’s look for the content and the context. Let’s see
just what the “new heavens and a new earth” really are that Isaiah speaks
of. That should help us to see what the heavens and earth are that Peter
Verses 1- 7 discuss two groups of people
within one nation, the House of Israel (not just the present day nation of
Israel found in Palestine, which is only a part of one tribe, Judah.), the
original 12 tribes. One group seeks God, while the other has forsaken their God.
Both groups are within Israel. God is pretty upset with those who don’t want
1 ¶ I am sought of them that asked not
for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me,
unto a nation that was not called by my name.
have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in
a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in
gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine’s flesh,
and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are
a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even
recompense into their bosom,
iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the LORD, which
have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills:
therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.
In verses 8-15, God determines that He
will slay the recalcitrant. Yet God will preserve His servants, Israel and Judah
from total annihilation because He promised (in a number of places in the bible)
that He would never completely destroy them. The “good group” portion of
Israel and Judah will be the majority of the preserved and redeemed (from
8 ¶ Thus saith the LORD, As the new
wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is
in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.
I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my
mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.
And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for
the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.
11 ¶ But ye are they that forsake the
LORD, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and
that furnish the drink offering unto that number.
Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to
the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did
not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye
shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty:
behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed:
14 Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.
ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay
thee, and call his servants by another name:
Verse 16 speaks of a time when the
“former troubles” are forgotten. This refers to the end of a national
captivity of Israel and Judah that is mentioned in numerous scriptures, many of
which are in Isaiah.
he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth;
and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the
former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.
Now we come to the “new heavens and
a new earth” reference. This is in the context of verse 16, and for that
matter much of the book of Isaiah and even the entirety of the bible, and
follows on the heels of the “former troubles” that was just “forgotten”.
17 ¶ For, behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
With this context, is there any reason to
think that the “new heavens and a new earth” is anything other than
the time of national restitution of a repentant Israel and Judah, now rejoined
into a single nation (as shown in Ezekiel 37, latter half)? The latter part of
verse 17 (Isaiah 65:17, above) even includes a reference about the “former”
troubles (their national captivities) that will not be “remembered”. This
reference forms a direct link to verse 16 (former troubles), which then
completes the “connection” of verse 16 back (or forward) to the “new
heavens and a new earth” of verse 17, and as a result provides the perfect
biblical cross check to show what the “new heavens and new earth”
are. Thus this “new heavens and a new earth” is really just a
reference to this time of restitution of national statehood for Israel. What
really makes this heavens and earth “new” is the “new” spiritual
attitude of the people in it. But notice one thing that remains constant. The
reference to this new “heavens and earth” is still localized to the people
whose hearts are changed. The “new” heavens and earth” are those who
survive and forget the “former troubles”, which is basically Israel and
those who wish to join it. Nothing here even remotely suggests that this is
Those who think that the planet and the universe will be burned into extinction and replaced by a “spirit” universe and earth have simply read more into these verses and the verses of Peter and Revelation than exist. The incredible description of the “new Jerusalem” is within this “new heavens and new earth”. It is neither supernatural, nor a physical structure. It is simply Israel in the new heavens and new earth being described with hyperbole by God. The description of the “new Jerusalem” relates to how magnificent and beautiful it is to God to finally see His People obeying Him.
Verses 18-25 continue the chronology into
the Kingdom timeframe and describe rather poetically the environment and
conditions after the Jeremiah 33 “new covenant” has been implemented in
re-gathered and restored Israel. This all takes place on a physical planet, with
physical people now seeking God instead of forsaking God. Notice that they
“build”, they “eat”, and they have children. For more on this “new
heavens and new earth” see the articles linked at the end of this article.
What has been transformed is the heart, not the planet.
But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold,
I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath
not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the
sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant
vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and
another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect
shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are
the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and
while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw
like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt
nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
Now, so as not to go on forever, The New
Jerusalem article, combined with the New Heavens and New Earth article, all in
light of the article on Genesis 1:1-2, ought to present ample evidence that this
present physical universe will continue for some time. What we have done is to
confuse scriptures concerning the future of Judah and Israel, physical nations,
with scriptures to and for the present ekklesia.
So, can we agree that the present
“heavens”, the present “earth”, and the “elements”, as described in
2 Peter 3, are related after all, but not as portrayed by most?
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (rather, "in order that the times of refreshing may come". Notice that it is God the Father who is the one who sends the times of refreshing, which is the “new heavens and new earth”, which specifically arrives on the scene at the end of this present evil age.)
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (So Peter’s new heavens and new earth are the same ones that Isaiah and the other prophets, including John, spoke of.)
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have
spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
Sounds like there ought to be considerable harmony between what the holy prophets said and what Jesus said.
New Jerusalem, How ‘New’ Is It?
New Heavens and New Earth
7 and the 'Great Multitude'
and When was the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1?
This last link contains the explanation of what the physical “heavens” are in bible usage as shown from bible usage.