Monday, 24 February 2020
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10
Peter has been speaking of the coming of the Lord, something denied by the scoffers due to the lengthy time which is said to elapse between the promise and the occurrence. The very fact that Peter penned this, after such a short time from Christ’s ascension, should clue these scoffers in that it would be a really long time. He went on to say that one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Reading his words, then taking the rest of Scripture in that light, it should be obvious to anyone willing to heed the word that a great time interval of millennia could be expected to pass before the return of the Lord. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but for the scoffers of today, it should be as plain as the noses on their faces. Regardless of this, Peter now continues the thought by saying, “But the day of the Lord…”
This is a phrase used rather sparsely in the New Testament. He spoke of it in Acts 2:20 –
“The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
What is obvious from Peter’s words here in 2 Peter, is that the prophecy of Acts 2:20 was not fulfilled at that time. He was not speaking of the events surrounding him and his audience as being fulfilled, but that they were anticipatory of a later date when they would be. The same term, “the day of the Lord,” is seen again in 1 Thessalonians 5:2. An allusion to this is also seen in 1 Corinthians 1:8 and in 2 Corinthians 1:14. The one from 1 Thessalonians 5 says –
“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”
This is exactly what Peter next says, that it “will come as a thief in the night.” The question is, “Was Peter making a generally known statement, or was he citing Paul?” It is true that Jesus spoke with similar terms in Matthew 24:43, where He spoke of a thief coming, but it is not as specific. Further, John will quote Jesus with the same “thief” terminology in Revelation twice. And finally, some manuscripts only say, “like a thief.” Thus, many translations follow in that. Therefore, it is hard to be dogmatic about Peter’s words.
However, Peter will, in just five more verses, speak of Paul’s letters. The fact that he does this, and the fact that Paul had said to those at Thessalonica, “For you yourselves know perfectly,” it seems to show that this was a common teaching of Paul’s, and possibly one commonly taught by the other apostles as well. Their message was consistent that the coming of the Lord Jesus would occur, and then there would be a time of great cataclysm which would come upon the earth. Peter begins to describe that with “in which the heavens will pass away with great noise.”
Peter now uses a word found only here in Scripture, rhoizédon. It is an onomatopoetic expression where the sound of the word expresses the meaning. It comes from rhoizos, the whistling of an arrow. Thus, there will be a rushing noise which fills the heavens as the atmosphere is sucked up and out of the areas where the events occur. This is a perfect expression to describe modern thermobaric weapons that use oxygen from the surrounding air to generate extremely high-temperature explosions. In such explosions, there is a blast wave which is normally significantly longer in duration than that produced by conventional explosives.
This follows with what Peter had just said in verse 3:7 which also spoke of the heavens and the earth coming under judgment. It also is what Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:35 with the words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” What Peter is referring to here is a passage from Isaiah 34 which speaks of a great heavenly cataclysm –
“All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;
All their host shall fall down
As the leaf falls from the vine,
And as fruit falling from a fig tree.” Isaiah 34:4
Peter then continues with, “and the elements will melt with fervent heat.” In our modern times, we can see how this is easily possible – thermonuclear war. Before this age, it would not have been imaginable how such things could take place. Now, it is hard to imagine how, eventually, they will not take place. The world is becoming more and more fractured in ideology, and the greed of the human heart will, at some point, bring about the fulfillment of these ancient prophecies. At that time, Peter says that “both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
These words used by Peter are greatly expanded on in Isaiah 24. It is a passage which speaks of judgment upon the earth on a global scale. The entire passage is worth reading to get the sense of what is coming, but verse 6 is rather clear –
“Therefore the curse has devoured the earth,
And those who dwell in it are desolate.
Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
And few men are left.” Isaiah 24:6
Life application: Someday, the world will rejoice at the thought of “peace and safety” brought about by a treaty between Israel and the surrounding nations. But the very thing they believe will bring peace is what will bring about destruction.
The dividing of the Land of Israel as prophesied in Joel 3 will lead to judgment. The land belongs to God and He has given it to Israel as a heritage. But the world is now working to divide it. This will come about as prophesied, and the nations will be judged because of it. The book is written, and the prophecies have been spoken. The question isn’t whether these things will come to pass, but when.
Lord Jesus, when You come for Your faithful at the rapture, we certainly want to be counted among that number. Just as important, though, is that many around us will hear and accept the good news of the gospel now, so that they too will be saved from the Day of Judgment to come. May we be bold to open our hearts and our mouths so that we may proclaim this good news while there is still time! Amen.