The Eschatology Of the Apostle Peter

A Brief Commentary on II Peter 3:3-14

3 …There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 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: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

7 But 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. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

The correct interpretation of prophetic passages will best be assured if we attend to the particular words and phrases within each passage that indicate its temporal context and connections. The application of this method will allow us to construct a temporal framework for eschatology that is independent of our presuppositions; that rests upon a solid foundation of explicit statements of Scripture and necessary inferences made therefrom, rather than questionable assumptions that we have made, or some man-made system that we have been taught.

The functional usefulness of this method may be demonstrated by applying it to the text before us. This text has in view the bodily return of Christ prophesied in Acts 1:11 by the angel which said,”Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” It unquestionably predicts the end of the world in its relation to the return of Christ. It will be shown that the time-texts in this passage interpreted in their natural sense and force, allow for only one understanding of the temporal relationship between the great final events of history.

3 …there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

It is implied that even these mockers know that Christians believe His coming will change everything. There is no hint in this entire passage that there will be a secret coming of Christ to receive His saints, years before the coming to judge the world spoken of here, and the synchronisms in the passage (of which more later) exclude such a possibility.

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: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Verse 3 speaks of the original world, the heavens and the earth that together formed the cosmos – the world – of the patriarchs. That cosmos was destroyed by water. We can only speculate about the effects of the flood upon the atmosphere. It is possible that the gaseous content of the atmosphere, or at least the ratio of the gases was permanently altered by the unprecedented meteorological convulsions of the year of the flood, and by the intense and widespread volcanic eruptions of that year of disaster. That pre-flood environment, which was so wholesome that even fallen men were able to live ten times as long as they do today, is gone completely!

We know that the surface of the earth was entirely changed; and many believe that the earth’s crust was broken up at this time into the tectonic plates which have just been discovered in modern times. There are huge fractures in the middle of the ocean floors that run around the whole globe, the very thing that we would expect, since the Genesis account states that “the fountains of the great deep were broken up”!

Every field geologist knows by experience that there are, to use Ken Ham’s memorable summary, “billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth”. This is just as we would expect, since Noah’s flood actually occurred! All flesh, with the exception of the inhabitants of the ark, perished! The Noahic flood is therefore a fit type of the actual end of the world, that will take place at the second coming.

The failure of the unregenerate to acknowledge the truth about this great universal judgment, the evidence of which is to be found literally everywhere, is due to their willful ignorance. Better arguments will not solve the problem – only the Almighty Spirit of God can convince them.

7 But 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.

Observe that the destruction of the existing heavens and earth by fire is synchronous with the day of judgment. And there is only one day of final judgment (though it may certainly take more than one day’s time). This requires us to understand that the present age of history does not end — as the antedeluvian age did — only to be followed by another. The end of the age is the end of the world, and the time of final judgment.

8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

To an omniscient and eternal God, the passing of time must look very different from the way we view it. Those who make God’s delay a proof that His promise has failed do not reckon on God’s long timetable or His great patience in His dealings with sinful man.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

There are many that abuse verse 9, contending that it disproves the doctrine of predestination. They read it in a universal sense, “He is longsuffering toward all men, not willing that anyone should perish, but that everyone should come to repentance.”

But it should be noted that Peter was writing to the church. When he said, “to usward” (we would say “toward us”) he did not intend the whole world, but the ones styled “beloved” to whom he wrote (Verses 1 and 8); the “elect” of 1 Peter 1:2, since this was the second epistle he wrote to the same people. (3:1) No one would argue that the words “unto us” in verses 1:3 or 1:4 include all men; so why should we allow an exception to be made here?

Likewise, the words “any” and “all “ should not be understood of the whole world; but must be interpreted in the light of their context. Clearly, they refer to the same persons as “us” does. Thus, the natural meaning is “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to repentance.” Peter intimates that the world may last for thousands of years yet, in order that all of the elect, including those who have not yet been born, may be saved. After that last man’s conversion, the end shall come.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;

It is not a secret rapture, but the revelation of Christ as King and Judge of the world, descending upon His enemies with legions of angels, in terrifying fire, that will come as a thief in the night. Gill comments: “It will not be known what hour he will come; he will come suddenly, at an unawares, when he is not expected, to the great surprise of men, and especially of the scoffers.”

in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

The phrase, “in the which” indicates another synchronism. Peter reiterates that the second coming coincides with the end of the world. The latter event will be awesomely violent and terrible, a spectacular and utter destruction – as if God wanted to show in one unforgettable moment His infinite displeasure with all that man has polluted by His sin.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Dreadful though it will certainly be, we are to “look for”(anticipate) and “hasten unto”(eagerly await) the end of the world. Why? Because it coincides with the fulfillment of our hope of personal resurrection, glorification, and vindication, and marks the beginning of a perfect world in which God shall dwell forever with His people, and shall receive all the glory due His holy name!

13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new!” It is nothing to our God to annihilate a world and make a new one! He will give His bride this most magnificent gift on their wedding day.

14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Instead of telling Christians not to worry, and to pack their bags for the rapture; or to look for a Millennium after the coming of Christ, or a Jewish “Kingdom Age” before the end of history; Peter exhorts to a holy life, one that is consistent with the awfulness of the momentous events that are sure to come: the revelation of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of all men, the conflagration of the universe, and the establishment of the glorious and eternal world to come!

Howard Douglas King

Revised August 11, 2019