PMT 2014-133 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my previous article I began a consideration of 2 Peter 3 and Peter’s reference to the new heavens and new earth. I will conclude the study in this article. I recommend your reading the earlier article (PMT 2014-132 first).
(2) Peter’s audience (including us!) should expect mockers who scoff at Christ’s promised second advent due to the long wait associated with it (2Pe 3:3–4, 9). This waiting continues to our very day, and thus is truly long. Despite the trials coming soon (2:9), Peter warns that it may be thousands of years before Christ’s return: “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). This fits well with Christ’s “already/not yet” teaching elsewhere — as when he contrasts the short time until the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 23:36; 24:34) with the long time until the second advent and the end of history (Mt 25:5, 14).
(3) The Lord’s longsuffering is due to a process that will take a long time. Nevertheless, they must understand that despite the long delay: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness [braduteta], but is longsuffering [makrothumei] toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9 NKJV). They must “account that the longsuffering [makrathumian]of our Lord is salvation” (3:15a). This process of calling “all” to “repentance” spans the entire inter-advental era and is still continuing to our very day. This “slowness” (bradutes, v 9) of Christ’s second advent is so that the postmillennial kingdom victory might continue to grow unto full fruition. This comports well with the slow growth of the kingdom like a mustard seed (Mt 13:31–32) and with the necessity of “all the days [palas Tas. emeras]” for accomplishing the Great Commission (Mt 28:20).
(4) The destruction of the heavens and the earth that he envisions involves the current material creation. Hence, it refers to the distant consummation and not the approaching AD 70 conflagration, despite certain similarities between the two events (since one is the type of the other). Peter expressly refers to the material creation order: “from the beginning of creation” (2Pe 3:4; cf. Ge 1:1); “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (3:5; cf. Ge 1:2, 9); “the heavens and the earth which now exist” (3:7). Thus, he defines the “heavens and earth” to which he refers and which God will replace with a “new heaven and a new earth” (3:10, 13). He is not contemplating the destruction of the old Jewish order in AD 70, but the material heavens and the earth at the second advent.
The language describing earth’s destruction seems to go beyond apocalyptic imagery and prophetic hyperbole. The detailed language refers to the actual end-time consummation: “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” (2Pe 3:10). “The heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (3:12). In the apocalyptic-symbolic passages thought to parallel 2 Peter 3 we find time frame factors and cultural limitations. Furthermore, this destruction terminology does not appear in Isaiah 65:17ff, from where the phrase “new heavens and new earth” derives.
“Reformed Sunday School” (2 CDs by Ken Gentry)
Two sermons on issues sometimes debated in Reformed circles:
(1) Women & Ministry. Defends women’s role in church in teaching women and children
while maintaining that they are not to teach men.
(2) Reformed Theology & Sunday School.
An historical and exegetical defense of Sunday school from
a Reformed perspective, against both home-church and reformed arguments. (2 CDs)
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
In conjunction with “the promise” of Christ’s coming (2Pe 3:4, 9), we will enter the ultimate “new heavens and new earth” (3:13). Here Peter is obviously borrowing terminology from Isaiah 65:17 (which speaks of a spiritual reality, see ch. 14). Yet as an inspired apostle he expands on that truth, looking to the ultimate outcome of the spiritual new heavens and earth in an eternal new heavens and earth. We see this re-interpretive application at various places in the New Testament. For instance, the New Testament writers apply Zechariah 12:10 both to the crucifixion (Jn 19:37) and to AD 70 (Rev 1:7). In Revelation John freely employs Ezekiel’s imagery, while adapting it to his own needs. For instance, he totally transforms Ezekiel’s temple vision (Eze 40–45) into a city vision (Rev 21–22), where a temple is wholly lacking (Rev 21:22).
Second Peter’s new creation, then, is the renovated material world that will succeed the present temporal order. God will purify and refashion it by fire. On this new earth the resurrected saints will dwell forever.