PMW 2019-001 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
If your watch is set correctly, you will notice that we are in a new year. Thus, I thought it appropriate to offer a study of the new creation as we close out the old year and begin a new one. This is the second in a series on the new creation in 2 Peter 3. 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 first.
Now let us continue:
(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 hemeras]” for accomplishing the Great Commission (Mt 28:20).
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(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.
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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.
Tagged: 2 Peter 3, consummate new creation
I wish to add Matthew 24:48, “master away a long time”, to the statement, “the long time until the second advent and the end of history (Mt 25:5, 14)”
But, how do you deal systematically with the near-identical language “coming of the Son of Man” in:
The language is almost identical in all 5 places, yet supposedly the first two apply to 70 AD, and the last three to Final Judgement ?
The best I myself can offer is that the first two verses apply “coming of the Son of Man” to “lighting storm clouds in heaven”…
whereas the last three verses apply appear to describe the coming of the Son of Man all the way down onto earth
Happy New Year to you and yours my friend 🥂😎🙏
Brilliant, thank you.
The reason the language is “near-identical” is because the judgment-coming of Christ in AD 70 is a small picture of the Final Coming of Christ at the end of history. The shifting from AD 70 to the Final Judgment relates the two judgments. Similarity does not entail identity. The similarity between the several OT “day of the Lord” episodes does not collapse them into one episode. The similarity between the temple “cleansing” by Jesus in John 2 and in Matt. 21 do not demand that they two are the same. The “eating” language in John 6 relates the spiritual “eating” (taking in of Christ) with the physical “eating” of manna in the wilderness (John 6:48ff), without identifying them as the same event.
The contextual flow of Matt. 24 helps in recognizing that Jesus is sorting out two separate issues, which arise from the confusion of the disciples wherein they equate the end of the temple with the end of history (Matt. 24:3).
Wow! Impressive. Very helpful. Biblical theology is truly a seamless garment wrapped in on itself
I like seeing how Scripture is inter-related. To me it provides evidence of its divine inspiration.
Your explanation is clear. I don’t understand why some people have such problems with 2 Peter 3. It seems to be either a hard head or hard heart, because it is not a hard part (of the Bible).
Thanks for this short study. It was quite helpful, and encouraging!
Good series. Thanks! Keep up the good work
This passage inspires such hope in Christians. IF they interpret it correctly. For one thing, it shows that God created as material beings designed for a physical world. We are not spiritual angels, but physical beings. Thus, the biblical logic for a material New Creation to complete the spiritual new creation. Good work
This was very interesting. I had always assumed this interpretation, but you have really fleshed it out for me. Excellent! Keep posting.
So the “in the last days” relates to the end of history in this passage?
The “last days” begin at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-17) and they extend over the entire Christian era until the end of history, which occurs on the “last DAY.” So to be “in” the last days, is to be in the Christian era (from the first century on). The mockers who come “in the last days” (2 Pet 3:3) are those who arise in the Christian era. Peter’s focus is on the Second Coming and the end of history, which end with Christ’s coming. The particular concern of Peter is to encourage Christians to await the coming of Christ, no matter how long it takes. And it has now taken around 2000 years.
Does this mean we are to interpret these verses literally? “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)?
Is it literally everything is destroyed, both earth and the present cosmos, and God makes new heavens and earth? Or could it be understood to mean God is making all things new in an ongoing renovation of the current heavens and earth? Restoring and renovating what currently exists and considering those eventually “new”?
The language appears too dramatic to be any ongoing renovation. And it comports with Paul’s expectation in Rom. 8:23ff. There is, of course, an ongoing renovation as the gospel spreads and we have more “new creation” people in the world. But this is a tasting of the age to come (Heb. 6:5), and not the fullness of that age to come (the eternal new earth).
I will try to write something on that before too long. In the meantime, you can pick up almost any standard evangelical commentary on Second Peter and see the arguments provided. Give it a try.