The arrival of Jesus in glory will usher in the Day of the Lord, the final judgment, and the New Creation.
In his second epistle, Peter addressed the growing weariness and discouragement of some Christians due to the apparent “delay” in the promised “coming” of Jesus, an open door that false teachers and critics were exploiting. Instead of all the predicted terrestrial and cosmic upheaval, daily life was continuing as it always had.
But the Apostle reminded his readers, the Spirit warned of just this kind of situation and the activities of end-time deceivers, “scoffers who will come with scoffing, and declaring: ‘Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’!” – (2 Peter 3:3-4).
And Peter reassured his audience that despite present circumstances, the “Day of the Lord” would come just as promised, and at the appointed time. Regardless of the charges of the “scoffers,” God was not slack concerning His promises. But He also did not operate according to humanity’s schedules and expectations.
- (2 Peter 3:10-13) – “Howbeit, the day of the Lord will be here as a thief in which the heavens with a rushing noise will pass away, while elements becoming intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works therein will be discovered. Seeing that all these things are thus to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be, all the while in holy ways of behavior and acts of godliness, expecting and hastening the presence of the day of God by reason of which the heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and the elements, becoming intensely hot, will be melted. But new heavens and a new earth according to his promise are we expecting in which righteousness will dwell.”
In the passage, the Greek word rendered “coming” is parousia, which means “advent, arrival, coming, presence.” It signifies the actual “arrival” of someone or something, and not the process of his or its “coming.” In ancient Greek, very often it was used for the “arrival” of a royal person at a city. It is applied several times in the New Testament to the return or “coming” of Jesus – (Matthews 24:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Peter reminded his readers of the past acts of God. Not only did He create the earth, but He also destroyed much of it with the Flood. But in their disparagement of the promise of Christ’s future return, the scoffers had chosen to ignore the past when “the heavens and the earth that now are, by the same word have been stored with fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly men.”
In fact, the apparent “delay” of the parousia is, in fact, no delay at all. Instead, it is evidence of the mercy of God. “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He is not bound by man’s expectations and timetables, or “slack concerning his promise.” Rather, the God and Father of Jesus Christ is “long-suffering, not wanting anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance.” His “delay” is for humanity’s sake, so the gospel has time and opportunity to reach all men and women.
Nonetheless, the “Day of the Lord” must come, and its “arrival” will be like the home invasion by a thief – Unexpected, sudden, unforeseeable. A householder certainly can anticipate attempts by criminals to rob him, but he cannot ascertain when a thief will strike – (Matthew 24:42-43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Revelation 3:3, 16:1).
When the day does arrive, “the heavens with a rushing noise will pass away, while elements becoming intensely hot will be dissolved.” This description parallels other passages that link terrestrial and celestial disruptions to the coming of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” And here, Peter is describing nothing less than the dissolution of the old creation – (Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-17).
This does not mean its complete annihilation but the replacement of the old order with the “new heavens and the new earth.” The disruption of the old prepares for the arrival of the New Creation, one that is “according to promise.” The last clause echoes a promise from the book of Isaiah – “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” – (Isaiah 65:17).
And when Peter refers to the “coming of the Day of God,” once again “coming” represents the Greek term parousia. Thus, the “day of God” is synonymous with the “Day of the Lord,” and thus, the Apostle locates the “arrival” of Jesus, the “Day of the Lord,” and the “day of God” on the same day – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
To summarize, Peter has placed the following events at the time of the “coming” of Jesus at the end of the age:
- The judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
- The Day of the Lord.
- The dissolution of the old creation.
- The inauguration of the New Creation.
And so, the parousia of Jesus will usher in the “Day of the Lord,” the final judgment, and the New Creation. This leaves no room for any subsequent interim period after his “arrival.”
The Apostle concluded with an exhortation for right Christian conduct and holy living, especially when considering all that is coming. And Christian actions may even “hasten the arrival” of that day. But right Christian conduct that can “hasten” the “day of the Lord” must include the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus himself declared that the “end” will not come until this gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed to all nations.” If anything, the apparent “delay” in the parousia demonstrates that the church has yet to complete its assigned task – (Matthew 24:14).