SYNOPSIS – The arrival of Jesus in glory will usher in the Day of the Lord, the final judgment, and the New Creation – 2 Peter 3:3-14.
In his second epistle, Peter addressed the growing weariness and discouragement of some Christians over 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 continued as it always had.
However, as the Apostle reminded his readers, the Spirit warned of just this kind of situation and the activities of end-time deceivers:
“In the last days there will come scoffers with scoffing, 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).
Despite present circumstances, the “Day of the Lord” will come as promised, and at the appointed time. God is not slack concerning His promises but He also does not operate according to our 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 ye all the while to be, in holy ways of behaviour and acts of godliness — Expecting and hastening the presence of the day of God by reason of which heavens, being on fire, will be dissolved, and elements, becoming intensely hot, are to be melted; But new heavens and a new earth according to his promise are we expecting, wherein, righteousness is to dwell.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Greek word rendered “coming” is parousia, a noun that means “advent, arrival, coming, presence.” It signifies the actual “arrival” of someone, not the process of his or her “coming.” In ancient Greek, often it was used for the “arrival” of a royal person at a city, usually accompanied by a great ceremony. 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, later, He destroyed much of it in the Flood. But the scoffers had chosen to remain ignorant of the obvious:
“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” is no delay at all – 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.”God is not bound by man’s expectations and timetables. He is “not slack concerning his promise but long-suffering, not wanting anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance.” His “delay” is for man’s sake – To give the Gospel 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 of a thief at night – Unexpected, sudden, and its timing unforeseeable.A householder can anticipate attempts by criminals to rob him but he cannot ascertain when the 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.” The description parallels other passages that link terrestrial and celestial disruptions to the coming of Jesus and the “Day of the Lord.” Peter describes 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 wherein righteousness dwells.” The disruption 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:
(Isaiah 65:17) – “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” – (Compare – Isaiah 66:22).
Peter referred to the “coming of the Day of God.” Once again, “coming” translates the Greek term parousia. The “day of God” is synonymous with the “Day of the Lord.” Thus, the Apostle locates the “arrival” of Jesus, the “Day of the Lord,” and the “day of God” at the same time – (Compare – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
To summarize, Peter placed the following events at the time of the “coming” of Jesus in glory:
- The judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
- The Day of the Lord.
- The dissolution of the old creation.
- The inauguration of the New Creation.
The parousia of Jesus will usher in the “Day of the Lord,” the final judgment, and the New Creation. This leaves no room for a subsequent tribulation or another interim period after his “arrival.”
The Apostle concluded with an exhortation for right Christian conduct and holy living, especially in the light of all that is coming. Doing so may even “hasten the arrival of the Day of God.”
Right Christian conduct necessitates a church actively engaged in proclaiming the gospel. Jesus himself declared that the “end” would 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).