The subject of the Book of Revelation is fascinating to the public as well as to Christendom. Why? Because it appeals to the imagination. It has a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. It has a beast that rises out of the sea and one that rises out of the earth. There are 144,000 who were sealed. There is the Lamb who was slain. There are the souls under the altar who cry out “How long?”. There is the throne room scene. There is an amazing figure walking around among the seven golden candlesticks. There are dozens of figures, symbols, cataclysmic events and scenes that can leave you thoroughly puzzled or breathless.
Revelation can profit everyone wonderfully in various ways. It instructs. It inspires. It strikes one with wonder. It can chastise. It can be fulfilled. It does something for everyone. It is challenging on every level of our understanding. Parts we may not be ready for. Parts we have to really humble ourselves to perceive. All of it requires study, research, and pondering. Most of all, for the one who would understand it accurately, it requires a close walk with the Spirit for He is the true teacher who knows the mind of God. The book is spiritually understood. We all walk closer to God sometimes, than at other times. Pride, arrogance, bitterness, resentment, anger, jealousy – many things can get in the way of the Spirit working with us. When we draw near to God and humble ourselves, the Spirit draws near to us and opens up our understanding. If we resist him and lean on our own understanding, the Spirit resists us. Leaning on our own understanding, no matter how scholarly we feel we are, God resists us. That is where the many interpretations of Revelation come from. They come from a man who is full of himself. Man is full of pride and arrogance and leans on his ideas and the scholarly credentials of others in books and seminaries. God is not subject to man. The book of Revelation is not subject to private interpretation. It is God’s revelation to Jesus Christ, given through John, to us. God revealed it. God knows it. We must get our understanding of it from him.
2 PETER 3.
By Terry Swift, Aug.8, 2022
The subject matter of 2 Peter 3 is highly misunderstood. People consistently try to interpret the passage literally rather than figuratively or metaphorically. They believe the physical world, both heaven and earth, will be burned up; and then God will create a new heaven and new earth. These people lean heavily upon their literal interpretation. To them it supports their view of the “end time.” What it “seems” to say in the text and this literal interpretation is what causes many to miss the real message. Poor and biased translations of the text contribute to this misinterpretation and confusion. This article is written to help us accurately see what is in the text. Let us start by helping us orient to the subject matter of 2 Peter 3 by first looking at the teaching of other scriptures.
The Bible does not teach that this world will end. Please look at these plain passages that are stated in a literal way.
Eccl.1:4 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” (NIV) This text is stated very literally. Nothing in it suggests we should take it figuratively.
Psalms 148 speaks of angels, sun, moon, stars, waters above the skies. Then verses 5-6 says, “at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever – he issued a decree that will never pass away.” (NIV).
Jer.33:17-26 tells us that “if you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant- and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me – can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.” (NIV). In other words, Christ who sits on David’s throne for ever and ever after the power of an endless life – he can be dethroned if day and night cease. No, day and night will never cease, nor will Jesus’ cease to reign on David’s throne.
Gen.8:21-22 “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (NIV)
If we take a literal interpretation of 2 Peter 3, the destruction of the physical heavens and earth by fire would contradict the above passages. Scriptures do not contradict each other. They fit together perfectly. Therefore, 2 Pet. 3 needs to be taken as a figurative passage of judgment. As we go through the passage, we can see more clearly what the passage is about.
There is no such thing as the “end of time”. That would be “telios chronos or telios kainos” in Greek. Nowhere in the Greek New Testament or the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (which is Greek) does it ever speak of the “end of time”. That concept has been made up by those who misinterpret the phrase – “the end of the ages” as “the end of time”. Gen.8:22 says, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (NIV). In other words – time will not end. God is eternal. God has made his creation to last forever and ever.
If one’s literal interpretation that the “physical” world is going to burn up, be destroyed, and “time will end” is true; then the passages above are false. The passages above must be explained if God’s word does not contradict itself. Or, we must consider that Peter’s passage is a figurative passage of judgment – which it is.
Let us also consider Heb. 1:10-12 in comparison to the 2 Peter 3 passage. Heb 1:10-12 says,
“In the beginning Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish” (Greek – appoluntai. This is the same word as used of the first world “that perished” in the time of Noah, 2 Peter 3:6. This is not the Greek word “exolothreuo” -meaning to be utterly destroyed). “But you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.” (The “order” in heaven and earth outlived its usefulness, as the law which became obsolete and was ended, T.S) “You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.” (not destroyed in the sense of becoming non-existent, T.S.) “But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (NIV).
Comparing what Peter says with the Hebrew writer, we could therefore ask – “Will the heaven and earth wear out like a garment and be rolled up and changed, like changing our clothes from worn out ones to new clothes, or will the heaven and earth be violently burned up and melt?” There are two different pictures in these passages according to literal interpretations. Actually, they are both figurative passages. Peter’s passage is figurative of judgment and the law passing. Hebrews is figurative of a change of the order of the universe from what became old and useless and therefore laid aside and changed. Both are figurative passages that are conveying biblical truth of the changes to occur at their appointed time predicted by Christ and scripture for his generation.
“By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (NIV)
The physical world of Noah’s time was not destroyed.
Another observation occurs in the text of 2 Peter 3:6. It says, “By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (NIV). Did the world end then? Was the world of that time destroyed (annihilated, reduced to non-existence)? Did time end then? The translation says, “the world of that time was DESTROYED”! But is Peter reminding us that the inhabitants were judged and destroyed or the “physical world” was destroyed? The answer is simple – the people were destroyed. The physical world, actually, and a few of men, Noah and his family, continued. The physical world of that time was not destroyed – meaning annihilated, rendered non-existent.
2 PET. 3:7 –
“By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (NIV)
What does Peter say “after verse 6? Verse 7 says, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
“By the same word” – the same God who “destroyed” the world of Noah’s time with a judgment, had again reserved fire for the judgment of the world again. God had appointed a Day of judgment once again. Like Heb. 12:26 says, “Once more” I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. God was going to judge the earth again.
“The present heavens and earth” – The “present” heavens and earth (the “heaven and earth” of their time, their “present,” “what was present when Peter wrote”, not our modern – day time in 2022) was “reserved for fire”. The world present at Peter’s time was reserved for judgment. “The ax was already at the root of the tree,” Matt.3. It was the “coming judgment”, Mt.3. – meaning “about to occur”, 2 Tim.4:1. Acts 17:31- “he has set a day in which he is about to judge the inhabited earth.” The judgment was coming and imminent in Peter’s day. (See Chapter 5, “Judgment”)
Reserved for Fire –
2 Peter 3:7 says – “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (NIV)
When we read that “the present heaven and earth are reserved for fire,” we immediately think of the total destruction of our planet and heavens by fire. We think that through fire the heavens and earth will be burned up and no longer exist. This is not what Peter is saying. This is the use of figurative language by Peter of judgment.
This language is used in Ezek.30:8 and 16 in regard to judgment on Egypt. There the scripture says – “Then they will know that I am the Lord when I set fire to Egypt.” The whole context speaks of the judgment God would bring on Egypt through Nebuchadnezzer. God expresses that judgment as “setting fire to Egypt”. A parallel statement is made to verse 8 of Ezek 30 in verse 19 – “I will inflict punishment on Egypt, and they will know that I am the Lord”. Putting the two verses side by side to compare we get:
Verse 8 – Then they will know that I am the Lord when I set fire to Egypt.”
Verse 19 – I will inflict punishment on Egypt and they will know that I am the Lord.”
The statements “when I set fire to Egypt” and “I will inflict punishment on Egypt” are parallel and equivalent. To “set fire” is figurative of “to punish”. This is not an isolated use of referring to fire in referring to judgment. It is common throughout the Old Testament. It is used metaphorically not literal.
Fire could very well be involved in the judgment, but the expression is figurative of judgment. So too, in 2 Peter 3 – the expression “reserved for fire” is a figurative expression of judgment. What really occurs is the “destruction of ungodly men.”
Fire or judgment, that was “reserved for heaven and earth”, is expressed in another metaphorical expression in Heb.12:26, “Once more will I shake not only the earth but also the heavens”. God would not literally “shake” the heavens and earth” like we would shake a musical “maraca” in our hand. Yet, speaking metaphorically, God says –
“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (NIV) Job 38:13.
Though God did use fire in the judgment of the Jews in 70 A.D. – “and burned their city”, Mt.22:7, the usage of the language in 2 Pet 3 of “reserving heaven and earth for fire”- is figurative of judgment. It would be a judgment of the heavens and earth. But what would be destroyed? Understand, it was not the physical world, any more than it was in Noah’s time. It would be the “destruction of the ungodly,” as it says in the same sentence. There was fire stored up for the destruction of impious men, verse 7. Was there fire and burning in the destruction of the ungodly? Absolutely, even on the earth. All of Jerusalem was burned and destroyed in A.D. 70. When the Romans came down through Palestine putting down Jewish uprisings, villages were burned time after time. Finally, the temple and Jerusalem itself was destroyed in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus besieged it.
What about in the heavens? The heavens were judged (or “shaken”) also, Heb 12:26 and “cleansed” by fire. In the heavens the wicked were burned and destroyed. See Ezek.38-39, especially 38:22; 39:6. In the final judgment of men that lived up to that time, that followed 70 A.D., they were thrown into the lake of fire, Rev.20:15. Peter speaks of a judgment by fire, and it certainly was. We must understand, God cleanses the land in the heavens by fire. Did physical heaven and earth end? Were they destroyed? No. That is not what Peter is talking about. The fire is associated with cleansing, testing, revealing and judgment of the ungodly. Peter is not talking about our planet nor the heavens we see above us.
“Was reserved for fire” – “being kept for the day of judgment.”
The fire was being kept for the “Day of judgment.” The fire would come when the Day of judgment came. Well, when was the day of judgment? According to what Jesus said – Jesus predicted he would come (1) in his Father’s glory, (2) with his angels, (3) and reward everyone according to what they had done in the body. That’s judgment. When Jesus came back the second time, he would bring judgment. Then he goes on to say to those whom he was talking to – “there are some of you who are standing here who will not tase death before you see the son of man coming”, Matt. 16:27-28. The Fire was kept for the Day of Judgment, when Jesus would come back in their generation. Some whom he talked to would not die before he came. His coming back was tied to the “immediate days” at the end of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Matt.24:29-31. The “present heavens and earth” and its fiery judgment was tied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the return of Christ.
Peter says the world (“heaven and earth”) was being kept for the day of judgment. It would be a judgment by fire, not water. Even “fire” is used figuratively of judgment. Things are cleansed by fire. The last battle between the hordes of Gog and Christ in the heaves is about a judgment of fire, Ezek.39:6 in which God cleanses the heavens, Ezek. 39:14,16.
Things are cleansed by fire and water. Num. 31:23 tells us –
“And anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing.”
Things are tested and revealed by fire. 1 Cor.3:13 tells us –
“His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
2 PET.3:8-9 –
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some men understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV)
Verse eight – is not a formula for interpreting a “day as a thousand years” and throwing up our hands and saying – “who knows, God may really mean a thousand years when he says a day.” That would make God’s words nonsense and uninterpretable. God know how to speak to us and clearly communicate in our language or any language. Such comments are irresponsible and lazy in talking about God’s word.
A “thousand” is a number that is used symbolically of “all” as in Ps.50:10-12 – “for every animal of the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills… for the world is mine and all that is in it.” (NIV). A thousand is used to express “all, every”. (See Chapter 26, “A thousand years”).
If we can find any passage that lets something symbolize time in the scripture, it is in Ezek.3:5 where each day represented a year.
What is the point in 2 Peter? Time means nothing to God when it comes to Him determining what he will do. Rather, what the passage of time represents to God is his patience, his longsuffering with man. He waits because he does not want anyone to perish.
2 PET.3:10 –
“But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (NIV)
The “Day of the Lord” – (See Chapter 12. “The Last Days, The Day of the Lord”)
“Will come like a thief” – Jesus had predicted his coming within the life of some who were standing I front of him, Mt.16:27-28. The disciples would not finish going through cites of Israel before he came, Mt.10.21-23. Some who condemned him at his trial would see him come back, Mt.26:63-65. John would remain alive until he came back, Jn.21:22-23. Christ’s generation would not pass before all the things he predicted came to pass – the destruction of Jerusalem, his coming back, the judgment, Mt 24:34. The fulfillment of the ages had come upon “that generation, 1 Cor.10:11.
But the “day nor the hour” Jesus would come back, NO ONE would know. Matt.24:36 says –
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but ONLY the Father.” (NIV) Why? Simply because he would come like a thief when no one expected him. That is why throughout the New Testament the believers are told to be ready, be alert, be diligent, endure to the end, make your calling and election sure. Don’t let that day catch you by surprise, 1 Thess. 5:4.
“The heavens will disappear with a roar.”
The heavens would be judged also and not just the earth. The first time, the earth, or world of that time was judged, its inhabitants destroyed by water, 2 Pet.3:6. Heb 12:26 says – “Once more, will I shake (“judge”) not only the earth, but also the heavens.” (NIV)
The words “will disappear”. The word used by the NIV, “disappear” may reflect the translators desire to use a variety of expression in the words of their translation, but that is NOT the strict meaning of the word used here. To “disappear” or “vanish” is the Greek word “aphanizo”, meaning to make unseen. The word here in verse 10 is the Greek word “pareleusontai”. The heavens will “pass away” or “pass by” as many of the translations translate. It does not mean however, that the physical heavens would pass away and become non-existent. It does mean that the “world of that time”, the “heavens and the earth of that time would pass away. Just like in verse 6, “the world of that time” (NIV) perished, the Greek – “which things then”. The world of Noah’s time perished, and again the world up to that time would “pass by”.
The Greek word “pareleusontai” is the future indicative of the verb “parerchomai”. It is used of persons “passing by” like in Matt.8:28 the people would not “pass by” the area of the Gadarenes where the man possessed with several demons resided. The word is used of a ship “passing by” Mysia, Acts16:8. The word is used of time “passing” in Mt.14:15; Acts 27:9; 1 Pet.4:3 and a rich man’s life “passing away” like the flower of grass. Vines says the word is used literally in these examples, but then Vine’s list the word being used “METAPHORICALLY” in the next 3 passages: Mt.5:18, 2 Cor.5:17 and 2 Pet.3:10 –
Matt.5:18 – “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth” ( Greek – “parelthe”, pass away) (‘disappear’ , NIV) (“may pass away” YLT) (“pass away”, ASV) “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means” ( Greek – “parelthe”, pass away) (“disappear”, NIV) “from the law until everything is accomplished.” (NIV)
The law was abolished, Eph.2:15; Col.2:14; Heb.7:18; Heb.8:13; Heb.12:27. The law with its rules and regulations could not even be practiced after the destruction of Jerusalem. The law was no longer in effect. “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law”. Gal. 3:25. If the law has “passed”, hasn’t then the “heaven and earth” that then was passed also? Wasn’t what he said was – these things – the heaven and the earth and the law would not pass “until all be accomplished? But the law did pass and it was replaced with the New Covenant and the Kingdom of Christ in the heavens.
Vine’s lists Matt. 5:18 as used metaphorically.
The world (“heaven and earth”) was already “passing away” in its present form (Greek -“schemati” – outward order as opposed to “morphe – essence, essential substance) in 1 Cor.7:31. The world passed away in its “present form” in 70 A.D. when “all was fulfilled”.
Jesus associates the “passing of heaven and earth” with the fulfilling of prophecy and the law. He says it in the following passages:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear ((“parelthe”, to pass), not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear (“parelthe”, to pass) from the law until everything is accomplished.” Mt.5:17-18 (NIV).
“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear (“parelthein”) than for the least stoke of a pen to drop out of the law.” Lk. 16:17 (NIV).
“Heaven and earth will pass away (“pareleusetai,” future of to pass) but my words will never pass away.” (NIV). Mt.24:35. Also Mk.13:31; Lk.21:32.
Did the law Pass? Of course it did.
Eph. 2:15 says – “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”
Gal.3:25 says – “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
Jesus states that nothing would pass from the law “until all be accomplished” (NIV) or “till all be fulfilled” (KJV). The law was rendered non-operative “in Christ”.
That is, the law was fulfilled “in Christ” for believers that they might be delivered from the law that once bound them, and realize “freedom in Christ”. “God made you (“Christians”) alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to his cross.” Col.2:14 (NIV). The law is taken away for the Christian, for those “in Christ”. Christians are not under “law”, Rom.6:14. But was the law destroyed? No. It was rendered not applicable legally to Christians. Christians have been delivered from the law.
Jesus came not to “destroy” the law or the prophets
The word translated “destroy” is NOT the same word used in 2 Pet.3 10,11,12. The word in Mt.5:17 is the Greek “katalusai” – Active aorist infinitive of “kataluo,” Strongs #2647. Vines says it means to “destroy utterly, to overthrow completely, is rendered “destroy” in Mt.5:17. (W.E. Vine, Expository Dict. Of N.T. Words, “destroy”, p.302).
Jesus said, “I came not to destroy the law or the prophets, I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.” (NIV) Did Christ destroy the law which is “holy, and righteous, and good”, Rom.7:12? Not at all. “The law was made not for the righteous, but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, …” 1Tim.1:8 (NIV). The law is a tutor to lead us to Christ. It still does that for the lost world. It still has its use. The law was changed (for the Christian) to Christ’s law because in the Mosaic law there was no provision in it for the weakness of the flesh. Rom.8:3. Jesus did not destroy what was good, the law, but rather provided for “the weakness of the flesh” and brought Christians to faith and sonship.
Are then people in the world who are not Christians still under law? Yes. They are under the law of sin and death. It is when they turn to Christ in faith, then they are no longer under the law of sin and death. Rom. 8:2 says –
“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)
Under what particulars they are under in regard to the law of Moses, I do not know specifically. I know that all the sacrifices, priesthood, feast days and much more were fulfilled by Christ and those things are no longer operative. The sinful world is still under moral law.
Jesus then, did not destroy the Law, that which was good, but fulfilled it. He fulfilled it for all those who embrace Christ in faith and become Christians. In making substitution for the sins of many, in that Christ died for believers, he made provision for our flesh and brought us under the Law of faith and grace. The demand of the Law of Christ is to walk with his Spirit by faith.
The world as it then was passed away. “For the old order of things has passed away”, Rev. 21:4. It changed. Christian are under a New order, Rev. 21:5
2 Cor.5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone,” (Greek – “archaia parelthen”, old things passed away) “the new has come!” (NIV) In this verse, we can understand that spiritually speaking – “old things have passed away”, the person I used to be passed away; but that “in Christ” I am a new creation. That does not mean that I as a human being passed away. I would be dead. Paul is speaking metaphorically, as W.E. Vine has listed the use of the verse in his dictionary. (W.E. Vine, Expository dictionary of New Testament Words, “pass away” p.164). I did not pass away, but the person as I used to be in life did, I have changed. Of course, the old person “me” is still there. I have all his memories, his scars, the same voice, the same family; but I am now different and “better” in Christ. If Paul can speak this way here and say that the “old passed away”, cannot Peter speak of the heavens and the earth “passing away” and mean that the “world has changed” in Christ”? Not the physical world, but the world as it existed under the old covenant “passed away”. The “new” has come. That is what John is saying in Rev. 21:4-5 “for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new.” (NIV) The old heavens of the first century, as it was then, passed away. It passed by in time. The new heavens “restored, renewed”, Acts 3:21 had arrived. The new heavens were where Christ had then defeated all of his enemies, the spiritual hosts of wickedness, judged the wicked dead, threw them, the fallen angels, and Satan into the lake of fire, Rev.20:10,15. The new heavens had been cleansed to receive the people of God. Jesus had gone to “prepare a place for them” and when he was ready, he came back and took his people to himself where he was, to the “restored” cleansed heavens.
2 Pet. 3:10 – “But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear (of that time will “pass by”, T.S.) with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (NIV) The heavens of that time, as they knew it, would pass by.
“With a roar”. Why would the heavens pass with a roar? I believe, the heavens that then was ended with a great battle in the heavens, the battle of Gog and Magog, where the hordes of Gog are defeated and burned, Ezek. 38:22, the land cleansed and the battle and slaughter was so great that the saints were burying the dead for seven months, 39:12. Satan was defeated and thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, Rev.207-10. This last battle was the “roar” in which the world of that time passed away.
“The elements– will be destroyed by fire.”
It is interesting, the KJV says – “the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” “Elements” suggest “physical elements” . “melt” is not in the Greek at all. “fervent heat” is not in the Greek at all. The literal Greek says – “the basic teachings or fundamental principles burning will be loosed,” T.S. The NIV says – “the elements will be destroyed by fire.” That too is a poor translation as we shall examine below.
The word “elements” in the translations, and in the Greek dictionaries, claim that the elements are the basic substance from which the material universe is made. They admit that not anywhere else in the Bible is that the meaning of the word. But they say that ONLY in this passage in 2 Peter 3 does it refer to the elements of the material, physical world. That claim is based upon their interpretation of the passage and their doctrinal beliefs. It is not based upon the use of the word anywhere in scripture. It is not scholarship, but bias that leads their understanding. I challenge what they claim, based upon the clear teachings of all the passages I present in the subjects of this book, and insist that they use the usual meaning of the word as it is used everywhere else in scripture.
The Greek word “stoichea” (translated “elements” here in 2 Pet 3).
Let us look at the word translated “elements” in 2 Peter 3, verses 10 and 12. The Greek word is “stoicheia.” Translators have translated it “elements” here. Like many translators, they indicate in their translation that the “material or physical elements that make up the created world” will burn and melt and be destroyed. This fits their understanding that Peter is saying the physical world will be destroyed at the end of time. That is the world view of many of the translators. They are translating to fit what they believe. But is it correct?
The Greek lexicons have defined the word everywhere else in the New Testament as being the “basic teachings of the world”; but here in Peter, lexicons say it is used in a special way to refer to the physical elements. W.E. Vine says the word is “the substance of the material world, 2 Pet.3:10,12. (under “elements”, p.22, of Vine’s – Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words). Thayer also states – “the elements from which all things have come, the material causes of the universe” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament. P.589). Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich say the word is referring to “the four elements of the world- earth, air, fire, water.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T., p.776.) Translators have followed the same ideas in their translations. Is their justification for those who write the lexicons to part from how the word is used in ALL other passages of the New Testament, and to define the word uniquely different here? I do not think so. The passage of Peter makes much more sense to follow the word’s meaning here as it is used everywhere else in the New Testament. Why change it to fit one’s world view. It makes it contradict a host of other scriptures and creates a whole new can of worms in interpretation. The passage become a major passage for misunderstanding.
The word “stoicheia” never refers to physical elements in the New Testament, not even here in Peter. Peter is not the exception that lexicons and translators want to make of the use of the word. There is no justification anywhere in scripture for making the word mean something different here in 2 Peter 3, than what it means everywhere else in the Bible. All the other places in the New Testament it is translated – “the basic principles of the world”, Gal.4:3 (NIV); “those weak and miserable principles”, Gal.4:9 (NIV); “the rudiments of the world”, Co.2:8 (NIV) – (referring to principles in the context); “you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world”, Col.2:20 (NIV). In Heb 5:12 the writer speaks of the “elementary truths of God’s word” (NIV). In every passage the word is referring to “principles” or “teachings”. Why do translators change the meaning of it in Peter to refer to physical elements, to mean physical elements of the world? Because that was their world view of the “end time” during their life time. That is not consistent, but it fits the understanding of these scholars and their world view. This is not honest nor consistent scholarship. This change diverts away one’s understanding of what Peter is talking about. He is not talking about the physical world being destroyed and the end of time. He is talking about that the rules and principles that governed over the world at that time – they were to be done away with. It is valid to translate “stoichea” in Peter as “basic principles” or basic teachings” (as these scholars did in all other passages except Peter). That gives the proper sense of the passage and agrees with the teaching of other related passages as we shall see. There was a huge change from the Mosaic system ruling over the world of that time and then ending as it was changed over to the coming in of Jesus’ kingdom and reign. Peter is talking about those earlier principles under Moses finally being swept away in a cosmic figurative way. If that understanding of the word, “stoichea” as “basic principles of the world” are swept away that governed things until then, that makes the whole chapter of Peter look very different.
The basic principles of the world, whether Gentile – Col.2:8, 20; or Jewish – Heb.5:12, held man under bondage and condemnation. As for those “in Christ”, we are no longer under law. Rom. 7:6 says – “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The “old way”, has been done away with. There is a new order of things in Christ. The universe changed, and in it the order of things. The old order of things “passed away”. God made everything new.
The Greek word “luthesetai” from the word “luo” –
The “elements” (basic teachings”) will be destroyed by fire.
Destroyed is the translation of the Greek “luthesetai”. I do not believe that the word destroy is a good translation of the verb “luthesetai”. To destroy suggests the idea of annihilation, to render non-existent. The translators used the word destroy when they translated Jn.2:19, when Jesus said – “destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” Strictly speaking, Jesus did not say “DESTROY this body or temple.” He used the word “lusate” – “loose” this body. Jesus body was never destroyed. Acts 2:24-27 conveys the proper idea when it says – But God raised him from the dead, “freeing” him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. True, Jesus gave up his spirit, Mt.27:50, and his body was released from his spirit, the definition of physical death, Js.2:26. But Jesus body was not destroyed. His body would not “see corruption” or decay, Acts 2:27. Jesus did not say “destroy this body”. He used the word meaning to loose or “release this body.” His body could not be destroyed.
Again, translators have translated 1 Jn.3:8 as “The reason the Son of God appeared was to “destroy” the devil’s work.” (NIV) Was the devil’s work “destroyed” by Christ, or was it rendered powerless in some cases and the result of the devil’s work reversed and the universe restored. Not everything was “destroyed”. Through the devil came the fall of man and physical and spiritual death. Do men still experience physical death? Yes. But that can be overcome by the Christian who is raised from the dead. Does spiritual death still go on? Yes. The Christian is not affected by the “second death”, Rev.2:11. However, the wicked have their body and soul thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Rev.20:15. Death has not been eliminated. Death still exists. What about the fallen nature of man where he follows the flesh? It still exists. That problem the devil brought about was not “destroyed”. But for the Christian it has been dealt with by the indwelling Spirit of God. In 1 Jn.3:8 the text says – “Jesus came to “loose” the works of the devil.
The use of the word and how it is translated is very important. It should not be translated to “destroy”. The basic word “luo” is used to “loose a colt that is bound or “untie” them, Mt.21:2. (You do not “destroy” an animal when you untie them). It is used to “untie or loose a shoe”, Jn.1:27. (You do not “destroy” the shoe when you untie it.) The word means to loose, to untie, to release, to set free. It does not mean to destroy. The world of the first century was not destroyed, but it was loosed. The basic teachings of the world that condemned man and held him in bondage in the grave, those principle were “released” by Christ. The Mosaic system and law can no longer be practiced. Now that faith has come, we have been released from the tutorship of the law, Gal.3:25. We are not under law if we are Christians. The law was “loosed”, “released” in Christ. Does that mean it was “destroyed”. No, I can still read it in the Old Testament. It still applies to the wrongdoer, the lawless, 1 Tim.1:8-10. The law is only “nailed to the Cross” for those who are “in Christ”, Col.2:14.
The concept of “binding and loosing” can be understood as a universal phenomenon looking at Matt.18:18 –
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will (literal Greek – “have been”, see footnote in translation) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will (literal Greek – “have been”, see footnote translation) loosed in heaven.”
This verse is not saying, as Pentecostal churches believe and practice, that they can bind and loose things in the name of jesus on earth and it will then be bound and loosed in heaven. Authority comes from heaven down. Heaven does not wait for our lead to bind and loose.
Jesus is telling Peter and his apostles the explanation that they are being sent to bind and loose the tings pertaining to the NEW COVENANT. Things of the old covenant would no longer be binding. The preaching of the gospel and its terms had the power to “loose” those things which once bound. The things of the New covenant would be the things that then would be bound in the heavens. The apostles were to make known the terms of the new covenant and so were sent out to “preach the gospel to the world” and make the mystery and terms known. The apostles were binding and loosing that which had already been bound and loosed in the heavens. The binding and loosing involved things bound in the heavens that were made known on the earth. The Spirit of God would take the things of Jesus and make it known unto the apostles, Jn. 16:14.
The old things in the heavens that had bound man were “loosed”. The New order of things had come. That is what Peter is talking about in 2 Peter 3. With that binding and loosing, there is also judgment involved as the Old covenant is closed out with a judgment. That’s how God closed out the world of Noah’s time, with a judgment.
“and the earth, and everything in it will be laid bare” (NIV) (“will be discovered,” Marshall’s Gr Inter.) (“will be burned up,” KJV and ASV) The literal Greek says –“and the earth and the works (Greek – “erga”) in it will be discovered or found (Greek – “eurethesetai”), T.S.
Remember 1 Cor.3:13? It says “His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day (of judgment) will bring it to light.” That is exactly what Peter saying in his phrase in 2 Pet. 3:10. The works will be found. In other words, a person’s work will be revealed for what it is on the Day of judgment.
Heb.4:13 says “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (NIV). These verse say exactly what Peter is saying.
The key to this statement is the verb used to translate “laid bare”. It does not sound like total destruction or annihilation of the earth in this statement. It sounds like the earth was scraped clean where there were no trees, or any vegetation. Is that what Peter is saying?
“Laid bare” is the translation of “eurethesetai” (from eurisko) in Nestles Greek text.
This is a key word in understanding 2 Pet.3:10. Acts 3:21 suggests that the world would be “renewed”, “restored”, “the restoration of all things”. The teaching of the bible is that the world would be “restored”, not “destroyed”. Here, if we follow the KJV and ASV of the verse, the idea is the earth will be burned up, (or destroyed by fire). Which world view is it? “Eurethesetai” means “will be found”. A form of the word “eurisko” is listed in Moulton and Gedens’s Greek Concordance about 172 times, (Moulton and Geden, pp. 403-404). It is used and translated to mean to “find or found” in those scriptures.
Clement in the mid-second century says in 2 Clement 16:3 says “then the secret and open works of men will appear.” This agrees with N.T. teaching. It agrees with 2 Pet.3:10. 1Cor.14:24-25 says –
“… he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. (Greek – “phanera” – “manifest”) (NIV). 1Tim.5:24 says – “The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them, the sins of some trail behind them.” (NIV)
“As you look forward to and speed its coming.”
Notice some other things – Peter says to those he writes “as you look forward to and speed the coming of the day of God,” verse 12. Why would those he wrote to look forward to the destruction of the created physical world and the end of time? But if, the Day of his coming meant their salvation and the redemption of the body in the resurrection, Rom.8:23, then wouldn’t they say “Maranatha” – “Come Lord Jesus.” Is that not what Peter goes on to talk about in the chapter? The longsuffering of the Lord (in coming) meant salvation for more. But weren’t they crying out, being in persecution, “How long Lord until our blood be avenged?” Verse 14 says – “since you are looking forward to this” (redemption of the body, resurrection, ceasing from persecution) “make every effort to be found spotless and blameless and at peace with him.” Their motivation was positive. Hang on and they would receive the prize when he came.
Previous notes on “luo –
The Greek word “luo”.
Another word to look at in the text is a form of the word “luo” in Greek. The word means to be loosed. Let’s look how it is used elsewhere in the New Testament, then we will look at Peter. It is used of loosing the sandals, Mk.1:7, Lk.3:16, Jn.1:27. It is used of loosing or untying a colt, Mk.11:2, Lk.19:30. It is used of loosing a tongue on the Sabbath in Mk7:35. Again, it is used of loosing Paul who had been bound, Acts 22:30. In Mt.16:19 and 18:18 the disciples are told that what they bind on earth “will having been bound in heaven” (literal Greek) and what they loose on earth “will having been loosed in heaven.” (literal Greek). Jews would loose their ox or ass to lead them away for water, Lk.13:15. Sometimes the word is translated to “break” as in Mt 5:19, “whoever breaks the least of these commandments.” If you break something that binds, you loose it. Jews circumcised on the Sabbath in order that the law of Moses not be broken. Jn10:35 says the “scripture cannot be broken. When Lazarus came forth from the grave, in Jn. 11:44, Jesus said to “loose him” because he was bound hand and foot with graveclothes. In 1 Cor.7:27 Paul says, “Art thou bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed.
In every place in the New Testament “Luo” is translated to be loosed as opposed to being tied or bound. There are two exceptions, other than in 2 Peter 3.
One is in Jn.2:19. There Jesus said, “Destroy” (Greek – “lusate) this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (NIV) This is a unique passage and bears some contemplation. Jesus was first speaking of his body. If they killed him, he would rise again the third day. Also, the word Jesus uses here is to “loose.” Loose this temple, this body. Technically, the release of the body from the spirit is death, Js.2:26. Jesus ‘death was not a destruction, nor an annihilation. It was not even a destruction as the translators have translated it. Acts 2:24 says, “whom God raised up having loosed the agony of death for it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Verse 27 goes on to say, “neither will thou let thy holy one see corruption.” Even Jesus’ body was not destroyed, nor did he see any corruption of it. Jesus was “loosed” from the grave free of any corruption. I believe that is why Jesus uses a form of the word “Luo” “Loose this temple”. The translation – “Destroy this temple” is a poor and inaccurate translation of what Jesus was saying. His body was not destroyed nor did it see corruption.
1 Jn.3:8 –
The second exception, where “luo” is translated “destroy,” is in 1 Jn.3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy (Greek -“luse”, a form of luo – “to loose”) the devil’s work.” (NIV). Marshall’s Interlinear translation uses the words “he might undo” the works of the devil. Jesus came to undo what Satan had done. That is what Acts 3:21 has reference to – “Whom the heavens must receive until the times of the restitution of all things”. KJV. The word for “restitution” is the word “apokatastaseos” and it means to “to set in order again”. It is a compound word – “apo”-back, again, “kathistemi – “to set in order”. Jesus came to restore what Satan messed up.
Thinking further about 1 Jn 3:8, “to destroy the works of the devil” – I ask the question, “Did he destroy the devil’s work, or loosen it so that man could escape its clutch? If he destroyed the devil’s work, then is the “fallen nature of man” destroyed? Or is he still ruled by the flesh until he is reborn by faith spiritually? Is there still an enmity between the flesh and the spirit for the Christian? (See Gal. 5:17.) Is there still a conflict between our flesh and out spirit?
Secondly, has man escaped physical death or is it still “appointed for all men to die” physically.? (Heb.9:27). Physical death was the penalty for the fall. “In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die”. (Literally – “dying you shall die”). Don’t people still die physically every day? How is the work of the devil destroyed then?
Thirdly, are those who are not reborn by faith still dead spiritually? Are they alienated from God? Will they not experience the “second death” after they leave this world? How then was or is the devil’s work DESTROYED? It was not Destroyed. That is not a good translation of what still exists.
Was the work of the devil “altered and loosened” by Christ? Yes! Emphatically yes! But the devil’s work was not “destroyed– as we today would understand the word. Jesus defeated the strong man, Satan, and took away his power. Now, Jesus holds the keys to hell and death. Jesus does not eliminate physical death, but if we believe, he can raise us up to eternal life after our physical death. Jesus does not destroy the second death, but those who believe and are saved are “not hurt by the second death”, Rev.2:11. “Destroy” is a bad translation, but to “loose” is the proper meaning. The meaning of the word used in 2 Peter is important. It means to “loose’ that which is bound. It does not mean (as it is translated) to destroy – or to annihilate, render to non-existence. That can really change our understanding of what Peter is saying.
In 2 Peter 3:10, the elements (“stoicheia – basic principles of the world) burning “will be dissolved” (“will be destroyed by fire”, NIV. The word is “luthesetai”). (“The basic principles will be loosed, untied, unbound”– my translation). Does that loosing apply to the Christian? Yes. We died to the law, Rom.7:4; dyed to what once bound us, Rom.7:6; “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, not in the old way of the written code.” (NIV) Christians are “not under law but under grace”, Rom.6:14, (NIV). The law or the first covenant became obsolete, antiquated, outdated, Heb.8:13. Christ’s covenant was legally enacted after his death, Heb.9:17. Does this mean that the law was “destroyed”? No. Did God destroy that which taught righteousness? Did God “destroy” “that which is holy and good and righteous”, Rom.7:12? Of course not. He did not “destroy” it, but he did “loose” it for every one who believed and obeys him.
A form of the word “luo” (to be loosed in contrast to what is bound.) is used again in verse 11, “these things all being dissolved”, (“since everything will be destroyed in this way” (NIV). The idea being in back of these verses is that the basic principles would be “loosed”. What basic principles were being loosed? The most basic principle was the one that bound man under condemnation and held him in the grave, even if he served God in faith. The principle of “sin bringing forth death” condemned man and held him in the grave. He could not escape the grave’s hold on him. When Jesus died, death had no hold on him and he could not be kept in the grave. He was “loosed” from the pangs of death and was resurrected, never to die again. Jesus’ death in our stead offered man that same victory over the basic principles of the world. Jesus could defeat death for us. When Jesus came the second time in A. D. 70, he loosed those laws in heaven and earth for the believer. He did not “destroy” those principles. They still apply to all man – sin brings forth death. The law was just, holy, good, and righteous, Rom.7:12. God did not destroy that which was good. He loosed it for the believer because the weakness of the law provided no remedy for the transgressor. Man could not keep it. The universe changed when Jesus came again. The law changed. The priesthood changed. The Mosaic law had become outdated and useless. Why? Because it could not make the comers thereunto perfect, Heb.10:1. By faith in Christ, we could be made righteous and holy before God. God loosed man from the law of Moses, and brought believers under the law of Christ.
Does the New Testament give us the idea of these basic principles governing and affecting what was in the heavens, the earth, and under the earth? Yes. Listen to this verse when Jesus speaks to Peter. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatsoever you bind on earth will be (a- footnote, “have been”) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose (form of “luo”) on earth will be (a-footnote, “have been”) loosed in heaven.” (NIV). Peter was to teach the New Covenant of the kingdom, and those things would have been bound and loosed already in the heavens. In the heavens was the origin of what was bound and loosed. Jesus’ covenant was already legally in effect at his death, Heb. 9:16-17. The Mosaic covenant had “ruled” in the heavens until that time. At the time of Jesus’ death, the Law became outdated, antiquated. Nevertheless, the system of the Mosaic covenant was not ended but was allowed to be practiced until the fullness of the kingdom was made known through the gospel and the church had grown up, Eph.4:13. All God’s people who had lived under the Mosaic period were loosed from the curse of “sin and death” and received their inheritance at the resurrection in 70 A.D.
It is my belief that to translate a form of the word “luo” as – “to destroy” is not accurate. With that meaning the word would never work in translating the majority of passages in the N.T. When you loose or untie a colt, ox or ass, you cannot say you destroy it. When you untie or loose a shoe, you do not destroy it. Such a translation would never work in almost all of the 34 passages where the word is used. The idea is not to destroy, but to loose in contrast to what binds. A careful translation of 2 Peter is very much needed. I am no scholar. I do not have enough knowledge of the language of Greek to attempt such a task. However, I do have a thorough knowledge and respect for scripture. I present these thoughts on 2 Peter because I believe the rest of scripture should help refine our understanding of 2 Peter 3.
A form of the word “luo” is used in 2 Peter 3, verses 10,11, and 12. In verse 10 it says, “the elements (“basic principles or teachings”) burning “will be dissolved” (“loosed”). Verse 11 says, “seeing that all these things shall be dissolved (“loosed”). Verse 12 says, “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved” (“loosed”). In these three verses, the word translated “will be dissolved” does not carry the idea of being destroyed, but rather loosed. The real focus of what Peter is talking about in verse 10. Let’s look at it closely.
2 Peter 3:10.
Verse 10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the “elements”, (“basic teachings”, T.S.) will be “destroyed” (“loosed”, T.S.) by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (“will be discovered”, T.S.) (NIV). The context is the “day of the Lord” which refers to the judgment. That judgment took place on the “last day” (Jn.12:48) of the Mosaic system when the system collapsed with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70. At that time, “the heavens will disappear “will be with a roar,” (NIV); “shall pass away”, KJV. This makes a person think the heavens disappeared like a vapor, that it passed into oblivion, into non-existence. This certainly is a modern – day impression of the reading. The text says the heavens with a roar “will pass away” (Greek-“pareleusontai”). This Greek word is a form of the Greek “parerchomai”, to go past. It is a word that is used to mean to pass by. The word in Peter is the future tense of parerchomai. In Mt 8:28 the word is used when people could not pass by the way of the demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes. It is used of “Jesus of Nazareth passing by” in Lk.18:37. It is used of Jesus walking on the sea and “would have passed by them” in Mk. 6:48. It is used of an “Hour passing by” in Mt.14:15. It is used when Jesus says “by no means shall pass away (Greek – “parelthe”) this generation until all these things happen,” Mt.24:34. Jesus says, “let this cup pass from me” in Mt.26:39. Now let us look at it in 2 Cor.5:17 –
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, The new creation has come: the old “has gone” (Greek –“parelthein,” to pass away), the new is here!” (NIV). This is certainly not saying that the physical man is gone and a new one was created in its place. This is talking spiritually. I as a physical man that has been born again, I am still me. I have the same body, the same memories. I still can be tempted. I am still in the flesh. Spiritually however, I have been “born again”, born from above”, “born of the water and the Spirit.” Spiritually speaking, I have died to the old man and been married to Christ. That’s the use of language in a spiritual book. “The old is gone.” (The old has passed away -spiritually speaking). I live by faith now. Well, what of the heavens and earth passing away? Is it referring to the physical universe becoming non-existent? Not at all. It is describing a change, just as there has been a change in my life. The heaven and earth in Peter is describing the whole world, a change that affected the whole world. Does this agree with other scriptures? Yes, definitely! Look at Heb.1:10-12. Heavens and earth would get old and wear out like a garment. God would roll them up like a garment and they will be “changed”. [ The law, the covenant under Moses, became obsolete, and would soon “disappear”, Heb.8:13. But Hebrews says it also would be “changed”, Heb.7:12. Did the law “disappear” (meaning to – pass into oblivion and non-existence)? Or does it mean it “changed”? Of course it means it “changed” as Heb. Heb.7:12 affirms – “ For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” (NIV)
Isn’t it interesting that it is said in Heb. 8:13 that the law would “soon disappear” (Greek – “aphanismou”). That is not the word used to translate “disappear” in 2 Pet.3:10 that the “heavens will disappear” (NIV). The word in 2 Peter is a form of luo- “to loose.” It is the Greek word “pareleusontai”. However, in both places, the Greek words express what is occurring that suggests the same to the translators. I believe in either place, neither the law nor heaven “passed into non-existence”. It means that they were changed and passed by, no longer legally or functionally the same. That usage and time of their existence “disappeared”.
God set up the authority of the law and it reigned over man during the Mosaic period. God reigned and reigns from the heavens, Dan.4:34. It was the decree of heaven. The law in the heavens had to “pass” or be changed” for Christ’s law or covenant to be fully established. “The way into the most Holy Place had not been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning”. (NIV)
1 Cor. 7:31 also bears out the same understanding of what scripture is referring to in the “passing of the world” (“heaven and earth”).
1 Cor. 7:31 “is passing ( Greek – paragei) for the fashion (Greek – schema) of this world (Greek – kosmou) (Alfred Marshall’s Greek Interlinear). Is passing is defined by Vines as –
Parago, to pass by, pass away, in Matt. 9:9, R.V., “passed by ( A.V. forth”), it is usede of the Middle Voice in 1 Jn.2:8, R.V., “is passing away” (A.V.. “is past”), of the passing of spiritual darkness throught the light of the gospel, and in verse 17, of the world. (“Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”, by W.E. Vine, Revell, c. 1940, under “pass away, p.165)
Matt. 9:9 is about “Jesus passed forth from thence” (KJV). “Jesus went on from there (NIV). 1 John 2:8 says, “ Because the darkness is past and the true light now shineth” (KJV). “Because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (NIV). In other words, Jesus passed by from thence, and the darkness passed by and the light was shining. The “passing by” is also used in 1 Cor.7:31 – the scheme of the world (that was at that time) was passing by. In other words, the Old system was “antiquated and getting old and ready to vanish away, or pass by”, Heb. 8:13. The old scheme of the world was “passing away”.
There it says, “For this world, in its present form, (Greek – “schema”) is passing away”. NIV. The KJV says, “the fashion of this world passeth away.” The word “schema” can be understood by referring to an article by R.C. Trench in his book, “Synonyms of the New Testament.” On pages 261-264, he describes two words – “morphe and schema,” and their difference saying, “the Eternal Word before his Incarnation as subsisting “in the form of God” (en morphe); as assuming at his Incarnation “the form of a servant”; and after his Incarnation and during his walk upon the earth as “being found in fashion as a man” (schemati). He was by men found in fashion as a man, the schema here signifying his whole outward presentation, as Bengel put it well: schema, habitus, “cultus, vestitus, gestus. In none of these did there appear any difference between Him and the other children of men. This superficial character of schema…”
“The distinction between them [morphe and schema] comes out very clearly in the compound verbs metaschematizein and metamorphoun. It is possible for Satan metaschematizein himself in an angel of light (2 Cor.11:14); he can take the whole outward semblance of such. But to any such change of his it would be impossible to apply the metamorphousthai: for this would imply a change not external, but internal, not of accidents but of essence, which lies quite beyond his power.” (End of quote from Trench).
The “fashion” of the world, the schema (“scheme”) of things, the things that governed the universe was passing away, but not the very substance or essence or material of what it was made of. Peter is referring to the same thing. The things that were bound and loosed under the Mosaic system would “pass away”. (Peter was told that the changes of binding and loosing that the apostles did would have already been bound and loosed in the heavens, Matt. 18:18.) Those changes were happening in heaven and on earth. The “old world” was “passing away”. The “new world” was being established by Christ and his apostles. Heaven and earth would “pass away” (as they knew it and as it had been for hundreds of years. The New was coming).
2 PET.3:11 –
“Since everything will be destroyed (Greek – “luomenon”) in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives” (NIV)
The Greek word “luomenon” –
The Greek “luomenon”, present passive participle, is from “luo,” Strong’s 3089. We have already discussed the word in verse 10 extensively. It means to “loose”, “release”, “unbind”. It does not mean to destroy.
2 PET. 3:12 –
As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction (“loosing”, T.S.) of the heavens by fire and the elements (basic teachings ) will melt in the heat.” (NIV)
“… the heavens,” “being set on fire” (Greek – “puroumenoi”), “will be dissolved” (Greek -“luthesontai”) and “the elements burning” (Greek -stoicheia kausoumena) “melts” (Greek – “teketai”). Nestles Greek text with Marshall’s Gr-Eng Interlinear.
The Greek word “luthesontai”-
The Greek word “luthesontai” is future passive indicative, and is from “luo”. It is a form of the word “luo”, meaning to “loose”, that is used in verses 10, 11, and 12.
Verse 10,11, 12 –
10 “the elements burning will be “loosed” (Greek – “luthesetai”)
11 “all being “loosed” (Greek – luomenon”)
12 “the heavens being set of fire “will be loosed” (Greek – “luthesontai”)
The Greek word “teketai”, translated “melts” –
The Greek word “teketai” from “teko” is only here in 2 Pet.3:12 and no where else in scripture. We therefore have no other scriptures to see how the word is used elsewhere.
Vines defines the word “teketai” – “teko, to melt, melt down , is used in the passive voice in 2Pet.3:12.” (W.E.Vine, “Melt”, p.58)
Thayers define the word – “fr. Hom. Down; to make liquid; pass. To become liquid, to melt; to perish or be destroyed by melting: 2 Pet.3:12” (ThayersGreek – English Lexicon of the N.T., p.621)
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (NIV)
A new heaven and a new earth was being created. All of this “newness” of the world was occurring from a “spiritual change” that Jesus brought. It was a new spiritual creation.
The word for “new” heaven and new earth in Peter also agrees with our understanding.
New, the Greek word – “kainos”.
W.E. Vine, in his “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”, under NEW, p.109, says –
“1. KAINOS – denotes new, of that which is unaccustomed or unused, not new in time, recent, but new as to form or quality, of different nature from what is contrasted as old. “The new tongues” kainos, of Mark 16:17 are the other tongues ‘heteros’ of Acts 2:4. These languages, however were new and different, not in the sense in that they had never been heard before, … they were new languages to the speakers. The new things that the gospel brings for present obedience and realization are: a new covenant, Mt. 26:28, a new commandment, Jn.13:34; a new creative act, Gal.6:15a new creation, 2 Cor.5:17; a new man, i.e. – a new character of manhood…a new heaven and a new earth”.
God did not annihilate heaven and earth, or bring them into non-existence. He “changed” them, restored them, and made them “New” under Christ in the new covenant. When John saw a New heaven and a New earth, Rev.21:1, it is the word “kainos”. The first heaven and earth had “passed away”. The New Jerusalem coming down (extending down) out of heaven was also Kainos, because the New Jerusalem had been cleansed in the heavens by Christ at his ascension, Heb. 9:23-25. The new heaven and earth then was not a totally, newly created, “physical” heaven and earth. Think spiritually!
“The home of righteousness.” – When Jerusalem on earth was destroyed but the “New Jerusalem was raised above the mountains to become the “New Jerusalem,” the “heavenly Jerusalem”, Heb.12:22ff; it became the home of the righteous, the perfected saints, the children of the resurrection. There in heaven, there is no more sin, no more sorrow, no more night, – rather they all reside in the glory of their God.
AN APPROXIMATE TRANSLATION OF THE TEXT
An interpretation of 2 Peter 3:10-13 (I am not a scholar but I believe the text could read something like the following:
“But will come the Day of the Lord” [the second coming and time of judgment]
“as a thief” [ to catch man unaware, a surprise]
“In which the heavens with a roar” [ the roar of battle with war in heaven, fiery chariots in the sky] “will pass by” [the heavens of that time will pass by with a roar]
“the basic teachings/foundational principles burning will be loosed” [disunited, untied, unbound, discharged, set free, released]
“The earth and all the works therein will be found” [ found out, revealed, exposed, disclosed, discovered]
“Thus, all these things being loosed” [set free, released, unbound].
“what sort of men it behoves you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
“Awaiting” [expecting, looking for] “and hastening the presence of the Day of God” [second coming with the resurrection and judgment] “on account of which”
“the heavens being set on fire” [being tested by fire and judgment] “will be loosed” [unbound, set free, released, untied, NOT DESTROYED]
“and the basic teachings burning will melt”
“But a new” [new in quality, new in kind of, the same but renewed, NOT NEW IN TIME, NOT ANOTHER] “heaven and earth we await according to the promise of him, wherein righteousness dwells”